“Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network” (SEVeN)

PastedGraphic-3 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.)?

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6 thoughts on ““Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network” (SEVeN)

  1. Having the continuing conversations about adaptation strategies are extremely important. As well as having the platform(s) to spread and allow anyone to contribute while also obtaining knowledge concerning sustainability. Then that would lead to the importance of organization of the platforms. I agree with the statement that was made in class of how do you attract people to want to contribute while also educating themselves, outside of the profession or academia. If sustainability experiments are only coming from those in academia in the beginning then it will be a matter of reaching out and doing the leg work to tell others of what SEVeN is and can offer. Given that this presentation was a means to get ideas on SEVeN I wanted to answer a few of the questions. What qualifies as a “sustainability experiment”? I believe that in order to allow anyone to contribute, having or allowing ambiguity will be better than having a set definition of what is sustainable. Then having that filter to go through each experiment and place into categories( i.e. scales, regions, etc.). Each entry should define its definition of sustainability and if there are trends then they can be grouped. When it comes to scale I do not understand why there needs to be an ideal in the beginning. I believe that as more projects come in the easier it will be to categorize the data or information. Minimizing or setting restrictions I feel will limit submissions to SEVeN. Overall SEVen as a network, as a link, is a good thing and I hope it doesn’t give up and I hope that it does not limit itself, because this a massive undertaking.

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  2. We live in an ever changing world, therefore, humans have an inherit ability to adapt to their environment. The Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network, SEVeN, is a novel idea for studying how we accommodate for a shifting system. The concept of “muddling through” seems to be the best means of solving the problem of producing and disseminating knowledge via experimentation. I appreciate how Stephen Zavestoski further elaborated on this concept by saying “small experiments NOT small steps.” I believe the process of treading lightly in order to reach big aims is ideal.

    I also admire the origin of SEVen, in the sense that through conversations a seed of change was formed in order to want to evaluate the success and failure of sustainable adaptability efforts no matter how big the undertaking. The process of experimentation, data collection, and distribution regardless of scales is a method of success, in terms of execution. I see the challenge of relying heavily on academia and developing ways to get the “Average Joe” involved. One solution could be to host think tanks or symposiums that would attract the masses. Here lies the brainstorming efforts that need to take root. Another way is to engage children in the experiments, possibly lead through academia in order to spark the idea of sustainability at a young age.

    Overall, I applaud SEVeN’s efforts. Possibly the conceptual challenge is not what qualifies as a “sustainability experiment” but more so how should we categorize the experiments, linking ones with similar attributes as not to narrow the realm of possibilities and potential knowledge. More food for thought in the area of dissemination could be in publication, ie. newsletter, journal, or broadcasting, ie. commercials. Ultimately, public speaking events such as this one will possibly be the best bet for collecting ideas; word of mouth is a powerful tool in itself.

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  3. There were several thought-provoking ideas in this talk, including the question about how we can compile experience and deep-seated knowledge, not just data and statistics (paraphrased from Sheila Jasanoff).

    I began thinking about the internet as a tool for knowledge compilation and dissemination. It is easily accessible (though not for everyone around the world), can enable global communication and interaction (though again, some are not participating), and can respond quickly to a changing world, but there is so much content ‘out there’ that competes for attention. How would you draw people to your resource initially, and how would you encourage a recurring engagement with your site?

    I believe Stephen Zavestoski provided one suggestion when he proposed that with online databases, academic case studies are a start, but you need to incentivize laypeople to contribute as well. I attended a talk by Maya Lin in Berkeley last week and I found her most recent project to be extremely relevant to this line of thought. As a continuation but reinterpretation of her previous work (she is most famous for designing the Vietnam Memorial), “What is Missing” (whatismissing.net) functions as what she calls an “online memorial.” The public is invited to share memories of elements of the natural environment — primarily species of flora and fauna — that have been lost, as well as stories of things that were lost but have come back. The project is an interesting hybrid between art and science. The memories are very subjective and individual, and yet each one functions as a ‘data point’ that builds an agglomeration of collective environmental memory – a type of database of change in nature.

    I think that people are naturally drawn to share personal experiences, and that this can create a psychological bond with a project that can lead to increased interaction and engagement and help to “compile experience and deep-seated knowledge.” So, perhaps one way to incentivize people to contribute to databases of knowledge is to encourage the sharing of personal stories.

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  4. This talk by Stephen Zavestoski brought up a variety of interesting points. I thought his context and theoretical framework for arriving at and introducing SEVeN were well thought out: assertions such as prevention as a long-term strategy rather then often for-profit treatment, or acknowledging how money flows through bureaucracies. I think the key to his “adaptive muddling” term is the urgency aspect at which these sustainability experiments progress. If we as a planet are simply muddling along now, our adaptations are going to have propagate rapidly in order to achieve global sustainability in any meaningful timeframe.

    A network like Zavestoski is proposing could potentially have the capacity to help foster change and facilitate some urgency. The question however is still largely: what is the network? A website? What kind of interface will allow easy interaction across such a broad array of information? In a sense these were the questions Zavestoski asked us and their answers will define SEVeN’s success. I don’t know the mechanisms as to why certain things go viral or why various websites such as craigslist become so widely used, but if SEVen could achieve this then perhaps it really could disseminate local knowledge on a global scale. In a sense the idea is an experiment in sustainability itself.

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