Saturday, July 30, 2011


My swim suit has reappeared! It was in the lost and found at the mall I venture through on my way home from the bus stop. It was still wet. That definitely deserves a laugh and a big thumbs up!

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about the American debt. I can't exactly answer them as I have been watching in horror from afar like everyone else around the world, but I think this Daily Show segment from a while back about sums it up:
JUST KIDDING! I think Paul Krugman of the NY Times would disagree with this. And when I surreptitiously borrowed The Australian from my sleeping seatmate on the plane to Melbourne this morning, I found our looming crisis had garnered a huge, color picture of a concerned-looking John Boehner on the front page. I'll be watching closely to see how things unfold in the next few days.

Another interesting article I read described the fear many Egyptians have that their struggle has been forgotten. I remember having this very discussion with my fellow students in our Social Change class earlier this year. While we were inspired by the uprising that toppled Mubarak, my classmates and I were most interested in what would happen when the citizen pressure and media attention died down, once the difficult work of restructuring the country began. I know I have been remiss in keeping up with Egpyt's journey, so today was a good reminder. One article in the paper discussed the limits of social media in the actual decision-making and negotiations that occur when redeveloping a social structure. "Revolutions need leaders and none has emerged from the millions now joining the debate... dissent fomented in bedrooms can mobilize the people but has yet to produce the personalities to lead them."

This limitation is interesting to note as I continue to consider the role of government and political leaders in facilitating things like natural resource policy and management. I'm trying to reconcile the balance between collective involvement and individual leadership. One tension I've felt in my work is that creating fair systems for the ever-expanding "collective" often requires oversight and framework setting at a scale so far removed from local people that it can be difficult for higher level leaders to stay grounded. Although Australia has been trending toward centralization in some areas (education, resource planning, etc.), they seem to be going in this direction with some lingering misgivings. Namely, which issues should the federal government really be given ultimate authority over and which can they simply facilitate by supporting the actions of state and local governments as in the past? Subsidiarity is a helpful new vocab word I learned this week to help me think things through. While in the states this is a concept I hear most often touted by conservatives, I don't think the concept is partisan at its root. Like subsidiarity suggests, however, it's an and rather than either/or question of how to split up jurisdiction among different levels of government. Figuring out appropriate levels of involvement is the trick, but even states understand that they do not exist in a vacuum, that the things going on within Queensland borders have an effect physically, economically, and socially on the entire nation.

In my quest for more information on participatory resource management, I have come across some interesting models that seem to be working. Most of them are in Europe. There was HarmoniCOP, an EU initiative that created a best practice manual for collaborative water planning. I've been learning about the incredible Elinor Ostrum-- nobel laureate, theorist, professor, and activist--and her work in social ecology and NRM. I'll be sitting down with two of my new workmates next week to hear about their experiences in collaborative bush fire management and Scottish rural development. It's an exciting world!! I just wish more had come up when I googled "collaborative natural resource management USA." Or that anything had come up when I googled "collaborative natural resource management Arkansas."

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