The Role of Multilevel Governance in Community-Based Environmental Management in Latin America

by Deedee Chao

Governance of resource allocation usually occurs through one of three approaches, or a combination thereof: hierarchical approaches that use existing power structures, market-based approaches based on voluntary exchange, and community-based approaches that involve the cooperation of all parties involved. Because of the collaboration required by the last approach, community-based environmental management (CBEM) often requires multi-level governance (MLG), in which different actors work across horizontal and vertical dimensions administratively and jurisdictionally. It also involves a degree of decentralization of power and responsibility among the various parties. MLG has been promoted as a method that decentralizes and reassigns power to different levels and sectors of power, allowing local groups and non-governmental agents to play a larger role than they would under other methods of governance.

Sattler et al. (2016) focused on filling a research gap in CBEM methodology by investigating the role of MLG in successful CBEM scenarios, using case studies of four different CBEM cases in Latin America. The paper’s goals are to first identify the individual actors and their societal spheres and governance levels, and then identify the roles that these actors play and how they interact with each other in promoting CBEM. The study collected primary data via personal interviews, observations of participants, and stakeholder discussions, as well as secondary data through reports, governmental documents, and websites.

In their analysis of individual actors, the researchers organized them by jurisdiction–international, national, regional, local–and sector–civil society, market, state, and cross-sectoral. In the cross-comparison of these actors’ roles, the study found that actors could be primarily active or passive in promoting CBEM. While state, market, and civil society actors were involved in both roles across the board, civil society actors tended to be extremely active while state actors were passive. In addition, actors involved at the local level were much more active than international actors, suggesting more proactivity the closer the actor was to the immediate community.

The interaction of actors across sectors was beneficial when each actor offered something essential that other actors could not; for example, civil society actors were best suited for initiating systemic change, while market actors were the best sources for professional services, and public actors were best for influencing legal changes. Across jurisdictions, MLG allowed for a better distribution of decision-making responsibilities, shifting power towards local groups who were most invested in successful CBEM. These interactions were also largely made possible by the proactivity of civil society actors, who took the lead in initiating CBEM. The non-profit, purpose-driven nature of civil society actors also allowed them to act as intermediaries to facilitate interaction between different parties. In these successful scenarios, it was also found that new actors, or institutions, were created to address a gap in community needs and further facilitate interaction between jurisdictions and sectors for better collaboration. Of course, in situations where various parties with different goals are working together, problems and conflicts arise, thus necessitating a forum for conflict resolution to be created in all cases as well.

In order to apply these findings to other communities, Sattler et al. (2016) determined that it would be necessary to focus on the context of each situation and identify the civil society actors who could take the lead on initiating CBEM strategies by empowering the community and creating communication channels between other actors. The researchers also recognize that long-term studies of successful CBEM in action would be beneficial to the field, as it would document the resilience and durability of CBEM.


Sattler, C., B. Schröter, A. Meyer, G. Giersch, C. Meyer, and B. Matzdorf. 2016. Multilevel governance in community-based environmental management: a case study comparison from Latin America. Ecology and Society vol. 21, art. 24. Web.

Climate Change and Grassroots Resistance in Bolivia

by Alexander Brown

Bolivia has been critically affected by climate change in recent years, with highlands experiencing severe flooding and lowlands experiencing drought. These disruptions have resulted in poor agricultural yields that are particularly concerning considering the reliance on agriculture for subsistence and the precarious nature of the postcolonial economy. In response to these impactful changes and the history of neoliberal structural adjustment beginning in the 1980s, a movement has formed based around anti-capitalist and ‘living well’ (Andean indigenous ideology) sentiments to address climate change in Bolivia and around the world. Continue reading

Multidisciplinary Approaches Necessary to a Changing Climate

by Charlotte Morrissey

Grasso et al. (2015) argue in a piece introducing the Special Issue of Climatic Change that any non-multidisciplinary approach to the problems climate change is causing will leave the issue with far fewer solutions than are readily available. This piece looks at the many necessary ways that climate change needs to be considered. It encourages using a different lens and looking carefully at it as an ethical issue. Poorer nations are currently taking the brunt of higher global temperature issues, yet they are the least equipped to combat these changes. The developed countries need to help fund adaptations in developing nations, but to what extent? Developed nations are trapped in their own billion-dollar efforts to fight the ever more apparent effects of climate change. Continue reading

Problem Not Solved

by Jassmin Del Rio

Unfortunately, the fact that that there is almost complete consensus among scientists that climate change is occurring is not enough to completely convince the general public. There are some techniques outlined by Maxwell and Miller that might be able to get more people to acknowledge the existence of climate change. They also outline the many factors that contribute to why 25% of Americans continue to deny climate change.

First, there are many biases that need to be accounted for before there can be any media influence to persuade people to rethink their beliefs. To make matters worse, Maxwell and Miller stipulate that there are popular media outlets including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal that provide false information to the public. This often leads to distrust in journalism and therefore disbelief in climate science. Continue reading

Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union

by Jake Kessler

The United States is divided over the existence of climate change. The conservative right-wing party in the U.S., the Republican party, is widely known for its anti-climate change beliefs. The Democratic Party, our left-wing liberal party, strongly believes in climate change and the need to tackle it. Does this type of relationship between political ideology and opinion on climate change exist elsewhere? Aaron et al (2016) looked at similar populations in Canada, Australia, and the European Union, and found similar divides in those countries between the left, and right wing- coalitions. They argue that the issue has been become politicized in much of the developed world. However, the United States remains an outlier due to the intensity of the divide. The authors attributed this to the greater degree of politicization in general versus other developed countries. Continue reading

Reaching Out to Today’s Youth

by Brina Jablonski

A major issue in the twenty-first century is the lack of youth involvement in climate change discussion. The members of today’s youth are the future leaders of tomorrow. If they have no interest or understanding of the severe climate problems at hand then they will never take the initiative to make a change. Senebel et al. (2014) explain how people tend to honor set goals, pay close attention to what their peers are doing, and are strongly persuaded by people they like. Thus they concluded that social media is the most effective form of persuasion and communication with the public. With the use of digital media, information will be able to reach many, diverse populations as well as shift social norms, and reduce climate change. The article analyzed the results of a test designed to understand how social media can help encourage today’s current youth to play an active role in preventing further climate change through energy reduction. Continue reading

Tracking Vulnerabilities to the Risks of Infectious Disease Transmission due to Climate Change in Europe

by Amelia Hamiter

Suk et al. (2014) examine vulnerability as a measurement of both the impact of climate change on infections disease transmission in a region and the region’s ability to respond (described here as adaptive capacity). This concept of vulnerability differs from that used in most public health practices, which generally do not take adaptive capacity as a component of vulnerability. Indeed, the authors note that the health sector has produced little research that examines infectious disease transmission due to climate change or the effects of different socioeconomic development pathways in studies of vulnerability. Thus, they take on the task of creating a quantitative indicator to measure regional vulnerabilities that combines all of these factors. Their projections assess which regions are projected to undergo climate changes more significant than their adaptive capacities, and thus are particularly vulnerable. They evaluate that some of these high vulnerabilities are driven by low adaptive capacities, while others have high adaptive capacities yet face enough projected climate change that they are still highly vulnerable. The researchers recommend that the next steps forward are to carry out more disease-specific and more detailed health indicators of vulnerability studies. Continue reading

Pollution and Politics

by Jackson Cooney

Republican senator, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky has been pushing states to ignore President Obama’s global warming regulations. He argues that the administration’s anti-coal initiative aims to destroy America’s power generation under the pretense of protecting the climate. The EPA along with the President is requiring each state to submit a plan outlining how they are going to cut coal plant pollution. These plans will lead to the shutdown of hundreds of power plants in the Administration’s attempt to rely more heavily on renewable energy sources. As of now, 12 states have filed lawsuits in protest of this plan. However Senator McConnell has advised that the best way to fight this initiative would be to refuse to submit state plans. Continue reading

Translating Climate Change into Marshallese

by Phoebe Shum

How do you effectively communicate the impending threat of climate change to those who don’t even understand the concept due to lexical gaps? Peter Rudiak-Gould, currently an assistant Anthropology professor at University of Toronto, explains how much meaning is lost through translation between scholars to citizens, English to other languages, and even citizens to scholars when discussing climate change issues (2012). Rudiak-Gould spent almost two years in the Republic of the Marshall Islands researching local opinions on climate change. The Marshall Islands is especially endangered by rising sea levels, and information about the dangers have been relayed through various forms of media and government organizations, informing them that the 60,000 citizens will probably need to relocate in 80 years. However, since the word for ‘climate’ in Marshallese also refers to the environment and universe, citizens attribute climate change as a result of anything from solar eclipses to accelerating time. This has resulted in the Marshallese blaming everything on this omnipotent concept of climate change whenever something out of the ordinary happens. Continue reading

Climate Change Adaption in California

by Brina Jablonski

Climate change has always affected California but even more so now in today’s current climate conditions. Problems revolving around rising sea levels, frequent heat waves, floods, wildfires, droughts, shrinking snow packs, growing water demand, changes in precipitation, hotter conditions, an increasing number of threatened or endangered animal species, and an extreme growth in human population are forcing the government of California to adapt and make plans for the future in order to minimize later damage for the Golden State. Assembly Bill 32 (the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act) has already improved California’s energy, transportation, construction, agricultural, and natural resource sectors. As California faces these issues, the state also sets the framework for potential national and even international action. Davis and Chornesky (2014) primarily address how California is responding to rising sea levels, changes in water supply, flood risks, and weakened ecosystem resilience. Continue reading