The Anthropocene Gap
Chapter 2: Governance and complexity
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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