Skip to main content

Programmes Resource Stewardship

Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship

What are we doing? 
We are working across the sciences, social sciences and humanities to radically rethink global resource stewardship. We aim to deliver a framework, accountable to future generations, that will create actionable input on critical global issues such as freshwater resources, land-use and atmosphere.

Why is it important?
Freshwater, land, atmosphere and biodiversity are universally vital resources subject to both cumulative and systemic pressures arising from human activities, which put them under threat of severe degradation and even depletion. Around the world these key resources are subject to a wide range of property rights and management regimes, the environmental efficacy and social equity of which are subject to competing ideological claims and disciplinary critiques.  

How are we different?
We have gathered an interdisciplinary team of philosophers, anthropologists, economists, modellers and environmental scientists to rethink how we monitor, manage, maintain and allocate globally important resources. Our aim is to work through understandings of individual and collective behaviour and current institutional practice, with a focus on how technical information is used in decision-making, to deliver a new framework for stewardship that will ensure that the world’s essential resources remain available for generations to come.

Research Themes

Fundamental principles of resource stewardship

The tragedy of the commons, where the actions of individuals or small groups lead to a disastrous depletion of finite resources, is an ethical problem related to the values and behaviour of consumers and polluters. To avoid the irreversible loss of globally shared resources, we need to change common sense morality. This project brings together social scientists, modellers and philosophers to study the nature of moral limitation, and how that causes us to fail to co-operate in the global stewardship of shared resources.
 
How can science inform resource stewardship?
What can we learn from mismatches, failures and successes in the use of scientific information in resource stewardship? How can information be used effectively, despite varying levels of uncertainty and risk in the reliability, accuracy and reputation of science, modelling and forecasting efforts? By asking and answering these questions, we aim gain an understanding of the impact of different information types on decision-making. 
 
Resource stewardship: a multi-scale, multi-dimensional problem
A lack of understanding of the way in which impacts propagate across scales of resource management has been one of the reasons for chronic resource degradation. This project takes a multi-scale approach to analysis, embedded within the context of multiple drivers of global change. With a focus on land and water resources, the aim is the development of a global assessment tool that will help identify different options for local land use anywhere in the world. Ultimately, the project aims to develop effective pathways for long term global resource stewardship.