Thursday, June 18, 2009

Zen Buddhism and Adaptive Management

I've been entertaining a visitor this week, Dr. Scott Field, currently a lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. 5 years ago we worked together on a project analysing fox monitoring data from Eyre Peninusula in South Australia. This week Scott's been conducting the 2nd Quinquennial fox monitoring analysis - and he has results! Nice ones. Moral of the story - analyze your data. It helps. Really.

Scott's recent work has focused on conflict resolution in International Relations, and he had a few extremely interesting comments about Adaptive Management. One thing that causes problems is people rejecting analyses and predictions that could help them with decision making. The difficulty arises if they are not able to understand the underlying methods used to derive those analyses, then they have no way to discuss them. This leads people to react emotionally, rather than critically. Thus, it is critically important to conduct analyses in groups and provide lots of opportunities for feedback and interaction. This still isn't going to solve the problem when you are dealing with sophisticated analyses of complex data. But recognizing that issue will help me to not respond in kind.

The broader notion that we've come up with is that Buddhism has alot to offer the practice of adaptive management - hey, stay with me for a bit. One of Buddhism's "Four Noble Truths" is that Attachment leads to suffering. Attachment can be to things, but also to ideas. So the clear connection to AM is that when someone is attached to an idea about how the world works, then it is hard for them to expose that idea to data and analysis - the risk is that they might have to give up their idea, leading to suffering. Thus finding a good solution to an environmental problem involves giving up attachments to ideas. The trouble is there is no way to force someone else to give up their attachments.

There are other components of Buddhism that have lessons for AM, but I'm just learning about them so won't write any more just now.

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