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The 2016 Emergency Conservation Regulations: The Moral Hazard of Mandatory Measures

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 12 May 2016

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.

Water Data Cannot Fix Broken Behavior

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 06 April 2016

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.   

Participatory Learning Games for Social-Ecological Systems

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 17 March 2016

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.

The Structure of Twitter Networks for California Agriculture

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 05 March 2016

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.

Don't let COP21 Become Symbolic Politics

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 22 December 2015

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. 

Cooperation and Crisis in California Water Governance

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 21 October 2015

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.

Presidential Candidate Environmental Platforms: Is the Median Voter Dead?

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 16 October 2015

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.

Governing the Murray Darling Basin

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 18 September 2015

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.

An Ode to the Network Periphery

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 06 March 2015

Social network research often focuses on the core of a network instead of the periphery.  There are practical and theoretical reasons for this.  The practical reason is that it is often difficult to measure the periphery of the network, for example peripheral actors are less likely to answer a survey or be mentioned by survey respondents.  The theoretical reason is that many people think all of the “action” is in the core.  For example, in policy networks, the core actors might have the most political resources and therefore have control over how policy decisions are made. 

The Ecology of Games Framework: Some Responses to Critics

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 05 February 2015

A major branch of my research is devoted to studying complex institutional systems, which I argue are the defining feature of real-world environmental governance and public policy more generally.    Along with my colleagues (especially John Scholz and Ramiro Berardo) and students, we have updated the “ecology of games” idea originally developed by sociologist Norton Long in 1958 to describe the many different types of political actors and institutions operating in local political contexts.  Our ecology of games framework (EGF) synthesizes a number of existing theoretical concepts, with a strong basis in the work of Elinor Ostrom and new institutional economics, network analysis, and complex adaptive systems.

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