Tag Archives: adaptiveness

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.

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!

The Power of Networks

by Victor Galaz

Social networks are often viewed as a critical aspect of adaptiveness and resilience (see previous blog-post here). This talk by political scientists by James Fowler is really fascinating, especially the mapping of dynamic networks [7:55 into the movie]. You find the video here.

Are There Limits to Adaptive Governance?

by Emily Boyd

From a development perspective adaptive governance (AG) raises questions about how do you measure fair, efficient and effective processes, who are the winners and losers? The concept of ‘good’ governance in the context of development is about procedural justice and fairness and all that entails to try to stamp out inequalities. It is normative and connected to human rights. Many rely on concepts of ‘good’ governance to set transparent goals in decision-making processes.

For instance, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai stated recently that without good governance, Africa was unlikely to overcome its numerous poverty challenges. In the case of SES or coupled climate and development, we are still searching for ways to think about what governance means for understanding coupled, complex, interconnected climate change, ecosystem and development challenges across multiple actors in cities, forests, coastal areas etc. The question that haunts us is whether AG is a ‘utopia’ where getting the principles right leads to a system of management that hides inequalities across scales?

AG emerged from understanding about adaptive management and co-management in natural resource management. AG is in a sense the scaled up version of co-management across hierarchies of decision-making and knowledge. Co-management is by no means a panacea and encounters broad challenges of who is accountable and for what? (e.g. see the work of Plummer and Armitage). Early research from the development community tried to break out of the hegemonies that surround natural resource management and sought to increase understanding for, and interest in, the continual evolution of local knowledge, through farmers own experimentation with crops, soils, and irrigation and with the dynamics of social networks for spreading knowledge as well as risks (for example the work of Chambers, Scoones & Thompson, Leach) (www.ids.ac.uk).

What came out of that work was a revisionist agenda that was much more nuanced about the politics of knowledge. Yet, what was missing from that early work was the resilience dimensions of ecological and climatic change – the stuff that we know now, e.g. the importance of flips, thresholds, feedbacks etc. – and also how knowledge relates to resilience. This is perhaps where adaptive governance can lend a hand specifically to ask questions about how to govern complex climate – development interactions given the imperfections of the ‘real’ world and the inequalities of uneven development.

Let us think about adaptive governance simply as a heuristic to help to pose new critical questions and tease out understandings about features of change, institutional flexibility, scale, and learning in social and ecological systems. Adaptive governance opens up arenas for asking questions about up scaling collective action e.g. the work of Per Olsson and others on the governance of the Great Barrier Reef. Another example is in examining the importance in ecological forecasting (Clark et al 2003). An emerging imperative is to incorporate feedback mechanisms into ecological forecasts, which are essential to predicting ‘potential’ tipping points. How best to manage tipping points also requires consideration of the social dynamics and ways to collectively understand and think about this. The co-production of knowledge looks to be an important part of this.

Adaptive governance also opens up new ways to conceptualize how actors and organizations respond and reorganize following shocks in coupled systems, e.g. the 2005 dieback in Amazonia and 2005 floods in Mumbai and helps us to ask questions about how networks and learning platforms (e.g. in planning for a 2 degree world) connect across different levels of organization in managing for resilience.

Thus to conclude, yes there are limits to adaptive governance. We must avoid panaceas. However it is early days, and the concept has opened up avenues to think critically and engage across disciplines. It is now from further theoretical and empirical work we will get a better grasp of the utility and limits of AG. In the meantime, let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Further reading

Clark, et al (2003). “Ecological Forecasts: An Emerging Imperative”, Science 293, 657.

Plummer, R. and DR. Armitage (2007). “Charting the new territory of adaptive co-management: a Delphi study”, Ecology and Society 12(2):10 [online] URL:http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss2/art10/

Derek, A., Melissa, M. and R. Plummer (2008).” Adaptive co-management and the paradox of learning”, Global Environmental Change Vol.18 (1):86-98.

The Crises of Nature, The Nature of Crises

by Victor Galaz

Maybe it’s just part of my personal PCSD (Post Copenhagen Stress Disorder), but it seems like one of the most interesting topics emerging in frontiers of the earth system governance agenda, is that of building global institutions able to deal with not only incremental environmental change (e.g. biodiversity loss, land use change, climate change), but also crises.

Crises events (i.e. unexpected, high uncertainty, cascading dynamics, limited time to act) pose from an institutional point of view, quite different challenges than those normally addressed by the global environmental governance research community. These are related to the need for early warnings, multilevel networked responses, and improvisation. In addition, crises forces us to reconsider the way we look at communication technologies in global environmental governance [e.g. “Pandemic 2.0” in Environment here].

Oran Young’s brief talk from 2008 on adaptiveness and environmental crises, is not about environmental regimes in the conventional sense, but rather about the importance of role plays, simulations, and deliberations around unlikely, but high impact, scenarios:

The Center on International Cooperation (New York University) in addition, just recently launched a report entitled “Confronting the Long-term Crisis – Risk, Resilience and International Order”, that pretty much reiterates the point that debates around global governance are moving towards an agenda that focus not only single global environmental stresses, but also on multiple, interacting social-ecological ones. This issue was also raised by Brian Walker and colleagues in Science last year, and you can watch an interview with him here.

* I owe the catchy title to my colleague Fredrik Moberg at Albaeco.