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Systems Theory and the Management of Coupled HumanNatural Systems

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Title: Systems Theory and the Management of Coupled HumanNatural Systems


1
Systems Theory and the Management ofCoupled
Human/Natural Systems
  • Oran R. Young
  • IHDP-IDGEC-GCP

2
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • Mainstream thinking about ecosystems has departed
    increasingly from the development of equilibrium
    models and the derivation of stability conditions
  • Non-linear changes/cascades
  • Thresholds/tipping points/bifurcations
  • Phase changes/regime shifts

3
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • Much the same can be said about new research
    dealing with social systems
  • This opens up the prospect of approaching the
    Earth System as a single dynamic system in which
    interactions between ecosystems and social
    systems play a central role

4
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • There is nothing new about coupled human/natural
    systems or even about human-dominated ecosystems
  • Hunter/gatherers and the extinction of megafauna
  • Pastoralists and the ecology of herding
  • Agriculturalists and shifting assemblages of
    plants

5
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • What is new
  • The global scale of these interactions and their
    impacts
  • lack of replicates
  • The prospect of irreversible changes
  • a no-analogue world
  • The time horizons of consequences
  • abrupt changes and consequences unfolding over
    decades to centuries

6
                                                 
 
Earth System
Ecosystem
Social System
7
                                                 
 
8
                                                 
 
9
                                                 
 
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28
                                           
Governance for Sustainable Development
29
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • Governance
  • A social function centering on efforts to steer
    interactive systems away from socially
    undesirable outcomes and toward socially
    desirable outcomes
  • Forms of governance
  • Spontaneous orders (invisible hand mechanisms)
  • Conventional governments
  • Resource and environmental regimes

30
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • Recurrent challenges of governance in coupled
    human/natural systems should we call them
    syndromes?
  • Arhythmia temporal mismatches
  • Feedbacks vicious and virtuous circles
  • Acyclicity - chaotic encounters
  • The overarching problem of uncertainty
  • Groping in the dark

31
Coupled Human/Natural Systems
  • What is to be done?
  • Create mechanisms to adapt social rhythms to
    ecological rhythms
  • Develop feedback mechanisms to dampen vicious
    circles
  • Develop feedback mechanisms to amplify virtuous
    circles
  • Establish early warning systems to signal
    impending disasters
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