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Environmental Governance as Stochastic Belief Updating: Crafting Rules to Live by

Daniel W. Bromley, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Humboldt University zu Berlin

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04774-170314

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Abstract

The idea that humans can “manage” nature is a modernist conceit. Natural systems and social (human) systems are always in the process of becoming. In this setting of unknowable dynamic emergence, it is not possible to design institutional arrangements—rules to live by—that permit an activity called “management.” The more fundamental challenge to the conceit of management is that humans are never sure what we want until we are put in a situation of having to work it out. We learn what we want by learning about what it might be possible for us to have. Science, properly engaged with the public, can contribute to this learning process. But science cannot hold itself up as an activity that produces truth about what it would be better to do. Sapient adults work that out, just as we work out the evolving meaning to us of the natural system. Science practiced outside of this realm of human meaning is impertinent.

Key words

belief updating; governance; meaning; reasonable
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087