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Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior director Mark Lubell joins Geoffrey Riley on Jefferson Public Radio's The Jefferson Exchange to discuss how people work together and how policy is shaped in a collective way.
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'
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.
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.
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.
Mark Lubell included in NPR segment on California Water Conservation
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.
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: