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Part III MOVEMENT BUILDING Civic Ecology as Strategic Action Field 157 Chapter 8 ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT, ADAPTIVE GOVERNANCE, AND CIVIC ECOLOGY Lance Gunderson, Elizabeth Whiting Pierce, and Marianne E. Krasny Wildfires are burning throughout the United States, and typhoons are causing massive destruction in the western Pacific. Yet we (the authors) go about our everyday lives, seemingly ignoring these large-scale environmental disasters. As we walk through our neighborhoods and local parks, change may not be so evident , making it easier to ignore. But we worry that accumulated human pressures over many years may have created irreversible change at larger scales—that we may have crossed irreversible thresholds, possibly at the scale of our planet. Yet sometimes when things seem to go utterly wrong at the local scale, we ourselves may cross a threshold of disengagement and decide to take action to reclaim a “broken” place—whether it be a neglected trail in the woods, a beach denuded of dunes or mangroves, or a tiny patch of open space that has become a magnet for dumping and even crime. Still, even as we engage in these local actions, we question their importance beyond the single trail, beach, or trashed lot. From the plants that are cultivated in a garden to the mighty rivers of the world, the scale of human control over our environment has reached unprecedented levels, causing some to propose a new geologic epoch—the Anthropocene (Rockström et al. 2009; Steffen et al. 2011; Crutzen and Stoermer 2000). The Anthropocene acknowledges the scale at which humans are transforming the planet, including land-use changes (Turner, Lambin, and Reenberg 2007) and alterations of water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles (Vitousek et al. 1997; Steffen et al. 2011). More than half the human population now resides in cities and 158 MOVEMENT BUILDING urban areas (Steffen et al. 2011), and humans have co-opted the bulk of our planet ’s biological productivity (Vitousek et al. 1997). We have transformed much of the arable land to provide food, fiber, and other ecosystem goods (MEA 2005) and have mined and burned fossil fuels that have accumulated for millennia to the point where increased concentrations of carbon-based greenhouse gases are impacting our climate (Steffen et al. 2011; IPCC 2014). So what’s new? We have heard these scenarios before to the point of exhaustion , of helplessness, even hopelessness. Yet, however dire the observed and projected changes to our environment, there is still room for optimism and hope— hope that these undesirable trajectories can be altered. Much of civic ecology is about exploring alternative trajectories and futures. In short, we propose that the field of civic ecology is emerging as a positive human endeavor in response to the undesirable social and ecological transformations of the Anthropocene. The value of civic ecology practices lies in their ability to nurture positive social and ecological changes at multiple scales. This chapter explains how civic ecology practices can have this multi-scale effect by introducing readers to three closely related bodies of theory and practice: “panarchy,” a theory of how socialecological systems change, which is grounded in the field of environmental science ; “adaptive management,” a mode of natural resource management that draws heavily on panarchy and notions of change; and “adaptive governance,” a model of governing in which collective decision-making among multiple actors has the capacity to support ongoing change. Panarchy: Change in Social-Ecological Systems Over the last four decades, scientists have come to recognize the surprising and unpredictable nature of change in ecosystems (Gunderson and Holling 2002; Gunderson, Holling, and Light 1995). Studies have generated four general observations about how ecosystems and social-ecological systems change over time: Systems are complex. The number of factors that influence change is large, leading to inherent unpredictability. Systems vary greatly over space. This is true in terms of both system structures and processes. Further, variations in structure create spatial variations in system processes. For instance, bioswales, dirt ditches, and concrete canals are structures that affect how quickly dirty water runs off highways and infiltrates ground or surface waters. The rate of infiltration—a process—differs from spot to spot, according to structure. CHAPTER 8 159 Systems are nested. For example, the carbon cycle in a small community garden is part of a larger citywide and even global carbon cycle. Systems change over time. This includes changes that we can predict, as well as unpredictable changes that occur as systems develop (Gunderson and Holling 2002). Over time, social-ecological systems...


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