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Possible futures for the Yahara Watershed
The Science of Future Thinking
“People are embedded parts of the biosphere and shape it,
from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At
the...
But sustaining nature and human
development is a complex problem:
• Uncertainty is high.
• Time frames of environmental ch...
To approach complex problems, we can
• Assume uncertainty is large, changeable, and
co-created by people and nature.
• Emp...
“While the future is uncertain and much of it is
beyond our control, we can control many aspects of
it. We choose our futu...
TIME
Principle 1: Throughout time, we can make choices
that will affect future outcomes.
Principle 2: We can think about what might
happen as a result of these choices, highlighting
alternative pathways to alter...
Scenarios help us consider these pathways
• Scenarios are provocative, plausible stories about the future
with contrasting...
To 2070
Today
Principle 3: We can anticipate future consequences
of the alternatives. Scenarios help us with this, too.
Th...
Water quality
Groundwater supply
Climate regulationCrop production
Flood regulation
Recreation
Aesthetics
The complex prob...
Yahara River Watershed
Long-term Changes and Challenges
• Intensification of dairy agriculture
– Trend towards fewer farms and cows but WAY more
...
These changes span generations
Major Changes in the Yahara Watershed
1800-present
A consequence: persistent water quality problems
Nutrient pollution in lakes and
streams
– Multiple non-point sources
(man...
What futures for water and people are possible,
given these long-term challenges?
What is a desirable future, and what sol...
Yahara 2070’s creation story
Two
Generations
Stories connect us with future generations.
In the world there are lots of perspectives.
We sampled perspectives from the Yahara Watershed
through interviews and workshops,
clustered them into themes,
Illustrati...
The Stories
Tentative
Name:
Nested
Watersheds
Abandonment &
Renewal
Accelerated
Innovation
Connected
Communities
Dynamics:...
The “Atoms”
Translations of
the stories into
numbers that a
biophysical
computer model
can understand
Models
Narratives
Climate Changes
Nested Watersheds
Landscape Changes
2010 2070
Model results: Ecosystem services in the Yahara
• Food production (for animals and humans)
• Biofuel production (grass fee...
Stories + Atoms =
Implications for future human well-being
Accelerated Innovation Nested Watersheds
Connected Communities ...
The scenarios illuminate vulnerabilities we
should consider preparing for.
Example: Impacts of
extreme flooding
– The bigg...
The four scenarios together highlight choices and tradeoffs…
What do we want—or need—the watershed to provide?
What is bio...
…and present cross-cutting questions for public discussion.
What are the worst threats, and how can we avoid them?
What ar...
Ultimately, the scenarios can help stimulate conversations
about our vision of a desirable and possible future
“If you wan...
Yahara2070.org
Follow WSC:
@YaharaWSC
yaharawsc.wordpress.com
Learn more at
Yahara 2070 Introduction for Undergraduate Module
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Yahara 2070 Introduction for Undergraduate Module

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An introduction to Yahara 2070, a set of scenarios for the future of the Yahara Watershed in Wisconsin. This accompanies a course module on future thinking designed for undergraduate students, which can be found at yahara2070.org. Created by the UW-Madison Water Sustainability and Climate Project.

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  • Jenny, This may take a couple of conversations to complete, but I was very impressed with the Power Point. After 30 years of teaching N R courses at the University of Nebraska, I now live in Sawyer County.I am interested in seeing how the Yahara example can be translated to watersheds in more rural areas of WI.
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Yahara 2070 Introduction for Undergraduate Module

  1. 1. Possible futures for the Yahara Watershed The Science of Future Thinking
  2. 2. “People are embedded parts of the biosphere and shape it, from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At the same time people are fundamentally dependent on the capacity of the biosphere to sustain human development.” -- Carl Folke, Stockholm Resilience Center Future thinking is important because…
  3. 3. But sustaining nature and human development is a complex problem: • Uncertainty is high. • Time frames of environmental change span many generations. • People will reach different conclusions. • Multiple solutions are “good enough.”
  4. 4. To approach complex problems, we can • Assume uncertainty is large, changeable, and co-created by people and nature. • Emphasize the diversity of perspectives. • Stress learning by individuals and groups. • Expect the unexpected.
  5. 5. “While the future is uncertain and much of it is beyond our control, we can control many aspects of it. We choose our future: we create it by what we do or fail to do.” – Wendy Schultz, futurist Importantly, we must recognize we can make choices about the future.
  6. 6. TIME Principle 1: Throughout time, we can make choices that will affect future outcomes.
  7. 7. Principle 2: We can think about what might happen as a result of these choices, highlighting alternative pathways to alternative futures.
  8. 8. Scenarios help us consider these pathways • Scenarios are provocative, plausible stories about the future with contrasting social and environmental conditions. • They explore questions of “What if?” • They facilitate long-term thinking. • They help us learn ways to address change and vulnerability. 20702010
  9. 9. To 2070 Today Principle 3: We can anticipate future consequences of the alternatives. Scenarios help us with this, too. The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed. - William Gibson, speculative fiction writer
  10. 10. Water quality Groundwater supply Climate regulationCrop production Flood regulation Recreation Aesthetics The complex problem: How could changes in land use, climate, and human demand impact ecosystem services, or natural benefits, for future generations in the Yahara Watershed?
  11. 11. Yahara River Watershed
  12. 12. Long-term Changes and Challenges • Intensification of dairy agriculture – Trend towards fewer farms and cows but WAY more milk (and manure) per cow – Main source of water quality impairment • Increasing demand for biofuels • Urban development – Increase in impervious surfaces  lake flooding – Loss of agricultural land  concentration of manure • Changes in climate – Increase in annual precipitation – More frequent heavy rainfall events
  13. 13. These changes span generations Major Changes in the Yahara Watershed 1800-present
  14. 14. A consequence: persistent water quality problems Nutrient pollution in lakes and streams – Multiple non-point sources (manure, agricultural fertilizer, urban, erosion) – Algal blooms, public health & aesthetics issues – 33 years of reduction efforts, but undetectable reduction in P-loading to lakes
  15. 15. What futures for water and people are possible, given these long-term challenges? What is a desirable future, and what solutions can lead us there?
  16. 16. Yahara 2070’s creation story Two Generations
  17. 17. Stories connect us with future generations.
  18. 18. In the world there are lots of perspectives.
  19. 19. We sampled perspectives from the Yahara Watershed through interviews and workshops, clustered them into themes, Illustrations by John Miller and condensed them into a few stories.
  20. 20. The Stories Tentative Name: Nested Watersheds Abandonment & Renewal Accelerated Innovation Connected Communities Dynamics: Adaptation Transformation Adaptation Transformation Key Factor in Change: Government Inaction Technology Values Nutshell: Government intervention maintains nature’s benefits Disaster decreases population, leads to reorganization Massive growth in technology businesses, including green tech Global shift in values toward sustainability Name: Each based on a different set of human choices and biophysical events
  21. 21. The “Atoms” Translations of the stories into numbers that a biophysical computer model can understand Models Narratives
  22. 22. Climate Changes
  23. 23. Nested Watersheds Landscape Changes 2010 2070
  24. 24. Model results: Ecosystem services in the Yahara • Food production (for animals and humans) • Biofuel production (grass feedstocks) • Climate regulation (ecosystem carbon storage) • Freshwater supply (groundwater recharge) • Flood regulation (lake levels, flooding extent) • Groundwater quality (nitrate leaching) • Surface water quality (P loading to lakes)
  25. 25. Stories + Atoms = Implications for future human well-being Accelerated Innovation Nested Watersheds Connected Communities Abandonment & Renewal
  26. 26. The scenarios illuminate vulnerabilities we should consider preparing for. Example: Impacts of extreme flooding – The biggest flood in Abandonment & Renewal, 2031 – Similar to 2008 storm that flooded Lake Delton, WI
  27. 27. The four scenarios together highlight choices and tradeoffs… What do we want—or need—the watershed to provide? What is biophysically possible and socially acceptable? What choices will allow us to handle shocks and build resilience? Abandonment & Renewal Nested Watersheds Connected Communities Accelerated Innovation
  28. 28. …and present cross-cutting questions for public discussion. What are the worst threats, and how can we avoid them? What are the best ideas or results, and how can we achieve them? What is a desirable future, and how do we get there? Abandonment & Renewal Nested Watersheds Connected Communities Accelerated Innovation
  29. 29. Ultimately, the scenarios can help stimulate conversations about our vision of a desirable and possible future “If you want to build a ship, don’t start with collecting wood, cutting the plank and assigning work, but awake in people the longing for the wide and open sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Citadelle)
  30. 30. Yahara2070.org Follow WSC: @YaharaWSC yaharawsc.wordpress.com Learn more at

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