The Local Environmental Observer (LEO) network is a tool that could be used as an information feedback mechanism. Observations made by public participants point to the value of creating an engaged and inclusive communities that support input from scientific experts. Collaboration mechanisms like public participation in scientific research (PPSR) is recognized as a beneficial system for data input in monitoring ecological change, restoration initiatives, and early detection systems. Shirk et al. (2012) describes the outcomes of PPSR as a powerful concept in the fields of conservation and resource management where actions must respond to social-ecological needs.
Focusing on community resilience and adaptive capacity to inevitable ecological change requires a shift in value orientation and understanding of our interaction with the natural environment. This shift is described by Opstal and Hugé (2013) as one which shifts our perceptions on scientific knowledge and sustainable development from the current hierarchy based, technological determinism. In the case of PPSR new information can create collaborate approaches to redefining sustainability and connecting shared goals among stakeholders.
Utilizing this type of collaborative approach is quite common in TEK where selected groups such as elders or harvesters are assigned the task of monitoring and participating in assessing ecosystem changes. There is an increasingly urgent need to include this type of learning in the design of projects and reorganize current social-economic systems to include the fundamental principles imbedded in TEK to help analyze and solve our collective environmental problems (Menzies, 2006).
Social-Ecological World View
In the case study The Cook Inlet Chinook fishery (Loring et al. 2013) worldviews differed and interpretation of sustainability was a subjective definition that depended on interest group alignment. However, all interest groups relied on the same complex ecosystem and valued achieving a sustainable approach. Sustainable Development is a constructed worldview that consciously aims at reconciling the diversity of worldviews within its paradigm (Opstal and Hugé, 2013).
Using PPSR is crucial to building collaborative and inclusive systems that aim to use scientific knowledge as a tool to address concerns of a larger set of stakeholder opinions. The Cook Inlet case study revealed societal goals are shared. Environmental exploitation can be avoided by reconnecting people’s perceptions and values back to the dynamics of the biosphere and broader societal goals (Chapin et al., 2009).
Opstal and Hugé (2013) recognize connections between worldview transformation and local visions can be the basis for participatory decision making. Utilizing connections such as PPSR can aid to local action and lead a change in social consciousness that brings about resilient communities.
In recognition of the important role the biosphere plays in sustainability a shift in worldview is required. The adoption of collaborative systems that include the biosphere as a focal point in decision making recognizes the successes of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in that it is largely dependent on social mechanisms (Berkes et al., 2010). The challenge presented in this transformational change toward sustainability means surpassing the cognitive limits of human ingenuity and addressing unexpected consequences of innovation (Westley et al., 2010).
Innovation pushes the limits of human ingenuity and highlights the need to utilize a system that follows a less eurocentric worldview. Learning as a society to build resilient systems that follow examples taken from TEK. There is an increasing need to recognize the environment as a valuable and complex system that is symbiotic to our social and economic health. Changing this view requires a drive from global policy makers and local action through support networks such as PPSRs.
Furthermore, a biosphere-based worldview requires government and managers to adopt supportive systems that rely connecting socio-ecological factors. Utilizing citizen science is a key input driver but also designing for the environment so that future challenges can be met with adaptive responses. Folke et al. (2005) describe a system of adaptive co-management t in which the dynamic learning characteristic of adaptive management is combined with the linkage characteristic of cooperative management.
The co-management problem-solving process involves sharing power across varying levels of authority and the collaboration of diverse set of stakeholders acting through multiple linkages. Ecological information being used to feed management decisions in a framework of cooperative governance.
A connected web of engaged public actors can be the catalyst for such a transformation that utilizes existing systems such as PPSRs to provide feedback loops in adaptive systems. In similarity to traditional indigenous systems the emphasis on feedback learning and collaboration will be fundamentally important to addressing challenges posed by the Anthropocene.
Berkes, F., Colding, J., & Folke, C. (2000). Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management. Ecological Applications, 10(5), 1251-1262. doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[1251:ROTEKA]2.0.CO;2
Brightsmith, D. J., Stronza, A., & Holle, K. (2008). Ecotourism, conservation biology, and volunteer tourism: A mutually beneficial triumvirate. Biological Conservation, 141(11), 2832-2842.
Chapin, F.S., Carpenter, S.R., Kofinas, G.P., Folke, C., Abel, N., Clark, W.C., Olsson, P. Smith, D.M.S., Walker, B., Young, O., Berkes, F., Biggs, R., Grove, J.M. Naylor, R.L., Pinkerton, E., Steffen, W. & Swanson, F.J. (2009). Ecosystem stewardship: sustainability strategies for a rapidly changing planet, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 25,4, 241-249.
Folke, C., R. Biggs, A. V. Norström, B. Reyers, and J. Rockström.
2016. Social-ecological resilience and biosphere-based sustainability
science. Ecology and Society 21(3):41.
Folke, C., Hahn, T., Olsson, P., & Norberg, J. (2005). Adaptive Governance of Social-Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Environment & Resources, 30(1).
Menzies, C. (2006). Traditional ecological knowledge and natural resource management. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Shirk, J. L., Ballard, H. L., Wilderman, C. C., Phillips, T., Wiggins, A., Jordan, R., … & Bonney, R. (2012). Public participation in scientific research: a framework for deliberate design. Ecology and Society, 17(2).
Silvertown, J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(9), 467-471. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.017
Van Opstal, M., & Hugé, J. (2013). Knowledge for sustainable development: a worldviews perspective. Environment, development and sustainability, 15(3), 687-709. Westley, F., P. Olsson, C. Folke, T. Homer-Dixon, H. Vredenburg, D. Loorbach, J. Thompson, M. Nilsson, E. Lambin, J. Sendzimir, B. Banarjee, V. Galaz, and S. van der Leeuw. 2011. Tipping toward sustainability: emerging pathways of transformation. Ambio 40:762-780. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13280-011-0186-9