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Faculty members Tierney, Parks contribute to new book on sustainability

William & Mary faculty members Michael Tierney and Bradley Parks used the College’s new AidData database in contributing to a book project by Widener University Law Professor John C. Dernbach that lends major support to the national movement for more sustainable products, practices, lifestyles and policies.

Brad ParksIn “Acting As If Tomorrow Matters: Accelerating the Transition to Sustainability,” Dernbach makes the case for speeding up efforts in the United States for sustainability. He served as lead author on the project – which is written in a single voice – that includes input from 51 contributing authors who hail largely from U.S. universities and law schools.

Tierney and Parks contributed to the section of the book on international efforts by the United States to promote sustainability.  They argue that the U.S. has “greened” its bilateral aid allocations over the past 20 years and has been a leader in the fight to green multilateral aid agencies, such as the World Bank and the UNDP.  However, their research also indicates that new donors such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait are willing to fund “dirty” development projects that are now eschewed by the U.S. and the World Bank.  Therefore, the impact of development finance on environmental sustainability may not be as positive as earlier assessments suggest.

Previous research focused exclusively on established donors that have been greening their allocations over the past few decades.  But the AidData database provides a more complete picture of development finance flows, which makes Tierney and Parks less sanguine about the prospects for environmental sustainability in developing countries.Michael Tierney

“The point of this book is to change how we think and act about the environment nationally,” Dernbach said. “This is a manual for getting to sustainability, based largely on the knowledge and expertise of the contributing authors. The book also addresses the ethical, moral and even religious basis for sustainability, which involves not only people living now but also future generations.”

This is the third book project Dernbach has led that comprehensively assesses U.S. sustainability activities and makes recommendations for future actions. It is the only nongovernmental effort in the nation to do so. Dernbach edited two earlier books, “Stumbling Toward Sustainability” in 2002 and “Agenda For a Sustainable America,” in 2009. Each was intended to serve as a report card on sustainability efforts in the United States at key intervals after the first U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

In preparing the latest book, Dernbach asked Tierney, Parks and the other collaborators what progress the United States has made over two decades, why that progress has occurred, what the obstacles to progress are, and how we can accelerate progress and overcome those obstacles. He then searched for patterns in their answers, and organized the content to be meaningful for a general audience. The result is a book that explains how to make a greater variety of more sustainable decisions more attractive, how law can provide a better-enabling environment for sustainability and how public opinion and leadership can be more effectively engaged to support sustainability.

“This book demystifies the quest for sustainability by providing a checklist of practical and tested ideas that can be used in any place or sector to create an attractive and sustainable future,” former U.S. Sen. Timothy Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund, said of the project.

Tierney is the Hylton Associate Professor of Government and Director of the International Relations Program at William & Mary.  He received a B.A. from William & Mary in 1987 and a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego in 2003. He teaches courses on international relations, international organization, and research methods.

He has published two books: “Greening Aid?  Understanding the Environmental Impact of Development Assistance” (Oxford University Press, 2008) and “Delegation and Agency in International Organizations” (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Tierney has published articles in a variety of journals including International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Review of International Organizations, World Development, Review of International Political Economy, Foreign Policy, Journal of IR and Development, Politics and Gender, Environment, International Studies Perspectives, Law and Contemporary Problems, and International Journal. He is currently working on a book that explores the relationship between IR as a scholarly discipline and IR as lived by practitioners.

Brad Parks is Co-Executive Director of AidData and Research Faculty at William & Mary's Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations. He is also a Visiting Research Associate at the Center for Global Development. Brad holds an MS in Development Management from the London School of Economics and a BA in International Relations from William & Mary.

Parks is currently a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and has written and contributed to several books and articles on aid allocation, aid effectiveness, and development theory and practice. Most recently, he co-authored “Greening Aid? Understanding Environmental Assistance to Developing Countries” (Oxford University Press, 2008).  He is also the co-author of “A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy” (MIT Press, 2007). Parks has also published his research in a variety of scholarly journals.

Dernbach teaches on Widener Law’s campus in Harrisburg, Pa. He teaches and writes in the areas of environmental law, property, international environmental law, climate change, and sustainability and the law. He was quoted prominently in Thomas L. Friedman’s book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How it Can Renew America.” He joined the Widener Law faculty in 1993.   

“Acting As If Tomorrow Matters: Accelerating the Transition to Sustainability” is published by the Environmental Law Institute. Visit the book website for more information.