For once, a global research endeavor that is not an acronym. Future Earth, launched at the Rio +20 conference, promises to provide a new social contract for science, policy and practice. This international collaboration will support integrated research to address the pressing concerns of society. This, according to one of its proponents, is a new kind of science: one that actively engages in collaborations with folks who implement change in the world. This melding of minds can be thought of as ‘research action arena’, populated by scientists, policy makers, politicians, practitioners, activist, farmers (of all colors, shades and stripes)… In fact, probably anyone can be part of a research action arena, you just have to have the capacity and reason to participate. They aren’t easy places to hang out, as everybody generally has very different ideas. In my limited experience, good working relationships and a shared commitment go a long way to making useful ‘things’ happen when people enter the arena.
Questions about the appropriate spatial scale to manage landscapes have long challenged conservation scientists and practitioners. Conservation biologist tell us that we need to manage landscapes at ever larger spatial scales, while social scientists are quick to highlight the importance of grounding conservation actions in a local place. This tension makes the aspiration to “do conservation at a landscape scale by working with local people” somewhat problematic. Having spent the last four years of my life thinking about the disconnect between these two propositions, I was recently asked to explain why upscaling a successful conservation project is no small task. This post summarizes the take home message from my PhD: upscaling is the wrong way to think about landscape conservation, it is, unsurprisingly, far more complex that replicating a small project at a larger scale.
This is the final post in a series where I’ve mused on the connections between knowledge and action are required for adaptive governance. In a world of constant change in social, ecological and political systems, governance which is able to respond to these changes – and hence be adaptive – is held up as an ideal in the management of natural resources. To govern adaptively requires tight relationships between knowledge and action: as our understanding of the system changes, so too should our governance and management. These relationships between knowledge and action can be understood through the lens of co-production, a metaphor that describes the relationships between knowledge-making (science), and decision-making (governance). In recent times co-production has become a normative goal of science and policy as we tried to find new ways to bring scientific knowledge into the realms of decision making in action. If co-production is the goal, then it helps to think about what kind of capacities individuals or groups of actors need to build the strong relationships between science and governance. In this post, I will outline some ideas about the capacities that will help organizations or collaborations to govern adaptively. Continue reading
Like many diligent PhD students, while I was beavering away at the tome I had aspirations of turning my thesis into a book. Now that I’m in postdoc land, struggling to get those last few thesis papers out I wonder when the hell I’m actually going to get time to produce a book? And how do I earn a livable wage while I’m working on said masterpiece? Late the other night, a few glasses of red down, I came up with a brain wave. This was in part inspired by my current dedication to #AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month). AcWriMo is a time when nerds unite, to share the challenge and inspirations of academic writing. By publicly declaring your goals, triumphs and challenges, November is a time when we use the inspiration of social media to collectively tackle our writing challenges. Among other things, I committed to posting one blog post per week, and it occurred to me that I could use this format to write my PhD into a book, one blog post at a time. Continue reading
While the Australian Government is currently denying the links between bushfires and climate change (sigh…), President Obama has just released an executive order titled “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change”. It outlines policy objectives, processes to “modernise” Federal programs, directives to Federal agencies who manage land and water, and coordination to support and integrated Federal, State, regional, local and tribal governments, private and non-profit sector efforts. What I find most interesting about this document is the noticeable absence of the word ‘adaptation’, while the document is littered with the words “climate preparedness” and “resilience”. Having previously contemplated whether adaptation is the wrong word, this caught my eye. But then, what is climate preparedness or resilience and are they any better? Continue reading
In my last post I pondered on the question of capacities enable groups to ‘govern adaptively’ – although I didn’t quite get to answering the question, it was more of a muse on what capacity is, why it is important to think about governing adaptively and how building connections between knowledge and action are critical to this task. To answer this question of what capacities enable groups governing adaptively, it helps to think about the processes underlying the interactions between knowledge, action, and governance. ‘Co-production’ is the latest buzz word being used to describe these interactions and processes. Co-production has become a high level policy goal in discussions of sustainable futures, as we try to find new ways to bring scientific knowledge into the realms of action and governance. But what is this co-production thing and what does it have to do with governing adaptively? Continue reading
I’m doing revisions for a paper these last few days and my brain is on the cusp of making some new connections. The paper draws on my PhD work to focus on the question of how we can build the capacity to govern adaptively. Capacity building has been a longstanding feature of Australian NRM, we’ve spent a lot of time and money to build the ‘capacity’ of local environmental groups to undertake conservation in their backyards. Unfortunately, many of these efforts didn’t really have the ecological impact that was expected at the outset. This has been attributed to many different things, one of which is a lack of strategic planning and scientific input into the actions these groups put into practice. This observation led me focus my PhD on how collaborative governance can be used to help conservation groups connect knowledge with action. But I found through my PhD that thinking about connecting knowledge with action is not enough, there is an additional element that needs to be considered – the capacities that individuals and groups hold to sustain those connections to support effective action. Continue reading
In previous posts I’ve mused on how difficult it is for people to conceptualise ‘climate adaptation’. It is diffuse, abstract and requires us to think on fundamentally different time scales than we are accustomed, and asks as to make decisions for a future we know very little about. But I’m now starting to delve into the question of what ‘successful adaptation’ looks like, and how we might go about measuring it. As adaptation rises as a concern shaping conservation science, policy and practice, significant funding is being directed towards developing ‘climate ready’ conservation plans and strategies. So far we haven’t made much progress towards implementing those strategies, and then turning them into action. Where strategies have progressed to implementation, there has been very little research to understand where and how action has occurred and why it has not. Continue reading
In the mists of a recent heatwave I posted my rambling thoughts on why ‘adaptation’ might be the wrong word to use in discussions about preparing for climate change. In every day language, adaptation is about reacting or adjusting to change, where as in the climate world it is discussed as both preparing for and reacting to change. Adaptation, according to the nerds and policy wonks, will be more effective if we adapt before the changes take place. This raises an important question about how much we need to know about what those changes might look like before we start to adapt. In my research in Grand County, uncertainty about the future and current concerns about the viability of their economy created a major stumbling block to proactive collective action. Continue reading
In 2010 I went to my first International Congress of Conservation Biology (ICCB) in Edmonton Alberta, the bi-annual meeting hosted by the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB). At this stage of my PhD I was exploring how the values embedded in conservation science shape conservation practice. Armed with this perspective I set out in part to observe how conservation biologists navigate this hazy relationship between science and values. Growing up with geologist parents and spending much of my childhood playing in the Australian bush, I am a passionate advocate of the conservation agenda. But as a social scientist, I’ve always be a little intrigued by how scientists’ values shape the delivery of their message when they promote biodiversity conservation.