There are two big reasons why the selection of Indiana University professor Elinor Ostrom for a 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics is smart:
1) She's the first woman to be acknowledged in this category, and as a member of the same gender, I feel obliged to be a cheering section for that recognition.
But, more importantly for the purposes of this Smart Planet blog .....
2) The prize committee is clear that Ostrom's work in economic sustainability is ground-breaking and important and worthy of future considerations. Here are some of the comments from the press release:
[Ostrom] has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes.
In other words, you don't have to be big or regulated to come up with good ideas. And, by the way, the people who care about something in their local community just MIGHT be the best people to decide the policies about around.
Thank you, Elinor. And thank you Nobel prize committee for helping, overnight, to legitimize the future study of economic sustainability and its impact on our planet.