A Systems Approach to Environmental Management: It's Not Easy Being Green

A Systems Approach to Environmental Management: It's Not Easy Being Green

A Systems Approach to Environmental Management: It's Not Easy Being Green

A Systems Approach to Environmental Management: It's Not Easy Being Green


Human activities increasingly dominate the global environment. Effective environmental management, to use, conserve and maintain natural capital is a major challenge worldwide.
Managing the environment involves juggling a complex set of ecological economic and social objectives and priorities which differ nationally locally and regionally. Internationally there is a shift away from management on a sectoral basis toward a more holistic "Ecosystem Approach". Tim O'Higgins defines and describes a systems approach to environmental management. He explains a framework for analysis of environmental problems as social/ecological systems using fascinating examples from around the globe. This book combines expertise from the fields of ecology, economics and social sciences to provide an invaluable guide to the theory and practice of an ecosystem approach to management.
The book is an invaluable source of information for lay-people as well as students of natural resource management or practitioners in the field.


All human activity, every meal, every breath, has environmental consequences. Understanding the consequences of our actions is vital to understanding (and correcting) our relationship with nature. In an era of globalization, where supply chains snake across borders and goods and services may be produced or consumed practically anywhere on the planet, tracing the impacts of individual actions on the Earth’s ecosystems is becoming increasingly difficult. Managing them is even more complex. Some of our activities can be changed and adapted; food can be obtained from alternative sources or by alternative techniques; others, like breathing (which contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere) are fundamental to our biology.

We are inundated with examples of ecological catastrophes. From climate change to pollution of air and water, depletion of fish stocks or destruction of habitats, losses of biodiversity and extinctions of animals and plants – examples where natural resource management needs to be improved are everywhere. But environmental problems are almost invariably complex. Societies do not set out to cause damage to their surroundings, and economic development is conducted with the goal of improving human welfare. The environmental problems caused by development are usually unintentional, unconsidered, unavoidable or too costly to curtail. Ecological problems are very often economic externalities, that is, their costs are not reflected in the prices of our economic activities. For example, the cost of a river polluted by cattle farming is not included in the price of a hamburger.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are elevated because fossil fuels have been used to drive economic growth. Societies depend on fossil fuels to meet fundamental needs, in the transport of


What to do about global warming and climate change has become the most contentious issue on our planet.

This is strange, given the fact that virtually all climate scientists – between 97 and 99.8 percent of them, depending on which criteria are used – agree that the climate is changing, that this is because of global warming (the planet’s average temperature is rising), and that global warming has been caused almost entirely by greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 (carbon dioxide), which are emitted by fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas.

In spite of this scientific consensus, the issue has become contentious, because the fossil-fuel industries, wanting to prevent government regulations that might decrease their profits, have used their enormous wealth to create a false debate. Even as some of the effects of climate change have become too obvious to deny – such as unprecedented extreme weather, wildfires, and melting glaciers – the fossil-fuel corporations have considered their profits more important than the planet’s welfare. Even after multiple warnings by scientists that climate change now threatens the very survival of civilization, the coal, oil, and natural gas industries show no willingness to accept a reduction of profits simply to save a climate that can support the continuation of human existence.

This book tells the story about what has been going on . . .

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