093: Complexity and the Subaks of Bali with Steve Lansing

In this episode, Michael speaks with one of his intellectual heroes, Dr. Steve Lansing. Steve is an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute and the Vienna Complexity Hub, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, and a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Steve and Michael talk about Steve’s work with the Balinese Subak irrigation communities, including his understanding of their water use and management practices that are mediated by their water-based religion. Steve also describes the effects that green revolution techniques and technologies had on the Subaks, how local actors responded to this disturbances to their traditions, and what role Steve himself played in these responses. Finally, Steve talks about his more recent work in Bali, which includes an experiment to examine whether the Subak farmers can save water by flooding their paddies less, and thereby reduce methane emissions while also producing more rice.

Steve’s website: http://www.slansing.org/

Lansing, J. S. 2012. Perfect order: Recognizing complexity in Bali. Princeton University Press.

Lansing, S. 1991. Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali. Princeton University Press.

Lansing, J. S., N. N. Chung, L. Y. Chew, and G. S. Jacobs. 2021. Averting evolutionary suicide from the tragedy of the commons. International journal of the commons 15(1):414.