The PISA grammar decodes diverse human–environment approaches

Article publié dans Global Environmental Change 34: 159-171, 2015, avec François Bousquet, Olivier Bonato et Paul Robbins.

Résumé

Human–environment interactions are studied by several groups of scholars who have elaborated different approaches to describe, analyze, and explain these interactions, and eventually propose paths for management. The SETER project (Socio-Ecological Theories and Empirical Research) analyzed and compared how “flag-holders” of distinct school of thought in human–environment scholarship approached a number of empirical problems of environmental management. This paper presents the findings from this experiment by concentrating on how representatives of four schools of thought approached one of these case studies: the plant health crisis in greenhouse tomato production in south of France. Our analysis suggests that these approaches share a common conceptual vocabulary composed of four explanatory elements of change (Power, Incentives, System and Adaptation-PISA). We argue that what distinguishes these schools from one another is the syntax—the “rules” by which researchers in each of the sub-disciplines tend to organize the components of this shared conceptual vocabulary. In other words, the schools under scrutiny are differentiated not so much by what they speak of, but rather in what order, or hierarchy, do they tend to rank the importance and/or the sequence of each of these concepts in human–environment explanations. The results of our experiment support the view that communication and cooperation across the diverse human–environment traditions is possible and productive. At the same time, however, we argue that it is the distinctiveness of the claims yielded by these different schools of thought that augment our collective understanding of complex socio-ecological problems. Attempts to integrate these perspectives in one unitary approach would undermine the intellectual wealth necessary to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene.

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