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.

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Commentary: Senator Coburn calls social science research a "waste"

By Meredith Niles - Posted on 02 June 2011

On May 26, Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, released a report titled, " The National Science Foundation Under the Microscope" in which he detailed his perspective on wasteful government funding at the National Science Foundation. In his Press Release, Senator Coburn notes, "Investing in innovation and discovery can transform our lives, advance our understanding of the world and create new jobs." Yet, he spend the majority of the report singling out particular social, behavioral and economic research projects and grants that he considers to be "wasteful". Senator Coburn even goes so far to recommend, "Eliminate NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economics (SBE) Directorate ($255 million in FY 2010). The social sciences should not be the focus of our premier basic scientific research agency."

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.

Should California have a Water Czar?

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 20 May 2011

Should California have a Water Czar? Everybody would agree that California water management is complex and chaotic with many different actors making decisions in many different policy venues, often ignoring how their welfare is interdependent, and therefore missing out on opportunities for mutual gains and avoiding mutual costs. For the last two decades in California, along with many other places in the US and internationally, the solution to this chaos was the implementation of collaborative watershed management, or integrated regional water management, or whatever synonym you prefer. The theory is that by getting all the stakeholders together to jointly make water management decisions, they are able to recognize interdependence and make mutually benficial decisions. "Getting better together", "the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time", "co-equal goals", and all that.

Defining sustainable viticulture from the practitioner perspective

By Matthew Hoffman - Posted on 14 April 2011

The Center's sustainable viticulture research group has recently published an article exploring how viticulture practitioners define sustainable agriculture. The article, in the viticulture industry journal Practical Winery and Vineyard, is available as a PDF here.

Sustainability is a central topic of discussion in the viticulture and wine industry. But what is the definition of sustainable agriculture? More important, how can definitions be practically used to help solve the very real problems facing modern agriculture?

Defining sustainability is a challenge, because agricultural systems are complex and dynamic, and involve many stakeholders with different goals and values. For this reason, the question: “What is the definition of sustainable agriculture?” can lead to too much ideological debate and too little action. All the while, agriculture is faced with many economic insecurities, ecological challenges, and social inequities that demand immediate attention.

Attend April 6 (Today!): Ending Childhood Lead Poisoning -Understanding Health through Community, Environment, and Policy

By Bethany Cutts - Posted on 06 April 2011

4-6 pm
Wednesday, April 6
UC Sacramento Center 1130 K Street, Suite LL 22 Sacramento, CA
Light refreshments will be served at the panel and a no-host happy hour will follow at Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant, 1029 K Street Sacramento, CA 95814

Despite dramatic decline in the average blood lead levels of children, lead toxicity continues to be a threat. Lead persists in the environment and is present in older homes and the surrounding soils. In addition, the burden of elevated blood lead levels is not equally distributed; some communities have lead poisoning rates of 15-20% while the national average is below 2%. Finally, blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter, the current CDC level of concern, have been associated with substantial decrements in children's learning abilities and elevated risks for behavioral problems, such as ADHD and conduct disorder.

Pan

Research Review: Agenda setting articles and their approaches to couplings, complexity, and a functional diversity.

By Bethany Cutts - Posted on 17 March 2011

After a few weeks of hearing practice job talks and learning about visiting scholar Karin Ingold’s work, the folks associated with the Center for Environmental Behavior and Policy discussed two articles of suggested by Kelly Garabach. Both the Liu et al. (2007) and Diaz et al. (2011) articles were short articles that we classified as most useful in their ability to contribute to ‘agenda setting’ in research related to social-ecological systems. Due to illness, Kelly was not present to lead the discussion however, I was pleased to later learn that she had intended the discussion to center around the utility of agenda setting papers and their relevance to the way our lab frames its research interests and priorities. As a group, we talked about the ability of both frameworks to appropriately embody social-ecological research questions and the challenges of collaborative research in all its disciplinary forms.

Dispatch: Climate Adaptation in Southern California...oops...I mean Perth, Western Australia

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 24 February 2011

I'm currently staying in Fremantle (Freo), which is a little suburb of Perth in Western Australia. I'm here to work on designing a study of regional climate adaptation in the Swan-Canning watershed (here is a nice link to the Water Corporation's "Water Forever" program focused on the Perth region: http://www.thinking50.com.au/go/water-forever-home). I'm partnering with the CSIRO climate adaptation flagship (http://www.csiro.au/org/ClimateAdaptationFlagship.html), and Garry Robbins from University of Melbourne.

Research Review: Network Governance of the Commons

By Bethany Cutts - Posted on 21 February 2011

To kick off the new year, the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior lab group discussed Lars Carlsson and Annica Sandström’s article, “Network Governance of the Commons”. The article overviews co-management literature and network approaches to understanding natural resource governance. It includes an in-depth review of social network measures that have been associated with social capital. The authors give a brief overview of both co-management and network approaches, noting that the traditional approach to understanding co-management focused on a linear axes of power sharing between “the state” and private actors. They argue that poor alignment between political boundaries and resource geographies-as well as the numerous scales of social and ecological processes involved in managing natural resources - challenge this approach (watersheds are a classic example). The paper presents social network analysis as a conceptual framework that allows for a flexible understanding of the governance structure. Echoing one of the core sentiments of the group, Mark later wrote that he “liked how the paper recognized the nuances of how social networks might affect environmental outcomes, such as the tradeoffs between different types of network structures.” And that he “thought they did a good job of connecting to some of the most important basic research in social networks, in particular Burt and Granovetter, and talked about the difference between more open and closed networks.” The article presents a call for further case studies comparing divergent outcomes, which is always nice for our lab (since that is one of the things we do – see the Schneider et al. reference in Carlsson and Sandstrom’s paper for proof!).

Below is a play-by-play account of the themes in the article we discussed at length. We hope it provides a) a good summary for people who missed the meeting, b) feedback to the authors and people who may use the article as a teaching tool, c) a reminder to ourselves about how this article informs and relates to some of the other scholarly work with which we are familiar. In the comments after to post, feel free to post citation information for references relevant to any of these points.

Dispatch: Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Agenda at the US Environmental Protection Agency.

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 16 February 2011

I recently responded to a broadcast call from the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide input into the shape of their social and behavioral science research agenda. I just finished an interview with the consultant they hired to gather input. The interview was conducted by a general environmental consultant firm under contract with EPA. It consisted of a few semi-structured interview questions that were very general, for example "what are the most important questions studied by social and behavioral sciences?" So one answer to that question that is basically useless is "how do humans behave?" There we some more focused questions though, for example what are the top 5 environmental problems facing the globe that EPA should be studying and how should social and behavioral sciences be involved.

Dispatch: The Buzz on Native Pollinators

By Kelly Garbach - Posted on 24 January 2011

Mark and I have been collaborating with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Michigan State, Rutgers, UC Berkeley, Penn and Xerces Society on a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) grant. We are gearing up to submit the 5-year project proposal for review this week. Our SCRI research will evaluate the role of native pollinators in providing important ecosystem services in specialty crops including almonds, cherries, blueberries, and cucurbits. The most exciting part of the project has been developing a farmer survey, which will be implemented in specialty crop hot spots in CA, MI, and Pennsylvania. The survey will link farmer decision-making on pollinator management and ecological outcomes for levels of pollination in three regions of the U.S. Check out more on our project website, http://www.icpbees.org/

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