Reflexive Environmental Governance and New Performances of Accountability: A Critical Analysis of Adaptive Management

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Steven WOLF, Cornell University, USA
In the context of contemporary environmental governance, promulgation of technified metrics - and performance of audits to signal accountability in relation to standards - is, perhaps, no longer sufficient. New forms of assessment and new modes of engagement with sustainability emphasize reflexivity and learning. An emerging requirement for public performances of reflexivity and learning is visible in the growing relevance of adaptive management, experimentalist postures, and programs of projectification. These emphases on learning reflect interest in i) spurring innovation (i.e., organizations and practices must be dynamic), ii) integrating socioecological change into assessment routines (i.e., metrics and standards must be dynamic), and iii) addressing criticisms attached to reliance on indicators that fail to capture relevant outcomes. While efforts to mitigate environmental degradation and expand public good production necessarily rest on doing new things and doing things differently, there are theoretical and historical reasons to maintain a critical stance in relation to contemporary commitments to reflexivity and representations of learning. In this paper, I develop these arguments through a review of pertinent literature and empirical analysis of efforts to institutionalize adaptive management in sagebrush steppe habitat exchanges; conservation platforms designed to offset risks to populations of greater sage grouse, and at-risk species in the Western states of the USA.