Introduction

Negative trends observed in both social and ecosystem conditions around the world raise increasing concern about converging crises that human communities will be facing in coming decades. Arguably the most alarming set of observations involve changes, such as shifts in growing conditions for crops and in pathways for transmission of plant and animal diseases, that have been linked to global climate change. Thoughtful people, scientists, policy makers, and citizens alike, are increasingly expressing a sense of urgency regarding the need to take effective action to mitigate the threats. However, it is not at all clear how to do this. Although there have been some notable successes, several decades of research into natural resource management have proven disappointing in terms of halting degradation of stressed environments and fragile ecosystems [1]. Many resource and environmental problems are proving resistant to solutions [2]. Too many policies and management actions are not only ineffective, but also produce a whole new set of problems that often prove to be more damaging than the original one. In short, traditional approaches to both science and policy making do not appear to be providing the answers we need.

In recent years, significant progress has been made towards understanding the challenges we face. Innovative collaborative efforts, such as the Research Alliances research informing practice [1,3] have shown that the big problems policy makers and managers are wrestling with emerge from complex interactions among innumerable components and processes within intimately interlinked human and natural systems—social-ecological systems. New approaches to environmental policy making and resource management, such as adaptive management and adaptive governance [4,5] have shown promise for addressing such problems. However, it has proven extremely difficult to put these promising concepts into practice. How can we modify the science-policy interface so that we more effectively put knowledge to work towards addressing significant problems?

There is a critical need for translation from theory into practical guidelines for practice. In this chapter, I seek to contribute to this translation process. I first provide an overview of the nature of the problems we face and the difficulties encountered in trying to address them. This summary draws from a wide range of literatures, and includes illustrative examples drawn from my own experiences with collaborative efforts to integrate science into real-world decision situations related to environmental problem-solving. Finally, I present some practical ideas that people on the front lines—policy makers, planners, and managers—can use to assist in developing strategies that are both scientifically sound and achievable in real-world settings.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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