I work on new institutions for addressing complex social and environmental challenges. I am currently a Senior Fellow at the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs and Director of the Initiative on Environment in Global Affairs. I am also a co-founder of The Institutional Architecture Lab, where we are advancing the practice and theory of institutional design; and a Visiting Senior Fellow at Artha Global.

I'm (slowly) writing a book about the trajectory of our species' relationship with non-human nature - and the institutions we'll need to avoid the worst kinds of anthropocene. Small topics like how we can get our collective intelligence together to sense and respond to the changes around us (that we are contributing to but also have dynamics of their own) in ways that are more ... humane.


Sensing Like a Society

Yes, that’s an expansion of James Scott’s Seeing Like a State, the 1998 book that you should read now if you have somehow missed it. It makes the difference between what an individual human can recognize and what a “state” (or a bureaucracy) can recognize very clear. It also paints a vivid picture of the…
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Science for Steering (vs for Decision-Making)

I keep running into imaginary decision-makers. Some person, or an organization that behaves like a person, who will look at the evidence – the assessment – and then … do the right thing. Do the evidence-based thing for the societal good. That’s just not how it works most of the time. Most of the time…
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Institutions & organisms

“In order for any organism to [control behavior in response to surroundings], one part of it must be receptive, able to smell or hear, and another part of it must be active, able to make something useful happen. The organism must also establish a connection of some sort, an arc, between these two parts.” –…
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Books (& turtles)

And the best book of 2023 is … The Sounds of Life, by Karen Bakker. It’s technically a 2022 book, but late 2022 and so good it’s still the best of 2023. It’s in some sense a book about the evolution of bioacoustics, the science of listening to the rest of the environment. There are…
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Earth System Science for Public Policy Professionals – Why?

I’ve posted on LinkedIn, class by class (mostly) about the Fall 2023 class on “Earth Systems Science for Public Policy Professionals” that I taught at the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs. Now that it’s over, stepping back a bit to think about the big picture. (Syllabus and links posts at the bottom, if you…
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