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Special Issue "Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2021) | Viewed by 12617

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Kristof Van Assche
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Earth and Atmospheric Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
2. ZEF/ Center for Development Research, Bonn University, Bonn, Germany
Interests: governance; environmental policy; spatial planning and design; development studies; natural resources; institutional design; innovation; transition; resilience
Dr. Monica Gruezmacher Rosas
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Interests: natural resources; development; local knowledge; governance; biodiversity; participation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to invite you to contribute to our upcoming Special Issue in Sustainability on evolutionary perspectives on environmental policy and governance.

We are open to contributions from many different disciplines, which is particularly fitting, as evolutionary perspectives on economics, geography, development, sociology, policy, politics, and administration have proliferated over the years but have often lost contact.

One contribution that this Special Issue aims to achieve is the re-linking of evolutionary perspectives mushrooming across disciplines, fostering a productive discussion that could lead to a new synthesis. Another contribution is the further development of applications of evolutionary perspectives to issues of natural resource governance and environmental policy and governance.

We are open to theoretical papers and case studies, qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and, especially, a diversity of theories that give a place to concepts of co-evolution in the analysis of environmental policy and governance and in the articulation of policy. Theoretical development is encouraged, and we draw attention to diverse theories, which can serve as inspiration for such endeavours; these include historical institutionalism, evolutionary governance theory, evolutionary economics, evolutionary geography, systems theories, post- structuralism, institutional economics, and others.

The Special Issue will be especially productive in that we encourage theoretical development that crosses disciplines, combines methods, grasps empirical situations and evolutions, and draws out implications for sustainable development. This does not all have to be achieved in each individual paper: papers can focus on empirical situations, on recent or more ancient histories, on policy for a single resource, on communities dependent on a variety of resources, and on absence of resources, as long as there is a component of theoretical development or engagement with evolutionary perspectives. Depending on the response, we will consider a final forum contribution, where the contributors (not just the editors) draw out conclusions and discuss pros and cons of different evolutionary approaches, as well as possibilities and limits of synthesis, in the spirit of classic systems theorist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, one of the early but not often acknowledged advocates of sustainability thinking.

Dr. Kristof Van Assche
Dr. Monica Gruezmacher Rosas
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • environmental policy
  • governance
  • natural resources
  • co-evolution
  • development

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Why Governance Is Never Perfect: Co-Evolution in Environmental Policy and Governance
Sustainability 2022, 14(15), 9441; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14159441 - 01 Aug 2022
Viewed by 771
Abstract
This Special Issue explores evolutionary perspectives on environmental policy and governance [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)

Research

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Article
Relating Social and Ecological Resilience: Dutch Citizen’s Initiatives for Biodiversity
Sustainability 2022, 14(7), 3857; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14073857 - 24 Mar 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1485
Abstract
Social resilience and ecological resilience are related and distinguished, and the potential of social resilience to enhance resilience of encompassing social-ecological systems is discussed. The value of resilience thinking is recognized, yet social resilience needs to be better understood in its distinctive qualities, [...] Read more.
Social resilience and ecological resilience are related and distinguished, and the potential of social resilience to enhance resilience of encompassing social-ecological systems is discussed. The value of resilience thinking is recognized, yet social resilience needs to be better understood in its distinctive qualities, while resisting identification of social resilience with one particular form of governance or organization. Emerging self-organizing citizen’s initiatives in The Netherlands, initiatives involving re-relating to nature in the living environment, are analyzed, using a systems theoretical framework which resists reduction of nature to culture or vice versa. It is argued that space for self-organization needs to be cultivated, that local self-organization and mobilization around themes of nature in daily life and space have the potential to re-link social and ecological systems in a more resilient manner, yet that maintaining the diversity of forms of knowing and organizing in the overall governance system is essential to the maintenance of social resilience and of diverse capacities to know human-environment relations and to reorganize them in an adaptive manner. Conclusions are drawn in the light of the new Biodiversity Strategy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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Article
The Importance of a Natural Social Contract and Co-Evolutionary Governance for Sustainability Transitions
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 2976; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052976 - 03 Mar 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2819
Abstract
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic offers an opportunity for dealing with persistent problems, through a transformative recovery process. It is a crisis that offers opportunities for dealing with three interrelated crises: the ecological crisis (climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, pollution [...] Read more.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic offers an opportunity for dealing with persistent problems, through a transformative recovery process. It is a crisis that offers opportunities for dealing with three interrelated crises: the ecological crisis (climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, pollution and ecosystem destruction), the confidence crisis (people losing trust in government, politics, companies, regular news channels, science, each other and the future), and the inequality crisis (the widening of the gap between rich and poor). Our argument is that sustainability transitions will not succeed without a different economy and another social contract with rights and duties of care for the environment and the well-being of others, including future generations. A different social contract is not only desirable from the point of view of sustainability and fairness, and justice and equality, but it is also necessary to restore citizens’ trust in politics, government, companies and each other. In the paper we discuss mechanisms towards a Natural Social Contract: systemic leverage points for system transformations and possibilities for co-evolutionary governance by actor coalitions interested in transformative change. The combination of those three elements helps to synchronize different agendas and reduce the chance that they will work against each other. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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Article
Regional Cooperation in Waste Management: Examining Australia’s Experience with Inter-municipal Cooperative Partnerships
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1578; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031578 - 29 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1713
Abstract
Effective governance and inter-organisational cooperation is key to progressing Australia’s journey toward the circular economy. At the local governance level, inter-municipal cooperative partnerships in waste management (‘IMC-WM’ partnerships) are a widespread phenomenon throughout Australia, and the world. This paper aims to analyse waste [...] Read more.
Effective governance and inter-organisational cooperation is key to progressing Australia’s journey toward the circular economy. At the local governance level, inter-municipal cooperative partnerships in waste management (‘IMC-WM’ partnerships) are a widespread phenomenon throughout Australia, and the world. This paper aims to analyse waste management in Australia through a governance perspective and inaugurate the scholarship on understanding the complex interactions between actors and institutions designed for regional cooperation. To this end, we explore the partnerships’ institutional characteristics, joint activity outputs and the internal relations observed between participants. Data were collected through a nationwide census survey of Australia’s IMC–WM partnerships and a short online questionnaire to the municipal policy actors (councillors, executives and council officers) who participate in them. The investigation observes that a diversity of innovative institutional responses has emerged in Australia. However, within these partnerships, a culture of competitiveness antithetical to sustainability is also detected. Despite competitive behaviours, the partnerships perform very well in cultivating goodwill, trust, reciprocity and other social capital values among their participants—as well as a strong appreciation of the complexity of municipal solid waste (MSW) policy and the virtues of regional cooperation. This dissonance in attitudes and engagement dynamics, it is suggested, can be explained by considering the cultural-cognitive influence of broader neoliberalist paradigms. As the first scholarly investigation into Australia’s experience with regional cooperation in waste management, this research reveals the macro-level structures and ascendent micro-institutional dynamics shaping the phenomenon. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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Article
To See, or Not to See, That Is the Question: Studying Dutch Experimentalist Energy Transition Governance through an Evolutionary Lens
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1540; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031540 - 28 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1644
Abstract
Experimentalist forms of governance have burgeoned across policy areas and institutional contexts in recent years. Recognizing that experimentalist forms of governance can evolve along a plethora of distinct pathways, this paper inquires how the evolutionary nature of experimentalism can be explored in greater [...] Read more.
Experimentalist forms of governance have burgeoned across policy areas and institutional contexts in recent years. Recognizing that experimentalist forms of governance can evolve along a plethora of distinct pathways, this paper inquires how the evolutionary nature of experimentalism can be explored in greater depth. Linking the framework of experimentalist governance to that of Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT), the paper identifies three driving mechanisms of contingency in experimentalism: governance being (1) self-referential, (2) rooted in observation, and (3) steered by dependencies. The paper then refers to recent efforts in the realm of energy transition governance in the Netherlands to illustrate how these contingency mechanisms can help to interrogate the variegated evolutionary pathways that experimentalist governance may have in practice. Building on this Dutch empirical context, the paper puts forward evolutionary path- and context-mapping as a fruitful tool for identifying and disentangling the myriad of pathways along which experimentalism may manifest itself. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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Article
Shock and Conflict in Social-Ecological Systems: Implications for Environmental Governance
Sustainability 2022, 14(2), 610; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14020610 - 06 Jan 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1300
Abstract
In this paper, we present a framework for the analysis of shock and conflict in social-ecological systems and investigate the implications of this perspective for the understanding of environmental governance, particularly its evolutionary patterns and drivers. We dwell on the distinction between shock [...] Read more.
In this paper, we present a framework for the analysis of shock and conflict in social-ecological systems and investigate the implications of this perspective for the understanding of environmental governance, particularly its evolutionary patterns and drivers. We dwell on the distinction between shock and conflict. In mapping the relation between shock and conflict, we invoke a different potentiality for altering rigidity and flexibility in governance; different possibilities for recall, revival and trauma; and different pathways for restructuring the relation between governance, community and environment. Shock and conflict can be both productive and eroding, and for each, one can observe that productivity can be positive or negative. These different effects in governance can be analyzed in terms of object and subject creation, path creation and in terms of the dependencies recognized by evolutionary governance theory: path, inter-, goal and material dependencies. Thus, shock and conflict are mapped in their potential consequences to not only shift a path of governance, but also to transform the pattern of self-transformation in such path. Finally, we reflect on what this means for the interpretation of adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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Other

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Perspective
Evolutionary Perspectives on Environmental Governance: Strategy and the Co-Construction of Governance, Community, and Environment
Sustainability 2022, 14(16), 9912; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14169912 - 11 Aug 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 735
Abstract
The attention to sustainability transformations and related processes of learning, innovation, and adaptation has inspired a growing interest in theories that help to grasp the processes of change in governance. This perspective paper and the Special Issue of which it is part explore [...] Read more.
The attention to sustainability transformations and related processes of learning, innovation, and adaptation has inspired a growing interest in theories that help to grasp the processes of change in governance. This perspective paper and the Special Issue of which it is part explore how evolutionary perspectives on environmental governance can enrich our understanding of the possibilities and limits of environmental policy and planning. The aim of this paper is to highlight some key notions for an evolutionary understanding of governance theory and to show how such an evolutionary perspective can help to develop a more integrated perspective on environmental governance in which the temporal dimension and the effects of steering attempts play a pivotal role. It is argued that the effects of environmental governance on the material environment, community, and governance itself must be considered in their interrelation. Such insight in couplings and co-evolutions can be of great value in the everyday practice of environmental policy and governance and even more so when attempting to transform the governance system towards more ambitious and coordinated goals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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Perspective
Evolutionary Perspectives on the Commons: A Model of Commonisation and Decommonisation
Sustainability 2022, 14(7), 4300; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074300 - 05 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 825
Abstract
Commons (or common-pool resources) are inherently dynamic. Factors that appear to contribute to the evolution of a stable commons regime at one time and place may undergo change that results in the collapse of the commons at another. The factors involved can be [...] Read more.
Commons (or common-pool resources) are inherently dynamic. Factors that appear to contribute to the evolution of a stable commons regime at one time and place may undergo change that results in the collapse of the commons at another. The factors involved can be very diverse. Economic, social, environmental and political conditions and various drivers may lead to commonisation, a process through which a resource is converted into a joint-use regime under commons institutions and collective action. Conversely, they may lead to decommonisation, a process through which a commons loses these essential characteristics. Evolution through commonisation may be manifested as adaptation or fine-tuning over time. They may instead result in the replacement of one kind of property rights regime by another, as in the enclosure movement in English history that resulted in the conversion of sheep grazing commons into privatized agricultural land. These processes of change can be viewed from an evolutionary perspective using the concepts of commonisation and decommonisation, and theorized as a two-way process over time, with implications for the sustainability of joint resources from local to global. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Policy and Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives)
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