Lyuba Zarsky
McGowan Building MG320B
(831) 647-6436

Lyuba Zarsky concluded early that the best game in life is changing the world. In the 1970s, she co-founded the University Without Walls in Berkeley, whose motto was “the world is our classroom.” She was a leading member of the Berkeley Recycling Collective, one of the city’s first social enterprises, and the media director for the Abalone Alliance, a California citizens group opposed to nuclear power. She also collaborated with indigenous groups in the US and Asia-Pacific to protect human rights and sustainable livelihoods, work that propelled a move to the East Coast to pursue academic training in political economy and development economics. 

Zarsky’s overarching passion is promoting justice and sustainability in business and the economy. In the 1990s, she designed and directed a national sustainable development program for the government of Australia; and co-founded and co-directed the Nautilus Institute, an NGO “think and do” tank on global security and sustainability. She initiated a project on corporate social responsibility and accountability; was a member of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee of the Office of the US Trade Representative; and co-authored Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley (MIT Press, 2007). At the Institute, she coordinates the Business, Development and Sustainability track in the International Environmental Policy program.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

‘Commons governance’ has emerged as a new paradigm in both functional and legal approaches to international environmental cooperation. Traditionally, nation-states have been considered the sole actors in governing trans-boundary resources such as the atmosphere, water and the ocean. In contrast, the commons approach highlights the role of collaborative governance by all users of a depletable resource in designing, implementing and enforcing sustainability rules and norms. While nation-states remain key players, a commons approach is poly-centric (international, regional, national, sub-national) and multi-actor (government, business, civil society).

This course provides a foundation in the theory and practice of global commons governance. Part One introduces the conceptual framework and empirical findings of Elinor Ostrom’s work on the design of effective institutions for common pool resources. Working in teams of two, students will produce a case study which deploys the Ostrom framework to evaluate the effectiveness of a current agreement governing a transboundary commons of their choice.

Part II focuses on the structure and dynamics of the governance of the global atmospheric commons. It first examines the norms, principles and key agreements in international environmental law. It then explores the evolution of global climate collaboration from the Montreal Protocol to the UNFCCC to the Paris Agreement. Students will produce 1) a graphic presentation evaluating the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of two nation-state signatories to the Paris Agreement; 2) a case study examining the way a key non-state actor—business/industry, cities/states/provinces, civil society—is implementing the Paris Agreement.

Spring 2020 - MIIS, Spring 2021 - MIIS

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Corporate Sustainability Management and Strategy

This course provides a foundation in the core concepts and strategic management tools in the dynamic field of global corporate sustainability management. The central aim is to prepare students to design, lead, communicate and collaborate on sustainability innovations that 1) reduce environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk, especially climate risk, and 2) seize opportunities which generate value to both firm and society. The course aims to provide the groundwork for a professional career in sustainability management in multiple contexts (e.g. corporation, university, NGO, etc). Open to all MIIS students, the course is required for students in the Sustainability Management specialization in the IEP Program.

The course covers nine key topics:

• Global sustainability challenges

• Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

• Embedded sustainability as global business strategy

• Stakeholder engagement

• ESG Risk

• Sustainability reporting
• Climate risk assessment and reporting

• Sustainable supply chain management

• Business engagement with public policy.

Spring 2020 - MIIS, Spring 2021 - MIIS

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Coasts are vital ecological, economic and social systems. Nearly forty percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of a coast. In California, the coastal and ocean economy exceeds $40 billion/year. But population and urban growth, and economic and industrial development have taken a heavy ecological toll on coasts. In many places, coastal systems are highly degraded. Public beaches are crowded, inaccessible or even closed due to poor water quality. Fisheries are in decline and plastic pollution is overwhelming the marine environment. Climate change, including sea level rise, ocean acidification and rising temperatures fundamentally threatens both coastal communities and ecology.

This course provides an interdisciplinary foundation in the resource management challenges and governance frameworks for sustainable coastal management, including consideration of the political, legal, social, economic and natural science dimensions of the coast. The course begins with a focus on the past fifty years of modern coastal management in California, including an examination of public access, habitat protection, growth management and protection of the nearshore environment. Often described as an international leader in coastal management, California presents an opportunity to explore the successes and on-going efforts to find the right balance between human development and the protection of natural systems, as well as the challenges of effective, transparent intergovernmental governance in a highly political setting.

The second third of the course focuses on climate change, vulnerability and coastal resilience. Students will learn about sea level rise science and methods for analyzing the vulnerability of coastal resources. Specific attention will be focused on the process of adaptation planning and the variety of strategies, such as managed retreat, being pursued to adapt to projected sea level rise. This focus presents an opportunity to explore in even greater detail the difficulties of simultaneously protecting natural shorelines, maintaining vibrant human-built environments, and assuring environmental justice along the coast.

Finally, the course considers the global and international context of coastal management as seen through international governance institutions and different country systems of coastal management. This includes an examination of “integrated coastal zone management,” coastal resilience challenges outside of the U.S.

The course will include online class sessions, readings and other media presentations and targeted field assessments in the Monterey area as feasible. Students will be expected to actively participate in research, writing and discussion, and prepare and give a final class presentation.

Fall 2019 - MIIS

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This seminar explores the growing role of the private sector in promoting sustainable development goals in low and middle income countries through core business activities. The overarching aim of such business models is to reduce poverty and promote sustainability by: 1) stimulating access to global markets and supply chains; 2) delivering affordable and sustainable goods and services; 3) responding to the demands of climate change mitigation and adaptation; and/or 4) promoting local capacities for sustainable production. The seminar will examine case studies of five business models, ranging from small-scale, for-profit and non-profit enterprises to partnerships between multinational corporations and NGOs and/or development agencies. Students will work in teams to undertake their own case studies. Together, we will seek to draw lessons for scalability.

Fall 2019 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

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Water in an Insecure World: Symbol, Resources, or Commodity
Water covers more than seventy percent of the earth’s surface and constitutes approximately the same percentage of the human body. No substance on earth is more important, and few are more abundant. Yet today water is increasingly degraded and scarce, stressing both ecosystems and human communities. In this, the first ever President’s Course at Middlebury and Midd-Monterey, we will explore water topics across multiple disciplines, from droughts caused by climate change to the role of sea routes in the creation of the British Empire to ocean acidification, groundwater toxicity, and pelagic plastics. We will also explore emerging solutions to water crisis, including transboundary river management and water entrepreneurship. Each week President Patton will convene a seminar on an aquatic topic with guest speakers, break-out conversations, and simulcast interaction with our peers at the College and the Institute. Students will produce a water-based art project, collaborate on a local water case study, and engage in lively discussions with scholars and peers of diverse backgrounds. (Approval Required)

Spring 2017

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Areas of Interest

Zarsky’s teaching and research interests focus on the question: how can business practice and economic policy promote sustainable economic development? Her primary lens is sustainability investment, including norms, tools and policies from the local to global level. A key research focus is the global mining industry, which generates local economic benefits but creates long term risks of water pollution. 
Zarsky also teaches on adaptation to sea level rise in coastal cities, including new funding models for climate resilience, environmental entrepreneurship, and the governance of the global commons.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • MA in Political Economy, New School for Social Research, New York
  • BA in Social Psychology, University Without Walls, Berkeley

Professor Zarsky has been teaching at the Institute since 2007.


  • Can extractive industries promote sustainable development? A net benefits framework and a case study of the Marlin Mine in Guatemala, (co-author), Journal of Environment and Development, 20(2), 131-154, April, 2013.
  • Extractive industries and local communities: the elusive search for sustainable development,” World Policy Review, July, 2013.
  • Searching for Gold in the Highlands of Guatemala: Economic Benefits and Environmental Risks of the Marlin Mine, (co-author), Global Development and Environment Institute, September, 2011.
  • Climate Resilient Industrial Development: Design Principles and Alternative Models”, in S.R. Khan and J. Christiansen, ed., Towards New Developmentalism: Market as Means Rather than Master, Routledge Economics, 2010.
  • Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley (co-author), Boston: MIT Press, 2007.
  • “No Miracle Drug: Foreign Direct Investment and Sustainable Development” (co-author), in L. Zarsky (ed.), International Investment for Sustainable Development: Balancing Rights and Rewards, London: Earthscan Press, 2005.
  • International Investment for Sustainable Development: Balancing Rights and Rewards (contributing editor), London: Earthscan Press, 2005.
  • “Stuck in the Mud? Nation-States, Globalisation and the Environment,” in OECD, Globalisation and the Environment, Paris: OECD, 1997. Reprinted in K. Gallagher and J. Werksman (eds.), Earthscan Reader on International Trade and Sustainable Development, London: Earthscan Press, 2002, pp. 19-44; and in K. Conca and G. Dabelko, Green Planet Blues, Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Johannesberg, Westview Press, 2004.
  • Human Rights and the Environment: Conflicts and Norms in a Globalizing World (contributing editor) London: Earthscan Press, 2002.
  • Beyond Good Deeds: Case Studies and A New Policy Agenda for Corporate Accountability (co-author), Berkeley: Natural Heritage Institute, July 2002.
  • APEC and the ‘Sustainable Development’ Agenda,’ in R. Steinberg (ed.), The Greening of Trade Law, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.
  • “Global Reach: Human Rights and Environment in the Framework of Corporate Accountability,” in L. Zarsky (ed.), Human Rights and Environment: Conflicts and Norms in a Globalizing World, London: Earthscan Press, 2002, pp. 31-56.
  • “Civil Society and the Future of Environmental Governance in Asia,” (co-author), in D. Angel and M. Rock, (eds.), Asia’s Clean Revolution: Industry, Growth and the Environment, Greenleaf Publishing, 2001, pp.128-154.
  • “From Bystanders to Collaborators, New Roles for Civil Society in Urban-Industrial Environmental Governance,” in Asian Development Bank, Asian Environment Outlook, Manila: ADB, 2001.
  • “Environmental Norms in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum,” in D. Shelton (ed.), Commitment and Compliance, The Role of Non-Binding Norms in the International Legal System, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 303-329.
  • “Havens, Halos, and Spaghetti: Untangling the Evidence About FDI and the Environment,” in OECD, Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment, Paris: OECD, 1999, pp. 47-74.
  • “Energy and the Environment in Asia-Pacific,” in P. Chasek, (ed.), The Global Environment in the 21st Century, Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1999.
  • “Lessons of Liberalization in Asia: From Structural Adjustment to Sustainable Development,” in Financing for Environmentally Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank: Manila, 1994.
  • “Towards an International Eco-Labeling Framework,” in OECD, Life Cycle Management and Trade, Paris: OECD, 1994, pp. 194-204.
  • “Sustainable Development: Challenges for Australia,” in Our Common Future, Australian Edition, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1990. Also published as a monograph by the Commission for the Future, Melbourne, February, 1990.

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