2 December 2017

Surviving a future #2


ANU has a ream of public events, not least public lectures. I get to very few these days, but with a title like "Ecologically responsive regulation: searching for regulatory hope in Pandora’s Box of crises?" at a time I could attend and I was a ring-in. It was in a small seminar room with limited academics and students (~12) and even fewer outsiders (just me?). The speaker was Fiona Haines, Prof of Criminology at UMelb. Essentially, she argued there are two types of regulation, Instrumental and Responsive. Instrumental is the type we have now, essentially working within the existing business/economic systems, through bureaucratic-legal means, to limit specific damage and specific, limited business malfeasance. Problems include that the system is essentially preserved through this action and the problems dealt with (read, externalities) are limited to specifics and fail on board scale, Earth-level sustainability. Responsive regulation utilises social mechanisms, considers psychological, social and political dimensions and would presumably seek to manage for full-system sustainability. Fiona went on to outline a project she is to carry out, involving identification of businesses (in a broad sense) that are functioning (and not) in an effective sustainable style, to identify their experiences, how they use/respond/ignore instrumental regulation, how they interact with other business and society, etc. Essentially taking an observational approach to find what works while recognising that only some of the literature can feasibly be considered (there's more than a lifetime there without time for research). It's a hopeful approach, somewhat assuming a new generation is approaching things differently so there's a chance of success/survival. I have my reservations. A recent activity I'm involved in is to develop a political manifesto. When writing and reviewing it, I found that I always came around to corruption of the political process (in a broad sense, including straight-out corruption but also funding, lobbying, even factions and ideologies, think tanks, limited and unprincipled MSM and social media and just plain [dis-]honesty) as being central. Thus Adani, bank royal commissions (or not), climate change, refugees, housing and much more. Fiona was more hopeful for a new and changing generation and perhaps a bottom-up regulation and sustainability. Maybe I'm old school, but I just think the individual level is not enough to win change, especially in this case: it's too local and small and, in the case of climate, there's limited time. Fiona also recognised that new regulation has to reach to the big players, the multinationals, etc, even if she's starting small. As for a new generation, they are mostly just products of their society (just like my and other generations were of their societies) where their society prioritises individualism, thus identity over class politics. I continue to doubt there's time (Mauna Loa Observatory, NOAA-ESRL, has CO2 at 406.29ppm on 26 Nov 2017, up from 404.93 ppm same day last year*) but ya gotta have hope. Otherwise, there's just despair.

Fiona Haines presented a seminar at ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) on ecologically responsive regulation.

  • * https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2
  • 1 comment:

    Fiona Haines said...

    It was great to have you there Eric! As a Criminologist studying white collar and corporate crime for the last 25 years I share many of your misgivings. Indeed, most of my research and publications to date focus on how badly things can go wrong https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fiona_Haines. However, this project on Ecological Regulation is aiming to understand how businesses (of all types - for profit, not for profit, social enterprises) that aim for environmental and social sustainability survive. Do they do so in spite of the regulatory challenges they face? Does any law and regulation help them? Is it irrelevant? What can we learn from these enterprises? Christine Parker and I are not only interested in the small and the boutique (as important as these may be) but also the large and politically well connected.

    Just a quick correction - so I don't get into trouble (!). Responsive regulation is the brainchild of John Braithwaite at ANU. This has been an influential idea (and one I in no way want to take credit for!).

    Christine and my idea is that we need to go further - to understand and develop ecologically responsive regulation. Regulations are always responding to ecological challenges (in the control of pesticides for example) but at the moment this is done without thinking how we are creating the ecological problems in the first place (through the use of monocultures). If this is possible (and I agree it is a big if!) then maybe we can help ecologically sustainable and socially just businesses thrive with the support of law and regulation - rather than perhaps in spite of it!