Cracking the egg : how a nested framework illuminates the challenges of comparative environmental analysis
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Stratospheric ozone loss is on course to become a solved environmental problem, with all significant producing countries (including China and India) undertaking complete phaseouts of ozone-depleting substances. The universal concurrence and speed with which ozone loss has been addressed are sometimes heralded as signs that effective international agreements on other problems of the global commons are just around the corner. But progress on many other issues has been strikingly limited. Is ozone the exception, rather than the rule, and if so why? Here we present one way to illuminate why some environmental problems are more tractable than others by consideration of a “nested” (vs. non-nested) framework. We will refer to nesting as having three components: intellectual, societal, and institutional. Intellectual nesting refers to the academic communities that study the roots of the problem as well as possible solutions. Societal nesting refers to the sectors of human actors and activities that are associated with the problem. Institutional nesting describes the types of governance or management structures that could address the problem. We define a fully nested environmental problem as one for which the science of the problem is rooted within multiple, disparate disciplines, and for which the causes, impacts, and solutions are nested within different sectors of society and government. Within these definitions, we discuss marine biodiversity loss as an example of a deeply nested environmental problem, climate change as a mostly nested environmental problem, and ozone depletion as a much less nested environmental problem.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2013. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of National Academy of Sciences for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110 (2013): 7531-7532, doi:10.1073/pnas.1306240110.