Hidden Order: Lessons from Bali’s Water Temples

Monday, March 5, 2018 at 6:00pm

This is a past event.

Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall (VPD), VPD 116
635 Downey Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Featuring J. Stephen Lansing

Student Reception with light dinner: 5:00pm

RSVP to richard@usc.edu for student reception location.

Abstract:  Along a typical river in Bali, small groups of farmers meet regularly in water temples to manage their irrigation systems. They have done so for a thousand years. Over the centuries, water temple networks have expanded to manage the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. Although each group focuses on its own problems, somehow everything works out in a way that optimizes rice harvests for the farmers in dozens of villages. How is this possible? Google Earth reveals transitory patterns in the rice paddies that closely resemble phase transitions in physics, like the onset of magnetism. This unlocked a story of hidden order that charms physicists, perplexes economists and offers everyone a startlingly new way to think about how people can interact with nature.

Bio: Steve Lansing is the director of the Complexity Institute and professor in the Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  He is also external professor at the Santa Fe Institute and the Vienna Complexity Hub; senior research fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and president of the Anthropology and Environment Society of the American Anthropological Association.  In 2012 he developed a UNESCO World Heritage for the subaks and water temple networks of Bali.

Series: The Voices seminar series provides an interdisciplinary forum to advance ideas and environmental policies for a sustainable and equitable future.

Sponsored by: Center for Sustainability Solutions
Co-sponsored by: Environmental Student Assembly, Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, and the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop


Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus



Price School of Public Policy
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