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There are many reasons to be dismayed about the outlook for environmental policy under the Trump administration. His potential appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency, and Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Energy not exactly environmental advocates. These political appointees will lead efforts to roll back many of the environmental initiatives of the Obama administration, although they may encounter resistance from career civil servants in management positions. Trump does not recognize the validity of climate science, or even “science” writ large, despite substantial research about the economic costs resulting from human damage to the environment. Overall, the Trump administration offers a gloomy forecast that will once again force the environmental community to play political defense.
Ramiro Berardo and I recently published a new article on the structure of polycentric and complex governance systems for water management (sorry for the gated links…but see key figure inserted in this blog, where policy actors are circles, venues squares, and links represent participation). We have been working on this project for a number of years, driven by the reality that most environmental governance arrangements involve many different actors participating in multiple policy venues, and working on interrelated problems. Fortunately, veteran California environmental policy-maker Phil Isenberg was kind enough to provide a commentary on the article. Among Phil’s comments are, “For those of us with some responsibility for making decisions on water and the environment and hoping to 'do good'
On May 9, 2016 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced new emergency water conservation regulations applicable to urban water suppliers throughout the state.
In a recent New York Times editorial, Charles Fishman argues “Water is Broken. Data Can Fix It.” He laments the dearth of water data in the United States, and suggests that increasing the collection and availability of water data will create a demand for additional information, change behavior, and ignite innovation. Mike Kiparsky and Joshua Viers reiterate this idea in the Los Angeles Times, in the context of needing better information for California water.
How can a simple game represent a complex social-ecological system? For the last few years, I have taught a graduate class on social-ecological systems (SES) that introduces SES concepts and frameworks along with delving into a number of related topics in environmental social science. A core activity of the class involves student groups choosing SES case studies, and applying the course topics from a particular week to the case study. Over the years, student groups have come up with creative participatory SES games as an alternative to top-down presentations. The Winter 2016 students took participatory games to the most advanced level yet—all four student groups created games representing their SES case studies.
We just released a policy brief with our initial analysis of the structure of Twitter networks centered on California agriculture. Starting with 153 users identified as relevant to California agriculture by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we traced the followers and followees of the initial group to identify approximately 59K Twitter users. The results clearly support the idea that social media outlets like Twitter can be a valuable aspect of strategic communications, education, and outreach about agriculture and the environment. Among the most interesting findings are:
1. The network is divided into 10 communities including climate, food, water, agriculture, plant sciences, politics, international development, viticulture, gardening, and animal welfare.
This blog COP21 was written with my most excellent colleague and global climate modeller Ben Houlton. We tried to get it into some newspaper editorials, but we were somewhat late off the mark in the policy wonk COP21 feeding frenzy. I happen to know the editor of the CEPB blog (funny thing that), so here you go.
On December 12, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris produced an ambitious agreement that observers are hailing as a landmark in the fight against climate change. For the first time, large developing countries like China and India have pledged to reduce their emissions and each of the final 186 signatories submitted strategies to reduce their emissions. Developed countries agreed to help developing countries pay for adaptation and transitions to cleaner energy systems. COP21 represents an unprecedented level of global effort.
I recently attended a Princeton conference on global governance, complex adaptive systems, and evolutionary theory. The conference was hosted by ecologist Simon Levin and political scientist Bob Keohane, and featured some of the world’s top scholars in these areas of research. Simon Levin, who has written extensively about complex adaptive systems and a gazillion other things, offered the analogy of the immune system as a way to think how water governance responds to risk and crises. Immune systems help maintain the function of biological organisms by responding quickly to invasions from external pathogens, or regulating rogue cells that might otherwise cause cancers.
Every year I teach a class in public lands management and environmental policy, where we discuss the roles of major political institutions like Congress, President, courts, and bureaucracy. For a fun participatory exercise, I always peruse the environmental platforms of the most current presidential candidates to see where they stand on public lands issues.
Fine, I admit I like Twitter as an outreach tool. My fondness for Twitter was recently reinforced when I replied to a message from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) regarding the various agencies and planning processes around the Murray-Darling watershed in Australia. I was pleasantly surprised when the MDBA directly responded to a couple of questions that I posed regarding the complexity of the MDBA governance system.