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Sustaining Ecosystems and People: A Multidisciplinary 'Policy Sciences' Framework
MRIC 2007/08

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"Sustaining Ecosystems and People: A Multidisciplinary 'Policy Sciences' Framework"

September 18th 
Jay O'Laughlin - Policy Analysis Group

Abstract: People expect natural resource systems to provide an array of ecological and environmental goods, services, and values as well as food and fiber commodities. Policies that harmoniously balance environmental conservation and economic development of resources to meet human needs are necessary but elusive. The sustained yield commodity production goal that served land and resource managers for centuries evolved following the 1987 international call for sustainable development. A more fully integrated “sustainability” approach will be next.

Toward that end, the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability can be assessed using scientific methods, but integration remains problematic. Biologist E.O. Wilson’s Consilience (1998) took a step, arguing for synthesis of knowledge; I continue in that direction. The larger the spatial scale at which one conceives sustainable resource management, the more difficult the quest becomes. When coupled with ecological and economic dimensions, stakeholders’ perceptions of the fairness of resource management proposals can help identify paths toward sustainability. Inclusive forums where stakeholders interact with land and resource managers in collaborative learning exercises can be an appropriate starting point, but durable issues remain: Who represents future generations? How can broad social perspectives be reconciled with local concerns?

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