Sunday, 31 August 2008

The pathology of natural resource management

Zareen forwarded me this article form 1996 from Holling & Meffe in Conservation Biology.
The idea is very similar to James Scott "Seeing like a state": in order for a distant top-down management of natural resources to be put in place the system has to be simplified or thought of as a simple system, as a result of which it becomes simpler, because it's complexity is ignored. Efficiency of management is defined in narrow terms, e.g. agricultural yield. Sooner or later something goes wrong because part of the system has been ignored or outrightly been destroyed for it was belived to be non-essential. Then stakeholders call for more command-and-control measures. Firstly, state agencies cannot operate in a diffferent way, 'cause that's how they're organized to work, secondly, it's of economic interest to maintain short term benefits, and therefore a restructuring of the system is not desirable, but rather an end-of-pipe solution is advocated. This is what Holling calls "The pathology of natural resoucre management": command and control sooner or later goes wrong, because it ignores essential elements of the system, then the measures to solve a problem are as narrow as the measures which created the problem in the first place. The "soultion" of simplifying the system always causes new problems, and only preserving diversity, even if we don't understand what it's good for, can overcome the trap, they say.

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