Simon

West

MA

PhD Student, Ecosystem management, processes and social learning

+46 701 917 902

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Simon is a PhD student at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Department of Systems Ecology at Stockholm University

Simon’s research examines participatory processes in ecosystem management, and forms part of the GLEAN project (A Global Survey of Learning, Participation, and Ecosystem Management in Biosphere Reserves) funded by Vetenskapsrådet (VR). In particular, Simon is interested in how social learning can be enhanced by deliberative governance techniques, how environmental knowledge is created and mobilized, and how different social constructions of environment affect management outcomes.

Prior to joining the SRC, Simon completed an MA in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He has practiced biodiversity conservation in the Norfolk Broads (UK), and spent time researching adaptive capacity at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London. Previous published work has examined the political economy of international climate and biodiversity policy.

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West, Simon

Publications by West, Simon

Invasive Narratives and the Inverse of Slow Violence: Alien Species in Science and Society

Lidström, S., West, S., Katzschner, T., Pérez-Ramos, M.I., Twidle, H.

2016 - Journal / article

Environmental narratives have become an increasingly important area of study in the environmental humanities. Rob Nixon has drawn attention to the difficulties of representing the complex processes of environmental change that inflict ‘slow violence’ on vulnerable human (and non-human) populations. Nixon argues that a lack of “arresting stories, images and symbols” reduces the visibility of gradual problems such as biodiversity loss, climate change and chemical pollution in cultural imaginations and on political agendas. We agree with Nixon that addressing this representational imbalance is an important mission for the environmental humanities. However, we argue that another aspect of the same imbalance, or representational bias, suggests the inverse of this is also needed — to unpack the ways that complicated and multifaceted environmental phenomena can be reduced to fast, simple, evocative, invasive narratives that percolate through science, legislation, policy and civic action, and to examine how these narratives can drown out rather than open up possibilities for novel social-ecological engagements. In this article we demonstrate the idea of invasive narratives through a case study of the ‘invasive alien species’ (IAS) narrative in South Africa. We suggest that IAS reduces complex webs of ecological, biological, economic, and cultural relations to a simple ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ battle between easily discernible ‘natural’ and ‘non-natural’ identities. We argue that this narrative obstructs the options available to citizens, land managers and policy-makers and prevents a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics and implications of biodiversity change, in South Africa and beyond.


Invasive narratives and the inverse of slow violence: Alien species in science and society

Lidström, S., S. West, T. Katzschner, M.I. Pérez-Ramos, H. Twidle

2015 - Journal / article

Environmental narratives have become an increasingly important area of study in the environmental humanities. Rob Nixon has drawn attention to the difficulties of representing the complex processes of environmental change that inflict ‘slow violence’ on vulnerable human (and non-human) populations. Nixon argues that a lack of “arresting stories, images and symbols” reduces the visibility of gradual problems such as biodiversity loss, climate change and chemical pollution in cultural imaginations and on political agendas. We agree with Nixon that addressing this representational imbalance is an important mission for the environmental humanities. However, we argue that another aspect of the same imbalance, or representational bias, suggests the inverse of this is also needed—to unpack the ways that complicated and multifaceted environmental phenomena can be reduced to fast, simple, evocative, invasive narratives that percolate through science, legislation, policy and civic action, and to examine how these narratives can drown out rather than open up possibilities for novel social-ecological engagements. In this article we demonstrate the idea of invasive narratives through a case study of the ‘invasive alien species’ (IAS) narrative in South Africa. We suggest that IAS reduces complex webs of ecological, biological, economic, and cultural relations to a simple ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ battle between easily discernible ‘natural’ and ‘nonnatural’ identities. We argue that this narrative obstructs the options available to citizens, land managers and policy-makers and prevents a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics and implications of biodiversity change, in South Africa and beyond.


Learning for resilience in the European Court of Human Rights: adjudication as an adaptive governance practice

West, S. P., and L. Schultz

2015 - Journal / article

Managing for social-ecological resilience requires ongoing learning. In the context of nonlinear dynamics, surprise, and uncertainty, resilience scholars have proposed adaptive management, in which policies and management actions are treated as experiments, as one way of encouraging learning. However, the implementation of adaptive management has been problematic. The legal system has been identified as an impediment to adaptive management, with its apparent prioritization of certainty over flexibility, emphasis on checks and balances, protection of individual rights over public interests, and its search for “transcendent justice” over “contingent truth.” However, although adaptive management may encourage learning for ecological resilience, it is only one aspect of the institutional change needed to foster learning for social-ecological resilience. The mechanisms, including law, that provide for pursuit and protection of evolving ideas of justice and equity are critical for guiding human understanding of and interaction with the material environment. A broader agenda for learning within and about social-ecological resilience that focuses on the interaction between ideas of justice and equity with ecosystem dynamics is captured in the concept of adaptive governance. We have built on recent literature that has elaborated on the role of law in governance of social-ecological systems by analyzing environmental cases in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). We find that the ECtHR contributes to adaptive governance by supporting multiple ways of knowing the environment, enhancing polycentricity, and encouraging adaptive management and policy making by member states in the context of public participation. We have argued that the environmental case law of the ECtHR constitutes an important site of learning for governance of social-ecological systems, because it situates knowledge and experience of environmental change in the context of discussions about the relative rights, duties, and responsibilities of social actors, facilitating the mutually adaptive evolution of truth and justice across scales.


Beyond Divides: Prospect for synergy between resilience and pathways approaches to sustainability

West, S., Haider, J., Sinare, H., Karpouzoglou, T.

2014 - Other publication

In the context of rapid social, ecological and technological change, there is rising global demand from private, public and civic interests for trans-disciplinary sustainability research. This demand is fuelled by an increasing recognition that transitions toward sustainability require new modes of knowledge production that incorporate social and natural sciences and the humanities. The Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre's 'pathways approach' and the Stockholm Resilience Centre's (SRC) 'resilience approach' are two distinct trans-disciplinary frameworks for understanding and responding to sustainability challenges. However, the varieties o trans-disciplinarity pursued by the SRC and STEPS each have distinct origins and implications. Therefore, by selecting either the 'resilience' or 'pathways' approach, or indeed any distinct approach to sustainability, the researcher must contend with a range of foundational ontological and epistemological commitments that profoundly affect the definition of problems, generation of knowledge and prescriptions for action. What does an (un)sustainable world look like? How might we 'know' and research (un)sustainability? How should sustainability researchers position themselves in relation to civil society, policy, business and academic communities? In this paper we explore how resilience and pathways address these questions, identifying points of overlap and friction with the aim of generating new research questions and illuminating areas of potential synergy. As a group of early-career trans-disciplinary researchers we think that exciting areas of sustainability research lie in the boundaries between emerging trans-disciplinary research communities such as the SRC and STEPS. We propose future research that draws energy from current tensions between, for instance, competing visions of reflexive and policy-relevant research, and between 'functional' and 'equity' perspectives on socialecological change. More broadly, we aim to stimulate thinking and debate about possible research agendas for sustainability that are more reflexive about the boundaries of trans-disciplinary research and encourage greater collaboration across and between research with different ontological and epistemological starting points.


West, Simon

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
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info@stockholmresilience.su.se

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