Location:    Beckman Center of The National Academies of Sciences & Engineering

Date:          April 24-26, 2019

We are in a period of systemic upheaval.  For the first time in the evolution of life on Earth, human dominance of the planet’s biological, chemical and geological processes is seriously disrupting our critical life support systems.  Profoundly related to this, the economic orthodoxy that has dominated western politics and culture for the past 40 years is rapidly losing legitimacy.  In the face of multiple crises—environmental breakdown, increased inequality of income and opportunity, growing political polarization—the ideas and assumptions behind today’s economic theory fail to adequately explain or fix what is going so wrong.

Political economic paradigms do not last forever.  The evident failings of mainstream economic theory, together with our growing understanding of the economy as complex, dynamic, embedded in natural environments, and deeply influenced by human history, cultures, values and behavior, suggest that the conditions for a new and better understanding of the economy are beginning to emerge.  To create the space for transition we must go beyond debates focused on incremental policy change and develop a better analysis of our economic system as it is and not as we might like it to be.

This conference will explore today’s political-economy and its role in shaping the Anthropocene and our future.  We’ll explore questions relating to power, such as who gets what and why, how power becomes concentrated, and how can we increase opportunity and fairness while displacing entrenched vested interests.  We’ll also investigate whether and how business as usual can enable us to live safely within the boundaries of nature, the ultimate arbiter of human wellbeing.

This conference is free and open to the public.

Presented by:
Toward a Sustainable 21st Century Series
UCI Newkirk Center for Science and Society
UCI Law, Center for Land, Environment and Natural Resources (CLEANR)
Partners for a New Economy



“Solutions to Plastics” – 11/5/18

Solutions to Plastics
November 5, 2018
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering

Solutions to Plastics addresses the compelling problem of global plastic pollution. Plastic products are very cheap to make from petroleum but extremely difficult to extract from waste streams.Different types of plastics, unlike aluminum cans, cannot necessarily be recycled together.

There is great value for global society from improving recycling beyond reducing waste.  A special section of The Economist for September 29, 2018 reported, for example, that recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of energy compared with smelting new metal, and successfully recycling plastics saves 88 percent from that required to create new plastic.

The magnitude of the challenge is that 90 percent of plastics discharged by waterways comes from only ten rivers, two of them in Africa and the rest in Asia. By way of comparison, 18 tons is discharged from the Thames River in England and 2.5 million tons is discharged by the Yangzi River in China.

The overall purpose of the Solutions to Plastics conference is reflected in the title:  to contribute to cooperative engagement and increased understanding across the institutions of the scientific community, government, business, education and empowered citizens and civil society.


Presented by:
UCI Law Center for Land, Environment and Natural Resources
UCI Newkirk Center for Science & Society
Plastic Solutions Fund