Precaution, Science, and Learning While Doing in Natural Resource Management
32 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2007
Dealing with uncertainty is widely recognized as the key challenge for environmental and natural resource decision-making. Too often, though, that challenge is considered only from an ex ante perspective, treating uncertainty as an invariant feature that must be accounted for but cannot be changed. With respect to many natural resource management decisions, that picture is misleading. Decisions which are iterative or similar can provide significant opportunities for learning. Where such opportunities are available and inaction is not feasible or desirable, learning while doing can provide the benefits of both the precautionary principle and scientific decision-making, while minimizing the key weaknesses of each. After highlighting the benefits of a learning-while-doing approach for natural resource management, this paper briefly addresses how management agencies might be encouraged to adopt such an approach.
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