Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

The Anthropocene Gap

Victor Galaz

We live on an increasingly human-dominated planet. Our impact on the Earth has become so huge that researchers now suggest that it merits its own geological epoch - the 'Anthropocene' - the age of humans. Combining theory development and case studies of 'planetary boundaries', emerging infectious diseases, financial markets and geoengineering, this groundbreaking book explores the 'Anthropocene Gap' otherwise known as society's current failure to address the most profound environmental challenges of our times.

Chapter 2: Governance and complexity

Victor Galaz

Subjects: environment, climate change, energy policy and regulation, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, innovation and technology, technology and ict


Discussions about environmental governance, especially at the international level, are increasingly stirred by claims of increased complexity. What is 'complexity' really? In its more daily use, 'complexity' represents a catch-all word that apprehends 'messiness' and 'entangledness' in general. For critics, claims about increased complexity are just another one of those trendy and empty buzzwords that have propagated in intellectual debates in the last decade (McKelvey 1999). Its progress is impressive and spans across areas as diverse as business leadership studies, health sciences, and organizational theory, to studies of the behavior of financial markets. The approach in this book is different. My ambition is to build on a growing body of theoretical and empirical research on the features and behavior of complex adaptive systems. As I intend to elaborate in this chapter, emerging insights about the behavior of these systems in human-environmental or social-ecological settings, pose a number of intriguing challenges for institutional analysis and governance research. In addition, notions about the risks posed by nonlinear change often denoted as 'tipping points' or 'threshold effects', are creating new political conflicts only recently explored by the scientific community. In this chapter I explore these two issues, and highlight some important gaps in our understanding.

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