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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.
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.
Blogs are sometimes good for making arguments that might not be published. Of course a good blog doesn’t just invent nonsense. Rather, it focuses on expert-based opinions. In the next couple of months, I’m going to write some expert-based opinions about theories of environmental governance that I use in my research. I begin with a long-standing criticism I have of the term “network governance”, in particular when it is used to describe a form of governance that is different from markets and hierarchies.
In order to reinforce the importance of integrating social and biophysical sciences to solve environmental problems, it is sometimes useful to tilt at straw men. Take the case of the New Zealand mudsnail, and this paper that purports a solution: Simple Control Method to Limit the Spread of the New Zealand Mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum. Awesome, let's go home.
Water policy wonks pride themselves on even-handed analysis of the costs and benefits of water policy, as driven by the rational and logical decisions of involved actors. But the psychology of water policy and politics is much more fun. And psychology is heavily involved in real water policy decisions, and should be considered as an important part of the picture.
The recent toxic drinking water event in Toledo, Ohio drives home this point. Of course one of the interesting aspects is the cooperation problem of controlling non-point source pollution from urban and ag sources, and the associated phosphorous that contributes to the algae blooms. Psychology and cooperation are deeply intertwined; a lot of my work engages those issues.
An important goal at the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior is using basic research on environmental policy to make an impact on real-world decisions. We took a bit of an unusual strategy for this at the 7th Annual Political Networks conference held last week in Montreal at McGill university. The picture features graduate student Matthew (Mateo) Robbins and me holding the poster he made for his work on spiny lobster management in Honduras. We are standing in the supporter section for the Montreal Impact, a Major League Soccer team, which that night beat the New England Revolution 3-1. Needless to say, among many French soccer chants and curse words (we don't speak French...), there were some Canadiens with some very strange looks on their faces when they saw Mateo's awesome poster.
The recent California drought is a time machine. It represents a regularly recurring event in California’s Mediterranean climate, which cycles back and forth between dry and wet years so frequently that a “normal” year is actually the exception. Hence, we have witnessed many droughts in the past, and we will see them again in the future. This prediction holds even if the models are wrong in forecasting that climate change will load the “climate dice” in favor of more frequent and longer duration droughts in the future. Of course most readers know this already—the recurring climate and hydrological patterns of California are big news headlines with nice info-graphics (and countless blogs, tweets, etc) in 2013-2014.
The following Los Angeles Times headlines illustrate the severity of drought in California:
For over 20 years, Pat Mulroy has been the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, with responsibility for securing the water supplies for the Las Vegas metropolitan region. Over that time, she earned a reputation as a savvy and tough character in water politics, where she has been involved in many of the biggest issues at the local, state, regional, and federal levels. She is retiring from her position on Thursday, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal posted an interesting exit interview. There are some real gems in this interview, which I think are worth further elaboration.
We just had the great opportunity to place an advertisement for the Department of Environmental Science and Policy into my favorite newspaper, High Country News. The picture on this blog is the actual advertisement. Although we made a couple of mistakes getting it together, it was fun to work on a deadline with an organization where getting something done means getting it done, right now!
It was great to connect with Bob Bertsch today, from North Dakota State University. He is a communications specialist who runs a podcast called "Working Differently in Extension". We had a conversation about the idea of Extension 3.0, and how it relates to the traditional model of Cooperative Extension. It was very interesting to hear how he is thinking about some of the same ideas, and facing some of the same challenges in forwarding the idea. Click here for a direct link to the podcast.