Environment and Development Economics



Policy Forum

Resilience in natural and socioeconomic systems


SIMON A. LEVIN a1, SCOTT BARRETT a2, SARA ANIYAR a3, WILLIAM BAUMOL a4, CHRISTOPHER BLISS a5, BERT BOLIN a6, PARTHA DASGUPTA a7, PAUL EHRLICH a8, CARL FOLKE a9a10, ING-MARIE GREN a10, C.S. HOLLING a11, ANNMARI JANSSON a9, BENGT-OWE JANSSON a9, KARL-GÖRAN MÄLER a10, DAN MARTIN a12, CHARLES PERRINGS a13 and EYTAN SHESHINSKI a14
a1 Department of Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology, Princetown University, Princetown, NJ 08544, United States
a2 London Business School, Sussex Place, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4SA, United Kingdom
a3 Facultad de Ciecias Economicas y Sociales, Universidad del Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela
a4 C V Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University, 269 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10003, United States
a5 Institute of Economics and Statistics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3UL, United Kingdom
a6 Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
a7 Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, Sidwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DD, United Kingdom
a8 Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford CA 994305, United States
a9 Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
a10 Beijer Institute, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, PO Box 50005, S 104 05 Stockholm, Sweden
a11 Department of Zoology, University of Florida, 111 Bartram Hall, PO Box 118525 Gainesville, FL 32611-8525, United States
a12 The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 140 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60603, USA
a13 Environment Department, University of York, Heslington, York, YO1 5DD, United Kingdom
a14 Department of Economics, The Hebrew University, of Jerusalem, 20 Tura Street, Yemin Moshe, Jerusalem 91905, Israel

Abstract

We, as a society, find ourselves confronted with a spectrum of potentially catastrophic and irreversible environmental problems, for which conventional approaches will not suffice in providing solutions. These problems are characterized, above all, by their unpredictability. This means that surprise is to be expected, and that sudden qualitative shifts in dynamics present serious problems for management. In general, it is difficult to detect strong signals of change early enough to motivate effective solutions, or even to develop scientific consensus on a time scale rapid enough to allow effective solution. Furthermore, such signals, even when detected, are likely to be displaced in space or sector from the source, so that the motivation for action is small. Conventional market mechanisms thus will be inadequate to address these challenges.