WW2 again, panarchy and the Tongass National Forest

In a recent(ish) post called the Death of Cod I mused on the changes wrought by World War Two. Does anyone know of a single book that summarises the technological shifts from ’39 to ’45 (jet engines, mass production, atomic energy, radar, operational research, penicillin etc) and the impact they then had on the following 50 to, um 70 years? Alongside the political and ideological changes. If so, speak up, I’d love to read it…

Meanwhile, in reading “Assessing resilience in social-ecological systems:
Workbook for practitioners. Version 2.0
“, they’ve been banging on about the adaptive cycle – and here’s an interesting bit, a case study…

Industrial forest management in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska (United States) exhibits a remarkable fit with the adaptive cycle. Initially envisioned to serve both economic development and forest management goals, the industrial forestry system of the Tongass was based on large-scale clear-cutting and local processing of both high-grade saw timber and lower-grade pulp products. During the early 1900s, efforts to establish this system in the remote and rugged landscape of southeastern Alaska were hindered by a number of economic and logistical factors. During this organization phase [o( ], the foundational elements of the Tongass resource system first emerged. Eventually, demand for lumber supplies during World War II created an opportunity to establish the Tongass forestry system. With legislation providing both political authority and economic subsidies to harvest large tracts of primary old-growth forest, the Tongass system was established on the basis of long-term leases that provided guaranteed low-cost timber and other subsidies in exchange for the construction and operation of timber mills in the region. These new factors enabled the Tongass system to change rapidly and led to a period of vigourous growth that lasted over two decades (1948-1970). During the latter years of this growth phase [r], reforms in environmental policy began to erode the authority of the Tongass resource system to harvest timber, leading to a period when the system sought stability in the face of change – the conservation phase [k]. Changes occurring during this time were mostly external to Alaska, but affected the Tongass in many ways, including globalization of timber markets, stronger environmental protection policies, and institutional reforms at the U.S. Forest Service. In 1990, when the U.S. Congress revised the establishing policies and removed timber subsidies during a market downturn for Alaskan forest products, the long-term leases were terminated, and the Tongass system entered the collapse phase [ ]. Collapse of the Tongass system led to dramatic declines in employment and major changes in local and regional economic conditions. Other legacies of system collapse have been a degraded forest ecosystem and an atmosphere of mistrust among managers, stakeholders, and policymakers. As of 2010, the Tongass remains trapped in the collapse phase, unable to reorganize and begin a new adaptive cycle. A primary reason for this is that the system rigidly resisted change instead of being adaptive to change. Another lesson from this case study was that change—i.e., a shift from one phase to the next—occurred in the Tongass system only when several subsystems (economic, institutional, political) moved simultaneously to the next phase. In other words, the larger system did not experience dramatic change until several smaller-scale factors pushed it in a single direction.

but all is not necessarily lost…

The Tongass National Forest case study illustrates several concepts that are important to consider when applying the adaptive cycle. First, during the “fore loop” of growth and conservation (r and k phases), Tongass managers emphasized efficiency (in harvesting timber) over flexibility (in providing other forest values), and this encouraged a rapidly growing but increasingly rigid system. Second, the maintenance of capital during the “back loop” is essential for reorganization and renewal. Although the collapse of the Tongass timber industry had negative consequences for many communities in the region, the overall SES of Southeast Alaska was resilient because much of the region’s natural and social capital remained intact. In particular, the maintenance of strong connections between local residents and natural resources through subsistence and personal-use harvesting of fish and wildlife fostered a relatively smooth transition towards rapid growth in the ecotourism and guide/outfitter industries that followed the collapse of the timber industry. By contrast, the pervasive loss of trust among stakeholders (a form of social capital) has greatly constrained progress in the reorganization of Tongass governance for nearly thirty years.

About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in apocalypse, death, economics, natural world, politics, science, technoscience and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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