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Two strategies for dealing with uncertainty in social-ecological systems
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0218-9746
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The scale of environmental problems is increasing. Globalisation and trade haveweakened the links between the ecosystems in which goods are produced and thecommunities in which they are consumed. This, combined with variability anddynamics in ecological and social systems, means that there are great uncertaintiesabout production conditions and about the impact on humans and theenvironment of decisions made at different levels in society. In order to achievesustainable management of ecosystems, more knowledge is needed when possible.In other cases, strategies for dealing with the uncertainties are needed. This thesis,in which ecological and social systems are regarded as integrated, analyses twostrategies for dealing with uncertainties in such social-ecological systems andthereby improving the potential for sustainable management of these systems.The strategies are i) Using futures studies as a method and ii) creating a tighterfeedback loop between society and ecosystems.Of the five studies included in this thesis, Papers I and II explore possibilities toreduce uncertainties through better feedback between ecosystems and society in aglobalised food system. A tighter feedback loop between society and ecosystemscould increase the potential of society to detect negative environmental impacts ofdifferent activities, respond to such signals (feedback) and make changes thatreduce the negative consequences. Papers III, IV and V develop methods andanalyse the use of futures studies as a tool for managing uncertainty inenvironmental policy processes, specifically the Swedish environmental qualityobjectives. It is difficult and sometimes impossible to predict future developmentsand there are also uncertainties because social-ecological systems are constantlychanging, sometimes in unexpected ways. In addition, the apparently most likelydevelopments may not be the most desirable. Futures studies are used in PapersIII-V to deal with these types of uncertainties. Within the context of these futuresstudies, methods for working together with stakeholders to identify actions andchanges needed to achieve environmental goals are also developed and tested.The results show that the potential exists to reduce certain types of uncertainty byreducing the distance between production and consumption (through localisedfood systems and institutions which transmit feedback). Another conclusion isthat a local food market (farmers’ market), which represents a direct link betweenproduction and consumption, could reduce a sense of uncertainty aboutproduction conditions for individual consumers, through the establishment oftrust in their relationship with the producer. However, only a few examples ofincreased ecological knowledge or increased knowledge about productionconditions were found among these consumers. The results also show that futuresstudies were able to serve as a framework for analysing environmental policyprocesses (the environmental quality objectives), as they provide a long-termperspective and help manage uncertainty by increased knowledge of alternativeactions in relation to several possible developments. Futures studies as ananalytical tool can also help identify partnerships and stakeholders that arenecessary to promote change in order to achieve environmental goals.

Abstract [sv]

Miljöproblemens omfattning ökar. Globalisering och handel har gjort attkopplingen mellan de ekosystem där varor produceras och de samhällen där varorkonsumeras blivit allt svagare. Detta, kombinerat med en variabilitet och dynamiki både ekologiska och sociala system, gör att det finns mycket osäkerheter omproduktionsförhållanden och om konsekvenser för människa och miljö av beslutpå olika nivåer i samhället. För att åstadkomma en långsiktigt hållbar förvaltningav ekosystem behövs mer kunskap, när det är möjligt, och i andra fall metoder föratt hantera dessa osäkerheter. I denna avhandling ses ekologiska och socialasystem som integrerade. Huvudsyftet med avhandlingen är att analysera tvåstrategier för att hantera osäkerheter i sådana sociala-ekologiska system ochdärmed förbättra förutsättningarna för en långsiktigt hållbar förvaltning i dessasystem. Den ena strategin är att använda framtidsstudier som metod och denandra är att skapa en starkare återkoppling mellan samhälle och ekosystem.Avhandlingen omfattar fem vetenskapliga artiklar. Artikel I och II utforskarmöjligheter att minska osäkerheter genom bättre återkoppling mellan ekosystemoch samhälle i globaliserade livsmedelssystem. En starkare återkoppling mellansamhälle och ekosystem skulle kunna öka potentialen för samhället att lättare senegativa miljökonsekvenserna av olika aktiviteter, kunna fånga in sådana signaler(feedback) och därmed kunna göra förändringar som minskar de negativakonsekvenserna. I artikel III, IV och V utvecklas metoder och analyserasanvändningen av framtidsstudier som ett verktyg för att hantera osäkerheter imiljöpolitiska processer, särskilt de svenska miljökvalitetsmålen. Det är svårt ochibland omöjligt att veta vad den framtida utvecklingen kommer att bli och detfinns också osäkerheter genom att sociala-ekologiska system är föränderliga ochkan överraska oss. Dessutom kanske det som verkar vara de mest sannolikautvecklingarna inte är de mest önskvärda. Framtidsstudier används i dessa artiklarför att hantera dessa typer av osäkerheter. Inom ramen för framtidsstudiearbetetutvecklas och prövas också metoder för att tillsammans med aktörer identifieraåtgärder och förändringar som behövs för att uppnå miljömål.Avhandlingen visar att det finns potential för att minska vissa typer av osäkerhetgenom minskade avstånd mellan produktion och konsumtion (genom lokalalivsmedelssystem och genom institutioner som överför feedback). En annanslutsats är att en lokal livsmedelsmarknad (bondens marknad), som ett exempel påen sådan direkt länk mellan produktion och konsumtion, kan minska osäkerhethos de enskilda konsumenterna, genom att ett förtroende för producenten skapas.Men, från studien framkom bara några få exempel på minskad osäkerhet kringproduktionsvillkor eller ökad ekologisk kunskap bland konsumenterna.Avhandlingen visar också att framtidsstudier kan fungera som ramverk för attanalysera miljöpolitiska processer (miljökvalitetsmålen), att de bidrar med ettlångsiktigare perspektiv och en ökad kunskap om alternativa åtgärder i förhållandetill flera möjliga omvärldsutvecklingar, och hjälper till att hantera osäkerhet.Ytterligare slutsatser är att framtidsstudier som analysverktyg kan bidra till attidentifiera samarbeten och aktörer som är nödvändiga för att åstadkommaförändring för att uppnå miljömål.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2010. , 59 p.
Series
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 2010-12
Keyword [en]
Futures studies, social-ecological systems, feedback loops, environmental policy, environmental quality objectives, participation, scenarios
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-26142ISBN: 978-91-7415-791-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-26142DiVA: diva2:370474
Public defence
2010-12-17, E1, Osquars Backe 2, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2010-11-24 Created: 2010-11-16 Last updated: 2010-11-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. On the importance of tightening feedback loops for sustainable development of food systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the importance of tightening feedback loops for sustainable development of food systems
2005 (English)In: Food Policy, ISSN 0306-9192, E-ISSN 1873-5657, Vol. 30, no 2, 224-239 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the process of searching for sustainable trajectories in the food system, this paper reviews and discusses the importance of tightening feedback loops between ecosystems, actors in the food production chain and consumers. Intensification, specialization, distancing, concentration and homogenization are trends identified as major constraints for tightened feedback loops. These trends can mask or make it possible to disregard feedback signals from unhealthy ecosystems and weaken communication in the food chain. We explore possibilities for improved feedback management on local to global scales and present examples where feedback loops have been tightened. Enhanced communication between the actors in the food system and consciousness of ecological feedback, through e.g., increased reliance on local resources, are possibilities for improvement. However, where distances between resource and resource user are too large, feedback has to be directed through institutions on an overarching level, e.g., policy measures or environmental and social labelling of products.

Keyword
feedback, food system, management, agriculture, ecosystem, society
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25752 (URN)10.1016/j.foodpol.2005.02.003 (DOI)000230636700007 ()2-s2.0-21444461130 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2010-10-29 Created: 2010-10-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
2. Farmers’ markets – linking food consumption and the ecology of food production?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Farmers’ markets – linking food consumption and the ecology of food production?
2010 (English)In: Local Environment: the International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, ISSN 1354-9839, E-ISSN 1469-6711, Vol. 15, no 5, 453-465 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Urban and industrialised societies usually involve little connection between consumers and the resource base upon which the production of goods depends. Changing this situation could potentially enhance social and ecological sustainability. This study explored ecological aspects of the educational role of local food supply, with the aim of identifying signs of enhanced consumer understanding or awareness of the ecology of food production resulting from producer-consumer interaction. A series of qualitative interviews were carried out with customers at a farmers' market in Stockholm. The results showed that the interviewees were mainly concerned with quality, price and taste, and not production conditions. In addition, a number of interviewees experienced a sense of trust when shopping at the market. We found few examples of contributions to ecological knowledge among customers at the market, but there were some examples of learning opportunities. The local food supplied by the market reminded customers of the seasonality of production. Stallholders also provided information on how to store, prepare and cook vegetables, which may encourage a change in diet that is preferable from an environmental standpoint.

Keyword
local food, farmers' markets, consumer, food production, ecological knowledge
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25754 (URN)10.1080/13549831003735411 (DOI)2-s2.0-77953142831 (Scopus ID)
Note
Q 20101124Available from: 2010-10-29 Created: 2010-10-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
3. Experiences of the development and use of scenarios for evaluating Swedish national environmental objectives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Experiences of the development and use of scenarios for evaluating Swedish national environmental objectives
Show others...
2011 (English)In: Futures: The journal of policy, planning and futures studies, ISSN 0016-3287, E-ISSN 1873-6378, Vol. 43, no 1, 1-15 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of the present paper is to present and evaluate a method for encouraging long-term thinking and considerations of a variety of scenarios in environmental policy processes. The Swedish environmental policy is based on 16 environmental objectives that national authorities are responsible for. They are evaluated annually and also in-depth every fourth year. Here we describe and explore a futures study project for introducing a more long-term thinking in the work with the environmental objectives, tested in the in-depth evaluation 2008. An experience was that it is difficult to design a collective scenario work in a case with a wide variety of objectives and with individuals with different backgrounds. However, this difficulty makes it even more important to incorporate futures studies in authorities work. Scenario work is often subcontracted, leading to a constant lack of futures studies competence and thinking at the authorities. Another experience is that despite the difficulties, experts at the authorities did start thinking more in terms of opportunities with futures studies. A general conclusion from the work was that there is an interest and need for futures studies at the authorities in charge of the environmental objectives. The possibly most important conclusion from this project was that the authorities need to build up their own competences in futures studies.

National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25756 (URN)10.1016/j.futures.2010.02.005 (DOI)000287888000001 ()2-s2.0-78650989846 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20101124

Available from: 2010-10-29 Created: 2010-10-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
4. Use of explorative scenarios in environmental policy making: Evaluation of policy instruments for management of land, water and the built environment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Use of explorative scenarios in environmental policy making: Evaluation of policy instruments for management of land, water and the built environment
2010 (English)In: Futures: The journal of policy, planning and futures studies, ISSN 0016-3287, E-ISSN 1873-6378, Vol. 42, no 10, 1166-1175 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In order to achieve the Swedish Environmental Quality Objectives (EQOs), three action strategies have been adopted by the Swedish parliament. The strategy addressed in this paper deals with the management of land, water and the built environment. The paper reports on a project involving authorities and researchers in which policy measures required for achieving relevant targets for the strategy were gathered, structured and analysed regarding their potential assuming alternative futures. Measures with proposed policy instruments were qualitatively evaluated against one business as usual scenario and four explorative scenarios varying along two dimensions; level of governance and level of embeddedness. The results show a heavy predominance of administrative policy instruments. This policy strategy depends on a future development where such policy instruments are accepted. In order to achieve the EQOs regardless of future developments, more robust packages of measures including a larger variation in policy instruments need to be developed.

Keyword
Explorative scenarios, Environmental objectives, Policy measures
National Category
Civil Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25757 (URN)10.1016/j.futures.2010.06.002 (DOI)000285823100017 ()2-s2.0-78649698021 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124 Uppdaterad från In press till Published (20110317).Available from: 2010-10-29 Created: 2010-10-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
5. Decreased energy use in buildings by 50% by 2050: a backcasting study using stakeholder groups
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Decreased energy use in buildings by 50% by 2050: a backcasting study using stakeholder groups
2011 (English)In: Technological forecasting & social change, ISSN 0040-1625, E-ISSN 1873-5509, Vol. 78, no 5, 785-796 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper describes a backcasting study focusing on fulfilment of a national target to decrease energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings by 50% by 2050 compared with the consumption in 1995, and identifying possible measures for achieving it. A method based on a combination of backcasting methodology and focus group methodology was used. Two different scenarios were developed. They were used in discussions with stakeholders in the building sector, to explore and identify measures and actors important for target fulfillment. The main outcomes were ideas for strategies and measures needed to achieve the target. The current potential for target fulfilment was also analysed and discussed. The discussions in the different stakeholder groups were mainly concerned with changes in attitude and behaviour and the need for radical changes in social structures. For example, enhanced communication between actors in the building chain, and the need for relevant feedback in order to illustrate the link between the effort in decreasing energy use and actual outcome. The findings suggest that there is sufficient technical potential to achieve the target by 2050 but that this potential will not be realised to a sufficient extent. Achieving the target would be facilitated by policy that is oriented more towards identifying actors with direct influence to promote change. An analysis of incentives for these actors to act, and how different actors can cooperate for energy-efficient solutions should be integrated into the process of suggesting and implementing policy measures.

Keyword
Backcasting, Buildings, Energy use, Focus groups, Stakeholders, Policy measures
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25758 (URN)10.1016/j.techfore.2010.09.005 (DOI)000291139100004 ()2-s2.0-79955465234 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124 Uppdaterad från In press till Published (20110701)Available from: 2010-10-29 Created: 2010-10-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved

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