Message from the Director, Mark Lubell
The mission of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior (CEPB) is scientific analysis of the interactions among policy institutions, human behavior, and political decisions in the context of environmental and natural resource conflicts. Through developing and testing theoretical models from social science, CEPB seeks to derive practical lessons that can be used to improve environmental policy.
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.
While interest in sustainable agriculture is widespread and increasing, precisely what is meant by “sustainable agriculture” is often ambiguous. Furthermore, the number, diversity, and interdependence of related factors (agronomic, social, economic, environmental, political, etc.) make it difficult for stakeholders to agree on how to develop programs and policies for supporting sustainable agriculture. To address these problems we assembled panels of agriculture experts from the public, private, and non-profit sectors and elicited their “mental models” of sustainable agriculture—detailed cause-and-effect representations of how sustainable agriculture works. Mental models allow us to examine how the understanding of sustainable agriculture is shared across multiple individuals and regions.
Michael Levy, Neil McRoberts, and Mark Lubell
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.
Contestation and co-ordination in biosecurity. Click to watch Ryan McAllister of CSIRO present his work on policy networks and biosecurity in Australia.
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.
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.
I just taught a week-long "R Bootcamp" to 200 R newbies. It went quite well, and I thought it would be valuable to jot down some thoughts on what worked and what I might change if doing it again.
I just taught a week-long “R Bootcamp” to 200 R newbies. It went quite well, and I thought it would be valuable to jot down some thoughts on what worked and what I might change if doing it again.
The course design and my approach to teaching scientific computing in general have been deeply shaped by Greg Wilson and the Software Carpentry pedagogy, and this was an experiment in scaling that approach. Software/Data Carpentry workshops are typically two days, cover 3-4 computational tools, and have a student:instructor/assistant ratio of about 8:1. Here, we had five days, just one computational tool, and a ratio of about 50:1. The mission was also different. My goals, in descending priority, were to get students:
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.