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The Neglect of Governance in Forest Sector Vulnerability Assessments: Structural-Functionalism and “Black Box” Problems in Climate Change Adaptation Planning

Adam M. Wellstead, Michigan Technological University
Michael Howlett, Simon Fraser University; Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
Jeremy Rayner, University of Saskatchewan

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05685-180323

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Abstract

Efforts to develop extensive forest-based climate change vulnerability assessments have informed proposed management and policy options intended to promote improved on-the-ground policy outcomes. These assessments are derived from a rich vulnerability literature and are helpful in modeling complex ecosystem interactions, yet their policy relevance and impact has been limited. We argue this is due to structural-functional logic underpinning these assessments in which governance is treated as a procedural “black box” and policy-making as an undifferentiated and unproblematic output of a political system responding to input changes and/or system prerequisites. Like an earlier generation of systems or cybernetic thinking about political processes, the focus in these assessments on macro system-level variables and relationships fails to account for the multi-level or polycentric nature of governance and the possibility of policy processes resulting in the nonperformance of critical tasks.

Key words

climate change; forestry; governance; structural functionalism

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087