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Learning to live with social-ecological complexity: An interpretive analysis of learning in 11 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves
Schultz, Lisen (Stockholm University. Stockholm Resilience Centre)
Juárez Bourke, Alba (Stockholm University. Stockholm Resilience Centre)
D'Armengol, Laia (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals)
Torrents, Pau (Stockholm University. Stockholm Resilience Centre)
Hardardottir, Hildur (Stockholm University. Stockholm Resilience Centre)
Jansson, Annie (Stockholm University. Department of Human Geography)
Mohedano Roldán, Alba (Stockholm University. Department of Political Science)
West, Simon (Stockholm University. Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Date: 2018
Abstract: Learning is considered a means to achieve sustainability in practice and has become a prominent goal of sustainability interventions. In this paper we explore how learning for sustainability is shaped by meaning, interpretation and experience, in the context of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (BRs). The World Network of Biosphere Reserves brings environmental conservation, socio-economic development and research together in 'learning sites for sustainable development. ' The World Network is globally significant, with 669 BRs in 120 countries, but as with many paradigmatic sustainability interventions BRs are perceived to suffer from a 'concept-reality gap. ' We explore this gap from an interpretive perspective, focusing on participant interpretations of the meaning of BRs and their experiences of working with the concept – with the aim of painting a richer picture of learning for sustainability and the ways in which BRs might fulfil their role as learning sites. We provide a cross-case analysis of learning in 11 BRs around the world, drawing on interviews with 177 participants, and ask: How is the BR concept interpreted and enacted by people involved with BR work? What learning emerges through BR work, as described by those involved? We find that the BR concept is interpreted differently in each location, producing distinct expectations, practices and institutional designs. Learning occurs around common themes – human-environment relationships, actors and governance arrangements, and skills to navigate BR work – but is expressed very differently in each BR. The position of BRs 'in between' social, ecological and economic goals; local places and global networks; and government, private and civil society sectors, provides a valuable space for participants to learn to live with social-ecological complexity. We discuss our results in terms of their contribution to three pressing concerns in sustainability science: (i) power and politics in learning for sustainability, (ii) intermediaries and bridging organizations in multi-level governance, and (iii) reflexivity and knowledge-action relationships. Our comparative hermeneutic approach makes a novel methodological contribution to interpretive studies of sustainability policy and governance.
Note: Unidad de excelencia María de Maeztu MdM-2015-0552
Rights: Aquest document està subjecte a una llicència d'ús Creative Commons. Es permet la reproducció total o parcial i la comunicació pública de l'obra, sempre que no sigui amb finalitats comercials, i sempre que es reconegui l'autoria de l'obra original. No es permet la creació d'obres derivades. Creative Commons
Language: Anglès.
Document: article ; recerca ; acceptedVersion
Subject: Comparative case study ; Qualitative ; Bridging organizations ; Sustainability science ; Multi-level governance ; Science-policy interface
Published in: Global Environmental Change, Vol. 50, (May 2018) , p. 75-87, ISSN 0959-3780 42

DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.03.001

Available from: 2021-05-31

The record appears in these collections:
Research literature > UAB research groups literature > Research Centres and Groups (scientific output) > Experimental sciences > Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA)
Articles > Research articles
Articles > Published articles

 Record created 2018-06-12, last modified 2019-07-29

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