Talk:Complex socio-ecological systems/Review and closure

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Assessing Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems: Workbook for Practitioners (Revised Version 2.0)
I've included my 1.1 responses here. Generally I find the workbook to be a pretty good tool for conceptualizing your system, except for the way social components are understood. Again, governance and social networks are considered to be discrete in ways that reduce their utility. Similarly, the way stakeholders are considered to be monolithic may be troubling to some. I do think 2.0 is an improvement over the last version of the workbook, however, and given the way that social scientists have been increasingly present in discussions of resilience, the way the examples and frameworks are explained in this workbook could well improve. Until then one has to engage in a lot of inference and substitution. ~Sam

Issues Main issue(s) of concern for the assessment Valued attributes
1 Persistent drought Water for personal and agricultural consumption
2 Continued prevalence of HIV/AIDS Community health
3 Government welfare Poverty reduction

• The attributes of water for personal and ag consumption are valued to the households undergoing stress as a result of drought, as well as the micro, meso and macro-level governance structures (e.g., ward councils, municipalities, and the national government). The attributes are most directly felt by the local ecosystems and households themselves, but if the (human) communities of which they are a part possess any political or economic influence, then indeed those other governance structures also “value” persistent drought. Or I should say they value combating it. That’s a big “if.” The same can be said for HIV/AIDS, which concerns individuals and their families before it concerns any governmental institutions, humanitarian/health NGOs, etc. (HIV/AIDS does not concern non-human features of ecosystems directly—not reverse zoonotic in that way). Welfare in the form of pension and subsidy grants is vitally important to rural settings like the former homelands as a bridge between desperate poverty and latent poverty (or that’s how the state views it, I would imagine), so again the stakeholders include households, gov. institutions, and NGO’s. The ecosystems have no stake at the table, but if the soil, grasses, grubs, birds and baboons had a voice, they might desire the status quo (little agriculture, minimal use of the veldt), or they might value working smallholder farms (providing valuable niches; indirectly they don’t require huge amounts of energy inputs from beyond the community bounds).
• Time spans for this planning cycle are complex. Really it becomes an issue of what the turnover times are. Given climate variability and the dire predictions for southern Africa, one could argue that the turnover time of relevance for drought is broken down into El Nino/La Nina small-scale oscillations. Larger scale predictions are based on the best available models, some of which may have significant standard error. So drought should be “managed” at the scale of these smaller oscillations, with the systems recognition that these perturbations are related to larger global disturbances, which may exhibit seeming randomness, or at the very hysteresis. Community health may be “managed” by addressing individuals at the stage of sexual maturity (preventative) or by providing more impactful palliative care. The time scale may be thought along the lines of an actuary at the individual level (e.g., average age of female/male for first sexual contact, lifespan of individual with HIV/AIDS taking antiretrovirals, lifespan of individual not on ARVs, etc.). The planning cycle for poverty is inherently complex, but the three main grants of note are child welfare grants, disability, and senior pensions. The child grants do not extend far beyond toddlerhood, disability is largely used for persons sick with AIDS and/or TB (one could relate this back to the turnover time for those sick with HIV/AIDS), and old-age pensions for those over 60 years old. Those are three staggered age ranges, with the disability affecting the largest swatch of ages (say, 13-60). But if development rand is used as something more than entitlements, one can imagine that the time span that is of greatest focus would be 17-55, the most productive years of human labor (not just for capital accumulation, but for agricultural subsistence, homestead maintenance, etc.).
• The main issues are at most being mitigated but not managed (if by managed we mean adaptively managed in the best spirit of resilience thinking). There are alerts about water crisis all throughout the Eastern Cape, and the forestry agency has worked hard to instill the idea that impaired watersheds as a result of invasive species, damages supply as well as other service provisioning. But household members are dealing with greater uncertainty regarding their water supply, and the pressures on government are increasing to deliver increasing amounts of water from other areas that are not naturally replenishing. Active water provisioning does not exist at all in other locales. HIV/AIDS is recognized in South Africa at all levels now as a problem, although the current and former presidents of the country have diluted the national efforts with their own deleterious actions. The messaging and educational efforts are quite robust. And yet the high rates of infection and mortality persist. There are many reasons for this, many of them cultural, but because awareness of a problem is essential to systems thinking, as it would be for any time of problem solving, recognition may not be so simply dealt with. Finally, poverty reduction is the holy grail of all economic development work, and government welfare is its (partly) poisoned chalice. Entitlements cannot increase logistically, and certainly not exponentially, in the current economic model where they act as the only buffer against extreme destitution. This is again a mitigatory, not an adaptively managed problem.