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Archive for the ‘Environmental Problems’ Category

When problems are complex, solutions are imperfect.  Actions taken in the face of complexity inevitably come to be associated with a hard to separate mixture of gains, losses, and ambiguities.  These gains, losses, and ambiguities, furthermore, are understood and experienced from a variety of perspectives, none of which can justifiably claim to command a total view.  Thus, not only are solutions to complex problems imperfect, there are no definitive criteria by which to interpret or evaluate the imperfection. (more…)

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Over lunch the other day, colleague Harry Lambright and I were discussing his interest in the connection between space exploration and environmental problems, particularly climate change.  In his view, a main problem with a great deal of environmental thinking and policy-making is that it doesn’t take a big enough perspective. Environmental problems – the most pressing ones at least – are problems that must be understood at the scale of the planet.  To deal with them effectively, we need to “Think like a Planet.”

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The task of conserving natural systems – biodiversity, ecosystem services, natural resources, natural capital, call it what you will – is fraught with complexities. (more…)

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It is well known that the shape of environmental problems does not match the shape of political and social institutions. Water pollution spills across the borders of the neat lines delineating counties, states, and nations. Emissions released into the air from energy use drift across continents, and their collective impacts expand beyond the physical earth to shape the atmosphere.

What is not known is how to design systems and structures that allow for effective collaboration at the shape and scale of such problems. (more…)

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