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SUSTAINABILITY INDICATORS AS A COMMUNICATIVE TOOL -- BUILDING BRIDGES IN PENNSYLVANIA
KATHI BERATAN (Duke U. / Temple U.)
Shirley Loveless (Temple U.)
Paula Martin (Juniata Col.)
Stan Kabala (Duquesne U.)
Nancy Spyke (Duquesne
PCIEP (Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy):Colleges and Universities working in partnership with State and Local governments
QUESTIONS WE’RE ADDRESSING:
How can scientific information be better integrated into the decision process?
How can academic institutions assist in this process?
How can decision making, at multiple governance levels, dealing with processes operating at multiple scales, be coordinated?
Context: Managing Complexity
Indicators as a Communicative Tool
Interlinked natural and human systems are COMPLEX,thus characterized by:
• Importance of thresholds and domain shifts;
• Difficulty in detecting change early enough to develop effective solutions;
• Likelihood that the signal of change will be displaced in space and time from the source, so that motivation for action will be small.
(Levin et al. 1997)
The one thing we know for certain is that surprise is inevitable
How can managers plan for the future if they don’t know what will happen?
We focus on finding ways to build RESILIENCE -- a system’s capacity to recover from disturbance.
Resilience is the inverse of vulnerability
DIVERSITYis one critical component. For example, Biodiversity in the environment, diversity of social institutions, diversity of economic investments
(Resilience is not always a good thing -- maladaptive conditions and institutions can be resilient!)
THE IMPORTANCE OF SCALE
Different processes occur at different scales, collectively influencing system behavior…
(Diagrams from The Resilience Alliance)
Different types of decisions, with differing information needs, are made at different governance levels.
Townships, Allegheny Co., PA
Political-managerial systems are COMPLEX
Decision making is hampered by fragmentation of responsibility, lack of cross-boundary and cross-scale coordination, lack of consensus on values and priorities.
Harmonization of actions across scales is needed.
How can this be achieved?
INDICATORS AS A COMMUNICATIVE TOOL
To have an impact, indicators must have some real connection to decision making and implementation processes -- a mechanism should be available for the target audience to respond to the information provided by the indicators.
Effective indicator sets will have a specific objective, and target a specific audience.
One important objective may be to open lines of communication to improve coordination and cooperation among agencies and organizations with overlapping interests and responsibilities.
Getting people talking to each other can result in broadening of viewpoints, identification of common values and goals, and greater understanding of needs and constraints.
Different collaborations will likely develop around different issues.
“Sustainability Centers” based at academic institutions
Long-Term Strategy --
PCIEP as “Boundary Organization”
Information Design is a critical concern -- Sound scientific information is important, but is insufficient to change people’s behavior
BARRIER TO CHANGE
Expenditure (cost, effort, risk)
Decision support: lowering the barrier
It is easier (and safer) to continue doing things the “old way” than to try a new approach, even if the new approach is “cheaper”.
“I’d like to worry about the wolf in the woods , but I’m too busy dealing with the wiener-dog that’s biting my ankle right now!”
The Far Side
(Quote from a PADEP District Manager)