Tag Archives: EcoTrust

Ecotrust looking for Resilience Research Fellow

The environmental NGO Ecotrust is searching for Resilience Fellow.  The position is a one year post-doctoral or sabbatical fellowship located at their Portland, Oregon office.  Details of the position and how to apply are below:

Position Summary

Ecotrust’s mission is to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity and environmental well-being. Among Ecotrust’s many innovations are co-founding the world’s first environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, and food and farms, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic, and environmental decision-making. Over nearly 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $60 million into grants and investments into more than $300 million in capital for local communities in the Pacific Northwest. The Resilience Fellow will serve an important role in integrating Ecotrust core missions and activities with progressive socio-ecological system resilience thinking. This is a one year post-doctoral or sabbatical fellowship, to be located in the Portland, Oregon office.


The Resilience Fellow will assist program staff in applying resilience theory to conservation practice, in addressing complex resource management challenges, and contributing to innovative solutions. We are not looking for someone to examine successes and failures of Ecotrust programs as case studies, but rather to approach the issues Ecotrust tackles with an eye to what works and what doesn’t work, and how that can be incorporated into our work on the ground. The successful candidate will interact and share ideas with staff economists, ecologists, and spatial planners at Ecotrust. S/he will build relationships with other resilience thinkers and doers in academia and the private sector, and will conduct independent research relating to Ecotrust program areas (Community Ecosystem Services, Food and Farms, and Knowledge Systems).

The Fellow will have flexibility in choosing a research topic or area of interest. Potential projects could include, but are not limited to:

  • Comparison of socio-ecological systems and scenario-building in the Copper River, Alaska and Skeena River, British Columbia; what are new ways to foster community organization?
  • Impact of large-scale salmon hatcheries on fishery and community resilience; what are new incentives to maintain fishing incomes and communities?
  • Social and economic impacts of catch share programs; what are new ways to design these programs to protect both communities and fish populations?
  • Improving the outcomes of marine spatial planning processes and ecosystem-based management;
  • Imagining the farm and/or ranch of the future, integrating the production of food, energy, and other ecosystem service. How do lessons from other bioregions apply and translate?

Fellowship outcomes could range from academic publications to informing new Ecotrust programs and initiatives.


  • PhD in natural or social sciences, with applied research experience in complex systems, ecology, economics, or anthropology.
  • Experience or interest in applying resilience theory to conservation practice.
  • Willingness and ability to think creatively, problem solve and innovate.
  • Strong research and publication record.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Some travel required.

Salary is negotiable, depending on candidate’s requirements and experience.

How to Apply

Download and submit an Ecotrust Employment Application form (available as a PDF or Word Document at http://www.ecotrust.org/about/jobs.html) along with a statement of interest, curriculum vitae, and three references to Dr. Astrid Scholz, Vice President of Knowledge Systems, via email, ajscholz@ecotrust.org.

Position open until filled.

Ecotrust is an equal opportunity employer.

Mental models and climate change

On Ecotrust’s People and Place, Howard Silverman articulates how climate change demonstrates how the earth has become a social-ecological systems, in which facts and values are entangled, and the future is full of various flavours of uncertainty.  These concepts lurk beneath many climate change discussions.  While none of these mental models are new, he suggests their reality is clarified by climate change in What We Talk about When We Talk about Climate:

Humans exist within social-ecological systems.The climate story is one of processes and connections. Critical planetary systems – climate, nitrogen, biodiversity – are impaired by human activities (see Rockström et al.). Both the power of human influence on natural systems and the vulnerability of human dependence on natural systems inspire awe – and, for some, doubt.

Uncertainties are central to social-ecological experience.
Impairments of planetary systems are historical experiments that are run but once. In linked social-ecological systems, knowledge is probabilistic. A very high confidence characterizes the analysis of human impact on the climate system, according to the typologies of uncertainty and confidence developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see IPCC – pdf). Uncertainty becomes central (see Post-Normal Science). The more the climate is changed, the less confident we can be about how it might further change (see Easterbrook).

Knowledge of facts presupposes knowledge of values.
The very-high-confidence fact of human impact on the climate system is not prescriptive in and of itself. To derive knowledge, to gain a capacity for effective action, depends on competing and complimentary values and perceptions, including: worldviews of nature as benign, tolerant and/or ephemeral (see cultural theory); aspirations of economic growth and/or human development; senses of personal and/or collective identity (see identity tree); and awareness of agency, i.e. that one has free will, that one can be effective, that risks can be recognized and evaluated.

In another post on cultural theory (the Douglas and Thompson version) Silverman expands on climate and cultural theory:

With positions on climate hardening, references to contradictory worldviews are popping up in the mainstream media (See NYT and NPR), but the story itself is hardly new.  “Underlying much of the energy debate is a tacit, implicit divergence on what the energy problem ‘really’ is,” wrote Amory Lovins in 1977’s Soft Energy Paths. “Public discourse suffers because our society has mechanisms only for resolving conflicting interests, not conflicting views of reality, so we seldom notice that these perceptions differ markedly.”

Here is a cultural theory-based interpretation of climate worldviews:

  • The hierarchist’s story (nature perverse/tolerant): International protocols and national commitments are needed to address the tragedy of the atmospheric commons and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The egalitarian’s story (nature ephemeral): The underlying problem is consumption (resource throughput). Precaution, lifestyle simplicity and grass roots action are the most effective responses.
  • The individualist’s story (nature benign): To address climate change, rely on laissez-faire markets to spur competition and innovation. The benefits of climate change may even balance out the costs.
  • The fatalist’s story (nature capricious): Natural forces are beyond human understanding, much less human influence.

A fifth worldview, called “nature resilient” (Thompson, Ellis & Wildavsky 1990) or “nature evolving” (Holling, Gunderson & Ludwig 2002) is sometimes pictured at the central intersection of the axes, overlapping each of the others – we might say, in the language of psychologist Ken Wilber, transcending and including each of the others.

Comparing Panarchy and Pace Layering

On the EcoTrust web magazine People and Place Howard Silverman compares Stewart Brand‘s concept of Pace Layering with Panarchy in Panarchy and Pace in the Big Back Loop:

“The back loop is the time of the Long Now,” writes Resilience Alliance founder Buzz Holling. It is a time “when each of us must become aware that he or she is a participant.”

“The trick is to treat the last ten thousand years as if it were last week, and the next ten thousand as if it were next week,” advises Stewart Brand in The Clock of the Long Now. “Such tricks confer advantage.”

Though Brand’s book precedes Holling’s “Complex Worlds” paper, their dialog runs pretty much like that. And the discussion turns on a pair of interrelated metaphors: panarchy and pace layering.

Mapping Metaphors
Holling and colleagues represent a familiar pattern of growth, conservation, release and renewal in the model of the adaptive cycle. A layering of adaptive cycles becomes a panarchy. The panarchy represents evolving interactions across ecological and social scales of time and space from, say, the pine cone to the forest to the forest products company.

Brand’s metaphor is pace layering, “the working structure of a robust and adaptable civilization.” Organized fast to slow, the layers are: fashion, commerce, infrastructure, governance, culture, and nature. With a nod to Holling, Brand writes, “The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient.”

What can we learn by mapping pace against panarchy? Picture a stack of adaptive cycles, with frantic fashion at the bottom, and nature’s biophysical processes, broad and slow, at the top. Reaching from each cyclic layer down to the next is an arrow labeled “remember,” for memory is an important influence that slower cycles exert on faster ones. And stretching from each cycle up to the next is the arrow “revolt,” representing the actions that, in the time of the back loop – of release and subsequent renewal – can enact structural shifts in the cycles above.

Thanks to Buzz Holling for the pointer.

Habits of Resilient Organizations

EcoTrust‘s blog/web magazine People and Place first issue is on Resilience Thinking, and features a number of articles on resilience including a interview with Brian Walker.  One interesting article proposes Six Habits of Highly Resilient Organizations:

1. Resilient organizations actively attend to their environments.
2. Resilient organizations prepare themselves and their employees for disruptions.
3. Resilient organizations build in flexibility.
4. Resilient organizations strengthen and extend their communications networks – internally and externally.
5. Resilient organizations encourage innovation and experimentation.
6. Resilient organizations cultivate a culture with clearly shared purpose and values.

The authors write:

Most companies live fast and die young. A study in 1983 by Royal Dutch/Shell found only 40 corporations over 100 years old. In contrast, they found that one-third of the Fortune 500s from 1970 were, at that time, already gone.

What differentiates success and failure, resilience and collapse? The Royal Dutch/Shell study emphasizes shared purpose and values, tolerance of new ideas, financial reserves, and situational awareness.

More recently, Ceridian Corporation collected best thinking and strategies to publish an executive briefing on organizational resilience. They highlighted the paradox that successful, resilient organizations are those that are able to respond to two conflicting imperatives:

* managing for performance and growth, which requires consistency, efficiency, eliminating waste, and maximizing short-term results

* managing for adaptation, which requires foresight, innovation, experimentation, and improvisation, with an eye on long-term benefits

Most organizations pay great attention to the first imperative but little to the second. Start-ups often excel at improvisation and innovation but founder on the shoals of consistent performance and efficiency. About half of all new companies fail during their first five years.

Each mode requires a different skill set and organizational design. Moving nimbly between them is a tricky dynamic balancing act. Disruptions can come from anywhere – from within, from competitors, infrastructure or supply chain crises, or from human or natural disasters. The financial crisis has riveted current attention, but it’s just one of many disruptions organizations must cope with daily. Planning for disruption means shifting from “just-in-time” production and efficiency to “just-in-case” resilience.