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Vilja Reads

I'm a student, so I don't have nearly as much time for leisure reading as I'd like. If I manage to read an entire course book instead of just the assigned chapters, I'll review that here, too.

Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment

Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science And Politics For The Environment - Kai N. Lee

The only GoodReads review for this book read "Deadly boring. Run away as fast as you can." I suppose it depends on where your interests lie.


Lee speaks temperately and sensibly on a subject of delicate management of a huge and fragile organization -- a government project to manage an entire ecosystem. Though an academic, he speaks from experience, having been involved in attempts to replenish the salmon stock of the Columbia river basin after decades of the river being altered and used for hydroelectricity.


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Far from being a history of a single project, the book becomes a how-to of sorts on large-scale ecological management. The "compass" refers to adaptive management and civic science; to project design that aims to learn from experience. The gyroscope symbolizes bounded conflict, in which the push-pull of opposing interests and goals creates a dynamic equilibrium that, according to Lee, is the best state to foster positive development, despite or even because of the uncertainty it creates.


The strength and delight of the book for me was its lack of hubris (something I've been quite glutted with reading other works on environment and society) and its focus on finding workable solutions to the problems of management, loss of natural resources, navigating the field of politics, social change and the conception of poverty, racial or cultural exclusion, and expenditure in recession and in a growth period. Lee doesn't claim to be able to solve any of these issues definitively, the results being dependent on so many specifics, but the way he points is worth paying attention to, and I feel this book has enriched my understanding of environmental policy in action.