Connectivity and the Governance of Multilevel Social-Ecological Systems: The Role of Social Capital

Annual Review of Environment and Resources
Vol. 34: 253-278 (2009)

Eduardo S. Brondizio (an anthropologist working on environmental change), Elinor Ostrom (a political scientist working on economic governance of commons) and Oran Young (an environmental scientist working on governance and environmental institutions).

Brondizio etal. address the challenges from “increasing connectivity of resource-use systems and the growing functional interdependencies of ecological and social systems.” (253) They use a case study of the Xingu Indigenous Park and its surrounding agribusiness complex in Brazil as springboard to discuss the limitations of mainstream responses, viz. moving management responsibility to higher levels of public authority, or shifting it to lower levels of governance.

A key element of their argument, therefore, is that “no fixed spatial or temporal level is appropriate for governing ecosystems and their services effectively, efficiently, and equitably on a sustainable basis.” (259) However, far from presenting this as “a message of despair,” the authors recommend the benefits of “a different style of scholarship from the dominant orientation of many social and physical scientists, [in order to undertake] a multilevel diagnostic approach to examining relationships at each relevant level and the fit and interplay among levels.” (ibid.)

The authors address forest restoration and draw on some other restoration ecology literature (e.g., comanagement of caribou or bird populations) – but the real benefit of this article for our discussion lies in their explication of “social capital” (from Bordieu, Coleman and Putnam) and the alternative approaches to harnessing social capital in addressing environmental management across social, temporal and geographic scales: multilevel governance, panarchy, polycentric governance, comanagement, and place-based management.

The weakness of the article is the lack of information on their suggested approaches, since they haven’t “been applied often enough and long enough to produce a track record that we can evaluate systematically.” (271)

Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira

No comments:

Post a Comment