Collaboration in Environmental Management and Scale

Just a few quick thoughts…

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the recent push by US Federal agencies for increasing stakeholder engagement and collaborative management.  Most of the discussions within the agencies as well as in the academic literature (in collaborative management, collaborative governance, co-management, etc) have been about collaboration and the social benefits – increasing legitimacy and buy-in, building social capital, gaining access to local knowledge, improving monitoring and enforcement of rules, and so on.  It appears that only occasionally is reference made to the literature that comes from corridor ecology and conservation biology about the gains from changing the scale of management.  The bioregionalism movement focuses on shifting scales and the transboundary conservation work acknowledges this as well.  However, it’s mostly missing from the “collaboration” literature.

The environmental challenges of today are occurring at ever-increasing scales as we approach planetary boundaries in the Anthropocene.  The impacts of increasing populations, affluence, and the globalization of trade, communications, and energy markets have led to a host of problems that span beyond borders.  The real benefits of collaboration, particularly when we look at collaborative governance beyond the most local of scales, seem to accrue from scale expansion, not social benefits.  But I guess this remains to be tested empirically.

– Thoughts from a sleep-deprived new dad

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