Lisa Ellis

University of Otago
Lisa Ellis is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics programme at the University of Otago. Lisa’s work investigates how we can make policy decisions that serve our interests in flourishing now and in the future. Her current project, “the collective implications of discrete decisions,” includes papers in environmental democracy, the collective ethics of flying, the value of biodiversity losses, climate adaptation justice, and species extinction. Lisa is past president of the Association for Political Theory, former section editor of the Journal of Politics, and incoming editor of Political Theory. Lisa’s work has been supported by the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and New Zealand’s Deep South National Science Challenge. Lisa’s favourite tree is an enormous cabbage tree along the Kiwi Track in Orokonui Ecosanctuary: it may not be the tallest tree in the sanctuary, but it is the liveliest.
Why Environmental Policy-making is so Hard

Mon 9 Nov, 14:30 – 15:00

New Zealand faces a huge range of tough environmental problems, from urban canopy loss to sea-level rise, and from the spread of wilding pines to the decline of native species. In many cases the problems are well understood in both their causes and consequences. Why, then, are they so difficult to solve?

It turns out that coordinating environmental action is much harder than one might think. Isolated decisions, even isolated decisions made with high-quality procedures coordinating well-intentioned participants, sometimes produce outcomes that none of the participants would have wanted. Without a mechanism to ensure that the collective implications of fragmented series of uncoordinated decisions are taken into account, it is all too easy to think we are making good choices all along, and later wonder how we failed to realize our intentions. We’ll talk about why these policy decisions are so hard, and suggest some practices that might improve things.

Key Dates


Conference: 28–30 NOV

Conference Contact

Conference Manager: 

Lea Boodee

OnCue Conferences


Phone: 03 928 0620

NZ Arb

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