Study shows link between social cooperation and sustainability

"Cooperation is easier in small groups, easier with familiar people, and with similar people," economist Timothy Waring said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 30, 2016 at 10:23 AM
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ORONO, Maine, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Cooperation among social groups may be key to sustainably managing resources.

Scientists at the University of Maine wanted to find out how a culture of sustainability can emerge and be nourished. They wanted to develop a "theory of sustainability."

To do so, researcher Timothy Waring designed a model to predict which combination of sociopolitical factors and institutions are most likely to encourage sustainable resource management.

"We found that sustainable use of resources emerged more when societies were broken up into multiple groups, like states in the United States, or countries in Europe," Waring, an associate professor of economics at Maine's Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, said in a news letter.

Waring and his colleagues surmised that when sustainability management is spread out among a variety of smaller groups, different strategies can be tried and tested. Groups can learn from each other and institute the strategies that work best.

"Cooperation is easier in small groups, easier with familiar people, and with similar people," Waring said. "And Cooperation is more durable when it is supported by social and institutional factors as well."

The model and its findings were published in the journal Ecological Economics.

Waring is now taking a closer look at how different groups, sociopolitical factors and sustainability strategies have influenced the management of lobsters and blueberries in the state of Maine.

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