adaptive muddling

Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network (SEVeN): Nurturing local knowledge for global change

Next week Pradip Swarnakar and I will be presenting our concept of the Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network (SEVeN) during a conference call of the Sustainability Transitions Research Network’s newly formed network on “Transition Studies in Latin America and Caribbean, Asia & Africa” (LACASAF). As we think this project through and receive feedback on the idea we continue to refine the concept.   (more…)

Upcoming Talk: Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network (SEVeN)

I’ve been invited to give a talk in the UC Berkeley Landscape Architecture + Environmental Planning colloquium series on “The Global South, Common Sustainability Challenges (Causes & Solutions).” In case you happen to be in Berkeley, the talk is on Wednesday (10/1), from 1-2pm in 315A Wurster Hall. The following week, my USF colleague Chris Loparena will be giving a talk as part of the same colloquium on “Sustainable Tourism and its Discontents in Honduras.”

My talk, cryptically titled “Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network (SEVeN),” is going to be an interactive brainstorming with the Landscape Architecture students in which we’ll attempt to flesh out some of the criteria for a network designed to exchange knowledge rapidly among groups and individuals at the grassroots level working on sustainability experiments and climate change adaptation. I describe more about the idea behind SEVeN on my projects page here. My post on Fast Tracking Climate Adaptation–Tapping Our Natural Tendency to Experiment also provides some background to my thinking on this subject. The teaser for the talk follows:

Humans have been adapting to changing environments since inception. Environmental changes were generally slow on a geological time scale, making oral traditions sufficient for transferring knowledge about successful adaptation experiments. Anthropogenic climate change is occurring faster than the best predictions of even just three years ago. Adaptation, therefore, must be swift. Yet no formal, systematic mechanism exists for documenting and aggregating the results of both failed and successful adaptation experiments. Nor does a mechanism exist, for disseminating this knowledge. This talk will introduce the Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network (SEVeN), a concept for producing, aggregating and disseminating knowledge related to sustainability experimentation broadly and climate adaptation specifically. The talk will engage the audience in a collaborative process of identifying the ideal parameters for SEVeN. For example, what qualifies as a “sustainability experiment?” What is the ideal scale of the sustainability experiments that should be documented? What are the key variables for which data should be collected (e.g., cost, speed of implementation, level of technical knowledge required, etc.)?

Check out the colloquium’s blog here.

Fast Tracking Climate Adaptation–tapping our natural tendency to experiment

Moving from “muddling through” to “adaptive muddling” and developing the tools for a just transformation in the face of climate change. Why we need a new approach to fast tracking adaptation.


Note: This originally appeared as a guest post on Our Place on Earth. My Projects page describes the Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network, a very early-stage project with Pradip Swarnakar aimed at leveraging knowledge embodied in dispersed small-scale, community-based sustainability experiments. Given some similarities to Our Place on Earth’s TRAC2 Toolkit, we hope to collaborate sometime in the near future.


Human beings have always experimented to adapt. When our ancestors migrated from savannahs to temperate forests they likely tested their existing hunting and gathering techniques to see if they would work in the new environment. Old hunting methods and tools probably had to be adapted to new species. New typologies of poisonous and edible plant species had to be developed through trial and error (i.e., experimentation). New techniques of food storage and preparation needed to be tested. New sources of water had to be located and tested. Shelter. Waste disposal. Health. The list goes on. Every old practice for sustaining the life of a population had to be tested in the new environment and abandoned or adapted.

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