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Barriers, Part I
I thought I would post this piece on the New Urban Agenda (for sustainability)for several reasons.
1. the New Urban Agenda project group has identified "8 root causesof unsustainability" which they highlight below in their call for papers.It seems to me that the identified 8 causes might have a place in our reconciliationframework, particularly if we take them to the next step and ask, "ok,so now what?".
2. The call for papers (interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability-albeit in the urban context) is directly relevant to what Ann is tryingto acheive with her dialogue. This certainly seems a logical place for Annand any of the participants to consider as a publishing venue.
3. The New Urban Agenda is an electronic journal, so we are all well-acquaintedwith working in this medium by now! (Thought that was particularly appropriatefor our group.)
CALL FOR PAPERS!
Peck & Associates, a Toronto-based consulting firm, is launchinga new electronic journal called The New Urban Agenda (NUA) on June 11, 1996at the Air and Waste Management Association's Forum on Financing MunicipalEnvironmental Management. Ray Tomalty and Steven Peck are developing thisjournal in order to highlight opportunities for social, economic and environmentalbenefits attainable through projects that support urban sustainability.The NUA is targeted at government and non-governmental decision-makers whowork on urban/suburban environmental issues.
The NUA will provide readers with articles that explore and clearly demonstrateprogress in overcoming what we have defined as the 8 root causes of unsustainableurban development: Misguided Societal Values and Beliefs; InappropriateInformation Systems; Inadequate Planning;
Insufficient Community Empowerment/Involvement; Inappropriate EconomicSystems; Outdated Policies; Antiquated Institutional Frameworks and InappropriateTechnologies.
Articles in the NUA will be of two types: Case Studies and Analyses.Case studies are shorter articles highlighting projects and policy initiativesthat help address one or more of the root causes of unsustainability. Analysesare more critical articles exploring the causes of unsustainability andproposing solutions. Case Studies should be between 1,000 to 2,000 wordsand include:
A two sentence summary of the article and a one paragraph descriptionof the author with full contact information.
An introduction which describes how the project addresses the one ormore of the root causes unsustainable urban development and a problem statement.The main body of the paper which provides quantitative and qualitative informationon the economic, social and environmental benefits intended or resultingfrom the project and comparative examples where possible. A conclusion whichpoints to broader application, future work, references for more information.
Article references, diagrams, pictures etc..
Analytical articles should be no more than 3,000 words in length andfollow the same format as described above. Articles for the inaugural issuemust be submitted by May 17, 1997 in electronic form, either by disketteor e-mail in Word, WordPerfect or Text format.
- E-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Mailing address:
- Peck & Associates, 35-859 Millwood Rd., Toronto, Canada, M4G 1W7.
- For more detailed information on the New Urban Agenda please visit our web
- site: http://cardinalgroup.ca/peck/
- Editorial Board Members
- Ray Tomalty & Steven Peck, Managing Editors.
- Anna Hercz, Department of Engineering, City of Ottawa
- Brock Carlton, Federation of Canadian Municipalities International
- Greg Allen, Allen Associates
- Don Alexander, Simon Fraser University
- Barbara Martin, Martin & Associates
- Robin Sutherland, Graphic Obsession, Internet Technical Director
- Ray Tomalty
- Innis College
- University of Toronto
- (416) 967-3446 tel
- (416) 967-3342 fax
I feel that this message is sufficiently important for all of us withoutediting, although it does not neccessarily contribute to the dialogue processper se, but to whatever overall farmework we may eventually discover oruncover collectively.
--- Forwarded Message from "David C. Korten"<email@example.com ---
On June 24, 1997 the CEOs of 10 TNCs met over lunch at the United Nationswith the UN leadership and a number of senior government officials to charta formalization of corporate involvement in the affairs of the United Nations.I attended the lunch. It is rare that any of us from the NGO community hassuch an opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the powerholders in the privatechambers. I found it a shattering experience for it revealed a seamlessalliance between the public and private sectors aligned behind the consolidationof corporate rule over the global economy. It raised serious questions inmy mind as to whether progressive civil society organizations should infact be aligned behind the United Nations and its funding.
The following is a personal report. I'm sending as an attachment a memoI subsequently wrote to Ambassador Razali Ismail, President of the UN GeneralAssembly who chaired the meeting.
An insightful cartoon foreseeing a UN in which the global corporationssit as equals with nations in the UN chambers and a list of luncheon participantswill be posted to the PCDForum web site in the next day or two.
David C. Korten
THE UNITED NATION AND THE CORPORATE AGENDA
by David C. Korten
It was a true power lunch of lobster and an exotic mushroom salad heldin a private dining room at the United Nations on June 24, 1997. Thirtyseven invited participants were co-hosted by Ambassador Razali Ismail, Presidentof the UN General Assembly, and Mr. Bjorn Stigson, Executive Director ofthe World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to examinesteps toward establishing terms of reference for business sector participationin the policy setting process of the UN and partnering in the uses of UNdevelopment assistance funds. The players in the meeting were 15 high levelrepresentatives of government, including three heads of state, the SecretaryGeneral of the UN, the Administrator of UNDP, and the UN Under SecretaryGeneral responsible for presiding over the UN Commission on SustainableDevelopment, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerice,10 CEOs of transnational corporations. The CEOs were mostly members of theWBCSD, a council of transnational corporations (TNCs) originally organizedby Stephan Schmidheiny and Maurice Strong to represent the interests ofglobal corporations at the United Nations Conference on Environment andDevelopment in Rio in 1992.
In a limited gesture toward transparency and multi-stakeholder participation,two "academics" and two NGOs were invited to observe. The academicswere Jonathan Lash of World Resources Institute and myself. Chee Yoke Lingof the Third World Network and Victoria "Vicki" Tauli-Corpuz ofthe Indigenous Peoples' Network, Philippines were the NGO participants.
The meeting's outcome was preordained. It closed with Ambassador Razali,President of the General Assembly, announcing that a framework for the involvementof the corporate sector in UN decision making would be worked out underthe auspices of the Commission on Sustainable Development.
Listening to the presentations by the governmental and corporate representativesleft me rather deeply shaken, as it revealed the extent to which most ofthe messages the world's NGOs have been attempting to communicate to theUN and its governmental members at UNCED and the other UN conferences havefallen on deaf ears. On the positive side, Mr. Thorbejoern Jagland, thePrime Minister of Norway, called for a tax shift to place the burden oftaxation on environmentally damaging consumption. Both Ms. Clare Short,Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom andMrs. Margaret De Boer, Minister of Environment for the Netherlands, calledfor giving high priority to ending poverty.
Ms. Chee Yoke Ling of the Third World Network, the only non-corporatestakeholder voice given the floor, spoke eloquently of the growing concentrationof wealth being created by the corporate sector and of the corporate commitmentto the unattainable agenda of creating a universal consumer society. Sheobserved that there are not enough resources in the world for everyone tolive even at the current level of consumption of the average Malaysian,let alone the level of the United States or Europe. She further noted thatpeople are becoming increasingly cynical about the professed corporate commitmentto sustainability given that in corporate dominated forums such as WorldTrade Organization (WTO) they talk only of the rights of corporations andnothing of their obligations.
Such moments of enlightenment were the exception. On the less enlightenedside, we were treated to the views of Mr. Samuel Hinds, the President ofGuyana. He was the only speaker to take any note of Chee Yoke Ling's commentsand he dismissed out of hand. Indeed, he accused NGOs of causing popularunrest by trying to postpone in the name of environmental protection thedevelopment that people so desperately want. Besides, he pointed out, ifhe does not cut down his country's forests someone might grow marijuanain them.
The United States sent Larry Summers, Deputy Secretary of the Treasuryas its representative to the luncheon. The Clinton administration couldhardly have sent a clearer message as to how it views the trade-off betweenits commitment to sustainability and its commitment to its corporate clients.Summers is the former Chief Economist of the World Bank who gained publicfame for advocating the shipping of more toxic wastes to low income countriesbecause people there die early anyway and they have less income earningpotential so their lives are less valuable. Summers treated the luncheonguests to a litany of neoliberal platitudes. He praised privatization, notingthat people take better care of their homes when they own them, implyingthat environmental resources will be better cared for when they are allprivately owned by the corporate sector. He assured us that economic growthleads the way to creating both the will and the means to deal with the environment.In other words, he believes that the more a person consumes the more carefulthat person will be of the environment. And he noted that by attractingprivate foreign capital to build bridges and roads on a fee for use basis,the receiving countries will eliminate their need to use scarce public fundsfor physical infrastructure. He might well have noted as a further advantagethat the private toll roads and bridges will be less congested than openpublic facilities as fees will exclude their use by the poor.
Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, gave the corporate CEOsa warm welcome with his message that he sees opportunities for the privatesector and the UN cooperating at many levels. He referred to the Rio meetingas an example of where the private sector participated in setting the standardsrather than the UN or government imposing them. He of course made no mentionthat corporate participation in Rio helped assure that few standards wereactually set and that even fewer have been met. He called on the privatesector to come up with alternative energy sources for the poor so they "don'thave to cut down every tree in sight," while making no mention of thecorporations that are strip mining the world's forests. He praised UNDPfor its role in preparing the way for private investment to come into ThirdWorld countries and called on governments to provide incentives to movebusiness in this direction; in short he is firmly committed to using UNand other public funds to subsidize the corporate buy-out of Third Worldeconomies.
Gus Speth, the Administration of UNDP, said that the best hope for the3 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day is to bringthem into the market by redirecting more private investment flows to lowincome countries. UNDP is apparently facilitating this process by givingpriority to using its limited funds to "leverage," read "subsidize,"private foreign investment. He mentioned that peace and justice will requirea particular kind of development, but did not elaborate as to what kindthat might be.
Underlying the words of everyone who was allowed to speak, with the soleexception of NGO spokesperson Chee Yoke Ling, was an embrace of the neoliberallogic of market deregulation and economic globalization. According to theprevailing official wisdom, economic globalization and the economic dominanceof corporations are irreversible realities to which we must simply adapt.Since global corporations have the money and the power, any viable approachto dealing with poverty and the environment must center on providing marketincentives (read public subsidies) that will make it profitable for themto invest in job creation and environmentally friendly technologies. Thusit follows, by the twisted official logic, that corporations need to bebrought in as partners in public decision process to assure that the resultingpolicies will be responsive to their needs. If any speaker other than CheeYoke Ling saw any problem in giving over ever more power to global corporations,they revealed no hint of it at this power luncheon.
The underlying commitment to the use of public resources to advance unrestrainedglobal corporate expansion brought to mind the central message of a bookthat first appeared in 1980 written by Bertram Gross titled FRIENDLY FASCISM:THE NEW FACE OF POWER IN AMERICA. Gross looked beyond the familiar racism,hatred and brutal authoritarian rule associated with the practice of fascismto describe the institutional structure of fascist regimes. Herein he revealeda nasty little secret. The defining structure of fascist regimes is a corporatedominated alliance between big business and big government to support theexpansion of corporate empires.
Those of us who have been studying these issues have long known of thestrong alignment of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank,and the IMF to the corporate agenda. By contrast the United Nations hasseemed a more open, democratic and people friendly institution. What I foundso shattering was the strong evidence that the differences I have been attributingto the United Nations are largely cosmetic.
It seems that all our official forums function within the culture ofideological dogmatism that international financier George Soros denouncedin his ATLANTIC MONTHLY article on "The Capitalist Threat." Withdissenting voices quickly silenced, there is no challenge within the hallsof power to flawed logic and assumptions.
So long as official forums remain captive to this closed and deeply flawedideological culture, our governmental and corporate institutions will almostsurely lead our world ever deeper into crisis. The burden of providing alternativeleadership that falls on those elements of civil society that are not captiveto the official culture is thus enormous. We must speak fearlessly withforce and clarity in an effort to penetrate the veil of silence that shieldsour official and corporate institutions from
I would like to respond to Dale, Shealagh and Arja's messages in somewhatof a circuitous route, if I may. First, I would like to explain the longsilence between my own dialogue, and here, I am taking a big leap forwardby going public with my feelings, but perhaps that is a way to reconcilecompassion and intellect somehow.
My oldest dog, Odessa Kara, is dying. We have lost three other belovedcompanions in under a year, and now, and I hate to admit to favouritism,my best friend is dying. I have always been very much in touch with otherspecies, and they have been an important vehicle for my connection to anythingremotely spiritual. Art is another such vehicle. In spite of these deepconnections, I did not realize how much my animal friends gave to me, whichI am now beginning to appreciate with the loss of Kara. I did not understand,norfully appreciate, how much inter-species communication, at the physicaland emotional level could occur. Facing her loss has opened up the spacefor me to realize how very much support and companionship she has givenme over the last decade. Her constant guarding of her flock (that is, Billand I), as most of you know, we live in a very isolated area, has allowedme to pursue a lifestyle that is crucial to my creativity and being. And,her loyalty and guardianship has given me a sense of security that I realizedI had lost as a very young girl. Thus, her going will represent loss atmultiple levels, and I shall miss her terribly.
That being said, I am sorry that I didn't include Dale Rothman in mystatistics on sibling order, however, as is the case with the youngest,they do not hesitate to make their plaint. So, that makes, if I have thebirth order correct, 6 eldest siblings, l twin, and l youngest sibling.
I would like to explore the question of expertise that Dale flaggs inhis email dated September 29, 1997. I have trouble with the notion of expertisein sustainable development, given the nature of the issue, its breadth anddepth, can anyone be an expert in this field? As well, it flags for me dualism,if we define ourselves as expert, then does this make a whole body of people,non-experts? Do we not all have expertise in something? The person on thestreet has expertise and wisdom beyond anything I know in my world, probablythey are more expert in the psychology of people than most psychologists.And yet, I do not wish to undermine the body of knowledge that disciplinesbring to bear on broad horizontal issues such as sustainable development.How, then, do we reconcile the question of expertise, without categorizingother people as non-experts? Is expertise a function of academic knowledge?How does expertise fit into the concept of knowledge-based societies andcontinuous learning cycles? And how does practical experience fit into expertise?What do we mean by expertise?
I would like to clarify my statement with respect to the distance betweentime and space from the effects of our decisions, the more likely it isthat negative feedback loops will become positive in terms of local scale.By this, I mean, and I think Shealagh's suggestion that we use the fisheriesas our backdrop is brilliant, typifies what I am getting at. The trade-offsat the level of the Federal Cabinet vis-a-vis the East Coast fisheries istotally different from the trade-offs that would be considered at the localcommunity level or even the scientific community involved in the issue.For example, people at the local level directly experience the negativefeedback loops from their environment. Local fishers had been signallingthe decline and concern about collapse from about the beginning of the 1980s.As decision-makers become further and further removed from the impacts oftheir decision-making, however, what in reality is a negative feedback loopis perceived as a positive feedback loop, necessitating action. Thus, politicanssaw employment and maintenance of communities in Atlantic Canada as positive,and thus, fisheries quotas were established, not on the basis of ecologicalscience, but on the basis of social science. In reality, however, this wasa negative feedback loop, as the more fisher people employed, the more thestocks declined, the more the inevitability of collapse was possible,throwingall fishers out of work. As well, political decision-making is short-term,whereas ecological processes are long-term. Thus, the more distant we arein time, place and space from the effects of our decisions, the more likelyit is that negative feedback loops will be perceived as positive in termsof local effects.
Given that there were no dissenting voices from Shealagh's suggestionthat we use the collapse of the fisheries on the East Coast as our backdrop,let's proceed with the fisheries case. I will attempt in the next two weeksto provide a succinct summary of the situation, and a list of questionsthat we can then use in developing our common framework for governance.
Before we proceed to this specific case, however, I would like you toconsider the following model for the underlying gridlock impacting policydecisions in sustainable development.
As you can see from the model, the assumptions underlying it are thatthe more modern societies diverge in terms of the ecological, social andeconomic imperatives, the more human activity systems will move to collapse.What contributes to the decision-making gridlock, what Jim MacNeill refersto as ecologically destructive and economically perverse incentive systems(personal communication, NRTEE, 1989), is that increasing scale, technology,concentration and privatization coupled with the increasing divergence ofthe three imperatives inevitably leads to collapse at the three levels.Thus, we have a rationale for why a seemingly rational, expert driven organization,that is, the Federal Government, appears to be so contradictory, in theface of overwhelming information and science to the contrary. As well, wecannot underestimate the conflict between competing ideological perspectives,both within and outside government, and associated issues of power and control.
For example, and I think it is worthwhile to quote verbatim from a recentOttawa Citizen article, entitled "Public servants with a conscience"(Wednesday, October 29, 1997).
"They are an unlikely band of rebels. Public servants representing almost every department in the federal government's panoply--from Health to the National Archives, from Agriculture to the Office of the Auditor General. Professionals who have dedicated much of their time and energy to serving the country (albeit at a respectable salary). Now, they are made as hell.
And they're getting together to do something about it.
It's not the extensive lay-offs resulting from government restructuring over the past few years that have roused them. Most of these middle-aged, middle-class protestors, who assembled for a day-long conference recently, are either still with the government or comfortably retired. A couple have left for reasons unrelated to downsizing.
No, their concerns run deeper than their personal security and their own livelihoods. They are worried about something they refer to as "the culture of deception," which, they say, is making its way through the inner workings of the nation like a "cancer."
Perhaps the phrase "mad as hell" is too strong to apply to these ultra-reasonable people who come only reluctantly to the barricades. After all, they are public servants--Ottawa public servants at that. Instead, they can be described as seriously concerned, genuinely upset. They talk quietly, but earnestly, about "evidence that the public systems we all rely on are plagued with dishonesty," and the fact that "the level of deception in public governance is now unsustainable."
As evidence, they list the origins of the tainted blood scandal and the intrigue surrounding the Krever inquiry, the murders in Somalia and the following cover-ups, the controversies surrounding the demise of cod stocks on the East Coast and the dismantling of the Health Protection Branch (HPB). All of the above illustrate an "absence of honesty" and, too often, "the acquiescence of those who know better to the lies." (There is a definite hesitation, a hint of apology, before the word "lies" is brought forward.)
So, how does this "culture of deception" survive and even thrive within government departments? It's fairly straightforward, say these insiders. There is the "denial" of damaging facts when they come to light internationally or in the public realm. There are attempts to "delay" or thwart any sort of investigation -- coupled, in some cases, with the destruction of evidence (Canadian Blood Committee tapes, for example), and to "divide" and "discredit" those who challenge the "institution." (Officials accessing the personnel file of Dr. Michelle Brill-Edwards who criticized the HPB recently might be an example of the latter.)
But there are more sublte ways of scuttling honesty and accountability within government. Some are technical: failing to keep accurate minutes during meetings, undermining record-keeping in general, refusing to respect the Access to Information process, and weakening fact-gathering organizations such as Statistics Canada.
Others are more profound. The frustrated federal workers speak of an "anti-intellectual, anti-knowing, anti-learning" atmosphere--sometimes enforced by threats, intimidation and job loss--in many government departments where people behave more like "cloned sheep" than responsible individuals. They describe a "group think" mentality more loyal to the system than the purpose of the system--to serve the public; they depict a repressive environment that has honest people questioning their own sanity "Am I crazy? Am I paranoid? before questioning authority.
Perhaps even more fundamental, however, is the fact that these public servants see the present unhealthy state of the federal government (none appears to be anti-government per se) as the inevitable product of our society. Canadians, they claim, show a reluctance to acknowledge that deception exists, expecially among authority figures; it's virtually taboo to raise the issue. Instead, there is "blind faith" in the system with its supposed check and balances--allowing some to "deceive with impunity."
The solutions? One underlying cause of the present warped nature of the federal institution, according to those who get behind its closed doors,that is that it has lost the awareness that it exists to serve Canadians. Instead, commercial interests and the bottom-line take precedence. Citizens, the insiders argue, must re-establish a broader value system for the country. As well, the federal government needs whistleblower legislation to protect those who speak out and expose problems--Why should a family man [sic] Dennis Coffey who has complained publicly about corruption at Customs Canada do so without some form of statutory protection? It also needs an independent Ethics Commissioner reporting directly to Parliament.
The tragic thing about this unique band of federal rebels is that some appear to bear the scars of years of silence and unhappy complicity. They are acting now in part, it seems, to purge a sense of guilt for helplessly witnessing misdeeds.
They now ask themselves why decent citizens are willing to participate in "the culture of deception." These reluctant rebels fear the final judgement: They knew and they did nothing."
I believe it would be naive to develop a framework for governance forsustainable development without recognizing the current context in whichpresent reality is nested, and thus, I believe the model and the above articlerepresent important context in which federal government policies are presentlydeveloped. We must recognize the fundamental role that power and controlplay, at both the individual and collective level, in perpetuating incrementalchange at the margins.
As well, I share Arja's struggle.
- Hello again,
- I agree stongly with David Brown (and many of Ann's earlier points) that education is central to meaningful movement toward SD, and adpative management in particular. However, I am not sure that I'm as pessimistic as David B. about the ability of the average person to understand. Maybe I need to clarify: what i mean is that it is incumbent on us as the "intellectual elite" to make clear and succinct the fundamental principles of SD and bases for adaptive management etc. There is no doubt that the issues are complex (and we are trying to wean ourselves from the security of a deterministic worldview). Yes, we should be wary of the pitfalls of over-simplification as well, but I think this behooves us to advocate and do (among many possible choices) at least 3 major things in communicating and educating for SD effectively:
- 1. Include both adults and children in educating for SD.
- So often we focus our energies on preaching to or arguing with adults who, I think, may be actually physically and cognitively unable to process the systems-perspective or holistic nature of SD issues. However, it is generally accepted that children are especially good at synthesis while under age 5 or 6, during the time that language templates are still forming. (Someone with a background in child psychology jump in here please! I have no reference for this...) THere seems to be a correlation, as I understand it, between the formation of nerual networks responsible for language (which is itself a complex system involving both analysis and synthesis) and the ability to think holistically. Sadly, in western reductionist-based education, this gift, which is both natural and implicit at a tender age, is absolutely purged from us as soon as we enter formalised education. As with most things that confound adults, smart and otherwise, children DO "get it". It is up to us as adults, to re-capture the ability to think and speak in metaphors, in simple analogy, and more importantly in normal conversational length rather than 2 second sound-bites. When we do this with children, they in turn become the loudest advocates in the "re-education" of their parents and elders.
- 2. Search for elegant metaphors with relevance to everday life.
- If explained clearly in plain language using real-life examples, (along with some saavy photographs and groovy computer graphics), most normal intelligent people can grasp the concepts of thermodynamics to biodiversity... The growing popularity of cable channels dedicated to science and nature programming under world-wide syndication (Discovery,
- Nova, TLC, etc.) is clear evidence that there is an increasing market for useful information. Recall that more people on earth have a TV than adequate food and shelter... For whatever this says about sustainability, let's consider designing simple, clear messages that can be programmed through the mass-media. (There is clearly a paradox in here, but I won't go there.)
- 3. Don't confuse the complex with the merely complicated.
- There is an elegance and paradoxically a simplicity to all things truly complex. Using a metaphor to illustrate, look at the beauty of (and popularity of computer programmes which can generate) fractals -- those self-repeating mathematical patterns that show up in nature all over the place from coastlines, to leaves, to flower petals and animal stripes. Fractals are the result of equations (complicated for most of us) that result in "emergent complexity", from which patterns originate, that are breathtakingly beautiful to look at in their ordered simplicity. Same thing with biodiversity, and probably with climate patterns. What I am getting at (there is point here) is that, while the patterns we see around us are part of a COMPLEX organised living system, at one scale they are merely COMPLICATED. It seems to me that we often put much of our energies into describing something akin to the complicated mathmatics of pattern-generation, rather then the complexity of the pattern itself, which is actually, when you stand back far enough (or at the right scale), quite simple. THe trick is knowing "where to stand", or the scale to describe the whole darn thing.
- The issue of scale in communicating SD is critical, as Ann has alluded to earlier. Certainly we need people working at all scales of research and policy within an SD framework(s), but more importantly, we need "integrators" who can transcend from one scale to anther and synthesise information into an overall, policy-relevant and applied approach AS WELL AS an bigger-picture, educational framework. This is where we are reminded that SD is NOT opposed to reductionism, for example, but complements it and embraces it with a system-wide approach. Hence, SD is both scale-dependent and scale-transcendant.
- Ann observed that she was puzzled by the resistance of people to work together on SD, and that we fail to build on others successes. I am not sure I agree that people aren't building on one another's work - rather, I think it is more an issue of not bridging the work between disciplines and scales again. We do, at least in the research community, to a certain extent build on previous work all the time -- after all, the basis of normal science if we believe Kuhn is the paradigm, an essentially and collectively constructed vision. The problem is, in adacemic research and the PhD process in particular, that we're forced to stake our claim for each piece of the renovated pie so deeply that we change its essence or at least forget its flavour. Through the academic model I would argue we are not taught to work togther to build a stronger collective vision, but to compete and exclude those doing work which could "taint" our own staked vision.
- In regards to SD research and advocacy, this same competition exists, coupled with or even compounded by another, more powerful factor. We can not underestimate the volume and virility of dis-information from the power sources that stand to be most criplped by the adoption of a world-wide movement on SD. Again, the SD paradigm(s) are flying directly in the face of 300 years of Newtonian Reductionism, coupled with parallel entrenchment of related movements in religion, gender relations, historical "objectivity" etc. etc. (I think most of us who have worked in ENGOs know that the competition for funding and member-support is strong enough to render the ENGO climate more cut-throat than some corporations within which I've had the pleasure of seeking temporary refuge!)
- I do think that work on and towards SD will coalesce, perhaps as Ann observed in arenas like IPCC, and probably spontaeously at a critical juncture. (Emergence and all that.) I guess the bottom line is that humans really are gifted crisis managers -- let's hope we can go the next step and be adaptive by training hard.
- Ann, I hope you're faring all right through the ice storm that's ravaging your part of the country.
- Cheers, Nina-Marie
A brief overview follows on the collapse of the East Coast cod fisheries,taken mainly from key articles and conversations with former bureaucraticcolleagues, who prefer to remain annonymous. The summary, therefore, reflectssome "facts" that are only known within the bureaucracy.
The summary will be followed in a separate email by a list of strategicquestions to guide us in the New Year, as we begin to develop a framworkfor governance for sustainable development. I would appreciate your additionsto this list, so that we can frame our discussions over the last 6 monthsof our dialogue.
The Collapse of the East Coast Fisheries
" . . . in the past century, without much thought about the consequences, we have removed from the sea literally billions of tonnes of living creatures, of wildlife, and added to it billions of tonnes to toxic substances. Fish, whatles, shrimps, clams and other living things are regarded as commodities not as vital components of the living system upon which we are utterly dependent.
We have a hard time thinking of fish as valuable unless they're dead. True, too, of whales, of trees, and much of the rest of nature in times past. Our accounting system regards these things as free. What is taken is regarded as direct income without affecting costs other than what it has cost to take them out of their natural setting."
Sylvia Earle 's address to IUCN Conference, Montreal, November 1996
From the mid Sixties to the mid Eighties our population boomed from 3to 4 billion. At the same time, the catch of ocean wildlife climbed to ahigh of nearly 90 million tonnes in 1989. But since then, despite increasedeffort, new materials, and even better means of finding fish, the annualcatch has declined, and for some fisheries the numbers have crashed. Thishas happened in spite of the best efforts to evaluate maximum sustainableyields (MSY).
Paradoxically, commercial fishing already costs much more than is gainedby the economies of the nations of the world. At present the annual catchworldwide brings in about US $70 billion and costs $124 billion to land.The difference - $54 billion - is made up in subsidies, in tax dollars paidby others, including those here in Canada who are supporting with millionsof dollars the out-of-work cod fishers (Earle 1996).
With respect to the limitations of our knowledge, Ludwig et al. (1993)argue that resource questions about potential yield cannot simply be answeredreliably in many, if not most circumstances, because learning about naturalresource systems is limited by 1) lack of replicates and controls, 2) lackof randomization in treatments in natural experiments, and 3) changes inunderlying systems. This highlights the dichotomy in managing renewableresources. One school suggests that intense detailed scientific researchon the biological basis of the systems will provide improved understandingthat in turn will lead to better management. An alternative view maintainsthat the space and time scales of many major systems are such that traditionalscientific research will not provide additional useful improved understanding,and that improved design of the monitoring and management systems will providegreater benefits. Holling (1993) and Lee (1993) both argue that there isan important role for scientific research, but not if it is merely "disciplinary,reductionist and detached from people, policies and politics". Hollingfurther maintains that the needed research should be interdisciplinary,nonlinear, focused on the interaction between slow procesess and fast ones,and should study cross-scale phenomena.
Scientific assessment blunders have played a major role in the collapseof some potentially sustainable harvested systems. For example, when Canadatook over the extended management jurisdiction (200-mile limit) of its eastcoast fish stocks in the late 1970s, after a period of intense fishing byforeign fleets, scientists overestimated the remaining abundance of codoff Newfoundland by over 200%, leading to a Canadian development of policythat virtually destroyed the cod stock by 1991 (Findlayson 1994; Hutchingsand Myers 1994).
Hillborn, Walters and Ludwig (1995) state the key lessons learned fromthe study of sustainable exploitation of fish, wildlife, and forests are:
1. The historical record shows that biological overexploitation is almostuniversal at some point in the development of a resource, and even whenbiological overexploitation is avoided, economic overexploitation is thenorm.
2. To avoid overexploitation there must be deliberate willingness toforego attempt at maximizing yield;
3. We have the knowledge (from plenty of historical experience with overexploitation)to design management systems that will provide long-term sustainable harvesteven when tracking unpredictable environmental changes, but
4. Institutionally, we are generally unable to control exploiters wellenough to make the changes necessary to track changing biological productivityand biological understanding. Successful management rests not so much onbetter science as on the implementation of better institutional arrangementsfor controlling exploiters and creating incentives for them to behave morewisely.
The fisheries industry has been characterized by boom and bust cycles.As early as 1845 " . . . there is growing evidence that, between 1845and 1880, increased fishing was having a negative influence on marine resources.As early as the 1840s a significant public demand pressured government toregulate the use of new fishing gears to protect cod stocks. . . With hindsightand late twentieth century awareness, we can now understand that frequentfishery failures and a necessary shift to more intensive technologies, whenset beside rapid population increase and large fluctuations in Newfoundlandsalt cod and seal exports, combine to point to a likely ecological problem(Cadigan 1996). A more recent bust was the herring fishery collapse on theWest Coast in the 1960s, which at that time, was used mainly for fertilizerand pet food. Given the increase in demand, decisions were taken to usebigger boats and more efficient techology, resulting in the subsequent crashof the herring fishery. It was re-opened in the 1980s on the basis of a20 percent spawning biomass. In addition, the market had essentially changed,in that the chief product was herring roe exported to Japan, with the remainderfor pet food.
THIS IS ONE OF THE INFORMATION FAILURES, IN THAT WE DO NOT SEEM TO BEABLE TO LEARN FROM HISTORICAL PRECEDENTS, AND THE SAME MISTAKES ARE PERPETUATEDBY MOVING TO SPECIES SUBSTITUTION.
With respect to the East Coast cod fishery, the highest level of Atlanticcod take had occured before the end of the 1960s, with a slight blip atthe beginning of the 1980s (SOE Report 1991). In fact, the stock had beendeclining since then, and the catch rate, from the time that the 200 milelimit was introduced (1977, effectively placing responsibility for managingeastern Canada's groundfish fisheries with the federal government), rarelymade the total allowable catch. Moreover, the graph on the size of maturecod at 7 years of age, from 1976 onwards showed a persistent slope down(SOE Report 1991). Thus, in addition to DOE, Environment Canada scientistswould also have been aware of this persistent decline and the ecologicalramifications, as would scientists in other government department and fisheriesexperts in academic institutions.
ANOTHER QUESTION FOR INFORMATION FAILURE, IS WHY ACADEMIC RESEARCHERSAND ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF CANADA FAIL TO SIGNAL THEPERSISTEN DECLINE BEFORE IT REACHED THRESHOLD LIMITS? THIS INTRODUCES THEQUESTION OF THE ROLE OF SCIENTISTS IN EDUCATING THE PUBLIC AND MAKING PUBLICTO A FAR WIDER AUDIENCE THEIR RESEARCH, AND IN A WAY THAT IS EASILY UNDERSTOODBY NON-SCIENTISTS.
It would appear there were many factors involved in the overestimatesof the cod fishery. There was a discrepancy in the availability of cod tothe inshore and offshore fisheries being reported as early as 1986, withthe latter arguing that their catches were low because of overexploitationby offshore trawlers. Ironically, Winter's (cf in Hutchings, Walters andHaedrich (1997) unpublished paper,1977) conclusions were that the size ofthe cod stock had been overestimated since 1977 and that this overestimationwas caused by excessive reliance on abundance indices derived from commercialtrawler catch rate data and by violation of assumptions of the multiplicativemodel used in the assessment procedure. Contrary to the consensus expressedby Lear et al. (1986) which concluded that cold water temperatures wereresponsible for low inshore catches in 1985, Winters documented a statisticallysignificant negative association between inshore catch and offshore exploitationrate, concluding that "the decline in the inshore catches since 1982has been due to the increase in the offshore exploitation rate" (Winters1986).
THUS, THE LINKS BECOME FIRMLY ENTRENCHED BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY, SCALE, EMPLOYMENTAND CONCENTRATION. THUS, THE UNINTENDED EFFECTS OF THE GOVERNMENT POLICIESTO REDUCE THE FLEETS WAS ACTUALLY TO REWARD THOSE MORE EFFICIENT VESSELS(HIGHER TECHNOLOGY), THOSE THAT COULD TAKE A BIGGER CATCH IN A SHORTER PERIODOF TIME (SCALE), LEADING TO EMPLOYING FEWER PEOPLE, AND UNINTENTIONALLYREINFORCING GREATER CONCENTRATION AT THE LOSS OF COMMUNITY RESILIENCE.
Politically, the Progressive Conservatives were elected in 1982, andJohn Crosbie held the portfolio of Minister for Fisheries from 1984-1988,for both Fisheries and Minister in the House for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), from 1988-1992. Needless to say, Crosbie, along with otherAtlantic Canada players, such as Stuart McGinnes, Dalton Camp, Senator Lowell Murray were a powerful force in the Mulrooney Cabinet. Jobs in AtlanticCanada have always been precious, and it would be safe to say that duringthis period, due to the over-reliance on fishing as the primary source of employment in many of the Atlantic provinces, jobs took precedence overany ecological concerns and subsequent longer-term social implications,and apparently, over the scientific information that was being presentedto Cabinet at this time. Unemployment in Newfoundland was increasingly exacerbated,and there was strong pressure and polarization of the age-old dichotomyof jobs versus the environment. It is no surprise, therefore, that the politicaldecision was taken to increase jobs by increasing the size of the vesselsand in-shore fish plants (recall the herring collapse of the 60s), and reducingthe take by the inland fishers. I have asked the question many times ofpolicy colleagues, whether there was any consideration during this time,of sustainable employment, that is, what nature of employment did we wantin the Atlantic Canada? Would it have not been more sustainable to continueto employ more small-scale inland fishers than to make the decision to allowfactory-freezer trawlers, and technology that allowed the catch to increase,and mask the fact that the catch was getting smaller and smaller.
GIVEN THE BARRIERS MODEL, IT ILLUSTRATES THE GRIDLOCK BETWEEN INCREASINGSCALE, CENTRALIZATION FROM SMALL-SCALE FISHERS TO THE TRAWLERS TO FISH PLANTS,THEREBY FURTHER INCREASING SCALE, LEADING TO INCREASED TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVATIZATION,AND FURTHER DIVERGENCE OF THE THREE IMPERATIVE.
Apparently, when John Crosbie was first making his decisions about theyields for the cod fishery, both his departmental people and scientiststold him that the fish would not be there. At that time, the only peoplewith the data was the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. At the same time,the inshore fishers were saying they were not catching the same level offish to Minister Crosbie. The response from the Minister at that time, wasthat they did not know what they were talking about, and in 1982, he madethe announcement in Newfoundland to increase the size of the ships, metby cheers from the audience. The audience, however, was comprised mainlyof the captains of the bigger ships and many employees of the new big plants,and it did not include many in-shore fishers. Many analysts believe thecollapse was "doomed with the big ships".
If the above scenario is accurate, this represents an information failureat the individual level, and points to one of the weaknesses of a rigid,hierarchical decision-making system, in which one individual, either becauseof political leverage, or bureaucratic leverage, can attain so much powerthat they can influence an entire group or organization, in spite of rationalinformation to the contrary. It may also represent a failure of informationbetween government departments, in that, the lead department channels theinformation to Cabinet for its decision-making, and if the information is"shaped" by creative writing questionning the accuracy of thedata, rather than concentrating on the long-term indicators, then effectivedecision-making based on the best available information is curtailed. Howmany bureaucratic and political decision-making points may never be known,protected by the confidentiality provisions surrounding any informationthat is for the advise and consideration of Cabinet.
ONE HAS TO ASK THE QUESTION, WOULD THE UNCERTAINTIES REGARDING THE STATUSOF NORTHERN COD IN 1986 HAVE BEEN SUMMARILY DISMISSED BY A SCIENTIFIC ESTABLISHMENTWITH NO POLITICAL OR GOVERNMENTAL AFFILIATION?
It is also important to note that science documents have not been developedin close linkage with analyses of policy options. Hence, they do not containdirect assessments of the various options identified by managers and industry.As stated by a former DFO Assistant Deputy Minister for Science "Itis the role of the Minister and not of public servants to make policy decisionsaffecting the fishery" (Morrissey 1993)
At the same time, there were a number of environmental factors affectingthe cod. Temperatures have been decreasing on the East Coast for some time,and it appears as if one the effects is that the fish are moving south,and Arctic cod are moving down the coast. There is also continuing debateabout the role of other predators, notably seals, although there is evidencethat seals will not go after cod when they are hard to find. This debateis still ongoing, and is complicated by the fact that seals eat capelin,and these stocks are also reduced. Thus, it is easy to point the fingeraway from human exploitation as the primary cause, and to point to environmentaldeterminants and other species as causitive factors, a case of denial ofthe underlying drivers, coupled with an inability to learn from previouscollapses, thus, ensuring the inevitability of multiple collapses.
Another overall trend was the reduction in the 1960s of taxonomy andsystematics work, and the emphasis on new technologies as a theme that sweptright through Canadian universities. This new science and techology pushbrought into many universities young academics who embraced the new socio-technologicalparadigm, with a de-emphasis on the fundamentals of biology and its associatedmonitoring and evaluation of systems.
THIS HIGHLIGHTS ANOTHER INFORMATION FAILURE, THE LACK OF A LONG-TERMSTRATEGIC DIRECTION OR A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FRAMEWORK, LENDING A BALANCEBETWEEN BASIC AND APPLIED WORK, THEREBY AVOIDING MAJOR GAPS FOR THE FUTURE.
One has also to question the nature of the scientific information itself.As an article in the New Scientist (February 10, 1996) states "Mealy-mouthedadvice from scientists is providing politicians with excuses for their failureto save the world's fisheries, according to a report released to the Houseof Lords. It urges researchers to "give much firmer advice in a formwhich the political managers could not ignore". Although some analystshave stated there was a failure of the scientific community to adequatelyconvey the aspects of uncertainty, it may well be that the political decision-makinglevel itself does not want to deal with uncertainty, they want definiteanswers, whereas scientists are very used to couching their informationin probabilities.
THUS, THERE MAY HAVE BEEN A FUNDAMENTAL MISMATCH IN INFORMATION NEEDSFOR DECISION-MAKING BETWEEN GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTS, GOVERNMENT POLICY MAKERSAND POLITICIANS.
ONE HAS TO ASK AGAIN, WAS THIS FAILURE WELL KNOWN BY NON-GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTSAND GROUPS SUCH AS THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF CANADA. IF SO, WHY DID THEY NOTRAISE THE ALARM?
As well, there were simply "too many fishers chasing too few fish"(Walters and Maguire 1996). In addition, the government's unemployment insurancescheme may have actually provided an incentive for overfishing as it maintainedfishers and their family during the non-fishing seasons, thus supportingmore numbers than the ecological base could support. And further compoundingthe overcapacity problem, was the fact that as the catch became less, thegovernment lowered the weeks necessary to qualify for unemployment insurance,further supporting the fundamental instability of the ultimate crash. Technologywas also an important variable. According to Walter and Maguire (1996),trawlers exerted by far the largest share of fishing mortality during the1980s and 1990s when fisheries were open.
BECAUSE THE SOCIAL IMPERATIVE TOOK PRECEDENCE, MORE FISHERS WERE ARTIFICALLYMAINTAINED THROUGH THE NON-FISHING SEASON THROUGH UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE,THEREBY EMPLOYING MORE WORKERS THAN THE RESOURCE WOULD HAVE NATURALLY SUPPORTED.RATHER THAN MAKING IT A TRADE-OFF BETWEEN JOBS VERSUS THE FISH, IT ARGUESFOR AN INTEGRATIVE FRAMEWORK, IN WHICH THE THREE IMPERATIVES ARE RECONCILED.
It would appear that paradoxically, in spite of our sosphisticated informationage, natural resource collapses are the result of a fundamental informationfailure at many levels, in the scientific community, between the scientificand policy communities, and at the bureaucratic and political decision-makinglevels. It offers quite considerable proof for the diagram I proposed underthe Frameworks section on our website, entitled "Barriers Model",that is,the more the ecological, social and economic imperatives diverge,coupled with increasing scale, increasing technology, increasing centralizationand increasing privitization, the more inevitable is the total collapse.As well, compartmentalization is a common feature of human activity systems,but it is antithetical to the understanding of ecological systems and processes.Interdisciplinary and institutional barriers constitute a formidable obstacleto the synthesis of ecological understanind and the free flow of intellectualprocess (Kerr and Ryder 1997). Unless this decision-making gridlock is exposedand new policies developed through this exposure, then any new policieswill be developed to maintain the status quo, or change only at the margins.
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