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Updating now at 10:26pm Pacific Time. There is only so much you can take before you need a break.
This is climate change.
It is 7:26pm Pacific Time on June 26, 2012. I'm watching a live video feed of the Waldo Canyon Fire barelling towards my parent's house in Colorado Springs, CO. It is quite possible that by the time I finish this blog post, their home could be on fire. They had to endure gridlock to make it to a friend's house. I grew up in this neighborhood, and already several landmarks are gone. This will be the largest natural disaster in Colorado history most likley...unless something worse happens before the fire season is over (it is only June).
So what can we learn about climate change from a disaster like this?
Today for lab meeting the CEPB crew is reading Orjan Bodin and Maria Tengo's excellent new paper "Disentangling Intangible Social-Ecological Systems". These two scholars have been international leaders in developing theoretical and empirical approaches to studying social-ecological systems (SES). In my opinion, the concept of SES is one of the most important ideas for furthering our understanding of environmental governance and policy, and how social decisions link to environmental outcomes.
Not everybody reads university sponsored blogs. So I've opened a public blogosphere version of CEPB. We'll see how this works!
Well, I'm stuck on a 7 hour layover at the Houston airport, en route back to California after giving talks on water governance at both Duke and University of Michigan. Both of these were very fun visits. So, after reviewing an interesting paper on IRWM in Southern California, I was browsing Aquafornia and came upon a story for this really interesting survey conducted by Probolsky Associates, I think paid for by the Southern California Water Committee.
I hereby call for a ban on using "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over" to describe California (or any other) water politics. Instead, I suggest we use the phrase "whiskey is for drinking, water is for cooperation".
Now why would I possibly suggest discontinuing the use of such a colorful quote, from such a colorful historical figure as Mark Twain?
First, Mark Twain didn't say it. Or at least nobody can confirm that he said it. So really the quote is an urban legend that everybody seems to believe. For historical accuracy alone, it shouldn't be used.
The sustainable viticulture team visited Napa Valley last week to seek wisdom from our advisory council about the design of our study, and present some initial findings at the Green Wine Summit. During the course of the day, I heard some of the most interesting anecdotes about social networks and sustainable agriculture that I've yet encountered:
Question: What has 16 legs, can hike 14 miles, and likes to throw snowballs? Answer: The Fall 2012 lab hiking trip at the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior! For this trip we went to the Ralston Peak trail in the Desolation Wilderness, which is jointly managed by the Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. The picture was taken at the beautiful Lake of the Woods, after a well-earned lakeside nap on an outcropping of Sierra granite. On the pass over into the lake basin, we hiked over the remnants of an early snowstorm and had a very nice view of Lake Tahoe. Our group likes to get outside to renew one of our inspirations for studying environmental policy.
Certain members of Congress continue their attacks on social sciences within federal agencies, including attempts to remove funding from the social and behavioral sciences division of the National Science Foundation. Their main argument is that social sciences are not as useful to society as the "hard sciences". I won't belabor the fact here that many of the social sciences are just as technically sophisticated as natural sciences and engineering, but are dealing with much more unpredictable forces. Instead, I would point out the we need to look no further than the founding fathers of the United States and the drafters of the Constitution to find social science usefully at work.
My erstwhile colleague Meredith Niles beat me to the punch on this one. But surely the bastion of rational thought exemplified by the "Under the Microscope" report deserves additional commentary!
Senator Coburn supports his recommendation to eliminate the social sciences from the National Science Foundation with the following example: "But do any of these social studies represent obvious national priorities that deserve a cut of the same pie as astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, and oceanography? The recent tragedy in Japan highlights the importance of nearly all of these natural sciences and how a better understanding of each can improve our abilities to protect life and property from natural occurrences such as earthquakes and tsunamis."
I spent all day Tuesday and most of the day Wednesday at the conference for Integrated Regional Water Management Planning sponsored by the Water Education Foundation . I was invited to participate as a panelist on the future of IRWMP in California, in particular what criteria we should use to evaluate success. The invitation was stimulated by a paper that I wrote on a pilot study of the Bay Area IRWMP, which pointed out the challenges of IRWMP and suggested that the Bay Area had only made incremental changes from water politics as usual.