Visualizations of Adaptive Governance

Inspired by a recent course I taught, and my colleague’s Garry Peterson’s search for visualizations of social-ecological systems, (also here), I found myself looking for illustrations of adaptive governance – that is, modes of governance that play out at multiple levels, and that are able to link institutional, with ecosystem dynamics (see Folke et al. 2005 [PDF].  Here are a few examples of how this has been illustrated in the literature. If you have other examples, please add them in the comment field!

This first one is from Andersson and Ostrom (2008), and their analysis of decentralization of natural resource management, and the need to link these initiatives in a wider polycentric setting.

This second one is from Berkes (2007), and explores institutional linkages at multiple levels, for a conservation project in Guyana.

This illustration is from Hahn et al. (2006), and builds on several articles published about Kristianstad Vattenrike (Sweden).

This beautiful visualization is based on a network analysis by Ernstson et al (2010) about network governance of urban ecosystems in Stockholm.

And lastly, one illustration from a report [PDF] from the finalized European project Governance and Ecosystems Management for the CONservation of  BIOdiversity (GEM-CON-BIO). The figure shows an analytical framework applied for a range of case studies recently published in PNAS.

International Symposium – The Governance of Adaptation

In March 2012 a two day conference will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on “The governance of adaptation”. Topics to be discussed include: the framing of adaptation problems and goals, modes of governance and available instruments, agency and leadership in adaptation governance, science-policy interaction and adaptation. You are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 250 words on relevant issues before the 15th of October 2011. The purpose of the meeting is twofold: 1) to establish a network of researchers who are analyzing the efforts of both public and private actors to prepare for climate change, 2) to exchange insights on adaptation governance across the world and draw lessons in a coordinated way. We seek to bring together around 50 scholars, who will be selected after a review of abstract to be submitted to governanceofadaptation@ivm.vu.nl. More information here [PDF].

Cooperation Across Borders

via Michael Schoon, Arizona State University

In a recent paper entitled “Cooperation Across Boundaries: The Role of Political Entrepreneurs” in Environmental Collaboration (Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, Volume 3 Issue 2, 113-125), Michael Schoon and Abby York write about many of the common challenges to collaboration independent of scale. It explore the ability of political entrepreneurs to broker deals across borders utilizing game theory as a metaphor for the strategic agency of the policymaking entrepreneurs. The intent is to understand why collaboration occurs across jurisdictional boundaries in some situations and not in others and when cross-border governance works.

As more and more authors begin to explore commonalities across scale, a group at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University links common-pool resource theory with international regime literature in the search for answers on why and how collective action dilemmas are resolved at a variety of scales. Ultimately, we find this undertaking of high importance in its application to the very real challenges of linking micro-motives and macro outcomes for such problems as global climate change and the adaptive actions that will need to occur at multiple levels.

A Moratorium on Geoengineering? Really?

In the end of October 2010, participants in the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) included in their agreement to protect biodiversity , a moratorium on geo­engineering. This CBD moratorium came timely as the debate around geoengineering virtually exploded internationally with several high-profile reports being published by, amongst others, the British Royal Society, and the U.S. Congress. The IPCC has announced it will organize several expert meetings in 2011 to focus on geoengineering, to help prepare the next review of climate science, due for completion in 2014. 

But what does this “moratorium” really imply? This is not a trivial question considering the often acclaimed fragmentation of global environmental governance, and the fact that most geoengineering schemes would have impacts on additional planetary boundaries such as land use change and biodiversity. Two main (and highly simplified of course) interpretations seem to exist in a quite complicated legal debate.

One is that the CBD moratorium places a considerable limit on geoengineering experimentation and attempts. The only exception are “small-scale” controlled experiments that meet specific requirements, i.e.: that they are assumed in controlled settings and for explicit scientific purposes, are subject to prior environmental impact assessment, and have no impacts beyond national jurisdiction. Proponents of this position note that even if the CBD moratorium is not legally binding, governments launching large geoengineering experiments would “risk their credibility and diplomatic reputations”, a strong enough disincentive that effectively “blocks risky climate techno-fixes”. The Canadian NGO ETC Group elaborates this point here.

The second position instead highlights several points that undermine the strenght of the CBD moratorium. The first is that the agreement has no legally binding power, and that formal sanctioning mechanisms are absent. The CBD moratorium is “soft law” which implies that States  still could launch geoengineering schemes unilaterally. Note also that the United States has not formally ratified the CBD convention.

Second, even though the CBD moratorium might be seen as defining an upper limit on the scale of geoengineering experiments, key definitional questions remain to be teased out. What is to be defined as “small-scale” and  “experiment”? And what is its status compared to other related pieces of international law, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the London Convention, and the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, just to mention a few.

Third, as the US Congressional Research Service notes in its report, international agreements are best equipped to deal with disputes between countries, and not necessarily between one country and one private actor, or between private actors that may shift locations to suit their interests (pp. 29). And major private or semi-private actors and funders are out there, including the Bill Gates and Richard Branson $4.6 million Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Resources, Ice911, Intellectual Ventures (see WJS article “Global warming might be solved with a helium balloon and a few miles of garden hose”), Carbon Engineeering, Planktos Foundation, and GreenSea Ventures (featured in Nature here).

So, do we really have a real, effective global moratorium on geoengineering? Far from it it seems. Feel free to disagree in the comment field below.

The Politics of Cascading Ecological Crises

Twitter | @vgalaz  

How do we make sense of ecological crises that cascade across spatial scales and that propagate from ecological to social and economical systems? Considering a number of recent crises events with clear ecological dimensions – ranging from the 2008 food crisis (video below) to the spread of plant disease Ug99 in East Africa and parts of the Middle East – there is actually quite little research on the sociopolitical dimensions of ecological crises events.

During 2008-2009, we organized several small workshops with political science and media scholars from the Swedish National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training (CRISMART). Our ambition was to bring together insights from the crisis management research community, and insights from resilience theory, especially the notion of “tipping points” and ecological surprise.

The results of our work have just been published in the journal Public Administration in an article entitled “Institutional and Political Leadership Dimensions of Cascading Ecological Crises”. Here we elaborate a range of difficult political challenges that emerge though different phases of a complex crisis: early warning, sense making, response and post-crisis learning. As we elaborate, even though there are several examples of successful governance of ecological stresses and crises, cascading ecological crises are:

• notoriously hard to detect in advance due to their underlying complexities,
and poor monitoring systems.
• challenge the decision-making and coordinating capacities of actors at multiple
levels of societal organization due to their cascading and recombining capacities.
• are prone to blame games, which hinder post-crisis learning and reform.

Resilience 2011: Special panel on Adaptiveness in Earth System Governance

via Earth System Governance Facebook-group

The Earth System Governance Project will convene a special panel on Adaptiveness in Earth System Governance at the Resilience Conference 2011. Adaptiveness is one of the five analytical themes of the IHDP Earth System Governance Project. The project understands it as an umbrella term for a set of strongly related concepts—vulnerability, resilience, adaptation, robustness, adaptive capacity, social learning and so on. Each of them alone is too limited to describe changes made by social groups in response to, or in anticipation of, challenges created through environmental change. Within the framework of earth system governance, the term adaptiveness includes the governance of adaptation to social-ecological change as well as the processes of change and adaptation within governance systems. Adaptation can create winners and losers, by, for instance, shifting the distribution of benefits, of involuntary risks, or of power.

Panellists will include:

Victor Galaz, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden
Lennart Olsson, Lund University, Sweden
Diana Liverman, University of Arizona, United States
Kathleen Galvin, Colorado State University, United States
Louis Lebel, Chiang Mai University, Thailand

More info here.

Law for Social-Ecological Resilience – Live Stream!

The international conference “Law for Social-Ecological Resilience” is just about to start in Stockholm. For those unable to attend, all plenary sessions will be live streamed here.  The plenaries include the following list of great speakers:

Carl Folke, Stockholm University: “What on Earth is Resilience?”

Jonas Ebbesson, Stockholm University: “What in Law is Resilience?”

Frank Biermann, VU University, Amsterdam: “Agency and Accountability in Earth System Governance: Legal implications”

Ellen Hey, Erasmus University, Rotterdam: “Social-Ecological Resilience and International Law: Whose Resilience?”

Barbara Cosens, University of Idaho: “Resilience and Administrative Law in Transboundary River Governance”

Jutta Brunnee, University of Toronto: “International Law and Socio-Ecological Resilience: An Interactional Perspective.”

Gerd Winter, University of Bremen: “Cap and Trade” and Other Means of Ensuring Societal Resilience in Times of Resource Scarcity

Bonnie McCay, Rutgers University, New Jersey:”The Littoral and the Liminal: Challenges to the Use of Property Rights Approaches to Resilience of Coastal and Marine Systems”

and more!