I am Principal Researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography and Resource Management of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).
My first degree is in Political Sciences from the Università Statale di Milano (1991, Italy). I hold an MPhil in Environment and Development from the University of Cambridge (1993, United Kingdom) and a PhD in Geography (2004) also from the University of Cambridge.
At ICS I am Deputy Coordinator of the Research Group on Environment-Territory-Society (led by João Ferrão); Member of the Pedagogic Council; Member of the Commission for Post-Graduate Studies; and substitute Member of the Scientific Council. I am Scientific Coordinator for ICS in the PhD in Development Studies. I served as Deputy Director of the Management Council of ICS from 2014-2016.
I have a longstanding interest in understanding our changing relationship with nature, and how that relates to the many challenges facing the 21st century. I see myself as an interdisciplinary ‘policy-engaged’ researcher, trying to wrestle with challenges of the (un)sustainability of our socio-economic and socio-technical models and their effect on life. I work through the lens of environmental governance, sustainable futures and transition/transformation theories, searching for worldviews and pathways that can balance our dependence on ‘ever smarter’ growth and technology with a recovery of the unlimited potential of prosperous human-nature connectedness. The general idea is to assist in efforts towards progress, beyond traditional notions of economic growth, towards a better future for all life on our Planet.
I have researched and published widely in the field of environmental governance, contributing ideas to its theory and mechanisms (assessment, policy processes; knowledge and policy learning), in different contexts (Europe, Latin America and China). My writings helped question the purpose and processes of governance through assessment, focusing on relations between science and politics, and on the role of evidence in policy formation and change.
I am now exploring notions of progress, future and sustainability, through a critical analysis of the paradigm of growth, of the changing humans-nature relationships and of recent debates on happiness and wellbeing. I am interested in questioning the paradigm of growth at two levels: 1) exploring the meanings and implications of (re)turning green economy discourses for socio-economic transitions in development agendas, including SDGs, and 2) critically reviewing propositions for "green/eco/low-carbon/smart" in the context of sustainable urbanization discourses. I also continue working on environmental governance with a focus on foresight and theories of transition and change. I have explored these questions through EU-funded applied research projects on sustainable urbanisation in China (URBACHINA), foresight mechanisms (FLAGSHIP), and new economic models (MUVE).
I seek to bring an inter and trans-disciplinary approach to my work, with full knowledge of the many challenges and obstacles that this entails. Such challenges have become an object of study in itself, and I now Chair a COST Action on interdisciplinarity in urban development research: INTREPID (http://www.intrepid-cost.eu/).
Students and Post-docs
I welcome PhD students and post-doctoral collaborations on:
- green/smart economy and sustainability; sustainable/green/smart urbanisation;
- sustainable futures;
- growth and wellbeing;
- humans and nature relationship and connectedness;
- inter and trans-disciplinarity and ways of knowing for sustainability.
Research projects (last 5 years) include:-
- Cultural Heritage leading urban futures (ROCK) https://rockproject.eu/project Ongoing.
- MISTRA Urban Futures (MUF) which I serve as Board Director since 2016. https://www.mistraurbanfutures.org/en Ongoing.- Crises in progress: An inquiry into the role of responsibility, justice and happiness in a world of limits and uncertainty. Ongoing.
- Interdisciplinarity in Research Programming and Funding Cycles: the case of urban development (INTREPID, Trans-Domain COST Action). http://www.intrepid-cost.eu/ Ongoing.
- Sustainable Urbanisation in China: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, mega-Trends towards 2050 (URBACHINA, FP7); principal investigator for ICS; http://www.urbachina.eu/index.php/en/ Completed.
- Forward Looking Analysis of Grand Societal cHallenges and Innovative Policies (FLAGSHIP, FP7, starting 2013); principal investigator for ICS; http://flagship-project.eu/ Completed.
- Values and Attitudes in relation to a shift towards more sustainable economic development: the views of business, state and the people (MUVE funded by FFMS, Portugal). Completed.
- Research network on EU scenarios: PAradigm SHifts Modelling and INnovative Approaches (PASHMINA, FP7); Olivia is Member of the Scientific Board; http://www.pashmina-project.eu/ Completed.
- Functional Regions, Urban-Rural Relationship and COHESION Policy post-2013 (CES, Portugal). - Completed.
I have published extensively, both in terms of policy documents (including for the European Commission, OECD, World Bank), and in academic journals (including Environment and Planning A, Environmental Management, Environmental Impact Assessment, China Review, Ecological Economics) and contributing chapters to peer reviewed publications (Edward Elgar, Policy Press, Earthscan, Routledge).
Key recent publications (last 5 years):
Bina, O., Mateus, S., Pereira, L. and Caffa, A. (2017) The future imagined: exploring fiction as a means of reflecting on today’s Grand Societal Challenges and tomorrow’s options, Futures, doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2016.05.009.
Bina, O. and Ricci, A. (2016) Exploring participatory scenario and storyline building for sustainable urbanisation – the case of China in 2050, Foresight, 18 (5)
Bina, O., Balula, L, Varanda, M and Fokdal, J. (2016) Urban studies and sustainability: an international comparison of master programmes, Journal of Cleaner Production, 137 (20) 330–346, 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.07.034.
Bina, O., Ricci, A. and Giuffré, G. (2015) Policy Mechanisms for Sustainability: Exploring scenario and storyline building techniques for sustainable urbanisation - the case of China in 2050, URBACHINA Policy Brief, http://www.urbachina.eu/index.php/en/dissemination/policy-briefs
Ferrão, J., Carvalho, R., Ramos, A., Bina, O. and Mourato, J. (2014) Que Economia Queremos? [What economy do we want?], Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos (FFMS), Lisbon, http://ffms.pt/estudo/683/economia-do-futuro.
Bina, O. (2013) The green economy and sustainable development: an uneasy balance between the imperatives of crisis management and persisting contradictions, Environment and Planning C-Government and Policy 31 1023-1047. Winner of the 2013 Bennett Prize
Vaz, S. and Bina, O. (2013) Environmental ethics: philosophy, ecology and other species. In Handbook of Global Environmental Politics (Ed, Harris, P.) Routledge, pp 321-332.
Bina, O. and Vaz, S. (2011) Humans, environment and economies: from vicious relationships to virtuous responsibility, Ecological Economics, Doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.09.029.
Bina, O. and La Camera, F. (2011) Promise and shortcomings of a green turn in recent responses to the ‘double crisis', Ecological Economics, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.06.021.
Bina, O. (2011) Responsibility for emissions and aspirations for development. In China's Responsibility for Climate Change: Ethics, Fairness and Environmental Policy (Ed, Harris, P. G.) Policy Press, Bristol.
Past Research and Activities
I joined ICS from the Department of Geography and Resource Management of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where I was Assistant Professor, teaching courses in sustainable development, world energy and strategic environmental assessment (SEA), and coordinator of the ‘Global Change and Sustainable Development' concentration area. Prior to that, I was Research Fellow at the Centre of Philosophy of the University of Lisbon (2006-08), completing an inquiry into the current sustainable development discourse in China, and the major environmental governance challenges that need to be addressed. During 2007-09 I was Lead Scientist of the European funded project (Asia Pro-ECO): ‘Policy Instruments for Chinese Sustainable Future: Environmental Policy Integration and Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Energy and Transport Sectors', where I participated as a member of Stockholm Environment Institute's (SEI) team. Between 2004 and 2005 I was Research Fellow of the Land-use planning Group, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL) contributing to an FP6 multi-disciplinary research project on the impacts that changing European agriculture policies might have on the sustainability and biodiversity of mountain areas (http://www.bioscene.co.uk/).
Before returning to academia, I worked as Senior Consultant for Environmental Resources Management, London (1997-2000) where I focused on policy analysis, institutional capacity building and environmental integration mechanisms, specialising in the development of strategic environmental assessment methods and their application to infrastructure programmes and multi-sectoral development plans at regional level. I also worked as Policy Officer for Environment and Development, at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom (1993-1997), co-ordinating work on the integration of biodiversity into transport and regional development policies at the European level. Since 1993 I have advised several governments (EU member states, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, China) and international organisations (European Commission, European Environment Agency, World Bank, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) on environmental governance processes and mechanisms.