NJHEPS | New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability
New Jersey Higher Education
Partnership for Sustainability

Michael W. Klemens, Ph.D. "Ecological Stewardship: Empowering Communities to Protect the Commons"

  • 11 Apr 2013
  • 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Ramapo College of New Jersey, Alumni Lounges
Conservation biologist and community advocate, Michael W. Klemens, has been a pioneer in developing models of mutual learning between communities and scientists. These models integrate local (i.e., indigenous) knowledge with expert investigation, thereby empowering informed communities to become both good stewards of their natural capital and advocates for a more sustainable future. His approach creates a foundation for action, focusing on improved ecosystem resilience to adapt to the ever-changing conditions accelerated by poorly- designed development and climate change, often abetted by
governmental inertia. He states that “in order to improve our ability to be resilient, we must learn how to make our development footprint lighter and to place development in a manner that respects the natural infra-structure that each community is blessed with. The challenge is to inform and motivate the
community to become engaged stewards of the commons, and to discard notions of oppositional thinking that one must choose between human progress and healthy ecosystems.” Most urgently, it is a process of social learning that informs and improves the quality of local decision-making confronted with continued
pressure for ill-informed patterns of development, colloquially referred to as sprawl.

Michael W. Klemens earned a doctorate in conservation biology and ecology at the University of Kent UK, has worked as Senior Conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and is on the scientific staff of the American Museum of Natural History. Thirty years of research have taken Dr. Klemens from the
theoretical study of the distribution of amphibians and reptiles to the realization that the only hope for sustaining these species and other forms of biological diversity is to bridge the chasm between
conservation science theory and land use planning practice. He founded the Metropolitan Conservation Alliance (MCA) as a vehicle to translate biological data and conservation concepts into planning tools for local and regional application, empowering communities to develop more sustainable patterns of growth. A strong advocate that scientists are ethically responsible to actively engage in community-based learning efforts to achieve these goals, he has chaired local planning commissions in New York and
Connecticut. MCA's work in the NY-NJ-CT Tri-State Region created collaborations between diverse stakeholders, joined by a common goal to chart a more secure and ecologically robust future. Klemens’ books include the co-edited volume Nature in Fragments: The Legacy of Sprawl (Columbia University Press).
The New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability
     c/o Ramapo College of New Jersey - SSHS
505 Ramapo Valley Rd, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Phone:(201)684-7830 | Fax:(201)684-7932
Email - njheps@gmail.com

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