Social Learning in the Anthropocene. Governance of natural resources in human dominated systems

Author(s): Nykvist, B.
In: Stockholm University
Year: 2012
Type: Dissertation
Full reference: Nykvist, B. 2012. Social Learning in the Anthropocene. Governance of natural resources in human dominated systems (Doctoral thesis in Natural Resource Management). Stockholm University, 48pp


We live in the Anthropocene – an age where humans dominate natural systems – and there is ample evidence that our current practices degrade the capacity of natural systems to provide us with natural resources. How we, as humans, organize and learn, in communities and among state and other societal actors, constitute a decisive factor for both local management of natural resources and the functioning of the planet Earth. In other words, the outcome of learning in the management of natural resources has become a matter of governance cross multiple levels.

This thesis studies the role of social learning at multiple levels of govern-ance asking the following three overarching research questions:

i) What are the institutional barriers limiting better environmental governance at different scales?

ii) Is there a causal connection between social learning and better environmental governance?

iii) What are the normative challenges with better environmental governance or social-ecological resilience being linked to the adaptive capacity of actors to learn socially?

Thereby the research ad-dresses the key problem that social learning contributes to successful management but at the same time also offers explanations to the persistent nature of the current unsustainable development in the Anthropocene.

Social learning has been argued to be a key "social source" of successful governance of social-ecological systems. It has been pointed out as an important process in adaptive forms of governance and more sustainable management of natural systems.

However, any theory or framework addressing how societies organize and manage ecosystems – including the importance of social learning, social-ecological memories, and adaptability– needs to explain not only why these "social sources" contribute to social-ecological resilience, but also why such social processes seem to contribute to inertia and rigidity in institutions, and to the persistence of maladaptive practices.


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