Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Can the Guardian foster the actions of a generation of 'guardians'?

"But the risk is now out there – and growing – because policymakers have now woken up to the risks of climate change. “There have been two terrible realisations,” says Michael Jacobs, who used to advise Gordon Brown on the issue. “We have started too late, and it doesn’t matter how much solar and wind power there is – you are still burning all the coal, oil and gas. Even if you do so more slowly, it will still go into the atmosphere and cause climate change.” Jacobs adds that, in the past quarter of a century, when countries could have been putting in place the infrastructure for a new green economy, they have been going in the opposite direction. They have invested in fossil fuel-burning power plants and built energy‑inefficient buildings in cities designed for cars."

This is a sample paragraph from a long and compelling article in the Guardian entitled: Can the world economy survive without fossil fuels?  Compelling as it is however, and as responsible as the Guardian has become... and not before time on climate change - there are many more radical thoughts in need of thinking and actions in need of doing.

CGIAR tries FSR revamp

Part of the Global Effort to Tackle Poverty, Hunger and Environmental Degradation - the CGIAR

From March 3 to 6, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria, hosted the global systems research and development community at the International Conference on Integrated SystemsResearch for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture. Social and agricultural scientists participating in the conference stressed the importance of agricultural research to be done with a holistic systems perspective, and for better links between research on improvements in specific commodities and natural resources management.

One of the keynote's was  Dr. Bernard Hubert, President, Agropolis International, "Systems Thinking toward Institutional Innovation and Change" which was based on our joint work together over many years.

I only hope the CGIAR goes down a different pathway to that pursued the last time they engaged with FSR (farming systems research).

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

John Hewson - an Australian champion

Those who know anything about Australia will despair at the current government's climate change and post-carbon society policies - in fact it has none of the latter as argued forcefully today by Ian Dunlop.

I am immensely impressed with the leadership that John Hewson continues to provide in this space both nationally and globally - especially w.r.t to carbon divestment.  Those organisations joining this global movement are to be commended as they embody what is both systemically desirable and morally responsible.  The following letter from John via GetUp summarises the arguments:

Dear Ray

Yesterday, there was some deeply disappointing news concerning our fight for a strong renewable energy powered future.

The renewable energy industry -- brow beaten after years of intense lobbying from the big 3 dirty power companies and a vicious offensive from the Coalition, struggling with significant job losses and decline in investment -- caved and reluctantly accepted a huge cut to the Renewable Energy Target (RET). They did this to save their industry, which is under attack. The outcome of this deal would be far from ideal, but our government wants a fate for the industry that is even worse. The death of the renewables industry, and the (short term) rise of the dirty 3: Origin, AGL and Energy Australia.

As a former leader of the Liberal Party I've seen first hand the undue influence big corporations can have over politicians and public policy. It's time to shift the balance away from the big energy companies and their dirty and expensive power habits to Australian consumers who want cheaper and cleaner power.

The dirty 3 companies are the main reason the Abbott Government is squibbing on its clear election promise to keep the RET at 41,000GWH. All three are complete hypocrites. They claim to support renewable energy while walking the corridors of power, lobbying to undermine it.

And, unlike renewable energy backed companies, they've been getting away with screwing households on their electricity bills by hitting customers with almost obscene profit margins as energy retailers too.

We don't need government legislation to break the strangle hold these big power companies have on our household energy, or our own clean energy futures. The dirty energy companies might want to protect their huge investments in coal, gas and coal seam gas, but we can -- right now -- stop them in their tracks.


Join me in sending a powerful message to politicians and the dirty power companies that Australians want renewable energy and we're prepared to vote with our feet to get it. Switch your home or business power, it takes less than 5 minutes and you'll be joining the greenest power company in Australia: click here to switch now

It's the one thing they will not be counting on, and right now it's the very best thing that you can do if you support renewable energy, our clean energy future and the job creation and investment it brings.

Yesterday's outcome is indisputably bad for all of us; for future investment in large scale renewable energy projects and job creation, for our clean energy future and for our power prices.

How did we even get to the point where even the industry that fought so hard for the RET is now accepting a drastically watered down stake in their own future success? You can point the finger squarely at the influence big companies like AGL, Energy Australia and Origin have on public policy, companies with a vested interest in bolstering the status quo of fossil fuel dominance and who have ensured the Coalition break their pre-election promise not to cut the Renewable Energy Target. [1]

These companies only really care about one thing - and that's their profits. So let's hit them where it hurts and switch to a company that supports clean energy and is backed by 100 percent renewable power.

Will you join me and thousands of GetUp members switching their energy supplier, and showing your support for clean energy? Click here: it takes just five minutes online to switch off the dirty 3 energy companies.

John Hewson AM.

PS Want to know more about the campaign or about Powershop? click here to find out more.

[1] "Tony Abbott launching a full frontal attack on the Renewable Energy Industry", Guardian Australia, February 6th 2014

Water issues everywhere

From the good - the Stockholm Water Prize - where the judges say: 

"Today's water problems cannot be solved by science or technology alone. They are human problems of governance, policy, leadership, and social resilience. "Rajendra Singh's life work has been in building social capacity to solve local water problems through participatory action, empowerment of women, linking indigenous know-how with modern scientific and technical approaches and upending traditional patterns of development and resource use."

This award is heartening for those of us who have worked in this field for many years.

To the momentously challenging - where California Governor
Brown orders California's first mandatory water restrictions: 'It's a different world'.

In California the profound systemic consequences of human induced climate change are becoming more obvious by the day - with growing evidence of how traditional livelihoods will be threatened.

Concern about DEFRA's policy effectiveness

A recent posting highlights concerns about the effectiveness of DEFRA, a small ministry by UK standards, in effecting policy internally as well as externally, especially in Europe.

"MPs are concerned that the hollowing out of Defra has left the core Department less effective in persuading decision-makers in other government departments and Brussels to follow its agenda. Firm Ministerial leadership and sufficient in-house expertise is needed at the heart of Defra to ensure it can deliver its priorities effectively."

Some new publications

The following papers have recently appeared or been accepted for publication.

Armitage, D., de LoĆ«, R., Edwards, T., Gerlak, A., Hall, R., Huitema, D., Ison, R., Livingstone, D., MacDonald, G., Mirumachi, N., Morris, M., Plummer, R.,  B. Wolfe (2015) Science-policy processes fortransboundary water governance Ambio (in press).

ABSTRACT: In this policy perspective, we outline several conditions to support effective science-policy interaction, with a particular emphasis on improving water governance in transboundary basins. Key conditions include (1) recognizing that science is a crucial but bounded input into water resource decision-making processes; (2) establishing conditions for collaboration and shared commitment among actors; (3) understanding that social or group-learning processes linked to science-policy interaction are enhanced through greater collaboration; (4) accepting that the collaborative production of knowledge about hydrological issues and associated socioeconomic change and institutional responses is essential to build legitimate decision-making processes; and (5) engaging boundary organizations and informal networks of scientists, policy makers, and civil society. We elaborate on these conditions with a diverse set of international examples drawn from a synthesis of our collective experiences in assessing the opportunities and constraints (including the role of power relations) related to governance for water in transboundary settings. 

Wallis, P., Iaquinto, B., Ison, R.L., Wrigley, R. (2014) Governing irrigation renewal in rural Australia, International Journal of Water Governance 4, 19-36.  

Ison, R.L., Allan, C., Collins, K.B. (2015) Reframing water governance praxis: does reflection on metaphors have a role? Environment & Planning C: Government and Policy (in press)

Ison, R.L., Collins, K.B.,  Wallis, P. (2014) Institutionalising social learning: Towards systemic and adaptive governance, Environmental Science and Policy DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2014.11.002 

ABSTRACT This paper critically examines how public policy makers limit policy and other institutional design choices by a failure to appreciate (i) how situations may be characterised or framed; (ii) how practices that generate neologisms (invented terms or concepts) or reify (make into a thing) abstract concepts can displace understandings, and (iii) the epistemological bases of governance mechanism choices. An inquiry into the coining of the neologisms ‘wicked’ and ‘tame’ problems is reported and the implications for research and policy practice explored. As practices, neologising, reifying, categorising and typologising have unintended consequences – they remove us from the primary experiences and underlying emotions that provided the motivation for formulating these concepts in the first place. The failure to institutionalise the understandings and experiences that sit behind the invention of the terms ‘wicked’ and ‘tame’ problems (or similar framing choices such as ‘problematique’, ‘messes’, ‘lowland real-life swamps’, ‘resource dilemmas’ or ‘complex adaptive systems’) present systemic constraints to institutionalising social learning as an alternative yet complementary governance mechanism within an overall systemic and adaptive governance framework. Ultimately situations usefully framed as ‘wicked’,’ such as water managing and climate change are problems of relationship – of human beings with the biosphere. Re-framings, such as institutions as social technologies and other research and praxis traditions concerned with the breakdown of relationships may offer ways forward in the purposeful designing and crafting of more effective institutions.