Monday, 24 December 2012

Concerns and capabilities lead to action

The AgDialogue process Motu recently ran was designed to create a dialogue amongst agriculture sectoral groups, government, academics and individual farmers around dealing with New Zealand’s agricultural GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. One of the outcomes of this discussion was the creation of a matrix to describe how we can get action on wicked problems such as lowering agricultural GHG emissions: who can act and what can they do.

In this short video, Suzi Kerr explains the thinking behind the matrix.

Below is the matrix. Rather than being a large computer programme set up to create an alternate reality, the AgDialogue matrix is really a simple way of visualising what Suzi explains in the video.

Basically, an action intended to help reduce our agricultural GHGs can fit into one or more of the boxes in the matrix. The ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) for example, would fit into the top right box, as a national level regulation designed to incentivise emission reductions. The Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Center would fit in the top-middle box.

However, as Suzi points out in the video, we need adequate concern and capabilities as well as regulations to reward good and penalise poor behaviour. By using the AgDialogue matrix, we can identify who could undertake actions, and what these actions could aim to achieve. When we have populated it with a set of existing actions, if there are any gaps, we can come up with creative ways of filling in these gaps – as we did through AgDialogue.

A piece of research, done by Taciano Milfont at Victoria University of Wellington backs up the thinking behind the matrix. Importantly, his research was carried out in New Zealand – something that is very valuable as we often have to rely on research coming from larger countries, and apply their findings here.

Using data from a one year study, Taciano concludes: “Knowing more about global warming and climate change increases overall concern about the risks of these issues, and this increased concern leads to greater perceived efficacy and responsibility to help solving them.”

Taciano’s research paper can be found online for free here.
A special thanks to former Motu Research Analyst Zach Dorner for drafting this post.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Community involvement in environmental education and governance

Environmental education is crucial for engaging people from all walks of life to make informed decisions about issues such as biodiversity loss, climate destabilisation and resource depletion. Ardoin, Clark and Kelsey's recent paper "An exploration of future trends in environmental education research" has explored the possible future directions that environmental education may take. The authors' study was undertaken with an awareness of the increasing impact of global trends such as the technology revolution, the urban age, and the globalisation of environmental issues.

A number of interesting findings flow from the authors' research. One suggestion made is that that environmental education and research may broadening in focus from the individual to community level. The idea that education and research can be inclusive and collaborative is well-instanced in the project around which this blog was founded - the Agricultural Emissions Dialogue process. The project brought together farmers, iwi, economists, scientists, government and other experts to discuss issues around agricultural emissions. Whilst the group conducted no formal research, the dialogues proved to be the catalyst for a number of pieces of research by Motu (see the bottom of this page) and our recently published short film and teaching materials. Two of the earlier entries on this blog have specifically considered the process of dialogue - this post by Ana Ngamoki, and this post by Geoff Simmons.

It may be the case that environmental governance, like environmental education, will increasingly broaden towards a community-focussed approach. The Land and Water Forum's recent series of reports on how freshwater management in New Zealand can be improved called for community decision-making at catchment level, within a framework created by central government. The Forum's third report emphasised the need for community buy-in to ensure regulation is effective, and the importance of giving weight to community-specific needs and values in decision making.

Another issue that Ardoin, Clark and Kelsey touch on is the highlighted opportunity for engagement that social media brings. With that in mind, this is probably a good point at which to remind readers about ways in which they can engage with this blog. Comments are most welcome, as are suggestions for topics (email us at And to subscribe to receive updates when posts are made, simply enter your email address in the "Follow By Email" field to the right.