Environment and Society through the Lens of Resilience: Towards a Human-in-Ecosystem Perspective

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2000
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Abstract
"The study of the commons has provided an interdisciplinary approach for understanding the relationship between humans and the environment. The commons emerges through the interaction of social and ecological processes. As such, the commons acts as an organizing concept through which the interactions between social and ecological processes can be examined within a set of spatial and temporal parameters. The commons approach has differed from other approaches in western theory which have maintained a clear separation between the environment and society. Many of these latter models have provided sophisticated accounts of how the environment and the social articulate and mutually influence each other. However, an emerging body of literature has begun to appear which provides support for the interdisciplinary approach pursued by commons scholars. This body of research emphasizes that systems are often characterized by non-linear processes and multiple equilibria instead of stability, unpredictability, threshold effects and system change. Furthermore, this literature has begun to move toward a human-in-environment instead of a human and environment perspective. These ecological models suggest that more emphasis should be placed upon the relationships and processes at given spatial and temporal scales as well as cross-scale dynamics. "One concept which has proved useful at moving toward a 'dwelling' or human-in-ecosystem perspective has been resilience. This paper extends the work of Holling and Sanderson (1996), Berkes and Folke (1998) and others to explore the contribution of the concept of resilience for understanding environment-society linkages. Resilience has been utilized by commons, and other scholars, to explore the linkages among ecological, social and institutional processes. A focus on ecological and social processes is also being utilized in practical approaches to resource conservation and economic development. Through an examination of four such projects it has been found that common property institutions, at multiple scales, are important for maintaining the linkages between ecological and social processes. Both theoretical developments and practical applications of a human-in-ecosystem perspective have drawn attention to the processes which link environment and society, and how such processes drive beneficial and detrimental change."
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IASC, common pool resources--theory, ecosystems--theory, knowledge--theory, information--theory, resilience
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