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Advancing a Diagnostic Approach to Addressing Environmental Problems

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Cox, Michael
Conference: Capturing the Complexity of the Commons, North American Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Conf. Date: Sep. 30-Oct. 2
Date: 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/6543
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): panaceas
social-ecological systems
Abstract: "Social-ecological systems exhibit patterns across multiple levels along spatial, temporal, and functional scales. The outcomes that are produced in these systems result from complex, non-additive interactions between different types of social and biophysical components, some of which are common to many systems, and some of which are relatively unique to a particular system. These properties, along with the mostly non-experimental nature of the analysis, make it difficult to construct theories regarding the sustainability of social-ecological systems.This paper builds on previous work that has initiated a diagnostic approach to facilitate analysis of these systems. The process of diagnosis involves asking a series of questions of a system at increasing levels of specificity based on the answers to previous questions. The answer to each question further unpacks the complexity of a system, allowing an analyst to explore patterns of interactions that produce outcomes. An important feature of this approach is the use of multiple levels of analysis. As this paper will show, this feature can be used to analyze a diversity of environmental problems. Following this discussion, the implications of such a diagnostic approach for future research and pedagogy in the field of environmental management and policy are explored."

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