Archive for March, 2013

The Robustness of Children

The old saw is that a man with one watch knows what time it is, but a man with two is never sure.  The same holds true for books on child development.  I’ve now read more books than I care to admit on childcare.  Each was written by an expert, generally with a tone that indicates any deviation from this plan will probably result in catastrophic events for you child.  But the first key takeaway that I’ve found is that kids thrive in spite of our best efforts.

This brings me back to the research that forms the foundation of this blog and website, resilience and robustness.  All of my work on resilience comes from the work on social-ecological systems instigated by the breakthroughs of Buzz Holling and his compatriots over the last (gasp) 40 years.  But there is a vast literature on “resilience” in childhood development.  Both research communities have very specific definitions and heaps of research that don’t necessarily speak anything close to the same language.  In the social-ecological community, there have been recent discussions on resilience (the ability to bounce back from disturbance) in contrast to robustness (system persistence when confronted by various types of disturbance or uncertainty).

Kids are robust to a huge variety of disturbances.  They prosper regardless of which child development program we follow.  The experts insist that raising healthy kids requires:

  • a regimented eating-activity-sleeping schedule, except for those that insist that this should be on demand with no schedule
  • co-sleeping, except for those that insist co-sleeping is evil
  • programmed activity and school starting by 2 years of age, except those that insist there should be no formal schooling
  • strict rules, except those that insist on levity and learning
  • pacifiers to satiate natural cravings, again, except by those that think this leads to poor nourishment

And the list goes on as long as we’d like, with phrases like nipple confusion, attachment dilemmas, and so on.

This leads me to Takeaway #2: Kids need three things and three things only:  food, love, and space to run.  This recipe works until at least the age of 3, but it probably holds until the age of 88.

Finally, everyone seems to have their favorite childcare book.  That’s great.  If you find one that works for you and (more importantly) your child, please use it.  However, let’s remember that you have a sample size of 1 (or 2 or 3), and let’s not assume that the same holds for anyone else, let alone everyone.  Now, back to the books.

More thoughts on Collaboration in Environmental Management

In my last (sleep-deprived) post, I commented on the disciplinary divide between social and natural scientists in their views of collaboration.  I noted that the social scientists often focus on building social capital, reducing transaction costs, etc while the natural scientists often focus more on scale.  Clearly, I oversimplified and under-thought (thunk?) these ideas.  The clearest examples of oversight come from any of the literature on watershed management, corridor conservation, or firescape management where both aspects of collaboration are routinely discussed.  But these two different (although not necessarily always discrete) types of collaboration still stumped me.

However, last week I had the good fortune of discussing some planned laboratory experiments on collaboration with Diego Galafassi.  In these experiments, Diego, along with Marco Janssen, Jacopo Baggio, and the esteemed Orjan Bodin, are comparing social-ecological systems in which the ecosystems are connected but different groups of actors have access to different patches.  In each treatment, there are two groups of players each drawing from only one of the ecosystems.  Because the ecosystems are linked, the behavior of each actor affects the other parties.  In one treatment, no one can talk to anyone else.  In another the members harvesting from the same ecosystem can communicate with others also harvesting from the same ecosystem but not to the other parties using the adjoining ecosystem or habitat patch.  In a third treatment, the groups from each ecosystem can talk with each other.  Stay tuned for more about these experiments as we start to run them.

While this is an overly brief synopsis of these experiments, discussing these with Diego sparked a few ideas.  First, the divide in collaboration that I was discussing wasn’t a disciplinary one at all.  Rather, it was about two distinct types of collaboration.  In these experiments, the “within group” treatments is really about collaboration with peers on a given site.  It’s about building social capital, etc (the naively-denoted social science view mentioned previously).  The links with other groups on connected (but separately managed) ecosystems is about scale-expanding.  When I consider case studies from my own research, I started thinking about the work at Agua Fria National Monument.  Here, the Nature Conservancy has facilitated collaborations between the BLM, Forest Service, and Arizona Game and Fish regarding grazing allotments and Collaborative Adaptive Management plans across adjacent BLM/USFS land.  This aspect of the collaboration fits with this view of collaboration as being about scale-expansion.  However, the Collaborative Adaptive Management process that the agencies are going through goes far beyond this.  On the National Monument alone over 50 stakeholder groups have participated in workshops and planning meetings or been invited into the process.  Few of these groups is a land owner in the sense that their collaboration expands the scale of the project in any meaningful sense.  However, it does increase the knowledge base, build legitimacy in the management process, add social capital, and so on.  The two aspects of this case mirror the two separate forms/purposes of collaboration.

Again, these thoughts are still being written in a quick fashion by an author with chronic sleep deficit.  But this framing may help us to better understand collaborations in the field and in the lab.  I’m hopeful that we can explore these ideas in the upcoming research.