Frameworks: Part 1

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Date: Sun, 09 Feb 1997
From: Stephanie Cairns
Subject: SD Definition -Reply


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    Hmmm... First, apologies for not contributing to the discussion yet,particularly at those points where Ann specifically asked for a contribution.I will strive to become more involved in the future, although it may bean impromptu/ top of the head contributions.

    I have just re-read the background materials and all the messages receivedto date. I am first struck by how diverse our backgrounds, and hence perspectives,are, and how this defines our vision. So I need to start with a statementof my own bias. Most of my work is rooted at the very pragmatic level oftrying to figure out how to get from *here* to *there* (SD), and thereforemy thinking tends to be a bit less soaring and theoretically-based thanmany of the contributions to date.

    The thing that most struck me as I reviewed the discussion so far wasthe absence of any discussion on technology. Yet technology is one of thekey *dials* in the IPAT equation. And to take a slightly provincial viewin our discussion, I would argue that it technology is the one factor towhich an industrialized, technologically advanced and innovative countrysuch as Canada can make a practical contribution towards reduced environmentalimpacts (much more so than population, for instance). It can contributeto two of Ann's imperatives:

    - the economic (can more efficient technologies enable increased standardsof living for a growing population with no increase in environmental impact);and

    - the ecological (can production systems be redesigned to not only respect,but imitate and ultimately even restore biophysical systems).

    Although Ann's background paper places a purely technology-fix approachto SD within the first exploitist model (p.7), I think it depends on thetechnological approach taken. Advanced approaches to industrial ecologyrequire careful consideration of ecological systems, and the elegance ofecological interdependence, by industrial engineers. I expect this wouldlead, in the medium term, to growing respect for the natural systems thatsupport us, and would reduce the *us* versus *them* gap.

    I liked the efficiency, substitution, and redesign (*ESR*) frameworkadvanced by Hill and MacRae (p. 11 of background paper). Combining it witha look back at Figure 4, I found myself wondering how the two interplay:where are we in our technological progression along the efficiency, substitution,and redesign spectrum within our production systems in general (althoughobviously it varies between production spheres and economies), and whatare the implications for the potential to reduce the size of the human subsystemwithin the natural system of Figure 4?

    I liked the ESR framework because it provides a technology road map forprogress towards SD, which is essential for public policy development. Withouta road map, it is hard to introduce a public policy discussion on achievingfactor 20 or factor 20 efficiency improvements without provoking resistance,fear, and a backlash that will set the discussion back by years. From avery crass political perspective, people and economic interests have tosee short-term economic opportunity and hope along the path you are tryingto lead them on, or they will resist. The recent incorporation of this roadmap into the strategic planning of some of the multi-nationals may leadto less resistance to other SD imperatives, such as merging environmentand economics in decision making (said as a scarred survivor of many heatedpublic policy fights on economic subsidies to the petroleum sector; if RoyalDutch-Shell really sees the long-term future as renewable energy and hasstarted to invest in that direction, they may be less intense about fightingcarbon taxes or reduced tax incentives for oil & gas exploration.) Thetechnological revolution of the information age has been widely acceptedand supported, despite the negative impacts it is having on many, becausethe opportunities for the *winners* are so immense; how to paint a positiveview of the technological revolution for sustainable development that willgenerate equivalent support and enthusiasm? Until we see opportunity insustainable development, we will be paralyzed in the gridlock of conflictingagendas evident in the domestic climate change debate.

    I realize much of this is *politically incorrect, simplistic, and doesn'treconcile well the third imperative Ann lists, the social imperative. ButI haven't identified other paths that seem feasible (socially and politically).So your reactions are welcome.

    Stephanie Cairns.



    Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997
    From: Nina-Marie Lister
    Subject: meaningful dialogue



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      Greetings all,

      At last, I have emerged from under the pile of marking, taxes, and office-file-purgingto celebrate the long-awaited arrival of spring! Finally, I have clearedenough mental (and physical) space to sit down and contribute some thoughtsto our dialogue.

      In mid-March, Ann asked this:

      >My question is, how do you re-integrate what are seen as "soft"concepts >such as love, reciprocity, and relationships into harder conceptssuch as >knowledge, systems, analysis, critical thought, that is, thewhole paradigm >of rational versus irrational, objective versus subjective,which for me, >is such an artifical construct.

      This question has been teasing me, dodging and weaving in and out ofmy frame of reference for some time now. In my own research (in planningfor ecological integrity), I realised early on that the problems I was dealingwith were characteristic of highly complex systems, and that this social-economic-political-ecologicalcomplexity requires fundamentally the tools of both hemispheres of the brainin varying degrees and at different times. Yet our energy spent "solvingthe problem" is disproportionately representative of only one paradigm-theobjective/rational/science-led approach. To limit our efforts at problem-solvingto the objective, rational or reductionist paradigm is to fundamentallymiss the essence of complexity. When we reduce, simplify and homogenisecomplex problems, we lose the context of the problem itself-it is as thoughwe have forgotten the question we sought to answer. For me, one of the routesto sustainability is to embrace the paradoxes through using our whole selves:the whole brain, heart and spirit.

      We cannot continue to allow the last 300 years of knowledge through (mostlygood) deterministic science blind us to the next jump in our evolution-to that of the quantum world, where the focus is not on static objects andrigid laws, but on diversity, patterns, a mosaic of shifting contexts, andorganic, dynamic fluidity. The order and beauty of (social, ecological,economic...) complexity comes about through the development of all organisedsystems, in which novel and emergent phenomenona arise (e.g language inhuman culture, mutualism in ecological relationships, etc.). Such noveltycannot be seen through the limited frame of reference we have allowed ourselves.It should be a lesson to those who cling to rigid objectivity and determinismthat now even mathematicians talk of the beauty and elegance of their equationsto describe complexity in the universe (string theory etc.).

      Like Ann, I have long felt that we do indeed need a reconciliation ofthe (hierarchical) duality that splits our collective pshyche. A split that,as Ann alludes, threatens to paralyse us and probably precludes any meaningfulmovement toward sustainability. In this context, I wonder if the reconciliationframework we are searching for is indeed a "model of love". Atthe very least, it must be a marriage of heart and mind. "Marriage"of course suggesting compromise between partners as the context requires.

      As Ann notes,

      >(To once again avoid the trap of dualism, I do not reject ofjectivityas a >desirable goal, I believe, however, that one can only attain somedegree of >objectivity, by recognizing one's very subjectivity and allthat entails.) This is an important point that cannot be over-emphasised.A reconciliation framework should embrace both "heart and mind"-thesoft and hard approaches of multiple paradigms and perspectives, ratherthan a "new" or "alternative" approach that, in theend, only achieves power by marginalising the "other" approach.Certainly this sentiment is long recognised in the (creative) post-modernliterature (Orr, 1992) as well as the complex systems literature (Wheatley,1992 among others).

      In this respect, meaningful dialogue is central to design a reconciliationframework. Again, as Ann noted "dialogue means the >bringing togetherof multiple perspectives that inform thought, it is >indeed our abilityto make those perspectives explicit, that means we are >engaging in possiblynew thought, for "meaning is co-created in the act of >dialogue,it cannot be known ahead of time what meaning will emerge." >(Dixon1996)". So, the constructive and critical use of dialogue in an >informative,respectful and (thus) emanicpatory way is an essential process to >buildmeaning.

      In moving the sustainability dialogue forward, we need to remind ourselvesthat the we cannot not afford to "forget" the past or replacethe dominant paradigm, but we need to build meaning through exposing thelayers of the domint cultural mythology that created the problems in thefirst place. Although I empathise with Ann that much of our discussion hasfocused on identifiying what is wrong and the perils of the dominant socio-economicworld view, this process of awareness and enlightment are necessary stepsto emancipation from the staus quo and subsequent foundation-building ina new (multi-paradigmatic!) cultural mythology.

      So, moving forward with Ann's question:

      >How can the concept of development replace growth as necessary forsustainable >>employment, social mobility and technical advance? Isthere a link, or new >>narrative for social change that can be madebetween development and >progress?

      I believe that a narative for change is precisely what we need: a narrativeor new cultural myth rich with stories from the soul, validation of passion,recognition of new scientific understanding and meaningful iteration betweenthe old and the new, the mind and the heart. This narrative can arise throughmeaningful dialogue in Dixon's (1986) sense, in which we negotiate the valueof all ways of knowing. We might borrow from Funtowicz and Ravetz (1994)and suggest "quality" as an organising principle, rather than"objective truth" in such a narrative. Certainly we have takenthe first steps in this regard, by deconstructing the dominant paradigmand offering our suggestions for new lenses through which we might see theculture of sustainability.

      More later. (I'll try to ground the stream-of-conscious writing nexttime with examples.)

      Cheers, Nina-Marie


      Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997
      From: Nina-Marie Lister
      Subject: Reconciliation Framework



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        I wanted to continue in my speculation as to the nature and form of areconciliation framework. Here, I promise to try and ground my thoughtssomewhat, using some practical eaxamples where I can think of them!

        Ann is wise to suggest that we move beyond criticism of the dominantsocio-economic paradigm. Although it is useful to critically deconstructthe dominant cultural myth in order that we may enlighten and eventuallyfree ourselves from its bondage, it is counter-productive to respond onlyto the dominance. In so doing, we further marginalize our position(s) as"alternative" rather than acceptable and legitimate inn an inclusiveway. If there is anything I have learned from feminist and post-modern thought,this is it.

        Furthermore, I agree wholeheartedly with Ann's assessment that we needto reverse the burden of proof:

        >The principal failure, I believe, has been to define ourselves vis-a-vis>the mainstream, rather than developing new models putting the mainstreamin >the position of having to respond to the new models. So, in agreement,I suggest that we set to work on a new cultural mythology in the form ofa "reconcilation framework" that will move us toward sustainability.This new framework should serve as a model in which we rigorously forcethe existing paradigm to defend itself (inevitably at first) and eventually(and more productively), adjust, accomodate, and ultimately be absorbedinto.

        Ann identifies the decoupling of the economic system from the ecological,life-support system as a principle mistake of our current paradigm. As partof this decoupling, I would add the entrenchment of hierarchical dualismssuch as (to name but a few)

        • man and woman
        • human animal and non-human animals
        • north & west and south & east
        • reason and passion/objectivity and subjectivity
        • white humans and those of colour
        • heterosexual and homosexual
        • science and art ..... etc. etc. etc.

        Although all of these yin-yang dualisms are part of the very fabric ofhuman diversity, it is their hierarchical entrenchment into our institutions,bureaucracies, and political-economic systems that is truly pathological.For me, this is root of the lop-sided paralysis we face with respect tosustainability issues.

        Anyway, to move forward, let me throw out some "guiding principles"which we might toss around and develop substantively and rigorously as thebeginnings of our reconciliation framework:

        Diversity is an essential feature of all self-organising systems, whethersocio-economic, political, or ecological. To homogenise diversity and fosteruniformity is to rob any complex system of future evolution, adaptive capacity,and ultimately of its essence.

        Dualisms alone are not a "bad things"; in fact dualisms arepart of the rich tapestry of diversity. It is the hierarchical assignmentof these dualisms that has resulted in many of our socio-cultural pathologies.Instead, we need to remove the constraints imposed by the hierarchies, andsee the diversity of human charactersitics.

        The earth is finite and has a limited capacity to absorb the by-productsof quantitative economic growth. A more suitable measure of the evolutionof our economic system(s) would be "qualitative development",in which the lives of present and future inhabitants of earth are qualitiativelyenriched. (Sure, we can say lots here!)

        The economic system is part of a "nested holarchy" (or web)of other self-organising systems. It is one system connected to and withina web of other, related systems at many scales: social, political, cultural,ecological, technological....Most importantly, it is nourished and physicallysupported by the largest known habitable system: the earth itself. (Referringback to Daly 1991: the economy as "an open subsystem within a finite,non-growing and materially closed total system - the earth-ecosystem orbiosphere. The growth of the economy, therefore, is constrained by the physicalcarrying capacity of the larger biosphere."

        Ann asks: "What is the optimal scale of the subsystem relative tothe entire system?" I don't think we can answer this question in termsof an "optimum" but rather "appropriate" (and shifting)scale, which will depend largely on the external conditions of the environmentand ecological support-systems. There can be no single preferred "steadyoperating state" in our bioshphere, but rather a "shifting mosiac"of states (Kay 1991). Rather than trying to "predict" and controlour direction in this regard, it is probably more productive to ask "whatis possible?" then, through open meaningful dialogue, negotiate "whatis desirable". So, another principle might be:

        meaningful dialogue and negotiation of desirable states is essentialto plan effectively for sustainability. This harkens back to Dixon (1986),and Funtowicz and Ravetz (1994) among others.

        Ann also suggests that industrial ecology may have aplications for sustainabilityin which we design industrial processes to piggyback on and mimic naturalprocesses. I agree, and further suggest we create another principle in thisregard:

        Adaptive management of sub-systems constrained within the bioshphererequires that we "design with nature" using nature's model asthe ultimate model of sustainability (Todd 1989; Van der Ryn & Cowan1996). This means that low-technology, relying on natural processes whichclose the (input-output) nutrient-waste loop are preferable. Lots of examplesfrom the architectural and industrial ecology literature here...

        Well, I hope that is a start for discussion toward a reconciliation framework.I have no particular order to these "guiding principles" otherthan order in which my brain processed Ann's last posting. Please add to,re-organize and creatively develop these thoughts with me!





        Date: Thu, 8 May 1997
        From: Ann Dale
        Subject: Dialogue Dynamics


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          I agree with much of Nina-Marie's "Reconciliation framework"with the exception of the comments on dualism. I agree that the conceptof nested holons is very much a part of the rich tapestry of diversity,as well as hierarchical arrangements. Dualism, however, is a human construct.Its pervasiveness and persistence on modern thought, even in emergent socialmovements, is a dominant influence . I believe that this uniquely EuroAmericanview underpins anthropocentrism, androcentrism, enthnocentrism, racism andsexism. All of these "isms" in turn shape the thickness, determinethe colour, and the flexibility of the lens we all use to understand theworld we live in and our relationship with other species.

          Duality has usually been attributed to Descartes, for

          . . . to Descartes, the material universe was a machine, and nothingbut a machine. There was no purpose, life or spirituality in matter. Natureworked according to mechanical laws, and everything in the material worldcould be explained in terms of the arrangement and movement of its parts.This mechanical picture of nature became the dominant paradigm of sciencein the period following Descartes (Capra 1982).

          For Descartes, the pursuit of knowledge was the ultimate end, and therefore,the defining characteristic of human beings was the mind, and he saw mindand matter as fundamentally different. But even though it was Descarteswho led us to venerate dualism as the highest God, with his fundamentaldistinction between mental and material substance, he was simply reflectinga theme powerful in Western thought long before he wrote about it. A relianceon dualistic thought can be traced back to the Zorastrians, as well as tothe Ancient Greek and early Christians.

          Regardless of its origins, dualism has been and continues to be an underlyingvalue in the Western relation to the World, the tendency to separate intopolar opposites of sacred and base; essential and existential; good andevil; male and female. Which in turn causes us to concern ourselves withthe positive and the negative, and to disregard the infinite range of possibilitiesin-between. The nondualist, by contrast, is concerned with both unity andmultiplicity. Yes and no are part of one systemic unified whole; and yet,at the same time they concern themselves with an infinite multiplicity ofdegrees of affirmation and denial.

          Following directly from dualism are the subsequent values placed on themind versus the material, the dichotomy between the subjective and the objective,and the assignment of masculine and feminine attributes one or the other.From the time of Plato and Aristotle, males were described as rational andobjective; females as nurturing and subjective. As early as the nineteenthcentury, some feminists warned passionately about the dangers of classification.As Claire Demare exclaimed:

          You proclaim two natures! Indeed tomorrow, depending on how many declarethemselves to belong to the one or the other, (. . .) You'll make one, perhapsinvoluntarily, predominate over the other; and soon we'll have a bad anda good nature, an original sin; (. . .) you shall be the God and I shallbe the Devil.


          Have a great day, Ann



          Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997
          From: Ann Dale
          Subject: And on we go


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          It has been a long time since our last communication, both electronicallyand personally. I would like to take this opportunity to summarize the resultsof our Lac Maskinonge workshop on June 27-28, 1997, for those who couldn'tparticipate. I would then like to make a few suggestions about how to proceedfor the second year of this dialogue, which I anticipate will take us fromSeptember 1997 until the end of May 1998. It has been an incredible journeyto date, and I hope that we can make some real progress applying some ofthe ideas we developed in the June workshop.

          WEB SITE,

          In response to the near unanimous request that we create a WEB site,I have been working over the last ten weeks, in conjunction with IsabelCordua von-Specht, in creating our site. It may be found at have decided not to use conference software, as the software that Sheilarecommended was not compatible with our server. In addition, after surveyingavailable conferencing software, the software available to date does notenhance the structure of the site we developed. Thus, I decided that itwould be preferable to combine the best of the two technologies, the immediacyof email and the logical structuring of the WEB site. The WEB site, therefore,will serve as our archival record, and will be continuously updated on amonthly basis from the email dialogue.


          JUNE 27-28, 1997 WORKSHOP SUMMARY

          The workshop agenda was ambitious, and diverse. We started by introducingone another, telling our stories and talking about our values. Common backgroundexperiences emerged, in that without exception, everyone had not followeda common career or academic path. In many instances, degrees covered twoor three separate disciplines, with a multiplicity of diverse work experience.Moreover, almost all the co-researchers expressed their deep commitmentto interdisciplinary work. Without exception, all had incurred some professionalcosts and mentioned the difficulty of having this kind of work recognizedand funded within mainstream academic institutions. In many cases, peoplehad been told to narrow their focus, and to stay within one discipline.Another interesting variable was that 6 out of the 7 co-researchers werethe eldest in their family, and one was a twin. All had had direct experienceswith nature, while growing up.

          Each one of us agreed to assume responsibility for various portions ofthe agenda. (I need some help here, as my notes are rather sketchy, andI am going from memory.) Please do not hesitate to add your comments, asI am sure that our collective memory is far superior to any one individual,although there may be an age variable here.

          In terms of the overall context of sustainable development, many feltthat we live in such a psychopathological context that we are unable torecognize healthy behaviour or maintain healthy systems. This is one ofthe major barriers why simple models and solutions often fail to win acceptance.Green taxes were raised as a key way to change expenditure systems, andthat one had to work on multiple levels, as micro-management at the householdlevel misses addressing some of the issues at the global industrial systemlevel. Therefore, multiple solutions and multiple tools are necessary. How,then, do governments constructively encourage changes of this magnitude?

          In spite of the overwhelming evidence that sustainable development isa key imperative, material use and technology is still accelerating. Interms of production systems, 95 percent of what we produce is waste, and5 percent of current industrial inputs are devoted to producing the product.This is both a tremendous problem and a tremendous opportunity. Each inventioncould be a tremendous opportunity to change our production processes, especiallysince it is estimated that 90 percent of products 25 years from now willbe new. If we can indeed reduce our pressure on natural resources and reduceour use of raw material inputs, then this may well be a strategic opportunity.Given the basic natural principle that waste equals food, how far can wepush this analogy in human activity systems?

          Some believed that the public had been left out of the equation, as multistakeholderprocesses were still very elitist, and hence, the sustainable developmentdebate has not been shaped, nor was it supported by public discussion. Forexample, there has never been a values discussion on climate change in thiscountry. Governments cannot be expected to lead if the public is not pushingfor change, and politicians, therefore, do not feel any obligation to actin these critical areas.

          Most important issues for this and the next decade are cross-sectoral,and there are structural difficulties in both government and universitiesthat mitigate against being able to effectively address such horizontalissues. It was critical, therefore, to introduce some "looseness"in current institutions to create a process for change. Real innovationhappens through developing social capital, but there are social barriersingrained within the context of institutional barriers. Engrained behaviourencourages cognitive atrophy, and increased ecological literacy may be away to break through some of these barriers.

          A major failing of academe is the role and value placed on expertise,for expertise is antithetical to sustainable development. Many researchquestions remain to be answered, or even fundamentally addressed, such asthe scales at which we can tinker. How can we synchronize human and naturaltime scales, as the potential for conflict between the two systems is greatbecause of the disparity in time scales? We have isolated our decision-makingsystems from negative feedback from natural systems, as evidenced by theEast Coast fisheries collapse. The more distant we are in time and spacefrom the effects of our decisions, the more likely it is that negative feedbackloops will become positive in terms of local scale. It is critical, therefore,that human systems develop the ability to receive and respond to negativefeedback loops.

          We are so wedded to the engineering model of predict, control, and fail-safesystems. Sustainable development involves complex system dynamics, whereuncertainty, surprise and complexity, change and lack of constancy are thenorm. We need the ability to deal with grey areas, variability is a necessarypart of life. New kinds of literacies are needed, we are overspecialized,even within the ecological discipline. We need to design systems where itis safe to fail, with the ability todetermine the approporiate boundariesof the contexts in which we are living. Humility was regarded as a key attributefor knowledge and learning.

          Practically, it was critical to keep in mind how sustainable developmentissues played into the main policy agenda. Government was still basicallystructured along the same lines as the 1920's, with its sectoral, hierarchicalorganizational structure. The ability of vested interests to argue for andmaintain the status quo is very much supported by the sectoral organizationof governments, and client capture is a real barrier to significant policychange. As well, there is no longer a strong policy and analytical capacityto initiate major change, given the current downsizing in governments everywherein the industrial world.

          With respect to the decision context for sustainable development, ecosystemintegrity is critical. We are dealing with open, self-organizing, dynamicsystems where constant change is the norm. Government policies, however,are rigid, and defined according to disciplinary structures and normal science.Science for sustainable development, however, is uncertain, and informationwill always be incomplete. Government with its organizational "silo"structures is incapable of leading the implementation of sustainable development.Our institutional context is antithetical and contradictory to this imperative.New forms of decision-making are necessary, such as multistakeholder processes.

          Strategic alliances are necessary, policy webs, networks of collaboration,based on the principle that we know enough to act now, and that there isa dearth of innovation. Another strategy is to identify what the currenttrends are, and capitalizing on those macro trends, rather than denyingtheir existence. We need a shift from participatory to more collaborativenetworks, where failure is recognized as part of uncertainty. How do weshift from a risk averse mentality to safe to fail with back-up systems?

          With respect to a dynamic slate of generic principles, everyone agreedto accept the Natural Step Principles as a starting point. With respectto the dynamic slate of generic principles, the following operating principlesemerged:

          holism - holarchic/webs, enlarged decision-making contexts, multiplicityof voices, interdisciplinarity, bricoleur (plural methodologies), learningorganization (safe to fail), dynamic, self-organizing structures (webs),diversity, subsidiarity, mutualism, integrity, willingness to act underuncertainty, precautionary principle, humility, first principles, sustainedrelection and embracing complexity.

          For purposes of clarification, we had a lot of discussion about the meaningof the word framework. Upon further reflection, framework is being usedby a number of different organizations, in a number of different ways. Iam using the word framework to mean a way of organizing, of structuringat the macro level. I am proposing, therefore, that the overarching frameworkfor government is sustainable development. The ecological, and I would argue,the economic evidence is clear that we must embrace a new paradigm thatemphasizes adapting our behaviour to our current ecological reality. Althoughsustainable development is an amorphous but integrative paradigm (Pierce,forthcoming), I believe it offers the only possible reconciliation betweenhuman activity and natural systems.

          All of us agreed upon the importance of values, both personally and professionally.Since we have agreed that sustainable development is normative, in thisnext stage of our collaborative enquiry, I would like you to keep two modelsin mind. The first one is a way of values-based thinking, and the secondis a model I adapted from Sahl and Bernstein for a potential framework forgovernance. Rather than deny values, they are embraced and used in these two models.





          Please refer to the WEB site for thediagrams, under the Frameworks section in the Dialogue by Subject, lastmessage.


          NEXT STEPS

          Over this next year, I suggest we concentrate on expanding on the reconcilingframework of sustainable development that I have proposed, in terms of linkingthe principles we started to define at the workshop. Then, we should moveto the framework(s) for governance that step from the reconciling model.Shealagh Pope has suggested that we use the concrete example of the fisheriesmodel as a concrete example to have in our mind when we move to governance.I believe it is a useful example, particularly with respect to how scienceis handled within governments, however, for the purposes of our research,biodiversity conservation offers the more challenging and complex sustainabledevelopment problem. Our key question with the latter is how to build uponthe lessons we have learned from acid rain and global climate change andmove to addressing the issue. This is why government leadership is so keyin this critical area.

          I propose, therefore, to summarize the key aspects of the fisheries casethat are relevant to us, pulling out some key questions for the governanceenquiry. We should keep the issue of biodiversity conservation, however,in front of us as the key issue we are trying to address through our framework(s).

          Before that, following your comments on this message over the next week,I will summarize our framework for sustainable development, and the principlesemanating from that framework.

          I will send a separate email with the administrative follow-up from ourmeeting, including the addresses and emails of the co-researchers.

          I would also appreciate your feedback on the WEB Site. At this time,I would like to remind you that Shealagh Pope announced the the new on-lineConservation Ecology Journal is now available at




          Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997
          From: Dale Scott Rothman
          Subject: And on we go: Initial Comments


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          Hi Guys!

          I may not be responding quite this quick in the future, but I thoughtI would try to get off on the right foot. So here are a few initial commentsand questions for Ann.

          1)"In terms of production systems, 95 percent of what we produceis waste, and 5 percent of current industrial inputs is devoted to producingthe product." I may have missed something at the summer meeting, butI do not recall this statement being made. Irrespective of whether it was,this is a pretty strong statement that requires some justification.

          2)"A major failing of academe is the role and value placed on expertise,for expertise is antithetical to sustainable development." I can certainlybuy the first half of this statement, but am a bit troubled by the second.Expertise itself is not antithetical to SD. Rather it is an overemphasison expertise to the exclusion of more general training and ways of knowing.

          3)"The more distant we are in time and space from the effects ofour decisions, the more likely it is that negative feedback loops will becomepositive in terms of local scale." I need a little clarification here.I assume that this is meant to indicate that the more removed the decision-makingprocess is from local context, the less it will recognize local concernsand feedbacks. Also, I would want to add to this that we must also not forgetthe impacts of our decisions/actions on those at a distance from us in timeand space. By the way, I learned a new acrnymwhile in Colorado - NIMTOO- not in my term of office.

          4)"6 out of the 7 co-researchers were the eldest in their family,and one was a twin" I guess that I was the odd one out being neitherthe eldest nor a twin.

          Later, Dale



          Date: Tue, 30 Sep 1997
          From: Laszlo Pinter
          Subject: comments


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          I missed your summer workshop, but I do have a few thoughts to add toAnn'ssummary.

          Although I do consider multistakeholder processes essential, I believethey are only a necessary but not sufficient condition of responsive, resilient,just, efficient, sustainable governance. The argument is old, but may beworth reciting: only an informed public can be expected to participate andwork effectively towards the common good. At the heart of being informedis having the right - and institutionally set - signals about one's conditionand direction, whether an individual or a social group. It works like theimmune system: the signal needs to be linked to the source of the problemat one end - the antigen - and to the mechanism that produces a solution- the immune reaction. No link, no effective response. What if the goalfunction of a national eonomy was NOT defined in terms of the Gross DomesticProduct? Would it simply change the way our current governance system operates?Or would it act as a catalytic force and change the structure of the systemitself?

          The analogy between adaptive, resilient governance and resilience inecosystems is very interestingly explored in a recent paper of Gundersonet al. ("Resilience in Ecosystems, Institutions and Societies",Beijer Discussion Paper Series No. 95., 1997). Allow me to quote somethingthat is key here: "It increasingly appears that effective and sustainabledevelopment of technology, institutions, economies and ecosystems requiresways to deal not only with near equilibrium efficiency but the reality ofmore than one equilibrium. If there is more than one equilibrium, in whichdirection should the finger of Adam Smith point? If there is more than oneobjective function, where does the engineer search for optimal designs?"If there is more than one 'sustainable' outcome, is the governance systemthat is capable of identifying alternatives better than the one that identifiesonly one that is preferred? Is there a difference? Does it matter? I thinkthis is related to the point that we need systems that are 'safe to fail',that have alternatives both in terms of small decisions and large outcomes.As a friend of mine from New Zealand recently put it, 'we prefer TAMO (for'there are many options') to TANA ('there are no alternatives'). I thinkthe governance system that fulfils these criteria is multicentric, decentralized,networked, more coordinating than managing. I am writig this, but at thesame time I realize that because of the artificial spatial/jurisdictionalboundaries governance needs to grow outside of these bounds on issues whosescale extends beyond the scope of localism. So maybe a 'sustainable' governancesystem is able to detect the right scale of issues and match it with action- either through building external or global networks or by allowing decentralization.

          Finally, I have a question to all of you, and I am raising this onlyafter Ann thought it was appropriate. Very briefly, I am currently preparinga report on emerging environmental issues for UNEP's 2nd Global EnvironmentalOutlook (GEO) project. Part of this process is that I survey a very smallnumber of key opinion-leaders in Canada about their views on emerging environmentalissues (Canadian and global). If any of you would be willing to contributeto this process and would like to answer the UNEP/SCOPE questionnaire, pleaselet me know at my own email address ( and I send you a copy.

          Regards to all,




          Date: Wed, 22 Oct 1997
          From: Shealagh E. Pope
          Subject: Fisheries or not fisheries


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          Hi all,

          I'm just back from a week in Banff soaking up the mountains and the lastof the fall sunshine, watching golden eagles migrate down the Bow Valley,and despairing at the growth of the Canmore townsite just outside the park.I thought that I would log back into the dialogue before I got buried (again)in the work of the journal, the Algonquin to Adirondacks conservation project,writing up my thesis for publication, and life in general.

          Just a small correction, the address for Conservation Ecology is

          Ann gave you the address for the Public Forum that we ran in the summer(which may also be of interest to the group).

          I suggested to Ann that I, at least, needed something concrete on whichto pin our discussions. I offered up the restructing of the fisheries departmentat the federal level as one possible candidate for our efforts to designgoverning bodies that would better deal with the multi-stakeholder, multi-scale,uncertain resource issues that together constitute sustainable development.

          The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) got hauled over the coalsthis summer for their dealings with their staff scientists (justifiablyfrom what I've heard). The controversy was sparked by two articles and alead editorial in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences(probably the premier fish journal). As is often the case, it turns outthat the press coverage accentuated the "sexy" elements of oneof the papers and didn't address the meat of the articles: which was howdo we manage resources? I have pdf versions of the articles which I couldsend to Ann to mount on the web site if anyone is interested (totally againstall copyright laws - but then copyright laws make no sense with regard toresearch results). I think that they are reasonably non-technical (the fisheriesjargon can be daunting).

          So how do you manage a "resource" that is international inscope yet of key import to the culture and survival of only one part ofan individual nation? How do you manage that resource when the science isuncertain and the economic and political pressures great? How do you managethat "resource" when it does not exist in isolation from otherimportant "resources" or from natural biotic and abiotic forces?

          My copy of the CJFAS articles are at home, but I recall that one of thearticles gives concrete examples of Ann's silos: of those in charge of shippingand therefore ballast water dumping being totally disjunct from the controlof aquaculture development. On the one hand, one department is pushing theeconomic benefits of aquaculture and developing a whole industry aroundit while on the other hand another department is increasing internationalshipping and the potential for the introduction of exotic organisms thatcould spell the ruin of the new aquaculture industry.

          In re-reading Laszlo's comments, I would like to relate those to thecollapse of the East Coast cod fishery. I think that management of thatfishery, at the political level at least, was very much set in the modelof one "equilibrium" - the "balance of nature" model.It is assumed that even if the system is pushed to economic collapse, thatsome "time out" (i.e. a closure of the fishery for some period)will allow the system to recover to its previous levels. In the multi-equilibrialmodel, the concern is that pushing the system too far will result in itre-equilibrating at a new level - in this case a much lower level. It maywell be that the spawning stock may never recover to a size sufficient torebuild the population to its 1986 high levels (the pre-crash peak), letalone the levels of last century. A much more risk-averse approach is called-forin this multi-equilibrial model than in the simpler single-equilibrium model.

          I aslo agree with Dale that expertise is not antithetical to sustainabledevelopment. "Expertise" is knowledge, know-how, understanding.We need that - although we need to recognize that it comes from many sourcesnot just academics. What we need to guard against is specialization thathas no context - knowing a lot about one small thing but not having thecapacity to connect that knowledge to other areas.

          It snowed here last night, so I'm on the bus and have to start the longjourney (as compared to a bike ride) home.

          Looking forward to a productive year.

          Cheers, Shealagh



          Date: Fri, 7 Nov 1997
          From: Nina-Marie Lister
          Subject: Equilibrium, Expertise and Uncertainty


            Up One


            Whenever I am teaching, it seems that I am paradoxically consumed withthe task of communicating concepts pertaining to sustainability and complexity,and yetI am almost paralysed in finding the mental space to contribute tothe dialogue. It's ironic, because I always find the exercise of contributingat once daunting and powerfully rewarding. Anyway, I would like to synthesisemy thoughts with some of yours, following on the emerging (and this time,apparently coalescing) themes of equilibrium, uncertainty, and expertise.

            I like Shelagh's suggestion and her useful illustration of how we canuse the Fisheries issues and institutions as an example against which toframe our "model" for SD. It is certainly an excellent case fromwhich to begin, and we could eventually extend the "model" toother inter-jurisdictional cases should we wish to do so -- e.g. the CanadianBiodiversity Strategy; the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; or strategiesfor adaptation to and management of atmospheric change.

            In re-reading many of the postings, I notice a general agreement aroundand reiteration of several related themes, from multiple-equilibrium statesin ecosystems, to uncertainty and the role of expertise. These three (setsof) issues coalese and resonate with one another, creating a profound setof implications for governance, which if recognised, can result in a setof guiding principles for SD. (I am synthesising here, so forgive me ifI leave out someone's perspective.) Here is the line of logic distilledfrom our dialogue, and peppered rather liberally with ideas borrowed fromand inspired by Francis, Funtowicz and Ravetz, Holling, Kay, Regier andlots of others:

            1. The complexity inherent in living systems may result in, among otherphenomena, the existence of multiple equilibrium points for those systems.To put this into a systems-theory perspective, these multiple-equilibriumpoints (system attractors) are points around which the system may appearsteady for an indeterminate time period. Following disturbance, which inthe fisheries case, is in large part caused by cumulative human-inducedstresses (overfishing, poor management of related resources etc.), the system'sresilience (or its ability to return to that point of equilibrium) is impairedsuch that it doesn't return to that same point of equilibrium. In effect,we perceive as Shelagh notes, that "the balance of nature" isdisrupted, as the system moves to another equilibrium point, and corresponding"attractor". The existence of these multiple equilibrium pointsis rather neatly described as a "steady state mosiac" by variousauthors, including Capra. The problem is as Shelagh points out, that weassume only one "optimum operating point" and so direct our managementefforts accordingly.

            2. Multiple steady states (or equilibrium points, to be consistent withothers' terminology) combined with other ecosystem dynamics such as suddenchanges in or flips between these states, results in a high degree of uncertaintyin our ability to understand why, when and how these changes occur (letalone predict them). This inherent uncertainty is in direct conflict withour current model of governance, which is based on a linear-causal worldviewand assumes that more knowledge equals more certainty, which in turn shouldenable us to "manage" through prediction and (to some degree)control -- usually of that one elusive "optimum operating point"or balance of nature. In governance we still continue to expect certainty,given our investment in knowledge and reliance on experts.

            3. Given that ecosystems may have many steady states, how do we recognisewhich one we are currently in? If we can learn to do this, then we mightlearn to adapt to these states and eventually, "steer" the systemto a "preferred state" through gentler, more humble, smaller-scale,less-intrusive, and even "loving" management, i.e. managementof our own activities rather than brute force management and control ofnature (inspired by Arja, Caterina, Ann and Elisabeth). Here we get to theissue of expertise. Given the complexity and uncertainty in living systems,the implications are that we can't rely on prediction with certainty andmore knowledge doesn't necessarily lead to better or more effective decisions.So what beomes the role of the expert?

            Rather than falling into the trap of post-modern nihilism and rejectingthe expert, I think there is a creative role (for the expert) we must find.Like Shelagh and Dale, I agree that we need to maintain a healthy respectfor expertise -- but with the proviso that it be for a re-defined expertand in quite a different capacity. I think it was David who, at our summerday on the dock, pointed out that true expertise in any field takes yearsto cultivate and, elitist-sounding or not, warrants recognition. It seemsthat in an adaptive and resilient management and decision-making model forSD, we need to do as Funtowicz and Ravtez suggest and "extend the peercommunity" of experts to include new types of previously unrecognisedexpertise. In effect, SD requires expertise that has co-evolved out of place,culture, and tradition, which is every bit as important as the aquisitionof new knowledge in disciplinary expertise. In this sensibility, "expertise"that is adaptive and resilient is diverse -- it incorporates local wisdom,traditional knowledge, understanding of history, context, place and scale,etc. (and much more...) [This is not "expertise in SD per se, but inthe variety of disciplines and hybrids necessary to inform SD.]

            4. The real question of adaptive management then, is this: acceptingsystem disturbance as normal, how do we encourage a return an "optimumoperating point" that we humans enjoy and recognise as a "preferredsystem state"? More importantly perhaps, can we learn, through a diversepalette of expertise, to recognise the different equilibrium points anddevelop, as Lazlo points out, corresponding management strategies for eachstate? It is reasonable to assume that for each possible system state, thereare different management strategies that require a diversity of expertiseat different times. The complexity deepens...

            This resonates very closely with the central argument in my dissertation,in which I am developing an adaptive planning process model for the conservationof biodiversity (can you tell I am writing it at present?). Here, in thelarger context of governance for SD however, we need to "scale up"from one cross-sectoral issue to many. So what guiding principles for SDcan we distill from these premises? I believe we have all articulated someof these before but let's try and push this forward:

            Here I am synthesising some of our postings and borrowing from a recentpaper of my own that draws similar conclusions (Lister, in press in Env.Monitoring and Assessment). Based on the above, some Guiding Principlesfor SD might be:

            * Decision-making is context-dependent: scale, history and local context(physically,socio-culturally) are determine "rules" for a quality decisionprocess. Rules established in one context or scale can't be unilaterallyapplied elsewhere.

            * Adaptive decision-making is flexible, small-scale, safe-to-fail andprecautionary, given the complexity of ecosystems. It assumes multilpleequilibrium points and seeks to learn the patterns around several of thesepoints.

            * Resilience demands diversity. As in nature, the analog for governanceis that a diversity of voices, values and knowledge provide a richer setof tools that may be applied in differing ecosystems contexts to fosterreslience as well as adaptibility.

            * Adaptive governance must assume long-term environmental change. Whilewe know that change is normal in ecosystems, we must also assume that these"natural changes" are being and will continue to be exacerbatedperhaps cumulatively though human-induced changes that are simulataneouslyoccurring. Furthermore, it may be impossible to determine which change iswhich, so the question of "naturalness" may be irrelevant.

            * Adaptive governance requires experts who serve as "option-providers"rather than "problem-solvers". In the abscence of certainty, therole of expert is transformed to providing options, choices and trade-offsfor various courses of action that the public (those who are affected) mustultimately decide on.


            * Adaptive governance should be based on a vision for the future negotiatedthrough informed and empowered civic debate. From this vision, the adviceof experts should provide possible routes and options for action, "backcasted"to the present, and selected by an informed public. Ecological and participatoryliteracy are key prerequisities to engagement in this debate. Rules forparticipation and a committed dialgue would have to be established. Equalityof and respect for a diversity of legitimate voices and values are routesto their empowerment in the decision-process. (This is where the utopian-soundingbit really kicks in...)

            Next step -- can we or do we want to extend these principles to tangibledecision-making suggestions and implications for the Fisheries example?

            At this point I felt I had to draw together the core of my own research,the inspiration of many voices before mine, and the collective wisdom ofthe dialogue. I'm sorry if it repeats much of what has been said, but pleaseindulge me, if at least for the benefit of writing my current chapter ofthe dissertation. If there is interest, we can refine, shape, and add tothis list of rather lofty principles, and then tie them tangibly to theFisheries example.

            Best regards to you all,




            To Framework(s), Part II

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