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SUSTAINABILITY INDICATORS AS A COMMUNICATIVE TOOL -- BUILDING BRIDGES IN PENNSYLVANIA

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Presentation Transcript
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Notice: The views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scientists in EPA have prepared the EPA sections, and those sections have been reviewed in accordance with EPA’s peer and administrative review policies and approved for presentation and publication. The EPA contributed funding to the construction of this website but is not responsible for it's contents. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.
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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

Law Sch.)

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PCIEP (Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy):Colleges and Universities working in partnership with State and Local governments
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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?

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OUTLINE

Context: Managing Complexity

Indicators as a Communicative Tool

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Interlinked natural and human systems are COMPLEX,thus characterized by:

• Unpredictability;

• 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)

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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

(http://www.resalliance.org)

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DIVERSITYis one critical component. For example, Biodiversity in the environment, diversity of social institutions, diversity of economic investments

Tech Stocks

(Resilience is not always a good thing -- maladaptive conditions and institutions can be resilient!)

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SCALE

Different processes occur at different scales, collectively influencing system behavior…

(Diagrams from The Resilience Alliance)

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Federal

State

Region

County

Muni

Muni

Muni

Different types of decisions, with differing information needs, are made at different governance levels.

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10 km

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.

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Harmonization of actions across scales is needed.

How can this be achieved?

INDICATORS AS A COMMUNICATIVE TOOL

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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.
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Target Audience

General Public

Decision-makers

Technical Experts

Objective

Raising Awareness

Developing Policy

Monitoring

SustPA

PEEC

Effective indicator sets will have a specific objective, and target a specific audience.

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One important objective may be to open lines of communication to improve coordination and cooperation among agencies and organizations with overlapping interests and responsibilities.
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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.

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State Government

Municipalities

Communicative Links

“Sustainability Centers” based at academic institutions

Non-governmental Organizations

Long-Term Strategy --

PCIEP as “Boundary Organization”

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Information Design is a critical concern -- Sound scientific information is important, but is insufficient to change people’s behavior
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BARRIER TO CHANGE

Old way

New approach

Expenditure (cost, effort, risk)

Decision support: lowering the barrier

Time

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”.

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“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)

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