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Polycentric Governance: A Concept Searching for a Theory

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 13 April 2017

I have just returned from the 2017 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, where David Konisky kindly provided comments on our paper led by Jack Mewhirter (you can find the paper on the MPSA paper repository, which sadly is gated….), which demonstrated the existence of “negative institutional externalities” in the context of polycentric governance institutions. Negative institutional externalities occur when decisions made in one policy venue negatively affect outcomes in other policy venues. David commented that the existence of negative institutional externalities is a challenge to the normative assumption that polycentric governance is a superior governance arrangement to other types of “monocentric” or centralized approaches—how could this normative assumption be correct if introducing new venues has negative effects on the system?

An Ode to the Benefits of Messy Environmental Policy

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 08 September 2016

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'

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.   

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.

Simple Environmental Solutions Versus Human Behavior: New Zealand Mudsnails

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 04 September 2014

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.

Governing Everest: Tragedy of the Commons at the Top of the World

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 19 June 2013

Lines up to four hours. Piles of garbage and human waste. Dead bodies by the side of the route. Fights between climbing groups. Welcome to Mt. Everest in 2013, and a tragedy of the commons at the top of the world.

A recent article by National Geographic highlights the increasing crowds and environmental problems on Everest. I've never climbed Everest(and don't plan to...), and I'm betting that Elinor Ostrom and Garret Hardin have not climbed there either. But Everest highlights core issues in environmental governance that they would surely recognize.

Solving Global Water Problems: Hydrological Science is Not Enough

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 09 July 2012

Jay Famiglietti of UC Irvine just posted a blog at National Geographic's Water Currents, calling for greater investment in hydrological science in order to better understand current and future water supplies and demand. Much of Jay's recommendations focuses on better data availability and computer models for hydrological processes. He also acknowledges a need for technology transfer to decision-makers and communication to the general public. I absolutey agree with all of these points. But it is not enough to solve the water problems in the US or globally.

Reluctant Collectivism?

By Neil McRoberts - Posted on 14 July 2011

This is a cross-posting from the Cubelab blog at UC Davis (http://sites.google.com/site/cubelabsite/home/cube-lab-blog)

A couple of years ago purely by chance I picked up a second hand copy of "Social Limits to Growth" by the late Sir Fred Hirsch in a charity shop (= goodwill store). Hirsch wrote the book in the early 1970's (it was published in 1976 and Hirsch died two years later at the tragically young age of 46) and, as far as I can tell, it hasn't been widely cited by subsequent economists. Hirsch attempted to analyze a set of three connected problems which, as he saw it, laid bare the mostly unspoken (but widely felt) notion that economic growth did not deliver the happiness it promised (see footnote). The last of the three problems was what Hirsch called the reluctant collectivism; the almost grudging acceptance that individual actions cannot always achieve what is best for all individuals together.

What does this have to do with plant disease epidemiology?

Dispatch: Lessons Learned at Integrated Regional Water Management Conference

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 28 May 2011

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.

Lubell Talk at Yale (Video)

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 18 May 2011

I gave a general audience talk at the Yale School of Forestry in December 2010. Here is a link to the video:

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