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Human Interactions and Sustainability

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Human Interactions and Sustainability

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This chapter describes a framework for understanding and managing complex systems that couple human beings, nature and technology. The framework includes five major components; the first three are necessary capabilities for accomplishing the last two.  Superordinate goals: Human beings have to see the urgent necessity of working together to solve problems like climate change and depletion of natural resources.  Moral imagination: Differences in values can prevent adoption of a superordinate goal. Moral imagination is the equivalent of interactional expertise concerning values; it involves being able to 'step into the shoes' of another stakeholder and see the problem from her or his perspective.  Trading zones: Linking multiple stakeholders will require setting up a series of trading zones for exchanging ideas, resources, and solutions across different communities and interests. Developing the three capabilities above will permit:  Adaptive management: This strategy involves treating management interventions like hypotheses, subjecting them to empirical tests, and revising the strategy based on the results. Adaptive management is difficult in tightly coupled human-technological-natural systems, where hypotheses should be constructed not only about environmental impacts, but also about effects on stakeholders.  Anticipatory governance: Global problems and opportunities will require adding more anticipatory, adaptive capability to governance mechanisms, linking decision makers with other stakeholders. These exchanges will have to be motivated by a superordinate goal so urgent that governance structures can be transformed, if necessary.
88 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives, 2012, 88-111
Heriberto Cabezas and Urmila Diwekar (Eds)
All rights reserved-© 2012 Bentham Science Publishers
CHAPTER 5
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Michael E. Gorman1,*, Lekelia D. Jenkins2 and Raina K. Plowright3
1Department of Science, Technology & Society, University of Virginia, USA;
2School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, 3707
Brooklyn Avenue Northeast, Seattle, Washington 98105 USA and 3David H. Smith
Conservation Research Fellow, Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, The
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 USA
Abstract: This chapter describes a framework for understanding and managing
complex systems that couple human beings, nature and technology. The framework
includes five major components; the first three are necessary capabilities for
accomplishing the last two.
Superordinate goals: Human beings have to see the urgent necessity of working
together to solve problems like climate change and depletion of natural resources.
Moral imagination: Differences in values can prevent adoption of a superordinate
goal. Moral imagination is the equivalent of interactional expertise concerning
values; it involves being able to ‘step into the shoes’ of another stakeholder and see
the problem from her or his perspective.
Trading zones: Linking multiple stakeholders will require setting up a series of
trading zones for exchanging ideas, resources, and solutions across different
communities and interests.
Developing the three capabilities above will permit:
Adaptive management: This strategy involves treating management interventions
like hypotheses, subjecting them to empirical tests, and revising the strategy based
on the results. Adaptive management is difficult in tightly coupled human-
technological-natural systems, where hypotheses should be constructed not only
about environmental impacts, but also about effects on stakeholders.
Anticipatory governance: Global problems and opportunities will require adding more
anticipatory, adaptive capability to governance mechanisms, linking decision makers with
other stakeholders. These exchanges will have to be motivated by a superordinate goal so
urgent that governance structures can be transformed, if necessary.
*Address correspondence to Michael E. Gorman: Department of Science, Technology & Society,
University of Virginia, USA; Tel: (434) 924-3439; E-mail: meg3c@virginia.edu
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 89
This framework will be applied to two detailed case studies, one concerned with
developing better management practices for reducing bycatch in fisheries, the other with
ecosystem disruptions like the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK.
Limitations of the framework will be discussed in the light of these case studies, along
with suggestions for how it can be improved.
Keywords: Antropocene, Trading zones, Interactional expertise, Mental models,
Moral imagination, Superordinate goals, Adaptive management, Anticipatory
governance, Conservation, Bycatch reduction, Turtle Excuder Device, Foot and
mouth disease
INTRODUCTION
One of Jared Diamond’s students, after reading the chapter on Easter Island in
Collapse, asked how anyone could have cut down the last tree on Easter Island.
Easter Island should have been a simple sustainability case, because the island is so
small that the disappearance of trees would have been obvious to anyone. Easter
Island had giant palms when humans first arrived, so the full-grown trees were a
significant resource. Once they were gone, there would have been no new canoes, or
fire. Surely it was obvious to everyone that they ought to preserve the trees?
Easter Island was divided into several tribal zones. If each tribe were trying to
exploit dwindling resources for its own advantage, there might have been a rush to
seize and cut down the final trees. Diamond cites evidence that Easter island
society collapsed catastrophically, with violence and even cannibalism. Diamond
cites the case of another island, Tikopia, whose inhabitants were able to sustain its
population on their small island by adapting their socio-technical system to their
natural environment. The term socio-technical system refers to the fact that
society and technology are so intertwined that they become hard to distinguish:
technologies embody ways of life. The early Tikopians followed the Easter Island
pattern: they cut and burned most of their trees, and also ate most of the fish and
killed the local seabirds. But in response, Tikopians adopted pigs as a source of
protein and learned to store breadfruit to guard against famine. In 1600, all the
pigs on the island were killed because this system was no longer sustainable and
the natives returned to fish, shellfish and turtles. They also preserved small
sections of rainforest and grew additional trees for nuts. It helped that the
Tikopeians were a single society throughout—but the fact that they did not
90 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
splinter into sub-groups and fight over resources shows that conflict over
scarcities is not inevitable.
The point of these two cases is that sustainability depends on social and
environmental and technological factors—and that human beings can destroy their
local ecosystem or work together to sustain them.
On a larger scale, the Earth itself can be viewed as an island in space. The Earth is
a much more complex system and contains many more potential resources than an
island like Easter. It also contains multiple societies representing different
experiments in living that can exchange knowledge and practices—or try to hoard
resources and dominate each other. The Holocene has yielded to the
Anthropocene.1 Human beings are now the keys to sustaining the current species
diversity on the planet—“we have met the enemy and he is us.”2
A FRAMEWORK FOR MANAGING THE ANTHROPOCENE
This chapter describes a framework for understanding and managing complex
systems that couple human beings, nature and technology [1]. The framework
includes five major components; the first three are necessary capabilities for
accomplishing the last two.
Trading zones: Linking multiple stakeholders will require setting up a series of
trading zones for exchanging ideas, resources, and solutions across different
communities and interests. Peter Galison studied the development of radar, which
was motivated by an urgent goal: the survival of Great Britain at the beginning of
World War II. He noticed that theoretical physicists, experimental physicists,
instrument makers and engineers formed trading zones to work together to achieve
this goal [2]. Participants from different expertise communities did not have to
understand each others’ paradigms in order to cooperate; they simply had to agree on
mechanisms and terms of exchange. In order to trade, participants in a zone have to
develop one or more of the following:
1 Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen first coined this term in 2000,
2 Porkypine, in Walt Kelly’s Pogo.
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 91
A reduced common language, which begins with participants in a
zone agreeing on shared meanings for certain terms, then progresses
to a kind of pidgin and eventually to a creole, which is a new language
born out of old ones. At the creole stage, the trading zone may morph
into a new expert community. Galison includes the possibility that
visual and mathematical ‘creoles’ may also be formed in trading
zones3. Consider the use of indicators of systems change [3] which
can serve a quantitative or, if translated into graphic representations, a
visual role similar to a creole.
A boundary object or system can give participants in the zone a
common reference point. The Everglades, for example, serves as a
boundary system that is represented differently by multiple
stakeholders in a trading zone and leads to boundary objects like
documented plans that form the basis for negotiations.4
Interactional expertise on the part of one or more participants who will
serve a role similar to trade agents, facilitating exchanges of ideas and
resources. Interactional expertise is the ability to carry out a sophisticated
conversation with members of an expert community that shows real
understanding of how they view and solve problems [4]. The interactional
expert cannot do the research, but she or he can understand it.
Goals: Trading zones vary in the extent to which participants agree on goals and
the means to achieve them. In the case of radar, all participants had to share in a
goal, but different specialties could employ different means to achieve partial
solutions. In the development of technologies, smaller trading zones can be nested
within larger ones, e.g., a team of diverse specialists can work on a major
component of a system like radar or a Mars Rover or a new jet airplane, and
another higher-level trading zone can negotiate what components are needed and
how they fit into the overall system.
3See Peter Galison, Trading with the enemy, in M.E. Gorman (Editor) Trading zones and
interactional expertise: Creating new kinds of collaboration (MIT Press, 2010).
4Boyd Fuller, Trading Zones: cooperating and still disagreeing on what really matters. Under
revision for probable publication in Journal of Planning Education and Research.
92 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
Figure 1: Compatibility of Goals Assessment
The compatibility of goals can be assessed using two dimensions: the extent to
which members of a trading zone agree on outcomes, and the extent to which they
agree on the means used to achieve the outcome, as illustrated in Fig. 1.
Each trading zone could be placed on this graph based on the extent to which
members agreed on both outcomes and means—and as the trading zone shifted,
one could track its trajectory on the graph.
Superordinate Goals: The social psychologists Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif
created this term to describe goals that can unite groups whose members had
previously been in competition [5]. The Sherifs set up a summer camp and
deliberately encouraged rivalry between two groups of boys; their goal was to
figure out the most effective means of ending the intergroup hostility.
One uniting strategy is the need to defeat a common enemy, which motivated the
formation of the trading zone around radar —if scientists, engineers and military
officers did not work together, Britain would be devastated by the Luftwaffe.
The problem with the common enemy goal is that there always has to be an
enemy; therefore, the Sherif’s tried what they termed a superordinate goal, or a
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 93
problem that affected the basic needs of both rival groups. When there was a
problem with the camp’s water supply (simulated by the staff in a believable way)
the boys were sent out to solve it, and could only do it by cooperating. Later, the
boys had to help jump start the truck that was going to get their lunches by pulling
on ropes; the two groups first lined up on separate ropes, but then they mingled.
When the camp ended, the rivalries had dissolved.
In the Anthropocene, human activity affects every aspect of the planetary
ecosystem. Management of this activity therefore creates a set of superordinate
goals on which our survival depends. Creating a shared sense of urgency around
superordinate goals across a diverse population of distincty ethnic groups,
economic strata and languages is orders of magnitude harder than convincing a
homogeneous group of boys at a summer camp to work together. But global
systems management would be much simpler if everyone saw the urgent need to
work together—the same kind of urgency that exists during war or a natural
disaster, but now focused on longer-term management to prevent crises—and the
disparities in resources that are one factor in fueling (pun intended) wars.
Achieving a common sense of urgency depends on the next capability.
Moral imagination is the equivalent of interactional expertise concerning values; it
involves being able to see a situation from the perspective of another stakeholder.
Moral imagination involves a reflexive component: one must be aware of one’s
own perspective before being able to inhabit another. If each group in a trading
zone sees its values as reality, then there will be no possibility of adopting a
superordinate goal. Say, for example, my group thinks that our God is on schedule
to end the world anyway. Then there is no reason to work with others to stave off
the inevitable—indeed, it might even be sacrilegious. To trade with such a group,
one has to be able to see the world as they see it.
The end result is not relativism; seeing another’s view is not the same as agreeing
with it. Moral imagination does enhance negotiations by allowing each party in a
trading zone to understand where another party is coming from. It also opens up the
possibility of evolving new shared values that transcend existing differences. For
example, those who currently have more resources also have more resilience when it
94 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
comes to dealing with climate change and other potential system disruptions—at
least in the short term. Therefore, they do not see preventing global warming as
superordinate goal. Moral imagination is required to make that leap.
Developing the Above Capabilities above is Essential For:
Adaptive Management: This strategy involves treating management interventions
like hypotheses, subjecting them to empirical tests, and revising the strategy based
on the results. The empirical tests can be based on historical interventions and
data on their impacts, which can lead in turn to new hypotheses which can be
implemented and tested going forward [6]. Adaptive management is difficult in
tightly coupled human-technological-natural systems, where hypotheses should be
constructed not only about environmental impacts, but also about effects on
stakeholders. Complex systems are not amenable to classic single or multi-
variable hypothetico-deductive techniques, because the results of small
perturbations are not always predictable—it is hard to say when a small change
will tip the system into a new state. New measures of systems change [7] could be
coupled with other metrics to make adaptive management possible in these sorts
of complex, coupled systems.
Anticipatory Governance 5: Current governance structures around the world are
best at responding to well-characterized problems like the hole in the ozone layer.
Response to this problem was rapid and effective. The ozone example illustrates
the power of a superordinate goal.
It would, however, have been even better to have the problem not occur at all.
Therefore, current regulatory and legal systems need to be complemented by a
capacity for anticipatory governance: oversight mechanisms that provide the
equivalent of early warning signals and systems-level management structures that
can respond to these signals. Anticipatory governance requires at least three
actions: the anticipation and assessment of an emerging situation; the engagement
of stakeholders that are mostly still latent; and the integration of broader
considerations into contexts that have been largely self-governing [8].
5Anticipatory governance is a new concept that forms the focus of Arizona State University’s
Center for Nanotechnology in Society (http://cns.asu.edu/).
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 95
The accelerating pace of technological change compounds the problem. As
Allenby notes, technological change is autocatalytic, meaning each change
catalyzes other changes at an increasing rate that varies from situation to situation.
The interactions among all of these technologies can lead to emergent,
unanticipated consequences.
Current political institutions are inadequate to perform this kind of anticipation for
complex socio-ecological-technical systems [8]. When the complexity of socio-
ecological-technical systems does not permit an accurate prediction of consequences,
adaptive management is critically important. Adaptive management can be done by
multiple stakeholders forming trading zones that cut across traditional governance
structures [9]. However, governments have to be able to respond as well. Tools like
scenario development can be used to anticipate possible futures, including metrics to
see which possible future is emerging, but will only be an effective part of
governance if management structures are in place to respond effectively—including
the ability to reverse an intervention if it is not having the desired effect. These
anticipatory structures need not be governmental—they could come from NGOs,
industries and sciences. But all of these efforts would need coordination or at the
very least blessing from government.
Consider, for example, the Dutch response to the possibility of global climate
change. Instead of waiting until the changes are obvious, the Dutch are anticipating
them by building floating cities. If it turns out that global climate change is averted,
the Dutch will have sunk millions into systems that do not reduce their quality of life
and will still provide additional insurance against huge storms.
What the Dutch have done locally needs to be done globally—sophisticated dams
and floating cities in the Netherlands will not help Bangladesh if climate change
occurs. It is far better to deal with the CO2 levels than hope for a rapid response if
the variance in climate increases around a slowly rising temperature.
Technologies like carbon sequestration will certainly be part of the solution, as
will changes in behavior. In a coupled socio-technical-natural system, any
response will have to be behavioral, environmental and technological.
96 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
THE FRAMEWORK IN ACTION
This framework has been applied to a variety of situations6, including
the development of a new science of services (Gorman)
bridging the gap between biologists and programmers who need to
work together (Shrager)
creating appropriate metrics for a large, public, urban school district
(Mehalik)
seamlessly linking humanities and engineering, using a laboratory as a
focus (Fisher & Mahajan)
helping businesses anticipate disruptive technologies and practices
(Von Oettinger)
selling the female condom to women in the developing world who
needed it as AIDs protection, but could not afford it (Leeper, Powell
& Werhane)
In this chapter, we will use one of the most theoretically sophisticated of the cases
reported in the volume [10] to further develop the framework.
Bycatch Reduction
Bycatch (i.e., non-target organisms that are unintentionally caught or harm by
fishing gear) is a major environmental concern that makes many fisheries
unsustainable. In order to reduce bycatch, policy -makers and managers are
encouraging the use of conservation technologies (i.e., a technology that is
primarily used to protect organisms and habitat). In the United States two of the
most famous examples of this are a suite of dolphin conservation technologies
used to prevent dolphin entanglement and death in tuna nets and the turtle
6 All of the examples in the bulleted list are described in a volume edited by Gorman, Trading
zones and interactional expertise: Creating new kinds of collaboration, MIT Press, 2010. Each of
the cases in the list is a separate chapter in the volume, and the author(s) names are listed at the
end of each bullet.
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 97
excluder device, a type of escape hatch used to prevent sea turtles drowning in
shrimp nets. Using these two examples, we will illustrate boundary organization
and interactional expertise trading zones in practice, describe the impact of goal
compatibility, and discuss opportunities for the use of moral imagination that
might have changed the course of history in these examples. We will also identify
an instance of anticipatory governance at work.
Dolphin Conservation Technologies
The use of dolphin conservation technologies offers examples of moral
imagination at work and the impact of incompatible means on the success of
environmental initiatives. The governance mechanism was the Marine Mammal
Protection Act of 1972, which required the executive branch of the federal
government to reduce dolphin bycatch. The passage of the Act created a
legislative mandate for the government and an economic incentive for the tuna
fishing industry, driving both to solve the dolphin bycatch problem. The tuna
fishing industry feared the complete closure of the of fishery if dolphin mortality
was not reduced [11-13]. To achieve their common goals government and
industry needed to work together. The government required the fishing knowledge
and experience of the industry and industry required the financial and scientific
support of the government.
Unfortunately, several points of contention made it difficult for them to coordinate
their actions. Concerned about negative media coverage and potential lawsuits from
environmentalists, the federal government was secretive about its research. This lack
of transparency led many fishers to question whether or not the federal
government—which had always been an advocate of fishery development—was
truly committed to the continuance of the tuna fishery. Many government personnel,
on the other hand, believed that the majority of tuna fishers were not committed to
fully addressing the dolphin bycatch problem. Distrust of each other's motives
created an unstable foundation on which to build collaborative projects. This tenuous
but necessary sharing resulted in a boundary object trading zone [14].
An excellent example of this boundary object trading zone is the interaction between
the fisherman who invented the Medina Panel (an area of safety netting that helps
prevent dolphin entanglement), and the government scientist who tried to improve it.
98 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
Their goals were similar but not the same. Both men wanted to reduce dolphin
mortality while minimizing the impact on traditional fishing procedures and tuna
catch. They differed in that the fisherman placed more value on minimizing the
impact on the amount to tuna catch and the scientist placed more value on reducing
dolphin bycatch. This is evidenced by the fisherman’s insistence that constructing
the Medina Panel with a mesh-size smaller than two inches would create an
unacceptable amount of drag when the net is pulled through the water, making
fishing inefficient. The scientist was more concerned about minimizing dolphin
entanglement and so experimented with mesh sizes as small as one inch [15].
Though they shared a common goal, the difference in priorities meant that they did
not have a shared superordinate goal. As a result, they each worked around the same
boundary object, the Medina Panel, but produced different outcomes. The fisherman
produced simple, commercially practical designs, while the scientist produced
complex, multi-functional designs that were troublesome to use under commercial
fishing conditions. The boundary object trading zone was held together by mutual
interests in each other's secondary priorities and by the insight that the other's work
could shed on improving their designs [10, 14, 16, 17].
The testing of these various Medina Panel designs illustrates an instance of
compatible goals with incompatible means. Both the industry and the government
had the goal of scientifically evaluating the effectiveness of the Medina Panel
designs, during the course of normal commercial fishing. Although the
experiment involving a comparative analysis across twenty vessels was poorly
controlled, lacked statistical power, and the results were compromised by a court
ordered halt of the experiment, industry still favored this as a means of evaluating
new technologies. They believed that testing technologies simultaneously on
numerous commercial vessels would allow more technologies to be more
thoroughly evaluated in less time. They also believed it would also expose more
fishermen to the conservation technologies, thus increasing adoption. The federal
government, however, thought that this approach was be too costly and could not
yield more statistically useful results than the status quo of using a single vessel as
a means to evaluate prototype dolphin conservation technologies [14].
Once it was established that the Medina Panel in conjunction with a number of
other dolphin conservation technologies could substantially reduce dolphin
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 99
bycatch, the federal government had a new goal of convincing the tuna fishermen
to adopt these technologies. After a few years, technology adoption rates and
reductions in dolphin bycatch reached a plateau. So in 1977, the federal
government passed regulations requiring the formation of an Expert Skippers’
Panel in an attempt to identify and provide more personalized training to skippers
of tuna boats that had high levels of dolphin bycatch. In 1975, industry proposed
and created a plan for a Senior Captains’ Advisory Panel, but it was not
established. However, the goals of this proposed panel matched many of those of
the Expert Skippers’ Panel [14].
The federal government gave the tuna fishing industry the authority to create
organizational rules and procedures for the Panel as well as the authority to take
corrective action. Furthermore, the government solicited and with few exceptions
heeded the advice of the Panel about the prosecution of skippers who violated
regulations about dolphin bycatch reduction. The general procedure was that the
government supplied the Panel with records of skippers' performance in reducing
bycatch. The Panel analyzed this information and in problem cases the Panel
either made recommendations to the government on how to address the problem
or took action itself. When the Panel decided to take action it would call a meeting
with the poorly performing skipper, who was usually a younger individual new to
the fishery. During the meeting, the problem skipper would describe his fishing
process and the panel members would give him advice on how to improve it.
None of the problem skippers who attended one of these meetings ever needed to
appear again before the Panel. The effectiveness of the Expert Skippers’ Panel is
credited with improving skippers’ skill levels industry-wide, resulting in a
decrease in dolphin mortality [14].
The creation of the Expert Skippers' Panel was an act indicative of moral
imagination. The federal government realized that its previous promotional efforts
were insufficient and that the fishery industry itself was best equipped to identify
and remove the obstacles to further technology adoption and dolphin bycatch
reduction. This example also illustrates that the result of an exercise in moral
imagination does not necessarily default into a compromise position. The federal
government adopted the industry's concept of a Senior Captains’ Advisory Panel
almost entirely as the industry had envisioned it. The government ceded authority
100 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
to analyze and correct industry performance to the industry itself. Even with the
authority the government retained, the ability to prosecute offenders, it heeded the
advice of the Panel about which cases to pursue and in which cases to show
leniency. This reveals the power of moral imagination to yield solutions that are
not just tolerable to all parties, but rather solutions that are best for addressing the
problem, even at the cost of ceding power and authority.
The case of dolphin conservation technologies also offers an example of the
impact of compatible means and incompatible outcomes on the fulfillment of
conservation goals. In order to pressure tuna fishers to reduce dolphin bycatch, a
number of environmental groups baned together and waged a campaign of
boycotts and lawsuits. The result of this campaign was the dolphin-safe tuna label.
This label, which appears on nearly every can of tuna sold in the United States,
signifies that the tuna fishers were using a fishing method that did not involve
dolphins in any way. The campaign in combination with the use of dolphin
conservation technologies, successfully reduced the number of dolphins killed
each year in this tuna fishery from several hundred thousand to less than two
thousand [12]. Further reduction in the level of dolphin bycatch would likely
require a fishing method that while better for dolphins would result in the bycatch
of nearly 15, 000 other animals for every dolphin saved. These include species of
sharks, rays, marlins and sea turtles, a number of which are threatened or
endangered with extinction [18]. Faced with this trade-off, environmental
organizations with a general focus on marine conservation, including Greenpeace,
World Wildlife Fund, and the Ocean Conservancy, halted their aggressive
campaigns and supported a change to more flexible regulations that would likely
maintain the current level of dolphin bycatch and not increase bycatch of other
species. In contrast, Earth Island Institute, an organization that was founded on the
cause of reducing dolphin bycatch, persisted in a lawsuit that upheld strict
regulations.
Initially all the environmental groups shared the same means--lawsuits and boycottt-
-but their ultimate outcomes were related but critically different. All the groups
wanted to reduce dolphin bycatch, but only some of the groups wanted to reduce
dolphin bycatch in harmony with improving the general health of the ocean. The
organizations could persist in a cooperative relationship, during the initial effort to
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 101
reduce dolphin bycatch from its massive level. The cooperative relationship
crumbled, however, when one organization wanted to continue reduction in dolphin
bycatch at the cost of increased bycatch of endangered species. Without both shared
means and shared outcomes there is no superordinate goal.
This case study has illustrated elements of the framework for managing the
anthropocene, namely a boundary object trading zone, shared goals with
incompatible means and compatible outcomes, and moral imagination. The
following case study offers additional examples of these elements and describes
how together they can support anticipatory governance.
Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs)
A TED is a type of escape hatch in a shrimp net that allows sea turtles to exit the
net while retaining the shrimp catch. The original TED arose from a melding of
ideas from a fisherman and a government scientist. Despite this, much of the
shrimp fishing industry viewed the TED with suspicion, because scientists
developed it within a government controlled invention system. The shrimp fishing
industry felt that government personnel had developed the TED without industry
input and were forcing it on them as the only acceptable solution to the turtle
bycatch problem. The industry believed that they had viable alternative ideas to
solving the turtle bycatch problem that the federal government ignored. Thus, few
shrimp fishers used the early versions of the TED [14, 19].
Because of the controversial nature of this situation, Sea Grant had kept its
distance. Sea Grant is an outreach agency charged with engaging the fishing
community on numerous issues, such as transferring new fishing technologies and
educating the industry about new regulations. Most often Sea Grant serves to
transfer information from government to the fishing industry, to do so Sea Grant
agents must speak the 'language' of government scientists and managers as well as
fishers. This in essence makes them professional interactional experts; this
interactional expertise could have served to broker more productive trades
between NMFS and the shrimping industry. Given the range of its responsibilities,
however, Sea Grant was wary of spending precious social capital on the
controversial sea turtle issue, especially in light of federal government's
102 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
controlling approach to TED invention and previous resistance to fisher and Sea
Grant ideas [10]
In 1982, in order to overcome Sea Grant's reticence, a NMFS manager staged an
exchange to secure Sea Grant’s active support in TED development and promotion.
The NMFS manager asked industry representatives to publicly request the help of
Sea Grant with technology transfer during a workshop. The industry representatives
assured Sea Grant that they wanted their help with the TED issue, and helped ease
Sea Grant concerns that the controversial nature of TEDs might tarnish its
relationship with industry. In this way the interactional expertise of Sea Grant was
brought to bear, creating an interactional expertise trading zone. Interactional
expertise involves the time-consuming development of a new linguistic ability. Even
in the case of Sea Grant agents, who already had this ability, their use of it was
dependent on establishing relationships between NMFS and shrimpers through
which to exercise this ability. In the TED case, Sea Grant agents developed these
relationships over the course of four years. They engaged with shrimpers, who had
begun to develop new TEDs on their own, external to the government TED
invention system. They also interacted with government personnel about the
continued refinement of the original government-invented TED [10].
The TED case yields one solid example of anticipatory governance that clearly
illustrates the fulfillment of the three required actions: the anticipation and
assessment of an emerging situation; the engagement of stakeholders that are
mostly still latent; and the integration of broader considerations into contexts that
have been largely self-governing [8]. Sea Grant agents anticipated that the federal
government might pass regulations requiring mandatory use of TEDs. The Sea
Grant agents further assessed that for shrimp fishers to accept TEDs, the devices
would need to be more practical for commercial use and that shrimp fishers would
need more options in types of TEDs they could use. In addition, Sea Grant agents
believed the best way to achieve this would be to bring shrimpers’ TED ideas to
the attention of government scientists. So in 1986, Sea Grant sponsored a
demonstration event comparing the government's TED with three fisher-invented
TEDs. Drawing on their interactional expertise and cultural understanding of the
two groups, Sea Grant convinced shrimpers and government scientists to
participate. As a result of this event and further testing, the federal government
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 103
certified all three shrimper-invented TEDs for commercial use. Also, in keeping
with Sea Grant's anticipatory assumptions, shrimp fishers began to use more of
the fisher-invented TEDs than of the government TED. This event solidified the
interactional expertise trading zone, which rapidly engaged more fishers who had
not previously been involved in trying to reduce sea turtle bycatch. Innovative
shrimpers continue to bring their ideas for new TEDs to Sea Grant agents, who
then communicate these ideas to the federal government. In this way, Sea Grant
broadened the considerations about TEDs to include whether they were
commercially practical and opened a door to shrimp fishers to take part in
oversight of the TED invention-system, which had previously been governed
exclusively by the federal government.
This case has provided examples of boundary object and interactional expertise
trading zones and their significance for one important aspect of anticipatory
governance: the development of new technologies and practices with input from
multiple stakeholders. But conclusions from this case study might not generalize
to other situations, therefore we need to test the usefulness of this framework in
other situations, as a step towards developing more rigorous methods for
determining which kinds of trading zones work best in what situations, and when
trading zones are not useful.
Let us briefly consider a domain we are currently researching: management of
epidemics affecting livestock. Our hypothesis is that, as in the case of the fishers
and the marine scientists, the best results will be obtained if scientists and
regulators form trading zones with farmers and veterinarians who have local
knowledge of practices.
Foot and Mouth Disease
In 2001 the UK experienced a devastating outbreak of foot and mouth disease
(FMD), a virulent and highly infectious disease of domestic ungulates. The
epidemic and its control resulted in the death of approximately 10 million animals
[20], destruction of livestock on over 10, 000 premises [21], an economic cost of
around US $12 billion [20] and an unquantifiable social cost. Throughout the
epidemic the public watched mounds of dead animals being burnt on funeral
pyres, and carcasses being thrown into mass burial pits. Farmers lost their valued
104 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
animals, there were suicides among those involved in the slaughter, and a general
public disgust and anger at the ruthlessness of the slaughter [20].
The loss of British FMD-free status meant automatic bans on agricultural exports,
with major economic consequences to a farming industry still ailing from the
impacts of “mad cow disease” (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy). The Blair
Government was under intense pressure from the agricultural lobby to secure UK
livestock markets as soon as possible and wanted to be seen as enacting a swift
resolution before the 2001 general election [22]. The conditions were hence
established for agreement on a common goal to eradicate FMD as quickly as
possible. The controversy arose over the means to achieve this goal. In this
section we examine how the failure to develop trading zones and a lack of moral
imagination between the two major players in disease control, veterinarians and
mathematical modelers, may have led to the unnecessary slaughter of millions of
animals. We examine how anticipatory governance might have prevented the
mistakes made during the FMD outbreak by laying the groundwork for effective
scientific exchange.
Most controversial during the outbreak was the policy of pre-emptive slaughter, a
control strategy based on mathematical models. Traditionally FMD has been
controlled by bans on movement of livestock, and rapid detection and slaughter of
infected and in-contact animals [20, 23]. During the 2001 FMD epidemic,
mathematical models indicated that traditional approaches would not control the
epidemic and additional “firebreak culling” [23] was required. “Firebreak culling”
involved automatic pre-emptive slaughter of all susceptible animals on properties
within 3 kilometers of infected premises, whether virus was suspected to be
present or not, and resulted in the slaughter of unprecedented numbers of animals
with severe economic and social costs. Veterinarians argue that the preemptive
slaughter was unnecessary [20, 23], while the modelers argue that if “firebreak
culling” had not been carried out, the impact and duration of the epidemic would
have been much higher than that which actually occurred during 2001 [24] some
argue that British countryside farming could have been wiped out altogether.
The breakdown in communication between veterinarians and modelers can be traced
back to a number of historical factors. First, senior government advisors had personal
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 105
connections with a team of modelers at Imperial College. Early conversations with this
group led to the ad hoc formulation of a Science Advisory Group heavily weighted by
modelers, contrary to pre-arranged contingency plans. The recent mad cow disease
epidemic had created a loss of political confidence in veterinary science, and hence
veterinarians were initially marginalized from the process. Furthermore, the mad cow
disease inquiry had concluded that politicians failed to pay sufficient attention to
scientists [22], laying out the conditions for modeling to play a disproportionate role
with its “air of intellectual superiority pretence of precision, knowledge and control”
[20]. By the time veterinarians had increased input, the contentious decisions had
already been made [22].
Veterinarians felt disempowered and a conflict ensued over what constituted good
science. Farmers and veterinarians have contextual knowledge of local
environmental conditions, individual herds and animals (they were carrying out
the slaughter and understood the practical reality of implementing the model
derived policy). The modelers knowledge is decontextualised, they apply
statistical criteria to data to make judgments about disease transmission risk and
are somewhat removed from the events occurring on the ground [22]. However,
modelers understand disease dynamics at large scales—the population scale, or in
this case the scale of the UK—a contrast to veterinarians who are generally
limited to the individual or herd scale.
When veterinarians criticized the contiguous culling policy, modelers responded
with statements that denigrated veterinary knowledge to ‘experience and intuition’
in contrast to the ‘complex and seemingly abstract’ models of the epidemiologists
[22]. For example, in one media interview Anderson (modeler from Imperial
College), stated that veterinarians were “basing their stance on personal opinion
rather than hard scientific assessment” [22], he went on to recommend that their
role be in implementation of policy, not deciding policy, and suggested that their
close personal connection to the issues impaired their judgment, while modelers
had greater objectivity [22]. The veterinarians were equally mistrustful of the
epidemiologists, epitomized by the statement of one veterinarian calling the
culling “carnage by computer”, characterizing the modelers as isolated remote and
inhumane, while suggesting that personal involvement was needed to understand
the impacts of the culling [20].
106 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
The fractious atmosphere that developed inhibited the formation of trading zones
and subsequently the free flow of data and ideas between experts. The modelers
argue that veterinarians would not provide data and the quality of the data, when it
was forthcoming, was poor (for example farms were located in the ocean, census
data on stock levels were out of date etc.). Veterinarians argued that models were
not appropriate predictive tools in this case and the models didn’t reflect
biological reality. For example, dairy farms faced five times greater risk of
infection yet sheep were the species most intensively slaughtered on the basis of
the models [25]. Veterinarians advocated a more local approach, where local
experts are consulted and decisions made on a property by property basis (Michel
2001). The breakdown in communication between modelers and vets led to
fundamental assumptions being based on flawed data and probably led to
unnecessary culling.7 For example, veterinarians investigating the source of
infection for an infected premises often assumed that infection spread from the
nearest infected premises [25] while in fact the source was usually a distant
property, infection being spread by vehicles and people’s clothing etc. If
veterinarians had communicated their assumptions to the modelers, fundamental
mistakes in the modeling may have been avoided. These mistakes led to
overestimating the importance of local spread (e.g., by wind), and therefore
overestimating the efficiency of a “firebreak” pre-emptive cull policy [20, 23].
ANTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE, TRADING ZONES, MORAL
IMAGINATION AND AN ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT APPROACH TO
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
The UK authorities were poorly prepared for the unprecedented scale or
characteristics of the 2001 FMD outbreak. Contingency planning was based on
7Brian Wynn describes a similar case, where scientists did not consult Cumbrian sheep farmers
about radiation levels after Chernobyl. The scientific models predicted a negligible effect from
fallout, but considered only the amount of rainfall, not where it would collect at different locations
in the fells. Initially, the scientists said there would be no problem, but after six weeks, they
recommended a ban on sale of the sheep, which was imposed. The farmers felt that the
government ban and remediation plan ignored their knowledge and included silly
recommendations like having the sheep eat straw until the grass was no longer radioactive [26]. A
trading zone between farmers and scientists, perhaps mediated by someone like a veterinarian who
had interactional expertise, would have produced a better plan for dealing with the radioactive
fallout.
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 107
the likelihood of there being a maximum of ten FMD cases at any one time, while
the 2001 outbreak involved over fifty cases in the opening days of the epidemic
[27]. Furthermore there are 7 strains of FMD, and control policies aimed at one
particular strain may not be applicable to any other strain. Anticipatory
governance with an adaptive, elastic response framework and trading zones
between vets and modelers prior to the outbreak would have led to more effective
outbreak control.
A lack of interactional expertise and moral imagination led to the failure to
develop trading zones between vets and modelers. Cross training of vets in
ecology, epidemiology and modeling, and modelers in the context of disease
control at the farm to farm level, would have ensured there were experts who
could understand the languages and practices of both communities. Moral
imagination is important to ensure that each community would be willing to make
the effort to see the problem the way the other community did. In the concluding
remarks of their retrospective analysis of the crisis, Haydon et al., (2004) [23]
state: “What is now required is a marriage of the value of the expert advice so
staunchly defended by the veterinary practice, with the benefits of modern
surveillance, diagnostic and data management technologies and the analytical
capabilities of theoretical modelling at the strategic level.”
If the modelers from Imperial College had been put in a trading zone with
veterinary specialists and farmers, then the models could have been used
adaptively. For example, the initial assumption about airborne spread could have
been quickly compared with data from the field about the actual pattern of spread.
Did the data support the model? If not, modify the model and see how the pattern
of spread changes. Adaptive management provides a framework for continuous
monitoring and evaluation to determine the best strategy to control disease
outbreaks. In adaptive management, triangulation between multiple
methodologies, notably field, laboratory and computer-based approaches should
be taken [28]. Models are more appropriate as tools to model hypothetical
scenarios that can be tested in the field and used in conjunction with veterinary
expertise to provide guidance in decision-making [20, 25, 29]. Because of the
rarity of FMD epidemics and the multiple strains of virus that present a risk, the
108 Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives Gorman et al.
model could not have been tested before the outbreak, and should have been
subjected to ongoing collection and analysis of data during the epidemic.
Anticipatory governance would involve building the capacity to handle epidemics
by having interactional experts already engaged in trading zones across
disciplinary and expertise cultures. Here moral imagination comes into play.
Those making the policy prescriptions have to see the impact as if they were a
farmer who has breed lines preserved for generations that will be destroyed.
Seeing the other’s perspective does not prevent decisive action, but it does mean
the action is more likely to be carried out with mutual understanding. Moral
imagination is hard in the middle of a crisis: that is why the capacity must be built
in advance. In this case, that would have meant contacts with farmers who could
quickly help test assumptions from the models as they worked to prevent
contagion. The farmers themselves would ideally be interactional experts, at least
in the methods used by scientists.
CONCLUSION
In this chapter, we have improved on an existing framework for managing socio-
technical-natural systems, using two case studies:
1. Preservation of biodiversity by reducing bycatch.
2. Learning lessons from the way in which the UK handled foot and
mouth disease that will lead to more effective response to future
epidemics.
These two cases center on an issue that is critical to the survival of any
civilization: maintenance of a long-term, reliable food supply without reducing
the resilience of the environmental system that sustains life. In the case of
bycatch, the answer is to manage fishing so only the species used for food are
caught, preserving biodiversity. A corollary is that one must not overharvest the
desired species, and bycatch reduction may help with this by developing
management techniques that can be used to selectively harvest some species while
leaving others to grow back. Such management will depend on the ability to
mobilize stakeholders capable of understanding each other and willing to work
Human Interactions and Sustainability
Sustainability: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives 109
together in trading zones that share not only a common goal, but can develop
shared means to attaining the goal.
The case of the UK response to foot and mouth disease illustrates what happens
when trading zones are not mobilized and expertise is not shared. One community
dominated the response—in this case, quantitative modelers—and their model did
not fit the reality as the veterinarians and farmers saw it. Here trading zones
facilitated by interactional experts might have helped—but how could they be
mobilized in time?
The answer is to put in place anticipatory governance capabilities. The
stakeholder communities need to be given incentives and opportunities to
maintain trading zones in the absence of a crisis, preserving the kind of common
language and shared trust that makes them able to mobilize rapidly in a crisis.
Moral imagination is a critical element: the different stakeholders need to be able
to ‘walk in each others shoes’ regularly. When a civilization fragments into
groups that do not care about and cannot communicate with one another, it
collapses. This is just as true for our emerging global civilization and shared
sustainability crisis as for civilizations of the past.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The author(s) confirm that this chapter content has no conflicts of interest.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Declared none.
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Sustainability applies to integrated systems comprising humans and the rest of nature. To be considered sustainable, human components (society, economy, law, etc.) that interact with ecosystems cannot decrease the resilience of the ecosystem structures and functions (trophic linkages, biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles, etc.) upon which the human components depend. A mathematical theory embodying these concepts would be immensely valuable in humanity's efforts to determine the effects of human activity on the resilience of the ecosystems. However, resilience of ecosystems can be very difficult to measure when only data collected in the field are available. We propose that indicators based on Information Theory can be used to develop measures that bridge the natural and human systems and make sense of the disparate state variables of the system. Fisher Information measures the variation of a dynamic steady state based on the probability density function it generates. We investigate the relationship between ecosystem resilience and Fisher Information using a simple, deterministic ecosystem model. This model is formed by a series of differential Lotka-Volterra equations, and includes 10 species arranged in 5 trophic levels, in addition to two resource pools, one of which is only accessible to two of the four plant species. The human society is modeled as one of the 10 species, and in proportion to its population size can increase the growth rate of three domesticated species, and decrease the mass transfer between other species. We create perturbations in the system to explore its resilience to these perturbations, and the relationship between resilience and Fisher Information. Since Fisher Information tracks the variation in a system, we hypothesize its use as an index of ecosystem resilience, and therefore sustainability.
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Text:book; for undergraduates in introductory courses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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