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Fulcrum Institutions and Sustainability Programme (FISP)

Fulcrum Institutions and Sustainability Programme (FISP) was funded by a five-year South African National Research Foundation (NRF) ‘Global Change, Society and Sustainability’ grant from 2013 to 2017.


The FISP programme investigated the governance of environmental change and how society is, and can, adapt to the myriad threats presented by climate-risk both in South Africa and elsewhere. It explored how ‘fulcrum institutions’, those institutions with the capacity to lever large-scale societal change, can be enrolled to help realise sustainable solutions in the face of global environmental change. The ‘fulcrum institutions’ under investigation, were the global insurance and financial industries, local municipal governments and the key commercial resources industries. 

Based on promoting reciprocal partnerships, the programmes outputs not only include academic publications, but also actively contributed to policy development as well as engaging with civil society more broadly. 

The Municipal project,  led by Lorena Pasquini, a GRG Senior Researcher and African Climate Change & Development (ACDI) Research Fellow aimed to develop a programme of change for local governments to assist in meeting the challenges of global environmental change. The project explored the role of social networks in the governance of climate change. Preliminary findings highlighted the potentially important role of social networks in enabling innovation and social learning on climate change to spread among and within municipalities, through the ties that actors form and the ways such ties are used by virtue of the power and position of actors. 

Two ACDI Masters students, Yoliswa Molefe and Roy Bower, received NRF scholarships through the programme in 2016.   Kelly Armstrong, an Honours student, received a scholarship in 2017. Two other  master's students involved with the project  Kristian Gerstner and Jess Lee, were assisted with support for research and case studies.

Students in the programme were given opportunities to be exposed to new theories and methods, fieldwork and data collection skills, budgeting skills, and for select students, opportunities to speak at international conferences and be mentored in journal writing skills.

Roy Bouwer’s presentation in the Building City Region Resilience in Africa: lessons from practice section of the  Resilience for Development Colloquium, held in May 2017, in Johannesburg, looked at social networks in urban climate risk governance, looking specifically at how social ties within local governments can equip officials with the capacity to cope with the uncertainties and complexities of African cities.

The Resource Industry Component

In order to build upon and extend understandings of the Fulcrum project in building resilience and adaptation to climate change, the Chief Investigator, Clifford Shearing, and the project's postdoctoral scholar, Cameron Harrington  published a monograph, entitled Security and the Anthropocene: Reflections on Safety and Care, Transcript 2017.

 This research encapsulates and advances the findings of the Resource Security Component in an accessible format and takes up the challenge of pursuing new and more robust understandings of environmental security. See book review>>>

Books and Special Issues:

Bourne, A., Pasquini, L., Donatti, C., Holden, P. and Scorgie, S. 2017. Strengthening the role of local authorities to support community-based adaptation: The role of South Africa. In Atela, J. et al (eds). Enhancing Adaptation to Climate Change in Developing Countries, ACTS Press 63-76.

Harrington, C. & Shearing, C. 2017. Security in the Anthropocene: Reflections on Safety and Care. Transcript.

Holley, C. & Shearing, C. Eds. 2017. Criminology and the Anthropocene. Series on Criminology at the Edge. Routledge.

Harrington, C., Lecavalier, E. & Shearing, C. 2017.  Lessons of the Anthropocene: Entanglements and Security. Crime, Law and Social Change: An International Journal.  

Journal publications/book chapters from this project:

Holley, C., Shearing, C., Harrington, C., Kennedy, A. & Mutongwizo, T. 2018. Security and the Anthropocene in Law, International Relations and Criminology. Annual Review of Law and Social Science. Vol. 14.

Holley, C. & Shearing, C. 2018. Thriving on a Pale Blue Dot: Criminology and the Anthropocene. In: Holley, C. & Shearing, C. Eds. Criminology and the Anthropocene (In the Series Criminology at the Edge, Eds. Leclerc, B., Homel, R. and Shearing, C.), Routledge, 1 – 24.

Ziervogel, G., Pasquini, L., Taylor, A. & New, M. 2018 Climate change challenges and African cities: four perspectives on progress and opportunities. In: New, M., Davies, H. & Scott, D. (Eds.) Urban development and climate change: lessons from Cape Town. Cape Town: UCT Press.

Ziervogel, G., Pasquini, L. & Haiden, S. (2017) Nodes and networks in the governance of ecosystem-based adaptation: The case of the Bergrivier municipality, South Africa. Climatic Change.

Bourne, A., Pasquini, L., Donatti, C.I., Holden, P. & Scorgie, S. (2016) Indicators for tracking adaptive capacity and adaptation effectiveness in local government: lessons from South Africa. In: Atela, J., Huq, S., Ochieng, C., Orindi, V. & Mbeya, K. Enhancing effectiveness of community-based adaptation to climate change: unlocking some nuts and bolts. Nairobi: African Centre for Technology Studies.

Harrington, C. 2016. The Ends of the World: International Relations and the Anthropocene. Millennium:Journal of International Studies. 44(3).

Selected publications 2014 - 2015: 

Journal articles: 

Froestad, J., Grimwood, S., Herbstein, T. & Shearing, C. 2015. Policy Design and Nodal Governance: A Comparative Analysis of Determinants of Environmental Policy Change in a South African City. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research & Practice 

Harrington, C. & Lecavalier, E. 2014. The Environment and Emancipation in Critical Security Studies: The Case of the Canadian Arctic. Critical Studies on Security, 2(1): 105-119.

Harrington, C. 2014. Toward a Critical Water Security: Hydro solidarity and Emancipation. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 20(1).

Honig, M., Petersen, S., Herbstein, T., Roux, S., Nel, D. & Shearing, C.  2014. A conceptual framework to enable the changes required for a one-planet future. Environmental Values.  

Pasquini, L., Ziervogel, G., Cowling, R.M. & Shearing, C. 2014 What enables local governments to mainstream climate change adaptation? Lessons learned from two municipal case studies in the Western Cape, South AfricaClimate and Development, 7(1):60-70.

Petersen, S., Shearing, C. & Nel, D.  2015. Sustainability Transitions: An investigation of the conditions under which corporations are likely to reshape their practices to reverse environmental degradation. Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, 4(1): 85-105.

Reyers, B., Nel, J.L., O’Farrell, P. & Nel, D. 2015.  Navigating complexity through knowledge coproduction: Mainstreaming ecosystem services into disaster risk reduction.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 112:24.

PhD Dissertations

Herbstein, T. 2015. Insurance and the Anthropocene: Like a Frog in Hot Water. Doctoral thesis. University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Shale, M. 2015. Resilience and Risk in the Informal Economy: A Study in the Regulation of Flooding. Doctoral thesis. University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Timm, S. 2015. Modalities of Regulation in the Informal Economy: A Study of Waste Collectors in Cape Town. Doctoral thesis. University of Cape Town, South Africa.