Can We All Learn about How to Respond to Global Uncertainties from Pastoralists at the Margins?
Uncertainties are everywhere: climate change, financial crises, migration flows, infrastructure development, disease outbreaks and more. Yet contemporary institutions and policy processes are poor at responding to and embracing uncertainties, where we don’t know about either the likely outcomes or their probabilities. Too often political, procedural and professional pressures force us to ignore uncertainties, constructing problems and solutions in terms of manageable risk. In this presentation, it will be argued that this is highly problematic, and that we can learn much from those who live daily with uncertainty and make use of it as a productive resource. Pastoralists – people living largely from livestock in dryland, montane and Mediterranean regions – have long experience of responding to intersecting uncertainties. Perceptions, cultures and practices; markets and economic relations; and institutional arrangements and governance systems have co-evolved with environmental, economic and political uncertainties. Can we learn from these experiences for other contexts, where the challenges of responding to uncertainty are real, and growing? Without arguing that lessons are directly transferrable, the presentation will ask what core principles might be relevant for refashioning policies, practices and institutions, across diverse fields, in order to confront heightened uncertainties in today’s world? The presentation launches a new ERC Advanced Grant, involving research on pastoral systems in Chinese Tibet, East Africa and Sardinia, and engaging with those in other fields grappling with uncertainty. The grant is held at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK and involves collaboration with the Global Governance Programme at EUI.
Ian Scoones, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK and Michele Nori, Global Governance Programme, EUI