Forecasting Resilience of Social
Some Tools to Help Us Understand This Thing
Andrew Kliskey, Mark Altaweel
Resilience and Adaptive Management Group, Water
and Environmental Research Center, University of
Alaska; Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity,
University, University of Chicago,
Argonne National Lab
A Few Sustainability Myths
Sustainability is about the environment.
Consumer choices and grassroots activism
There is no single critical piece of the
, 2009. Princeton, New Jersey.
Sustainability is possibly one of the most
misunderstood words in common usage.
Social structure, particularly agent types,
are powerful determinants of emergent SES
The environment has become synonymous
with “green” but we are more of a STS than
an SES (something I’d like you to jot down
for your Immersion Experience tomorrow).
Entering the “Century of Water”
Most issues depend on water availability,
distribution and/or quality.
Transitions from common pool resource to
Several “solutions” are not possible unless
water is factored in.
Trends in Water Resources
Also see White, Hinzman,
Not just availability but also quality, we can only “clean” so well.
Dealing with Future Change Requires a
Paradigm Shift in “Science”
Growing evidence that technological interventions
alone are not
effective and may drive critical
changes in water use patterns.
Sustainable Development (1995).
Our understanding of the social dynamics in
2. Our incorporation of scale is sloppy.
3. Our treatment of SES is oversimplified.
some of our
to effectively coping with change.
Alessa et al. 2009. In Press, Sustainability
Screen shot of SES types paper
How Could We Possibly Fail?
Messy Social Ecological Systems
Underestimation of Social Dynamics
Hubris: we will engineer a solution or
‘sustainability as a hobby’
Social Ecological Hotspots Mapping.
The Arctic Water Resources Vulnerability
Forecasting Environmental Resilience of
Arctic Landscapes (FERAL).
Social Ecological Systems Hotspot
Takes social and biophysical values and
uses GIS to map the coupled social
Gives us information about where specific
Was highlighted as innovative science by
NSF in Spring 2008.
Screen shot of paper
Screen shot of paper
Adapting to Change:
The Arctic Water Resources Vulnerability Index:
Tool to assess
status of water resources at the
Unifies western and traditional knowledge systems.
Can be used to determine resilience and best
strategies for development.
First and only of its kind for high latitudes and
Environmental Vulnerability Indices
EVI: United Nations Environment
UN Commission on Sustainable
Global Commission on Fresh Water
Water recognized as single
variable in rapid change.
Agent Based Models
Specify the rules of behavior of individuals
(agents) as well as rules of interaction
Simulate many agents using a computer
Explore the consequences of the agent
level rules on the population as a whole
“Simple” models to produce complex
“How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on”
Antoine du Sainte
Agents and Systems
agents have connections to each other, and
form a system and operate in an
environment with feedbacks
agents behave autonomously thus they each
have their own parameters (data) and
systems change once the agents affect the
threshold in a significant way
Agent Based Models
An attempt to perfectly reproduce reality (usually)
Are a tool to gain intuition about the system of interest
without needing to know all of the details
A tool to run “experiments” which cannot be performed
in real life
A tool to generate and test hypotheses about what is
A tool to refine data collection foci
What drives the human hydrological
How do societies ‘overshoot’ their
resources (both social and physical)?
How can we learn to avoid this fate?
(Should we? If so, why?)
Move beyond rhetoric.
Source: Alessa , Kliskey,
and Altaweel. 2009, In Press, Sustainability
Forecasting Environmental Resilience of Arctic
Developing “Real” Rules
Too often, ABMs rely on ‘artificial’ rules
Or ….”what ifs”.
It is critical that rules be derived from the
messy, real world.
Humans are not logical but they are
"Man is a complex being; he makes the deserts bloom and lakes die."
Developing Real Rules
There are three rules of thumb to
successfully developing rule sets for ABM.
Observe your system to the point of intimacy.
Establish colleagues in it who will assist you
with field work and data collection.
Include modelers at the outset, not once you
think it would be “nice” to model.
Screen shot of JASSS 2 paper
Your Immersion Experience
Tomorrow you will go out into three “SES”
(two being primarily “STS”).
As yourself “who/what are the objects in the
landscape” (e.g., people, terrain,
For each of these objects, what would you
need to know about them to develop
meaningful rule sets?
Altaweel, Alessa, and Kliskey
Values held toward water
washing and cleaning
Most important value of water
18- 39 years
40- 59 years
60- 99 years
Source: Alessa , Kliskey, Williams. Society & Natural Resources. 2008
Current Social ABM
Step 1: Assess water source selection process
with observed trends and
determine consequences of water
Integrated Models: Example Runtime Output 2
Quantity change belief
How People Make Choices: Why We Need to Know This
People make decisions according to their life experiences,
social relationships, and perceptions of what is around them.
Different people have different influence and goals that influences
other people around
them: three agent types, alpha, beta and gamma
A person’s ideas
The thought process
Social influence and behavior affects water use
Decision Making: Divisions in the Decision Process
Plot points show agents.
Different agent types affect
whether decisions made result
In collective or individual
of those rejecting
Decision Making: Representation in Social Space
Over a few ticks, more
people agree to accept the
initial idea. However, this
often occurs if leaders agree
initially and coordinate their
Changing Viewpoints: Effect on Decision Making
Group vs. Individual
FERAL: White Mountain Scenario
Municipal Water source
World Wind 3D
Year Scenario: Travel To River
Agents concentrate at river
sources nearest to
Year Scenario: Tracking Total Movements
Aggregate agent movements during each
Concentration of movements
over entire simulation and time.
Municipal and non
municipal sources fluctuate seasonally.
Colors in water sources indicate relative levels, blue
colors indicate high volume, while red is lower volume.
the municipal source
house icon varies in size based
on population levels
Year Scenario: Travel To River
Water Use (litres per capita per day)
Alessa, Kliskey, Busey, Hinzman, White.
Global Environmental Change,
Evolution of Water
Use on the Seward
Take Home Messages
Many of the challenges in sustainability are
not ‘fixable’ using technologies or good will.
Agents drive the system from the bottom up
and some dynamics simply aren’t pretty.
A powerful approach to understanding
consequences is to use agent based models.
ABMs allow the unpredictable outcomes of
simple choices and changes in patterns of use
to be visualized in virtual worlds.
The RAM Group at UAA
My colleagues at the International Arctic Research Center,
and the Institute for Northern Engineering, UAF
My colleagues at the Center for Social Dynamics and
Complexity, Arizona State University
Fabrice Renaud, Head, Environmental Assessment and
Resource Vulnerability Section, United Nations University
Volker Grimm, Director, Center for Environmental Research,
The National Science Foundation.