Conflicting perspectives on ecosystem conservation in a cultivated floodplain: The role of science and the challenge of pluralism in decision making in Lac-Saint Pierre (Québec, Canada)

Ann Lévesque   Additional Authors: Jean-François Bissonnette; Aaron Vansintjan; Jérôme Dupras

By generating and explaining facts, science holds an important role in environmental policy decision-making. However, the science-policy interface often employs a narrow framing for problem-solving. Problem fragmentation is often viewed negatively by neighboring communities since most people have a broader view of the situation. This presentation offers an analysis of a wicked problem in which actions from the science-policy interface were implemented to support the rehabilitation of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in Lac Saint-Pierre (LSP), Quebec (Canada). The rehabilitation efforts led to inequity in the community as well as uncertainty as to the effectiveness of the proposed measures. By mobilizing the concept of post-normal science (PNS), this research sheds light on the various possible causes of this problem, as well as the uncertainties and values that influence the rehabilitation process. In addition, the analysis reveals the different issues raised by users from an environmental justice (EJ) perspective, which includes distributive justice, procedural justice, and recognition. The combination of the EJ framework and PNS offers the possibility of recognizing the importance of the qualitative dimension in the development of knowledge but also underlines the need to address the notion of equity in the development of environmental policies.

The Dual Nature of Sustainability.

Perin Ruttonsha

One of the most significant paradoxes of sustainability is the discontinuity that has arisen between social and ecological systems—or rather, how the development and expansion of social, economic, political, and technological systems has resulted in negative impacts for the planetary web on which they depend, along with the human populations they intend to support. This paradox was at the heart of the Brundtland Commission’s review of key challenges for sustainable development (WCED, 1987). Their critique highlighted how economic development was occurring at the expense of environmental decline, and yet, without managing to achieve the promise of prosperity and equality for all nations (Gibson et al., 2005).

Sustainability as a problem domain is not only complex, rather could be characterized through more than one duality that is unusually difficult to reconcile. For example, some of these include (a) the need to manage short-term targets for sustainable development and climate action, along with long-term visions to repattern broader human ecologies; (b) the effort to protect the natural world against human intervention, while at the same time reconnect with local ecosystems; (c) the interest to maintain positions of socioeconomic status and stability, while simultaneously facilitating critical institutional reform; and, (d) the objective to enable quality of life for diverse populations, while also minimizing the overall ecological footprint of industrial development.

Arguably, this dual nature of sustainability also necessitates two, or more, phases of transition—the first to arrive at a baseline for sustainable development, and the second to reembed socioeconomic within ecological systems—a fast and slow, or short and long, track for systems change.

 People-oriented, Reflexive Models for Change: Proposing (Analog) Games and Game Design as core tools in the Ecological Economist’s Toolkit

Geoff Hill   Additional Authors: Truzaar Dordi, Sophia Sanniti

How might we make the mental models of ecological economics more accessible, transparent, and conducive to social learning and change? Over the past few years, board and tabletop games have become an increasingly popular medium for play, socialization, and education. In contrast to video games, board games fill a niche of requiring less time to play, more accessibility to create, while addressing a concern of digital fatigue among players. Increasingly, these games are being used in both serious and entertaining contexts to address environmental themes.

But that’s only the surface. Games can be thought of as interactive systems models. In this way, research suggests that video games can be a powerful tool of learning and even analysis. This should not come as a surprise as not only has the interest in the field of serious games increased, but games have been used in a military analysis, planning, and education context for the past 200 years – also known as wargaming. First, we propose to take learning from this established field to understand how the play of games can help to communicate ideas, from theory to practice, of ecological economics. Second, we propose that game design as a practice is not only useful to generate these games but that the design process itself can be an effective way to promote understanding and working through problems. Third, we propose that games can be a useful analytical tool in both these contexts. We believe that all three proposals should be made as accessible as possible.

The use of games could improve the cycle of research of learning in the field of ecological economics by encouraging critical questions, clarifying mental models (making them transparent where possible), as well as surfacing and engaging with possible narratives for change. This interactive workshop will involve the formation of a community of practice to further develop this concept. In the workshop, we will share this proposal, use a design thinking process to look for feedback and paths forward, and network (in a distributed fashion) people interested in this space.