A Pragmatist Epistemology for Adaptive Management

  • Bryan G. Norton
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 3)


While many authors have lamented the apparent ambiguity of the term, “sustainability”, the idea does have an unquestionable core meaning. Sustainability has to do with concern for the future and with the obligations of earlier generations to steward resources and resource-generating systems for the benefit of the future. This core concern for the future implies that actions in the present may harm people in the future; it also implies that actors in the present can reasonably believe that some of their actions will be harmful - or at least risky - to the future and that other actions can be considered benign. Nobody, of course, can be certain of such judgments - and dealing with uncertainty must therefore be an important part of any planning for the future - but it is also important to acknowledge that a commitment to act to protect the interests of future people entails some ability to identify and evaluate future consequences of present actions. In this essay I set out to sketch an epistemology that is adequate to the challenge of providing a basis for judging current actions to be sustainable or not sustainable, and for addressing the uncertainties that inevitably constrain any attempt at living sustainably.


Social Learning Belief System Adaptive Management Cultural Evolution Limited Realism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

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  • Bryan G. Norton

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