Equity versus Efficiency

From experimental research and case studies we are doing at CSID during the last few years we find that there are interesting interactions between equity and efficiency. Many small scale irrigation systems function very well in the face of disturbances. They are able to adapt using the social capital within the communities. The same happens when we do irrigation experiments in a virtual environment with student subjects.
However, to meet the food demands of the increasing population with an increasing western meat oriented diet, we need to increase production. This may require a different type of organization of larger scale production that has less social-capital embedded and may become less adaptive to cope with change. Furthermore, in a globalizing world with global environmental changes, social-ecological systems will experience more variability and challenges that require a high social adaptive capacity that conflicts the increase in larger scale coordination.
Using the metaphor from an airplane, we have used commercial airplanes sofar to meet our duties. This require highly skilled pilots which were supported with a robust design of the airplanes. The requirements for the future require a higher performance, but neccesarily a less robust design of the airplane and an even more skilled pilot to fly the high performing airplane.
How do we organize a higher performing food production that is able to adapt to the increasing variability and disturbances? This seems to be one of the key questions for the coming decades.

One response to “Equity versus Efficiency”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The post suggests that the adaptability of the system is reliant on the information shared among people involved in the irrigation dilemma, regardless of their connection to the infrastructure. Because it was replicated in experimental conditions with college students, it seems that only a collective understanding of the problem was required for them to act collectively. If the answer to resolving this problem on a large scale is in how it is achieved on a small scale then it follows that the small scale should be preserved when the aggregation of the entire system occurs. If they everyone is a pilot, designing the console is part of resolving how a shared information system is designed.

    In many instances at varying scales, places like stock exchanges have emerged or have been adopted to resolve this coordination problem. A transactional arena for transparent and open exchange is formed where the transmission of the quantity and quality of the food production, resource or service is exchanged in the form of prices. But, are there other solutions or ways to create the conditions for these exchanges to emerge?

    Recently on national public radio there has been coverage of america's standing in the world in broadband infrastructure. In the newscast it is repeated referred to as the backbone of the economy. A farmer spoke on the limitations that not having broadband has on his livelihood. He was not satisfied with the lack of service in his community and on their behalf stated that broadband would allow them to bring food to larger markets. Is infrastructure to communicate sufficient, or are the well defined instruments of a pilot necessary in addition to the infrastructure? Should aggregating this information occur at the local, regional and global scale? How would you connect exchange arenas between scales and is it necessary to have nested arenas at those scales plus all the interstitial scales?

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