Melissa Leach: Dynamic Sustainabilities: Taking complexity and uncertainty seriously in environment...

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Transcript of Melissa Leach: Dynamic Sustainabilities: Taking complexity and uncertainty seriously in environment...

  • 1. Dynamic Sustainabilities: Taking complexity and uncertainty seriously in environment and development Melissa Leach ESRC STEPS Centre, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex UKCDS Workshop May 12 2011
  • 2.
    • Complex dynamics and uncertainties in development challenges involving environment, food, health, water (epidemics, seeds and drought, water management, low carbon energy)
    • A heuristic - the STEPS Centres pathways approach to understanding and acting on dynamic sustainabilities
    • Complexity sciences and beyond, blending natural and social science approaches
  • 3. Contradictions
    • Growing recognition (in research and everyday life) of complexity, dynamism and uncertainties
    • Growing recognition of diverse ways of knowing, values, perspectives, priorities
    • Growing search for technical-managerial solutions premised on a far more static, consensual view of the world solvable problems, achievable stability, controllable risks
    • A mismatch - cycles of failure as dynamics undermine assumptions of stability; emerging backlashes from nature, politics; mires of disagreement; those who are already vulnerable and marginal often lose out
  • 4. Dynamic systems thinking in/for development an extended family of concepts and approaches
    • Complexity science (interdependence, co-evolution and inter-coupling; feedbacks: non-linear dynamics; context-dependence; emergent properties; self-organisation)
    • Resilience thinking and sustainability science (shocks and stresses, disturbance and response, phase shifts, attractors)
    • New perspectives in ecology (non-equilibrium dynamics, multiple stable states)
    • Dynamics of technological change (socio-technical regimes, lock-in, contingency, niches, transitions)
    • Organizations and management responses in dynamic settings (complexity as experienced and engaged in as well as described, soft systems, reflective practitioners, organizational learning)
  • 5. Complex, dynamic system Interacting social, ecological, technical, political elements A dynamic systems heuristic Reflective scope: Environment Inchoate reality
    • Complexity science
    • seeks comprehensively
    • to reflect a full
    • range and diversity of
    • - elements,
    • linkages and
    • dynamics
    • in a system and its
    • environment
    • And might describe
    • pathways:
    • Particular directions in which
    • system elements co-evolve
    • over time (non-linear,
    • context-dependent, etc)
    • Change, development.
  • 6. Framings : Different ways of understanding/representing complex system dynamics and change Multiple possible pathways to different sustainabilities (which functions and values, for whom) Normative agendas (What is good change? which pathways, to where? ) Reflexive attention to framings/narratives of different actors/researchers in development Integrating a reflexive understanding:
    • Dimensions of framing
    • Not just :
    • - Scale
    • - Boundaries
    • - Key elements and complex interrelationships
    • Dynamics in play
    • But also :
    • Perspectives
    • Interests
    • Goals
    • Values
    • - Narratives
  • 7. Complexity and dynamism mean pathways cannot be expected to unfold in deterministic ways Dealing with incomplete knowledge : Uncertainty and surprise are inevitable Tailoring strategies and actions : Dynamics cannot always be controlled
  • 8. unproblematic problematic unproblematic problematic knowledge about likelihoods knowledge about outcomes Dealing with incomplete knowledge Many contrasting aspects .... RISK AMBIGUITY UNCERTAINTY IGNORANCE
  • 9. unproblematic problematic unproblematic problematic knowledge about likelihoods knowledge about outcomes Dealing with incomplete knowledge e.g. Avian influenza RISK AMBIGUITY UNCERTAINTY IGNORANCE ostensibly definitive quantitative probabilistic models of risk pandemic or not? impacts of veterinary controls? behaviour change in crisis? interplay in viral ecology / genetics immuno -compromisation ? define outbreak: distributional consequences? mortality / morbidity? vulnerable groups? economic costs? livelihoods impacts? new strains of the virus? unexpected transmission vectors? unanticipated health outcomes? complex social interactions? entirely novel pathogens?
  • 10. unproblematic problematic unproblematic problematic knowledge about likelihoods knowledge about outcomes RISK UNCERTAINTY AMBIGUITY IGNORANCE decision rules aggregative analysis deliberative process political closure reductive modeling stochastic reasoning rules of thumb insurance ` evidence-basing agenda-setting horizon scanning transdisciplinarity liability law harm definitions indicators / metrics institutional remits Powerful pressures to close down towards risk
  • 11. unproblematic problematic unproblematic problematic knowledge about likelihoods knowledge about outcomes RISK UNCERTAINTY AMBIGUITY IGNORANCE uncertainty heuristics interval analysis sensitivity testing scenarios / backcasting interactive modeling mapping / Q-methods participatory deliberation reflexive research institutional learning adaptive management From closing-down to opening-up Various potential tools and methods... reductive aggregative models ALL INVOLVE INTERACTIVE MAPPING OF DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS
  • 12. STABILITY DURABILITY RESILIENCE ROBUSTNESS SUSTAINABILITY Shaping pathways to sustainability, doing development But sustainability is not one thing..... What is to be sustained (functions, values, services...) and who values these? From Knowledge to Ac tion Temporality of change are changes seen as shocks or stresses? Potency of action is the aim to control or respond to change?
  • 13. shock (transient disruption) stress (enduring shift) control respond temporality of change style of action STABILITY Tailoring strategies and actions Multiple dynamics, often uncontrollable.... DURABILITY RESILIENCE ROBUSTNESS
  • 14. shock (transient disruption) stress (enduring shift) control respond temporality of change style of action STABILITY Tailoring strategies and actions e.g. dealing with water resources in dryland India DURABILITY RESILIENCE ROBUSTNESS Control of short-term supply variability through dams, pumps and pipes Engineering solutions geared to long-term shifts in rainfall and hydrology (e.g. margins, reduced water levels) Adaptive responses and interventions geared to floods and droughts (e.g. crop mixes, mobility, water harvesting) ; local knowledge, culturally-embedded practices Response to long-term shifts in water supply and use (e.g. changes in land use, agricultural practices, livelihoods); variegated, flexible institutional and engineering arrangements
  • 15. shock (against transient disruption) stress (agaInst enduring shift) control (change is internal to control system) response (change is external to control system) temporality of change potency of action STABILITY e.g. blueprint planning in development e.g. top-down engineering approaches in water management e.g. avian influenza: routine responses, institutionalised practices encoded in standard, global surveillance, early warning and rapid response routines Powerful pressures to close down around planned equilibrium Need to be reflexive about the dynamics of power DURABILITY RESILIENCE ROBUSTNESS
  • 16. shock (transient disruption) stress (enduring shift) temporality of change style of action control (tractable drivers ) respond (intractable drivers ) From closing-down to opening-up Some candidate styles of institution and intervention
  • 17. shock (transient disruption) stress (enduring shift) control response temporality of change potency of action From closing-down to opening-up Broad reflection, reflexivity and humility are vital DURABILITY RESILIENCE ROBUSTNESS Reflection and Reflexivity engage stakeholders; address multiple goals and values; explore uncertainties; map ambiguities; maintain flexibility / diversity
  • 18. Development and pathways to sustainability amidst/as comp