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Defining sustainable agriculture

By Matthew Hoffman - Posted on 23 October 2010

What is the definition of sustainable agriculture? Anyone who takes a few minutes to ponder this question will realize that the answer is not simple or singular. One must consider the complexities of what is to be sustained, for how long, for what or whose benefit, and by which means. To be sure, abstract conceptualizations of sustainable agriculture, such as the Three Es, are useful heuristics. However, when it comes to the actual assessment and implementation of sustainability activities, there is no generalizable definition. Definitions of sustainable, and sustainable systems themselves, are dynamic across the axes of space and time...

Dispatch: Off Trail Again

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 18 October 2010

Science is a group endeavor, and I feel it is important to have lab trips that build a sense of community. But for some strange reason, our lab enjoys straying from hiking trails and bushwacking through rough country to reach our destination. This time we went to Zim Zim falls, which is in the backcountry Blue Oak woodlands around Lake Berryessa. You would think it would be impossible to lose the trail in a fairly well-travelled area, but we managed to do it anyway (I wasn't in front...blameless!!). The nearly continuous drizzle didn't make it any easier when we couldn't find the trail down from a ridge and back into the creek valley. It was easy to see where we needed to go looking into the valley, but hard to crush through all the knee to chest-high, wet vegetation. But we made it after lots of cursing, hollering, and soaked clothing.

Research brief

By Anonymous - Posted on 08 October 2010

I'm investigating perceptions of inequity and the inequity resolution process in a local groundwater user association in Guadalupe Valley, Mexico and Sonoma Valley, California-both prominent viticulture regions. Understanding how inequities factor in to and can be resolved at a local level is critical to assessing the effectiveness of international aid programs that incentivize collaborative and local resource management. The study will contribute to literature that examines Social-Ecological Systems and Integrated Water Resource Management outcomes.

Research Brief: Sustainable Viticulture Practices

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 22 September 2010

We have just released our first "policy brief" from the sustainable viticulture project. The brief focuses on the perceived costs and benefits of sustainable viticulture practices and how uncertainty affects these evaluations. The report was widely distributed to study participants and other sustainable viticulture stakeholders. Click on the attachment below to download the report.

Dispatch: Leuphana University Conference on the EU Water Framework Directive

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 04 September 2010

It is the day after the Leuphana conference on the EU Watershed Framework Directive. I'm relaxing and reflecting for a day in the beautiful town of Luneberg, Germany before the long trek back to Davis. Thanks to Jens Newig, Mariele Evers, Oliver Fritsch, and Leonie Lange for organizing the proceedings. The goal was a cross-country comparison of public participation and watershed management in the context of the WFD. I was invited to present some insights from watershed management in California and the US, as well as discuss the potential for the ecology of games framework to be applied across the EU member states at the watershed level.

Tweeting ranchers

By Bethany Cutts - Posted on 30 August 2010

Earlier I wrote about trying to get a sense for ranching culture "in the understory". That is, through the up and coming ranchers who have grown up with more technology in their lives. At long last, a contact through our research partners made me aware of Jeff Fowle. I feel comfortable writing about him here since he has a facebook page, twitter account, blog, and linkedin account.

http://twitter.com/jefffowle

Sanchirico on Valuation of Oil Spill

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 27 August 2010

CEPB's Jim Sanchirico is also a fellow at Resources for the Future. He has a nice blog about valuation of the damages from oil spills with reference to the Gulf disaster:
http://206.205.47.99/PUBLICATIONS/WPC/Pages/default.aspx

Dispatch: Fisheries Management in Ireland

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 27 August 2010

I'm spending a few days in Cahir, Ireland, which is quite a small town in Southwest Ireland on the way to Cork. The town is centered on a big castle on the Suir River. I've just returned from a "tour" by one of the leaders of the Cahir and District Angling Association, which is one of the private clubs that manage rivers throughout Ireland, England, and Scotland. These angling clubs are basically a perfect example of local common pool resource associations, and they have been around in Ireland for roughly 80 years in some cases. The history is interesting because it is a story of transitioning from feudal landownership, to the emergence of national states, to local community management of fisheries resources. In the case of Cahir, it was a feudal estate owned by the Stuart? (I might be getting some of these names wrong because I don't have time to research every detail as I sit here and sip my Guiness) family.

Dispatch: Dublin Network Conference

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 27 August 2010

I'm sitting on the Dublin Aircoach on my way back from the Dublin Network Conference. This was a small conference hosted at the University College of Dublin. There were a variety of interesting papers presented, ranging from purely descriptive network analysis to full-blown game theory general political equilibrium models with network effects. I was one of the keynote speakers and presented the current ecology of games paper that I'm writing with Garry Robins and Peng Wang. To be honest the paper received mixed reviews; some people definitely didn't buy it. One Dutch professor in particular, in a very unprofessional manner, actually called it rubbish. Of course he didn't really understand the model or research design very well and generally liked to hear himself talk.

Scratching Below the Surface of Napa Valley

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 12 August 2010

I'm currently engaged in one of the most enjoyable activities of my job: interviewing real people engaged in real environmental and agricultural decision-making situations. In this case, I'm talking about winegrape growers and winemakers in Napa Valley, who I am interviewing as part of the sustainable viticulture project. I've interviewed 6 people so far, and all of them have been interesting for different reasons.

One of the cool things about the Napa growers is that it gives me a chance to scratch beneath the surface of the country's premium wine region. The grape prices, land prices, and wine prices are the highest in the country. Napa growers feel they provide some of the best wine in the world (and most people agree), and also are leaders in sustainability.

Here are some of the interesting stories I've heard; these may or may not ever end up in a scientific publication but I can vouch for their authenticity:

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