Whose Knowledge Counts? How do we Count it?

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Whose Knowledge Counts? How do we Count it?. Rod Dobell, Katherine Barrett and Stuart Lee University of Victoria National Policy Research Conference Ottawa, October, 2002. Brief bios.
Whose Knowledge Counts? How do we Count it? Rod Dobell, Katherine Barrett and Stuart Lee University of Victoria National Policy Research Conference Ottawa, October, 2002 Brief bios
  • Rod Dobell finished a PhD in economics at MIT and taught mathematical economics at Harvard and Toronto before beginning a long re-learning process in social realities, procedural ethics and sustainability studies, including fieldwork in the Government of Canada, OECD, IRPP and other NGOs. He has just learned that ‘retirement’ means that paycheques can cease but research project interests and responsibilities never die.
  • Katherine Barrett, PhD
  • Katherine Barrett completed BSc and MSc degrees in microbiology, and a PhD in Botany in association with the Centre for Applied Ethics at UBC, examining the use of science in formulating policies related to GMOs. She has worked for several years with the Science and Environmental Health Network and the POLIS project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria. This paper was completed under the auspices of the Clayoquot Alliance for Research, Education and Training, a SSHRC-CURA project.
  • Stuart Lee, PhD
  • Stuart Lee combined BSc and MSc degrees in molecular biology with studies in the sociology of science to complete his PhD at the University of Victoria. Recent research pursues issues of knowledge and decision making at the interface of science and civil society, with a particular interest in cultural integration occurring in the Clayoquot Sound region of Vancouver Island. Work on this subject was undertaken for the Clayoquot Alliance. He has recently been appointed as an S&T Policy Analyst at Environment Canada.
  • Basic theme of this session is the need for governments, in a complex, uncertain and rapidly changing world of deep diversity, to rethink their ideas of evidence-based decision and results-oriented accountability.
  • Entails recognition of many conflicting perspectives in participatory processes, and an integration of distinct belief systems in the negotiation of understandings of problems and collective responses to them.
  • At the heart of decision-making in an uncertain world is the precautionary principle.
  • Not a principle of decision theory, relevant when risk assessment is complete; rather a general approach to framing of and response to problems of social risk.
  • Founded in interactive analytical-deliberative processes—not just ‘inside’ science into policy, but also ‘outside’ deliberative processes leading into collective commitments to coherent individual action.
  • Will look here at two facets of the story—the precautionary principle itself, broadly understood as a basis for action; and
  • The negotiation of understanding and commitment in synthesis of traditional ecological knowledge and conventional science (Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound.)
  • Katherine Barrett will address the first issue, and Stuart Lee will follow directly.
  • What is thePrecautionary Principle?
  • An approach to decision-making under conditions of great uncertainty and potential harm
  • Originating in environmental policies of the 1970s
  • Interpreting thePrecautionary PrincipleRio Declaration (1992):
  • In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capability.
  • Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
  • Interpreting thePrecautionary PrincipleWingspread Statement (1998):
  • When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
  • Key Elements of thePrecautionary Principle
  • Recognition of potential (serious, irreversible) harm
  • Recognition of uncertainty (and complexity)
  • Recognition that action is warranted
  • Implementing thePrecautionary Principle
  • A Canadian Perspective on the Precautionary Principle/Approach. Discussion Document (2001)
  • Highlights key controversies and tensions around implementation
  • Where Does thePrecautionary Principle Apply? Steps in Decision-Making Process:
  • Define the problem
  • Gather and assess evidence
  • Develop and select options
  • Implement decisions
  • Monitor
  • Precaution as aManagement Option
  • Define the problem
  • Gather and assess evidence
  • Develop and select options
  • Implement decisions
  • Monitor
  • Precaution as a Comprehensive Decision-Making Process
  • Define the problem
  • Gather and assess evidence
  • Develop and select options
  • Implement decisions
  • Monitor
  • Precaution as a Comprehensive Decision-Making Process
  • Re-frame the problem
  • Acknowledge the limits of science
  • Admit broader range of evidence and expertise
  • Account for value assumptions
  • Precaution as a Comprehensive Decision-Making Process
  • “The precautionary approach is unique within traditional risk management because of the higher degree of uncertainty, the parameters that can establish what constitutes an adequate scientific basis, and the distinctive aspects of sound and rigorous judgment.”
  • “… empirical, theoretical or … ‘traditional knowledge’”
  • “… a different approach to public engagement is required.”
  • “Public involvement should be structured into the scientific review and advisory process as well as the decision-making process.” from: A Canadian Perspective (2001)
  • Broadening the Bounds – Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge Case Study: The Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound This talk . . .
  • Brief geographical and historical context
  • Presentation of key elements that reflect influence of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
  • Closing arguments regarding integration of new knowledges
  • Clayoquot Sound
  • Two towns
  • Five FN villages
  • Approximately equal FN/non-FN pop’n
  • Tourism
  • Fishing
  • Logging
  • Conflict around Forestry - I
  • 1984 First logging blockade in Canadian history when Macmilan Bloedel (MacBlo) attempts to log Meares Island
  • 1985 First court injunction preventing logging in BC history - Meares Island
  • 1988 More conflict - Sulphur Pass – chief arrested, with many other local protesters
  • Conflict around Forestry - II
  • 1989-92 “Sustainable community” efforts amid ongoing strife
  • Oct. 1992 “Clayoquot Sound Sustainable Development Strategy Steering Committee” disbanded
  • April 1993 Cabinet presents Clayoquot Sound Land Use decision
  • Conflicts around forestry - III
  • 1993 “Clayoquot Summer” largest ever Canadian act of civil disobedience – 900+
  • ENGO-led International boycotts
  • International campaigns by Nuu-chah-nulth
  • The Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound
  • “Review the forest management standards for Clayoquot Sound and make recommendations for changes and improvements where required to develop a set of “world class” forest practices for Clayoquot Sound.”(BC, Oct 22, 1993)
  • #1 Panel Constitution
  • Western Scientists
  • They were not: residents, gov’t or industry employees, or associated with environmental groups
  • Nuu-chah-nulth elders
  • They were: long-time residents, socially and politically involved
  • Mandated Deliverable “Initial report of standards review and recommendations for forest harvesting, road construction and engineering, access, slope stability and hydrology” (BC, Oct 22, 1993) Panel Deliverable “The Panel has forged a protocol [that] reflects.... the Nuu-chah-nulth approach to group processes” (CSSP Report 1, p . 5) #2 – Panel Process Mandated TOR 1. Review existing forest management standards 2. Recommend changes to these standards... based on the best available scientific information. (BC, Oct 22, 1993) #3a. – Panel Terms of Reference #3b. – Panel Terms of Reference Panel TOR “the Panel’s task [changed] from reviewing and revising current standards to creating standards for a different approach to forest planning in Clayoquot Sound.” (CSSP Report 2, p. 4) #4 Nuu-chah-nulth Terminology
  • Hishuk ish ts’awalk – “everything is one”
  • Iisaak – “respect’
  • Halhuulhi – “traditional governance/resource management”
  • #5 Challenged Existing Legal/Industrial agreements
  • Panel recommends a planning process that:
  • calculates areaavailable for commodity production
  • specifies a harvesting rate
  • and identifies the locations where harvesting may occur
  • “These harvest levels functionally replace the AAC in defining expectations for harvestable wood” (rep. 5, p.154)
  • Incorporating “Traditional Knowledge” also meant:
  • Changing Panel selection criteria and Panel process through influence of TEK’s different ways of coming to know
  • Introducing new languages/concepts into forestry document
  • Changing legislation to allow an entirely different basis for forestry management
  • Implementation
  • New governance arrangement - increased community control
  • New business arrangements to make ecosystem-approaches to logging economically feasible
  • Taking new knowledge seriously means taking new knowledge SYSTEMS seriously
  • Different knowledge comes from different practices, with different attendant social arrangements to support them
  • When proposing changes to how an organization gathers/assesses evidence, be prepared for the change in other sectors that must follow
  • Concluding comments
  • Extending precautionary approach upstream, to framing, and downstream, to implementation and compliance.
  • Case study illustrates issues in extending upstream, to negotiation of understanding across scientific and other cultures;
  • And downstream, to need for new institutions to accommodated participatory discussion and shared governance.
  • Re-thinking of governance in face of inherent uncertainty and indeterminacy of complex systems
  • Need to design institutions for ‘safe-fail’ [safe in failure] operation, not ‘fail-safe’ [safe from failure]. Redundancy may help.
  • (And need accountability concepts and audit practices to recognize the difference!)
  • Need to move to risk culture acknowledging indeterminacy, not promote audit culture premised on certainty and measurement.
  • So need adaptive management, institutions, governance; but also need interactive deliberative and inclusive processes for dealing with social risk—need to ground decisions on collective action within social institutions that are accepted as legitimate.
  • In the end, this means focus on the responsibility of public servants for judgments on a broad range of ethical as well as technical considerations.
  • The Reflexive Public Servant
  • Above argument calls for a public servant willing to re-examine and challenge her own starting points, biases and belief systems;
  • Willing to give up hiding political agenda behind mask of expert knowledge;
  • Willing to seek reconciliation of exercise of power with professions of truth;
  • Willing to give up appeal to simple concepts like a uniform social threshold for ‘acceptable risk’.
  • The reflexive public servant expects and anticipates evolution and adaptation in beliefs, values and norms (‘double-loop’ social learning);
  • Recognizes that distributional issues and ethical dilemmas cannot be resolved or disguised as technical computations;
  • Is willing, once again, to challenge not only the biases and constructions that other participants bring to the table, but her own as well.
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