Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Matthias Ruth
Chapter 15: Using participatory system dynamics in environmental and sustainability dialogues
Decision-making processes regarding environmental management and sustainable development issues require the consideration of interactions between ecological, economic and social aspects. The ecological and social systems involved are complex and dynamic, and the effects of changes in one part of the system on other parts are often uncertain and difficult to anticipate (Stave 2010). Whether evaluating the environmental impacts of a specific project, designing a policy to tackle an environmental problem or developing and analyzing sustainability pathways, connections between management actions and future consequences are often nonlinear, counterintuitive and uncertain. Furthermore, decisions generally affect multiple stakeholders who often have different values, different views about the world and disagree about the problem formulation, management goals and decision criteria. Environmental and sustainability problems are therefore typically complex, uncertain, multi-scale and affect multiple actors and agencies. In a context of scientific uncertainty, experts are seen as no better equipped to decide on questions of values, interests, or acceptable levels of risk than any other group of citizens (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1990; Holmes and Scoones 2000).
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