PECS #50: Governing in the face of extreme variance and the inherent fragilities of adaptiveness: Insights from locusts with Clara Therville

Locusts are a peculiar case of large-scale extreme events that has been poorly studied by social sciences. Their natural dynamic that alternates between recessions and periods of large-scale expansion imposes great spatio-temporal variabilities and discontinuities. These dynamics bring into sharp relief gaps in societal capacities to collaborate to face this transboundary and erratic bio-hazard, as well as successes where societies have been able to implement preventive strategies that effectively reduce frequency and amplitude of such events. Using three case studies – the desert locust, the Australian plague locust, and the South American locust – we analyzed the governance systems associated with locust management. We highlight that locust managers have implemented multi-level, nested, and adaptive systems, from local to international levels. While these systems necessarily have to present a high level of adaptiveness to face the extended, uncertain, and discontinuous dynamic imposed by locusts, such adaptiveness results in blurring the distribution of responsibilities and questions actors’ willingness and capacities to fulfill their roles through space and time – especially under a reduced frequency and amplitude regime of perturbation. We discuss how global trends towards decentralization and inclusion of local levels, and increased consideration of environmental issues, albeit essential, have intensified variability in the represented values, interests, and action capacities of the actors, and further challenged collaborative governance.
Clara Therville is a researcher at the French Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) since 2022. She was trained as an ecologist, but gradually switched to social sciences and now work on collaborative environmental governance. She uses tools linked to the analysis of socio-ecological system dynamics, as well as institutional analysis, to better understand the conditions of collaboration between stakeholders in a world in crisis. She worked on a variety of topics, and the policies and practices associated with them: biodiversity and protected areas, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change, agroecology, extreme events and locust invasions. She mobilizes inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches, particularly participatory ones, to better understand our capacity to act and decide collectively in the face of change.