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Social learning in the Anthropocene: Governance of natural resources in human dominated systems
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. (Naturresurshushållning)
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

We live in the Anthropocene – an age where humans dominate natural systems – and there is ample evidence that our current practices degrade the capacity of natural systems to provide us with natural resources. How we, as humans, organize and learn, in communities and among state and other societal actors, constitute a decisive factor for both local management of natural resources and the functioning of the planet Earth. In other words, the outcome of learning has become a matter of governance across multiple levels. This thesis studies the role of social learning in governance of natural resources, asking the following three overarching questions: i) What are the institutional barriers limiting better environmental governance at different scales? ii) Is there a causal connection between social learning and better environmental governance? iii) What are the normative challenges with better environmental governance or social-ecological resilience being linked to the adaptive capacity of actors to learn socially? The primary method is semi-structured in-depth interviews. Papers provide results on institutional barriers such as competency traps and show how customs and current practices and collaborations limit better environmental governance. It is found that social learning might, and might not, lead to better environmental governance, and the causal connection between social learning and better environmental governance is found to be rather weak, with both variables depending on other factors. Enabling policy, a mandate to make broad assessments, or an engaged leader facilitating social learning, are examples of factors that explain the existence of both social learning and outcomes in terms of better environmental governance. It is concluded that since conditions for, and facilitation of, social learning are so important, research should focus more on what initiates social learning and how social learning can be mainstreamed across multiple levels of governance

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University , 2012. , 48 p.
Keyword [en]
social learning, multi-level governance, resilience, adaptability, natural resource management, institutions, policy making, impact assessments
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-74836ISBN: 978-91-7447-484-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-74836DiVA: diva2:523686
Public defence
2012-06-08, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted: Paper 4: Submitted; Paper 5: Submitted.Available from: 2012-05-10 Created: 2012-03-27 Last updated: 2012-05-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Are impact assessment procedures actually promoting sustainable development? Institutional perspectives on barriers and opportunities found in the Swedish committee system
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Are impact assessment procedures actually promoting sustainable development? Institutional perspectives on barriers and opportunities found in the Swedish committee system
2009 (English)In: Environmental impact assessment review, ISSN 0195-9255, E-ISSN 1873-6432, Vol. 29, no 1, 15-24 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Impact assessment frameworks are gaining increasing attention as a procedure to integrate sustainability concerns in European and national policy-making. The gap between political visions on sustainable development and the reality of policy-making is, however, still pronounced, and a very limited range and scope of available assessment methods are used in practice. This study examines why this pattern prevails, in this case within the Swedish Committees of Inquiry, with a focus on institutional factors determining the function of Impact Assessments. The findings suggest that assessment procedures have little value when not accompanied by clear specific instructions on priorities. A range of institutional constraints emerge in the interface between policy makers and knowledge providers in committees. Dominant professional, organisational, and disciplinary cultures constrain the assessment, and socio-economic priorities are by tradition most important. Based on our analysis, we conclude that to enhance the potential for integrating sustainability concerns, it seems less fruitful to develop more advanced and complex assessment frameworks and models than strengthening institutional arenas for social learning. Such arenas should be; defined by a broad mandate and instructions, characterised by key personal skills and resources, and build institutional capacity for a range of stakeholders to engage with them.

National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-17571 (URN)10.1016/j.eiar.2008.04.002 (DOI)000261985700003 ()
Available from: 2009-01-16 Created: 2009-01-16 Last updated: 2012-05-03Bibliographically approved
2. Rationalising the policy mess?: Ex ante policy assessment and the utilisation of knowledge in the policy process
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rationalising the policy mess?: Ex ante policy assessment and the utilisation of knowledge in the policy process
Show others...
2009 (English)In: Environment and planning A, ISSN 0308-518X, E-ISSN 1472-3409, Vol. 41, no 5, 1185-1200 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32978 (URN)10.1068/a40266 (DOI)
Available from: 2009-12-18 Created: 2009-12-18 Last updated: 2012-05-03Bibliographically approved
3. Social-ecological memories as a source of general and specific resilience
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social-ecological memories as a source of general and specific resilience
2012 (English)In: Ecology & society, ISSN 1708-3087, E-ISSN 1708-3087Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-62440 (URN)
Available from: 2011-09-21 Created: 2011-09-19 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
4. Does social learning lead to better governance?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Does social learning lead to better governance?
(English)In: Society & Natural Resources, ISSN 0894-1920, E-ISSN 1521-0723Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This study investigates whether social learning among large scale farmers in  central Sweden leads to improved environmental governance. Three different framings of  social learning are first identified: as learning within established communities of practices; as  multiparty collaboration cross different communities; and as explicitly tied to desirable  outcomes. Applying the first two, the paper investigates social learning as an independent variable through semi-structured in-depth interviews. Results show that learning among farmers is inherently social, but does not necessarily improve environmental governance. Without the presence of policy or externally facilitating factors social learning is not found to explain better governance. The paper concludes that the call for social learning based on successful lessons form instrumental use, risk obscuring the fact that both social learning and better governance are often conditioned by other mitigating or enabling factors. 

Keyword
Social learning; Agriculture; Communities of practice; Goverance; Natural resource management
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-74834 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas
Available from: 2012-03-27 Created: 2012-03-27 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
5. Spontaneous order of adaptability: An assessment of the literature on social-ecological resilience
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Spontaneous order of adaptability: An assessment of the literature on social-ecological resilience
2012 (English)In: Ecology & society, ISSN 1708-3087, E-ISSN 1708-3087Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This paper analyzes how adaptability is conceptualized (framed) in the literature on resilience and social-ecological systems (SES). SES are sometimes analyzed as complex adaptive systems (CAS) where human responses are seen as spontaneous and self-organized adaptations by autonomous agents with no analysis of their intentions or strategies. However, in other studies of SES, intentions and conflicts are emphasized and analyzed. Research on SES furthermore tends to differ in the degree of normative connotations associated with resilience and adaptability. For these two dimensions – spontaneous vs. intentional, and descriptive vs. normative – we developed a coding scheme and analyzed the complete sample of 183 papers in the field of found in ISI web of science published before 1st of Jan 2011. The results reveal a plurality of framings. We discuss the strengths and problems with this, aiming to provide a better understanding of some of the normative challenges in research on adaptive governance, resilience, and SES. We discuss CAS and find that the problem is not the use of self-organization in relation to scales or levels of governance, e.g. that responses can emerge through leadership and stakeholder interaction at a local level without being forced by external factors. The problem is when such interaction is as assumed to be autonomous and harmonious. Finally we provide our own definition of adaptability as necessarily ecologically informed, but we do not equate adaptability with “successful responses” in order to not confuse the concept with the outcome. Evaluating outcomes is ultimately an empirical question.

Keyword
Adaptive co-management; Adaptive capacity; Natural Resource Management; Economic efficiency
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-74835 (URN)
Funder
Formas
Available from: 2012-03-27 Created: 2012-03-27 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
6. A safe operating space for humanity
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A safe operating space for humanity
Show others...
2009 (English)In: Nature, ISSN 0028-0836, Vol. 461, no 24 Sept, 472-475 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-34926 (URN)10.1038/461472a (DOI)000270082900020 ()
Note
Authors: Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, S. Chapin, E.F. Lambin, T.M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke, H.J. Schellnhuber, B. Nykvist, C.A. de Wit, T. Hughes, S. van der Leeuw, H. Rodhe, S. Sörlin, P.K. Snyder, R. Costanza, U. Svedin, M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, R.W. Corell, V.J. Fabry, J. Hansen, B. Walker, D. Liverman, K. Richardson, P. Crutzen, J.A. FoleyAvailable from: 2010-01-13 Created: 2010-01-13 Last updated: 2012-05-03Bibliographically approved

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