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Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems: An Impossibility?

29 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2007  

Elinor Ostrom

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA); Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

Given rapid changes in large-scale human and biophysical processes - carbon emissions, population increase and migrations, overharvesting and pollution leading to loss of species - scientists are worried that many of the social-ecological systems existing today may collapse by the end of the 21st century. Is this an exaggerated worry? The thesis I will present is that the negative prognosis will indeed occur in many parts of the world if we do not worry a great deal about these processes and their consequences. More important than simply worrying, however, is the development of a strong diagnostic method for analyzing the diversity of processes and the multiplicity of potential social and biophysical solutions that are needed to cope effectively with these varied processes. Past efforts to impose simple solutions to these complex problems have frequently led to worse outcomes than the problems addressed. Our need today is building a strong interdisciplinary science of complex, multilevel systems that will enable over time a matching of potential solutions to a careful diagnosis of specific problems embedded in a social-ecological context. I will take some small steps toward this goal in my presentation.

Keywords: sustainability, social-ecological systems

Suggested Citation

Ostrom, Elinor, Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems: An Impossibility? (2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=997834 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.997834

Elinor Ostrom (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science

Bloomington, IN
United States

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