Posts Tagged: Mark Lubell
When people don't think about the impact of their decision-making on others, it can ultimately lead to tragedy - the tragedy of the commons, said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researcher Mark Lubell during an interview on Jefferson Public Radio. Lubell, director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at UC Davis, studies human decision-making in the context of the environment.
"People think about what happens on their private land and make their private decisions, but they don't think about how their private decisions affect others," Lubell said. "You see this all the time with human decision-making."
An example he uses with his students is how they and their roommates manage their shared kitchens.
"When one person's dishes pile up, it impacts the others," Lubell said. "I ask how they would make rules to solve the problem."
Lubell said the parties need to collectively develop a policy that is mutually beneficial.
"If we didn't have that capacity, we would be in big trouble," Lubell said.
Cooperation tends to be the norm, however the media is more likely to cover cases of conflict, so they tend to get more attention.
"There is a lot of collective action involved in getting individuals and farmers and water districts to come together to reduce water use," said Lubell, who is also Director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at UC Davis.
Lubell, whose research focuses on human behavior and the role of governance institutions in solving environmental collective action problems and facilitating cooperation, is particularly interested in watching the conservation efforts prompted by the California drought unfold. "It is definitely a good lab to study cooperation problems or observe them in action," he said.
The difficulty for California is akin to the classic "tragedy of the commons," in which people behave in their own self-interest even when contrary to the best interests of a whole group.
"People are being asked to make an individual sacrifice, but the costs and benefits are experienced by a lot of other people," Lubell said. "People tend to not do the behaviors that make everybody collectively better off."
The solution, Lubell said, is taking a multifaceted approach to encouraging water conservation, including water prices, penalties for not conserving, and influencing social norms. He said social norms are crucial, but they are not established overnight. And the norms can change again when conditions change.
"There will be some behaviors that stick. Some people might put in some irrigation changes where they won't go back and put lawn back in right away," Lubell said. "But short term changes will unstick once it starts raining again. We know the psychology of water use, and people very quickly forget the drier years."
“Over the last century, agricultural knowledge systems have evolved into networks of widely distributed actors with a diversity of specializations and expertise,” said Lubell, lead author of the research recently published in the journal Society & Natural Resources.
Lubell and his team hope their work will help agriculture extension programs harness the potential of these evolving personal and professional networks and make them explicit components of their outreach strategies.
Since land-grant universities were created in the late 19th century, University of California Cooperative Extension has been the state's main campus-to-community connection that delivers sound, scientific data to growers and ranchers, landowners, environmental groups, and consumers to help develop practical solutions to real-world problems. In the early days, extension specialist shared information in person, meeting with farmers in fields or coffee shops or town halls.
The system has evolved over time, as farming has become more specialized. And the systems still works, said Lubell and coauthors Meredith Niles, UC Davis ecology alumna, and Matthew Hoffman, grower program coordinator with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. But, they argue, it could use an update. They outline a case for what Lubell calls “Extension 3.0,” a modern model for agriculture extension that capitalizes on social learning, information technology, and evolving networks of expertise.
Reviewing 10 years of surveys, Lubell's team studied how California's growers and ranchers make farming decisions and who they turn to for advice. They learned that Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisers are still primary trusted sources, but respondents are also influenced by pest control advisers, local leaders, commodity groups, sales representatives, fellow farmers, and others.
“Our research provides an empirical layer to support what many Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors already do,” Hoffman said. “It's about making sure information reaches the right people in the right way at the right place and time.”
The authors are not calling to eliminate traditional extension professionals nor suggesting all current outreach strategies be converted to more modern methods like social media, webinars and smartphone applications.
“Instead, Extension 3.0 seeks to understand how personal networks and new information and communication technologies can work together,” Lubell said.
The authors recognize social media is already a part of agricultural extension, and they know they aren't the first to recognize its importance. But they encourage extension programs to formalize social media, information technology, and network science as part of their hiring, training and outreach strategies.
“Extension systems and professionals must be experimental, adaptive and creative with program design and implementation to maximize the synergy between experiential, technical and social learning,” Lubell said.
Aubrey White, communications coordinator for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, says she finds news she can use in “Extension 3.0.”
“Understanding key linkages in a community or area of research can dramatically shorten the distance between knowledge-seekers and knowledge-holders,” White said. “Lubell's article reminds us that extension is not just delivering information, but creating conversation.”
Cooperative Extension specialist Ken Tate, rangeland watershed expert with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, has been a longtime proponent of collaboration and conversation.
“For me, the study reaffirms that we shouldn't abandon what works — face-to-face meetings, for example — but we have to keep building and adopting new components. Content is the key. We need to produce good science and provide practical solutions, and then use the best means possible to make sure that information reaches the people we serve, and helps meet society's needs.”
You can read the full journal article at http://environmentalpolicy.ucdavis.edu/node/321
- Diane Nelson, 530-752-1969, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mark Lubell, UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy, 530-752-5880, email@example.com
- Matthew Hoffman, Lodi Winegrape Commission, 209-367,4727, firstname.lastname@example.org
Common ground in the climate change debate can be found in agreement over the need to adapt to warmer temperatures, said Mark Lubell, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy, during an interview with Rob Sachs of Voice of America Russia edition.
Lubell said there is a wide consensus among scientists that longterm climate models show a warming trend. There is less agreement about the cause of the warming temperatures, but most everyone would support the effort to make communities more resilient to the probable affects of a warmer planet.
Lubell said people need to be ready to adapt to more heat waves, a rising sea level and more fires in arid areas. He also discussed the potential repercussions of climate change on California agriculture.
"Climate change is likely to have a pretty big impact on water availability and the productivity of different types of crops," Lubell said "A farmer who says I'm just going to do what I've always done, 10 years from now might find himself with a much less profitable agricultural enterprise. If they try to change crops and the ways they manage their crop to be more in sync with climate change, they may be able to maintain their enterprise and profitability at the levels that they want."
Adapting to climate change is critical whether one believes it's human caused or not.
Growing concern about social issues related to agriculture – working conditions for laborers and environmental impacts, for example – is giving rise to consumer and retailer interest in buying products that were farmed using “sustainable” methods.
“Sustainable agriculture” is not easy to define. In general, the system puts an emphasis on practices that have long-term environmental and social benefits – such as reducing pollution and providing stable jobs. Sustainable products are perhaps not as familiar as “organic,” but examples of retailers capitalizing on the concept are numerous.
- Walmart is training 1 million farmers and workers worldwide on crop selection and sustainable-farming practices
- Sysco asserts online that it offers products that come from suppliers that take care of the land
- Del Monte Foods formalized its environmental goals in three key areas - waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water
Understanding farmers’ perceptions about adopting sustainable farming is a goal of research by Mark Lubell, professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis. To document whether winegrape farmers and other experts believe the environmental and economic benefits of adopting sustainable practices are worth the cost, Lubell analyzed data from three sources: a survey of viticulture outreach professionals, including UC farm advisors, campus-based researchers and vineyard management consultants; a 2008 survey of winegrape growers who are part of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program; and 16 interviews with winegrape growers in the Lodi, Napa Valley and Central Coast winegrowing regions.
Many “sustainable” practices were perceived to have economic benefits and are likely to be adopted by growers, Lubbell found. Of the practices where economic benefits outweigh the costs, the practices with the highest environmental benefits are perceived to be:
- Spot spraying for pest problems instead of treating entire vineyards
- Pheromones to disrupt pest mating
- Computer models for disease forecasting
- Dust reduction with cover crops
- Monitoring evapo-transpiration to determine when to irrigate
“Important challenges to the adoption of sustainable practices arise when economic benefits are low and when growers have uncertainty about benefits,” Lubell said.
The take-home message for advisors and crop consultants: Outreach programs should focus grower education on activities with both economic and environmental benefits. Reducing uncertainty should be a primary goal of all outreach programs and requires research to demonstrate the effectiveness of agricultural practices.
Lubell believes adopting sustainable methods makes sense for winegrape growers.
“The market for sustainability is not mature enough now to get a price differentiation,” he said. “But a ‘green’ market is emerging. Some people are willing to pay for it and more will pay over time.”
For more information, read the research brief The Perceived Benefits and Costs of Sustainability Practices in California Viticulture.
Economically viable living and working conditions for farm laborers are part of sustainable ag.