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.

Special Issue: The Politics of Resilience

Does “resilience thinking” offer novel insights for social scientists such as political scientists, international relation scholars, lawyers and policy analysis experts? Or is it just a another ecological concept with little or no relevance for the social sciences? The topic is one of the most contested ones, as indicated by the popularity of a previous review of Hornborg’s critique of resilience theory posted a while ago. Here is another take on the issue.

In February 2009, we gathered a prominent group of social scientists in Stockholm, for a workshop to elaborate the implications of resilience theory for political science, law, and international relations. We also wanted to discuss its possible implications for critical global challenges such as environmental migration. Where lies the concepts strengths and weaknesses? Is it at all fruitful to talk about “social resilience”? And how do we get a better grip of the politics of learning, flexibility and multilevel governance in complex systems?

The result of these discussions are now available online in the special issue “Governance, Complexity and Resilience” for the journal Global Environmental Change. While the volume as a whole is still in production, a few of the articles are available online already. Just to give you a preview of its contents:

Dr. Koko Warner from the Institute for Environment and Human Security, examines the range of multiscale drivers that trigger environmentally induced migration, and elaborates a range of political and institutional implications. In her contribution, resilience thinking contributes to a wider understanding of the multilevel governance challenges facing policy-makers and a suite of organizations, in trying to deal with underlying social-ecological dynamics. The article is available here.

Prof. Jonas Ebbesson, law scholar from Stockholm University associated to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, elaborates the role of law in steering social-ecological systems. One interesting argument in the paper, is that while law often is viewed as static, and too rigid to rapidly changing circumstances, some aspects of legal thinking and the implementation of law also support aspects of resilience, such as openness and broad participation to cope with complexities and common risk. The article is available here.

Prof. Melissa Leach and colleagues from the STEPS Centre (UK), make a very timely contribution by looking closer at the politics of global epidemic preparedness and response. In their article, Leach and colleagues argue that resilience is inherently a matter of social framing by actors, especially when problems (such as emerging infectious disease) are driven by complex underlying social-ecological factors in contested social settings. The article is available here.

You can also find contributions from Prof. Susan Owens on the politics of learning [here], as well as from Prof. Oran Young on the dynamics and resilience of international regimes [here].

In all, we hope that this volume is able to push the boundaries of resilience theory and thinking into new empirical and theoretical terrain. We look forward to hear what you think.

VII. Transitions in Water Governance

What is the role of individuals in steering transitions towards adaptive modes of governance? In this interview, Rebekah Brown (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia), discusses the features of adaptive governance, and the role of individuals and “champions” in mobilizing political capital to create change. You can listen to Rebekah live during the Amsterdam conference , on December 3rd, 13.45-15.15. Interview by Stijn Brouwer (IVM, Amsterdam).

[Interview with Rebekah Brown. 9:37 minutes.]

Associate Professor Rebekah Brown specialises in the broad governance and transition management dimensions of urban water resources. She leads Monash University’s National Urban Water Governance Program and currently engages with interdisciplinary issues relating to institutional development, organisational change and regime transformation in relation to urban environments becoming more sustainable.

Part V. What Builds Adaptiveness? Social Networks and International Regimes

What builds a capacity to deal with change and stresses? And where are the research frontiers? While previous posts explored the challenges posed by multiple stresses and shocks, the need to understand planetary boundaries, and the role of innovation, this post deals with the features of adaptiveness at the local and international level.

Listen to an interview (by Eric Paglia at Think Globally Radio*) with Beatrice Crona from Stockholm University, as she elaborates the role of informal social networks in building adaptiveness. You can also listen to a phone interview with Prof. Oran Young from University of California (Santa Barbara) about a range of adaptiveness challenges posed for decision-makers at the international level, and the need to study the dynamics of international environmental regimes.

Beatrice Crona

Beatrice Crona is an assistant professor at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University), and has published extensively on the role of social networks in natural resources management (“Management of Natural Resources at the Community Level: Exploring the Role of Social Capital and Leadership in a Rural Fishing Community” in World Development,The role of social networks in natural resource governance: What relational patterns make a difference?” in Global Environmental Change).

Interview with Beatrice Crona [6:30]

Oran Young

Prof. Oran Young is a world leader in the fields of international governance and environmental institutions. His scientific work encompasses both basic research focusing on collective choice and social institutions, and applied research dealing with issues pertaining to international environmental governance and the Arctic as an international region. Among the more than 20 books he has authored are The Institutional Dimensions of Environmental Change (MIT Press, 2002) and Governance in World Affairs (Cornell University Press, 1999).

Interview with Oran Young [11.40]


* Think Globally Radio is a debate/discussion style radio program intended to help spread awareness and deeper understanding on issues of the environment and sustainable development. Each episode focuses on an important environmental issue, with experts invited to the studio to provide insight and expertise. Guests on Think Globally Radio typically come from academia, industry, the policy making sector, advocacy organizations, the scientific community, state authorities, and research institutes.