Youtube: “What is Adaptive Governance?” #Manchester #climate #theory #geekery

This video, 3.35mins of me talking, should have had more of an explanatory introduction. Next one will! Comments v. welcome! Script (more or less) below.

What is adaptive governance?

The standard model of governance is that some smart people at the centre gather in information. That takes time.
They analyse it, that takes time.

And send out their proposals, that takes time,

Which are then implemented that takes time.


That has worked fine – for some – if today is like yesterday, and tomorrow is like today.

But hasn’t the weather been funny? And won’t those “1 in a hundred years” events start happening every 4 or 5.

What if everything is changing faster than the “smart” people at the centre can understand, let alone “adapt” to?

So adaptive governance is about shortening the time from gathering information to implementing proposals. And it’s about the people closest to the problems being able to come up with ideas of how to fix them and being, well, listened to by the oh-so-clever Big Brains in t’centre.

Why won’t the powerful like “adaptive governance”?

It points out that they don’t have all the answers

It would demand that they share the powers they currently have

  • to define reality
  • to define what counts as a problem
  • to define what counts as a possible solution

if you want to get all Gramsci, it would undercut their hegemony

Why should you care?

If you think our Lords and Masters are doing a fine old job.
If you haven’t noticed that carbon dioxide emissions are 40% higher than when we started “taking action” on climate change in the 1990s..
If you haven’t clocked the pending ecological debacle around biodiversity collapse, soil loss, ocean acification

Then go ahead and do nothing. You’ll be happy. For a while.

How do we get this wonderful “adaptive governance” thing then?

Anyone who tells you they have a perfect blueprint has, obviously, missed the point a bit.

I have no recipe, but I have some ingredients.


Engaged citizens – that means bureaucrats and politicians who tell the truth and don’t witch-hunt and demonise whistleblowers.

Growing social movements – that means organisers who don’t bore potential allies to death with top-down meetings and sterile marches and rallies.

Persistence, stamina, tenacity, resourceful learning – adaptive groups, that create sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.”

But it’s late, it’s so late. In the words of one prominent climate scientist, it’s later than you think.

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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1 Response to Youtube: “What is Adaptive Governance?” #Manchester #climate #theory #geekery

  1. The reason why the Danish wind-turbine became so successful, was because it grew from a grassroots movement and not ‘top-down’. This is why we should being doing things on a more local level, than certain people thinking they can be master of a large empire.
    As for climate change, when I was in Sabah, North Borneo with the WWF in 2007. We were told, they were used to floods on a 5 year cycle and the local trees could survive. They then told us, the flood cycle was now 2-3 years, meaning they local trees are being killed off. Also the year before, they had suffered flooding worse than any could remember. This meant that, even the homes, which are build on stilts to protect them from flood waters only just survived. Now, this was 6 years ago and we in the Global North continue to consume and emit too much.
    So, instead of the odd bit of tokenism, we need a concerted effort from every one, or people will find they cannot survive.

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