Exploring sustainable scenarios in debt-based social-ecological systems: the case for palm oil production in Indonesia

Gonzalez-Redin, Julen, Polhill, J. Gareth, Dawson, Terence P., Hill, Rosemary, and Gordon, Iain J. (2020) Exploring sustainable scenarios in debt-based social-ecological systems: the case for palm oil production in Indonesia. Ambio, 49. pp. 1530-1548.

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A debt-based economy requires the accumulation of more and more debt to finance economic growth, while future economic growth is needed to repay the debt, and so the cycle continues. Despite global debt reaching unprecedented levels, little research has been done to understand the impacts of debt dynamics on environmental sustainability. Here, we explore the environmental impacts of the debt-growth cycle in Indonesia, the world's largest debt-based producer of palm oil. Our empirical Agent-Based Model analyses the future effects (2018-2050) of power (im)balance scenarios between debt-driven economic forces (i.e. banks, firms), and conservation forces, on two ecosystem services (food production, climate regulation) and biodiversity. The model shows the trade-offs and synergies among these indicators for Business As Usual as compared to alternative scenarios. Results show that debt-driven economic forces can partially support environmental conservation, provided the state's role in protecting the environment is reinforced. Our analysis provides a lesson for developing countries that are highly dependent on debt-based production systems: sustainable development pathways can be achievable in the short and medium terms; however, reaching long-term sustainability requires reduced dependency on external financial powers, as well as further government intervention to protect the environment from the rough edges of the market economy.

Item ID: 61291
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1654-7209
Keywords: agent-based model, debt, ecosystem services, palm oil, social-ecological system, sustainable development
Copyright Information: © Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2019
Date Deposited: 25 Dec 2019 07:44
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960705 Rural Land Policy @ 100%
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