Statistical methods do not prevent mistakes, faulty reasoning, incorrect conclusions, inaccuracies, or faulty use of statistics…
clever little comic in Prince George Free Press this week. Apparently, I’m not the only one with Enbridge marketing burnout… it’s everywhere, online, on CBC Radio One and Two… and it’s exhausting… and… well… laced with some pretty heavy BS-bitumen.
This 2nd is a small 6×6 piece that I did yesterday as a challenge from my significant other for an upcoming local art show that will be all 6×6 pieces…
Managerium – the heaviest element known to science.
This element has no protons or electrons, but has a nucleus composed of 1 Neutron, 2 Vice-Neutrons, 5 Jr. Vice-Neutrons, 25 Asst. Vice-Neutrons, and 125 Jr. Asst. Vice-Neutrons all going round in circles.
Managerium has a half-life of three years, at which time it does not decay but institutes a series of reviews leading to reorganization. Its molecules are held together by means of the exchange of tiny particles known as morons.
from: Management? It’s not what you think! – Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ashland, and Joseph Lampel (2010).
Yesterday I attended a presentation at the University of Northern BC on the B.C. Government’s proposed “Cumulative Effects Assessment Framework”. Apparently this ‘framework’ has been in the works for quite some time… In a quick online search I found reference to a document from the BC Oil and Gas commission from 2003 discussing development of a similar ‘framework’.
Unfortunately, like so many of these government-created ‘frameworks’ this one’s about as big a pile of BS as any other ‘environmental monitoring’ ‘framework’.
Here’s a fine image of how the best interests of Moose (for example) will be looked after:
Look somewhat like the new Managerium element?
Or an Org Chart for the Ministry of Environment?
This new proposed ‘framework’ does front a ‘definition’ of cumulative effects:
And apparently, here’s all the things (e.g. “Values”) that this ‘framework’ is going to ‘measure’ or ‘assess’ or consider in assessing “cumulative” effects:
And here’s the “Drivers” for the ‘framework’…
That first one oddly resembles parenting… ‘managing for desired outcomes’… and most parents probably recognize how that goes…
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And, saving the best for last… the joy of the Matrix… here’s how “decision making” will occur in this fantastic “risk management approach” (hmmm, I think i’ve heard this before… sub-prime mortgage, anyone?)
A stringent “Management Approach” will be lead by “Government & Industry”?… hmmmm?!?!
And more Matrix: the “Values Screen”…
Apparently, all those things in the “Values” table above will be reduced to “Low” “Moderate” and “High” risks, with simple arrows indicating the ‘trend’:
… which includes (apparently): “Community Well-being”… and the phrase that is inherently full of bias: “Economic Development”… what about no ‘development’ as a potential option…? as in those ‘wilderness’ values that are at the bottom of the “values” list. (note: bottom of list).
A few basic questions for the BC Gov and developers of this framework:
1. what about Federal Gov. managed thingees…? (like salmon, endangered species, or… Pipelines)
2. Where’s the ‘baseline’ for these ‘values’? Who determined the baseline? How do we know if the arrow should be going up or down on the trend (or north, or south), or diagonally (like a good Scottish rain: “straight sideways”).
3. Which community values? – the urban, or the rural? east or west? AB or BC? Who determines ‘community well-being’?
4 . Who determines “resource capability” (e.g. from table of “initial values” above)? Do the trees, or do the foresters, or do the harvesters of ‘non-timber forest products’?
Unfortunately, this is an exercise in ‘waffle words’… ‘bafflegab’… or my favorite:
Nothing more than BUREAUCRATIC BUMPF. With the general public as the ‘morons’ as the tiny particles holding it together (e.g. from the opening quote and illustration).
The government presenter yesterday justified development of this ‘framework’ saying that it overwhelmingly came about as a result of the “general public demanding something that assesses cumulative impacts”…
not sure this is what Ms. or Mr. or Dr. general public had in mind… if one was to buy that line anywyays…
Many of us may be familiar with the rather famous, former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld-ism, from a From a Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2002:
Now what is the message there? The message is that there are no “knowns.” There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.
It sounds like a riddle.It isn’t a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter.
There’s another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn’t exist. And yet almost always, when we make our threat assessments, when we look at the world, we end up basing it on the first two pieces of that puzzle, rather than all three.
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It’s a curious situation – forecasting salmon runs that is… This year on the Fraser River, fisheries scientists in all their wisdom and computer modeling (largely based on similar formats as economic modeling – and we know how ‘accurate’ those are…) – forecast in the pre-season a pink salmon return of just under 9 million humpies. [see below between blue lines and far right "run size forecasted pre-season" below "run size adopted in-season"]
The in-season run-size is now at 26 million.
That’s a huge miss between pre-season and in-season. Might there be a problem in the computer models and the numbers they are ‘kicking out’…?
If the situation was reversed, there would be rabid calls for judicial reviews and inquiries and so on. However, when we miss the mark on the ‘positive’ side of things… “oh, gee, wow, that’s a good thing!”
But is it? Does it still not prove the same thing – e.g., our modeling and equations are f’ed?
[a known known...?]
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Similar situation with Fraser sockeye – a story we are all to familiar with.
Pre-season predictions of almost 4.8 million Fraser sockeye.
In-season estimates now suggesting over 1 million less than that – at just over 3.7 million Fraser sockeye.
That’s a big miss. [another known known?...]
However, it gets worse…
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The various estimates of run-size are one thing – the actual successful upstream migration, reaching the spawning grounds (some of them over 1000 km upstream), and successfully spawning – is an entirely different story. Let alone… survival of eggs over the winter, then survival of the baby salmon, most of them 2 years in a freshwater lake avoiding trout, sturgeon, sculpin and all sorts of other predators.
Buried much deeper in the “Technical Reports” from the Pacific Salmon Commission is the more dire predictions of how many Fraser sockeye might actually make it upstream. Keep in mind this was one of the hottest years on record for water temperature on the Fraser River (many days around 22 degrees C water temp, and now running close to 18 degrees C, combined with lower flows than normal).
When this occurs – the fish experts fire up the computer models again to “kick out” some more numbers. This is the “Management Adjustment” (MA). This percentage is then taken off the in-season predicted run-size – all of which is based at the mouth of the Fraser. Essentially, this the percentage of the run that the “managers” figure will die en-route, largely due to high water temps.
Anything over 20 degree C is pretty deadly – how long could you swim upstream in water at 20 degrees C. ? (without eating…)
Thus as the numbers in the chart above – in red – show: on each of the four run-timing groups (e.g., Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer) over 2 million sockeye are estimated to die or disappear en-route.
Predictions suggest only 1,215,500 Fraser sockeye will actually reach the spawning grounds. This is 700,000 less than what the great computer models suggest should reach the spawning grounds (the second set of red numbers).
More troubling yet… there were almost 370,000 Fraser River sockeye caught in various fisheries (see below – each of the four columns are similar to above, they are the four run-timing groups of Fraser sockeye – the farthest right column is Fraser Pinks).
There is no pointing of fingers implied here – as that is a much deeper hundreds year old discussion. And, that without these sockeye in many communities, dire circumstances would be that much more dire. The point here is that this resembles a classic fisheries problem over the last 100 years or so: needs and fights over dwindling and dwindling populations.
[the known knowns...?] or [unknown knowns?] or [known unknowns?]
One of the most concerning set of numbers in all of this being the immensely dwindled “Summer” group of sockeye. Close to 680,000 sockeye short of spawning goals. This is a problem.
The Summer group has historically comprised the largest portion of the Fraser sockeye populations… the numbers that make the overall Fraser sockeye populations still appear healthy. However, that grouping of populations is generally reliant on just a few specific populations returning to specific areas. This year a huge miss in predictions was the Quesnel run, as well as Chilko another historically larger run.
It was also a huge miss on Fraser Pinks, Skeena sockeye, and the list goes on… the known knowns that is.
Maybe time for a serious re-think (e.g., Think Salmon) of how we ‘manage’ these dwindling runs…? Factor in some known unknowns, and unknown unknowns…
Yesterday the Pacific Salmon Commission confirmed what many figured would probably be the case in the first place… the forecasts for Fraser Sockeye were blown… AGAIN.
Yet, the Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans and PSC will carry on about how predictions are a tough business, etc. etc. And that if we look closely at the end of the season that the returning numbers of Fraser sockeye to the mouth were actually in their 25% probability range.
Here’s the newly adopted in-season run predictions for Fraser sockeye from the PSC’s Friday news release:
The real blown part of the ‘forecast’ is in the Summer runs grouping - Again (the ‘groupings still a problem in themselves). Appears that things were missed by close to half (circled in dark blue near the middle of image). The overall result is a difference of pre-season prediction of close to 5 million (circled in orange) and a current in-season estimate of just over 2.6 million (circled in red). However, we still don’t have an in-season estimate on late summers, which are going to be hooped if river temps stay anywhere near where they are. Chances are good as the temps in the lower Fraser have been climbing steadily all week.
Here’s the PSC narrative on that:
The “management adjustment” is the WFU factor.
(We F’ed Up and now our ‘management’ kicks in – factor).
The best part of all this is the language that the PSC uses to try and explain themselves out of this:
Wasn’t this the year of the return of the 2009 Fraser sockeye run that was the lowest ever on record and was a completely blown forecast from 10 million predicted by the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans in the pre-season?
Wasn’t this the progeny of the 2009 run that motivated the unprecedented some-$26 million judicial inquiry – the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye? (which remains unimplemented).
Not to mention that it seems fisheries managers are suffering from a classic philosophical problem – the problem of induction. Old English philosopher Bertrand Russell explained it well in the early 1900s – basically calling it the turkey problem.
See the turkey, a few days before Thanksgiving, sees the farmer walking across the farmyard carrying a unique glittering thing. The turkey figures, “oh whatever, our beloved farmer is just coming to feed us, like she has for the last 500 or so days.”
The turkey suffers from the classic problem of induction… because that day figuring all will be like history has suggested: e.g., farmer arrives, I get fed. Unfortunately, it has suffered from a classic error. As not long after this thought that its feeding time (again), like every day in turkey memory before that… it loses its head. And off to market and some happy family dinner table.
Russell used the example that classic human folly suggests we believe the sun will rise tomorrow just like it has for the last however long – yet… there is a chance that it won’t. But we continue to believe in the “historical time series”… That will do us little good the day that the sun does not rise in the way that it has for the last several millenniums. The Black Swan event, as some call it.
The problem with this thinking is that the historical time series is only part of reality – however fisheries managers put an immense amount of stock in it… and then get burned, like they are this year (again), and come out looking like turkeys, or at least being painted with that bad feather brush.
Time for things to change – as the Skeena and Fraser Rivers and many others… have been warning for quite some time.