Categories
Co-production Mar Menor socio-ecology

Enfocando el Mar Menor (I): ¿dónde están los agricultores?

A principios de abril viajé por primera vez al Mar Menor. Había escuchado tanto en los últimos años a través de la prensa, leído tanto en los últimos meses desde que inicié mi investigación en enero, que cuando llegué no pude más que sorprenderme de la belleza y armonía que percibí. Es Mar Menor comparado con el Mar Mayor, pero de pequeño no tiene nada. De hecho es la laguna costera más grande del Mediterráneo y desde la orilla interior se percibe su final sólo a través del skyline de la Manga. En las playas del municipio de Los Alcázares se pasea con tranquilidad, se juega al voleibol y se disfruta aún de algunos balnearios. También se observan indicios de que el agua calentita de la laguna no está del todo bien y banderas negras con el caballito de mar en las ventanas como símbolo de protesta.

Durante dos días recorrí el Mar Menor de norte a sur y de oeste a este. Traté de apreciar la diversidad de paisajes y socioecosistemas que conviven allí, así como la complejidad del proceso de degradación de la laguna en el que se entrelazan múltiples causas y actores: una cuenca fuertemente transformada tras la llegada del trasvase Tajo-Segura y por el posterior despliegue de cientos de desalobradoras y canales de evaluación de salmueras; una producción agraria intensiva ligada a una economía de exportación pujante; avenidas que arrastran nutrientes, sedimentos y residuos de los campos hacia la laguna y que se añaden a los flujos paulatinos superficiales y subterráneos de agua cargada de nutrientes; una sierra minera mal sellada de la que lixivian metales pesados; un desarrollo urbanístico intensivo para turismo y segunda residencia; generación de playas que no existían; una enorme densidad de puertos con los impactos que estos generan; canales que comunican con el Mediterráneo y transforman la ecología de la laguna…Todo ello unido a un debate científico y político sobre el peso de cada uno de esos factores, una fuerte polarización social y una flagrante inacción por parte de las administraciones públicas regionales que han mirado para otro lado hasta que el agua se volvió verde en 2016, y miles de peces y otras especies aparecieron muertos en las orillas el 12 de octubre de 2019. 

En ese viaje me acompañaron personas que llevan años luchando por la conservación de la laguna, en las que percibí desazón e impotencia. No pude sino empatizar ante el enorme reto que afrontan y sus esfuerzos (sentidos) en vano. También ‘desvirtualicé’ a mi co-investigadora, Paula Zuluaga, con quien llevo pensando esto de cómo hacer co-producción de conocimiento en el Mar Menor desde febrero. Hablamos con mucha gente y mucho entre nosotras. Un interrogante se iba haciendo cada vez más grande: ¿Dónde están los agricultores? Esos agricultores que, nos cuentan, han cambiado sus prácticas de manejo de la tierra, han arrendado sus tierras a grandes empresas o pelean por mantener sus prácticas tradicionales en la madeja empresarial de la exportación. Nos dicen que el sector agrario no habla del Mar Menor, que su voz la representa ahora una fundación, y que ningún agricultor querrá hablar con nosotras. Interesante. Por ahí tendremos que empezar. 

En teoría de facilitación hay un concepto que es el de rol fantasma. Se refiere a aquellas cosas de las que no podemos hablar, que no pueden ser nombradas, bien porque las negamos socialmente, bien porque nos dan miedo o porque no somos capaces de verlas con claridad. Esos roles tienen un gran poder transformador si alguien es capaz de traerlos.

Así que nos preguntamos ¿Hay agricultores en el Campo de Cartagena que sí quieren hablar del Mar Menor?

Categories
Facilitation

Effective groups

I recently used the effective groups model (Escorihuela, 2015) for the first time in a facilitation. The goal was to diagnose the situation of a collective of artists regarding their internal organization.

This framework helps visualizing the different pillars in an organization (Results, People, Processes) and highlighting the importance of balance between them. I especially like its grounding in complexity theory which provides useful analytical lens.

As for our session, maybe not surprising result: the group was very focused on the need for a better structure to achieve their goals, but less attention was given to people and their needs. We therefore did some extra work on that!

Escorihuela, José Luis ‘Ulises’. 2015. Modelo de Efectividad Grupal. Available at: https://www.elcaminodelelder.com/recursos/

Categories
Publications Research

New publication: Quantitative Story-Telling of alternative water resources

I am happy to start the new year by sharing a cherished paper I have been working on along this pandemic year, now available in Sustainability Science.

We take a procesual perspective to explain the methodological operationalization of the Quantitative Story-Telling approach in a case study in two of the Canary Islands. We describe the methods mixed at each stage of the research and the outcomes of the process in relation to our core principles: pluralism and reflexivity. The research focussed on the use and management of alternative water resources for irrigation. We still have a lot of material to publish that is relevant for a nexus governance of these resources in arid lands.

Co-creating narratives for WEF nexus governance: a Quantitative Story-Telling case study in the Canary Islands. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11625-021-00933-y

Feedback is welcome!

Categories
Research

New position at BC3

On January the 1st 2021 I am starting a new position as a postdoc researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3), with a Juan de la Cierva-Inc fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Science. I am glad to join this research excellence center where I can unfold new research pathways on knowledge co-production around climate change and environmental governance issues.

Will keep this blog updated with news from my research.

Categories
Talks

Conference at NeWAVE

I recently delivered a talk at the e-lecture series of the Next Water Governance – NeWAVE MSCA-ITN together with Julia Martinez, from the Nueva Cultura del Agua foundation. I focused my contribution on the relevant questions to be asked when designing a process of knowledge co-production for water governance: Why and to what end, what, with whom and how.

A short clip of the video:

Below you can download the slides of the full presentation. The talk will be soon online.

Categories
Facilitation Research Talks

Conversatorio: experts and expertise in citizen engagement and deliberative democracy: what is good practice?

On December 10th, I participated in a conversatorio within the 3rd Citizen Engagement and Deliberative Democracy Festival of the European Commission. Chaired by Elisa Vecchione, we had a lively discussion on different questions regarding the role of experts in deliberative and citizen engagement processes.

We discussed what’s different about engaging with an audience that is neither that of your academic peers, nor a policymaker in seek of advice, nor a general public. We also talked about the importance of complexity and how to ensure it is not lost in citizen engagement processes. Finally, we reflected on our personal transformation while participating in citizen engagement processes and on what do we consider good quality scientific evidence.

My contribution to these points mostly stem from a citizen engagement experience in a case study from the H2020 project MAGIC . We explored the role of desalination and wastewater reclamation technologies to supply water for irrigation in the Canary Islands (Spain). The research focused on assessing the pertinence of this innovation from a water-energy-food nexus perspective. That is, by considering information and perspectives from different intertwined resource management domains, namely water, energy, food and climate. We mobilized knowledge from actors working on those different domains first in interviews and second in two participatory workshops. The am of the workshops was to co-create narratives on desirable futures to which these innovations could contribute to.

The first methodological paper of this research process can be downloaded at my publications site. Further information on the case study can be found here.

Categories
Research Talks

Ambiguities in participatory processes

During the V Post-Normal Science Symposium I participated in a session chaired by Marcela Brugnach and Caroline van Bers entitled ‘Addressing ambiguity in participatory processes for sustainable resources management to support Integrated Assessment‘.

Ambiguity is a type of uncertainty that refers to the confusion or discrepancy in understanding that exist among actors in a group over the issues of concern and their solutions. Ambiguity reflects the many meanings and preferences in responding to change. It speaks for diversity and the unavoidable differences that exist in any social system. Ambiguity is increasingly recognised as an issue in the coproduction of knowledge, transdisciplinarity but is not yet fully recognised as such. Approaches to identify and address ambiguity are in their infancy. The issue of ambiguity is particularly important in the context of participatory processes and promoting the (re)democratization of science.

In this session we explored how ambiguity has been and could be more effectively addressed in the context of Integrated Assessment and co-production of knowledge on environmental issues. For this purpose, Marcela introduced the concept of ambiguity and its relevance for the democratization of knowledge. Caroline shared several experiences on addressing ambiguities and seeking for shared understanding in Integrated Assessment processes. Finally, I discussed the potential of narratives as epistemic tools to work with ambiguities in extended peer communities.

My talk and all others at the digital conference are available on the PNS5 Youtube channel

Categories
Facilitation Research

Get involved in the EU Missions

Last summer I had the honor and the great pleasure to participate in the first European level experiment of citizen engagement for public policy making: the EU missions contributing to the design of the next Horizon Europe framework.

On July 28th, 50 participants from Spain took part in a digital citizen engagement event on the EU Mission on “Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation.” Following the mini-publics format, participants were selected randomly from different gender, age and employment situation groups to ensure a variety of views. I was part of the facilitation team together with members of Altekio and the leadership of Deliberativa.org.

The engagement event took over 6 hours divided in 5 sessions. In each session, one ore more experts delivered a short presentation with key inputs to spark deliberation in groups of 10 people. After the event, participants had 48 hours to upload proposals in a Decidim.org set up and another day to vote for the 20 recommendations to the mission board.

Here you can find a summary of the outcomes of the process.

Hope to see a more socially engaged research programme 2021-2025!

Categories
Co-production

Interdisciplinarity: reflections from practice

In the frame of the SWAN project (2012-2016), a group of different young scientists working on water issues from different fields was created last semester. Starting from discussions of our respective theoretical backgrounds (hydrology, climate modeling, ecosystems services, societal metabolism, water footprint, institutional analysis and water conflicts), we tried to understand our respective languages and exchange concepts and ideas. From there we decided to move towards a case study together in order to build a possible integration of methodologies in a common conceptual framework to assess water management in socio-ecological systems.

integration_graph_colors

What started as a mere discussion has turn into a very deep and interesting process, questioning ourselves as individuals, as researchers and as a group. I would like to share here some reflections I made after the first 6 months working together:

– The process and outputs of conceptual modeling in a multidisciplinary group certainly follows different pathways depending on who leads the discussion and which are the backgrounds sitting on the table.

– The group is more weighted towards quantitative approaches, thus we mostly find ourselves comfortable talking about integration of variables and models, which is a kind of “physically biased” language. Dealing with inconmensurability implies dealing with those dimensions that can not be quantified and thus need qualitative research approaches to balanced the potential pathways of our process.

– Even among quantitative approaches lovers, we found epistemological obstacles in our discussions and case-study shaping. Not only our different languages and backgrounds but also different subjectivities. The question of which is our role as researchers is not irrelevant, responses are case-specific.

– So far we were unable to develop a common conceptual framework, partially because we come from very strong ones. As we start to produce scientific results we will be able to move our discussion from the abstract to the empirical – potential opportunities and obstacles for integration – and we attempt to produce the synthesis Esteban Castro mentioned as necessary step for interdisciplinarity, then come back to the conceptual.

– Since our group is a changing one, new people coming in, others leaving and each of us changing along its personal PhD, I think we need a sort of dynamic conceptual framework, semantically open not only to different context but also to different backgrounds.

– Considering that each of us sees something different when looking to the same reality and that we want to be consistent with our individual perceptions at the time build something together and with stakeholders, my feeling is that we need to find the overlapping areas of the flower: those points in which we agree and want to work together. At the same time we should explicitly recognize and respect those areas in which we prefer to work in our individual manners. This means honesty and commitment with the group and with ourselves.

On the other hand, I felt that it was actually disagreement what made us going forward in our discussions. So, even if we do not agree in some things, let’s keep talking!

– Finally, a point arosed by Carolyn Remick from the Water Center in Berkley: working on a problem oriented basis might not lead you to a cutting edge scientific paper. It is a real challenge to work with and from stakeholders, producing scientific relevant results at the time not becoming a sort of consultancy.