This special issue in the International Journal of the Commons furthers the study of natural resource management from a critical institutional perspective. Critical institutionalism (CI) is a contemporary body of thought that explores how institutions dynamically mediate relationships between people, natural resources and society. It focuses on the complexity of institutions entwined in everyday social life, their historical formation, the interplay between formal and informal, traditional and modern arrangements, and the power relations that animate them. In such perspectives a social justice lens is often used to scrutinise the outcomes of institutional processes. We argue here that critical institutional approaches have potentially much to offer, particularly through the explanatory power of the concept of bricolage for better understanding institutional change.
Scientific knowledge on climate change has always been an important source of information for policy makers. The amount of warming up, the rise of the waterlevels, the changes in ecosystems are all factors that need to be carefully researched and looked at. All this research has resulted in some important changes in forest and nature conservation and policies such as Natura 2000 (Europe’s largest network of nature areas).
Although change is happening at the policy side of the story, we still do not see much change in the actual practices of people managing the forests and ecosystems. It appears as if there is still a great mismatch between what scientist say about the effects of climate change and what forest managers do about it.
Forest managers, in contrary to scientists, seem much more sceptical about the possibility to actually do something about climate change. Climate change is still very abstract and even though people do see changes in their forests because of climate change, they still wonder how to adapt their normal management practices to it. Should they cut less trees? Should they try to keep certain species in certain places even though rises in temperatures may make this extremely difficult? Do they plant different trees? Overall, they struggle with translating the often big conclusions of climate scientists into practical recommendations. In the end, there are reservations about the usefullness and practical applicability of scientific knowledge.
But this does not mean that there is no room for improvement. The link between scientific knowledge and practice is not as politicised as for example the link between scientific knowledge and policy. Often, policy makers have to balance knowledge and a political agenda which makes the exchange between the two a political process. This is not the case between science and practice. There is a potential for experimentation and monitoring that allows forest managers to bring their expertise and input to the table. This means that the general role of science in the climate change debate becomes different and will be mixed with non scientific knowledge. But in the end, it will most likely have a far better impact on forest management practices and ultimately will lead to more sustainable and better adapted forest management.
See for more information: J. de Koning, et al. (2014) Managing climate change in conservation practice:an exploration of the science–management interface in beech forest management.
As of 1 September 2013, I am the new coordinator for the REDD+ research network at the Wageningen University. This network is known as REDD@WUR.
Over 80 researchers at the Wageningen University are working on REDD+ related issues and this network is in need of further development. My tasks for the coming years will be to identify the key assets of this network for the Wageningen University and the outside world.
Put Wageningen University as REDD expert on the map so to say.
See for more information: www.wageningenur.nl/redd
To save the forests of the Amazon, countries have been designing new rules, laws and mechanisms. But the effect of these rules are not always good and local people living in the forests respond to them in a unpredictable manner.
My article “Unpredictable outcomes in Forestry” explains more about how local people deal with new rules and how all the attempts to better protect the forest on paper, turn out differently in practice.