Environmental governance systems are under greater pressure to adapt and to cope with increased social and ecological uncertainty from stressors like climate change. UB’s Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah has reviewed principles of social cognition and decision making that shape and constrain how environmental governance systems adapt.
In “Understanding and Applying Principles of Social Decision Making in Adaptive Environmental Governance and Environmental Law” published in Ecology and Society, the authors focus primarily on the interplay between key decision makers in society and legal systems. They argue that adaptive governance must overcome three cooperative dilemmas to facilitate adaptation: (1) encouraging collaborative problem solving, (2) garnering social acceptance and commitment, and (3) cultivating a culture of trust and tolerance for change and uncertainty. However, to do so governance systems must cope with biases in people’s decision making that cloud their judgment and create conflict. These systems must also satisfy people’s fundamental needs for self-determination, fairness, and security, ensuring that changes to environmental governance are perceived as legitimate, trustworthy, and acceptable. They discuss the implications of these principles for common governance solutions (e.g., public participation, enforcement) and conclude with methodological recommendations. They outline how scholars can investigate the social cognitive principles involved in cases of adaptive governance.
These principles of social cognition and decision making for adaptive environmental governance were based on a study of six North American water basins, Columbia, Platte, Klamath, Anacostia, Middle Rio Grande, and Everglades. Ongoing projects look at how these principles could be turned into an assessment tool to diagnose the adaptive capacity of an environmental governance system in both U.S. and international contexts.
DeCaro, D., Arnold, T., Frimpong Boamah, E., and Garmestani, A (2017). Understanding and Applying Principles of Social Decision Making in Adaptive Environmental Governance and Environmental Law. Ecology and Society.