¡^ Providing information Environmental governance depends on good,
jP trustworthy information about stocks, flows, and processes within the re-
£ source systems being governed, as well as about the human-environment v interactions affecting those systems. This information must be congruent
T5 in scale with environmental events and decisions.48, 67 Highly aggregated
tj information may ignore or average out local information that is important o in identifying future problems and developing solutions.
For example, in 2002, a moratorium on all fishing for northern cod was declared by the Canadian government after a collapse of this valuable fishery. An earlier near-collapse had led Canada to declare a 200-mile zone of exclusive fisheries jurisdiction in 1977.68' 69 Considerable optimism existed during the 1980s that the stocks, as estimated by fishery scientists, were rebuilding. Consequently, generous total catch limits were established for northern cod and other ground fish, the number of licensed fishers was allowed to increase considerably, and substantial government subsidies were allocated for new vessels.70 What went wrong? There were a variety of information-related problems including: (i) treating all northern cod as a single stock instead of recognizing distinct populations with different characteristics, (ii) ignoring the variability of year classes of northern cod, (iii) focusing on offshore-fishery landing data rather than inshore data to 'tune' the stock assessment, and (iv) ignoring inshore fishers who were catching ever-smaller fish and doubted the validity of stock assessments.70, 71> 72 This experience illustrates the need to collect and model both local and aggregated information about resource conditions and to use it in making policy at the appropriate scales.
Information also must be congruent with decision makers' needs in terms of timing, content, and form of presentation.'73 74 75 Informational systems that simultaneously meet high scientific standards and serve ongoing needs of decision makers and users are particularly useful. Information must not overload the capacity of users to assimilate it. Systems that adequately characterize environmental conditions or human activities with summary indicators such as prices for products or emission permits, or certification of good environmental performance, can provide valuable signals as long as they are attentive to local as well as aggregate conditions.76, 77, 78
Effective governance requires not only factual information about the state of the environment and human actions but also information about uncertainty and values. Scientific understanding of coupled human-biophysical systems will always be uncertain because of inherent unpredictability in the systems and because the science is never complete.79 Decision makers need information that characterizes the types and magnitudes of this uncertainty, as well as the nature and extent of scientific ignorance and disagreement.80 Also, because every environmental decision requires tradeoffs, knowledge is needed about individual and social values and about the effects of decisions on various valued outcomes. For many environmental systems, local and easily captured values (e.g., the market value of lumber) have to be balanced against global, diffuse, and hard-to-capture values (e.g., biodiversity and the capability of humans and ecosystems to adapt to unexpected events). Finding ways to measure and monitor the outcomes for such varied values in the face of globalization is a major informational challenge for governance.
Dealing with conflict Sharp differences in power and in values across interested parties make conflict inherent in environmental choices. Indeed, conflict resolution may be as important a motivation for designing resource institutions as is concern with the resources them-selves.81 People bring varying perspectives, interests, and fundamental philosophies to problems of environmental governance,74, 82' 83' 84 and their conflicts, if they do not escalate to the point of dysfunction, can spark learning and change.85' 86
For example, a broadly participatory process was used to examine alternative strategies for regulating the Mississippi River and its tributaries.87 A dynamic model was constructed with continuous input by the Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, local landowners, environmental groups, and academics from multiple disciplines. After extensive model development and testing against past historical data, most stakeholders had high confidence in the explanatory power of the model. Consensus was reached over alternative management options, and the resulting policies generated far less conflict than had existed at the outset.88 Delegating authority to environmental ministries does not always
Was this article helpful?