Hamid R. Ekbia and Tom P. Evans
Socio-ecological systems are inherently complex. One source of complexity is the uncertainties involved in the decisions and behaviors of human actors that determine how land holdings are managed. Land management decisions are often influenced by diverse factors and considerations. Particularly significant among these are 1) the sources of information land managers utilize with their perceived quality, reliability, and accessibility, 2) the social networks of the decision maker with their pertinent history, appeal, and authority; and 3) the interests, resources, and prior experiences of individual decision makers. This degree of diversity and uncertainty gives rise to behaviors that cannot be entirely explained in terms of rational choice or any variation thereof. How can we best understand and explain these behaviors, as spatial but also social and informational, in land-use decision-making? This paper presents the case of land management in a county in the Midwest United States to develop a conceptual model of decision making of environmental resources in socio-ecological systems. This model conceives environmental decision making as a multivalent process that operates on the basis of different “regimes of worth,” incorporating not only the economic value of outcomes but also other personal and social values within different worlds or polities. These worlds, in turn, incorporate particular “regimes of information” based on particular higher principles that they uphold. The paper examines these regimes, provides examples of what constitutes information in each regimes, and explores the management and policy implications of this framework.
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