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close this bookEcology in Development: A Rationale for Three-dimensional Policy (UNU, 1984, 59 pages)
close this folder4. Prospective
View the documentI. A rationalization of trends
View the documentII. The implications for policy and research

II. The implications for policy and research

It is now generally agreed that any measure which deals with the social or cultural aspects of a general problem but ignores ecological factors is likely to run into trouble. But still little attention is given to the possibility that the opposite might be equally true. We have argued here that in order to achieve the maximum human wellbeing and ecological viability, not only development but also resource management should be pursued three-dimensionally. To this end. planning should have three coordinated focuses: on ecology and economy; on labour and community; and on participation and meaning. There is a strong temptation to shortchange one or even two of these emphases, because of the perceived immediacy of one (commonly the first), without careful weighing of the other (commonly the social and cultural) grounds for perceiving that immediacy. Whenever a conflict is perceived between the interests of present and future generations in relation to the use of renewable natural resources, there is a tendency always to recommend enforcement now, in order to safeguard resources for the future. But enforcement can be counterproductive in various ways. The maintenance of freedom of thought and action (that is, non-interference) and the encouragement and conservation of local thinking and initiative can be as important for future generations as is the conservation of resources. Above all it behooves the social scientist to identify and promote social traditions which will permit and encourage both, and to pursue them in a dialogue with natural scientists.

How can this be effected? In the end what gets done is a function of the political process. We cannot control that process. We contribute to it automatically, but we could contribute more consciously, more systematically. The contribution of scientific research to the political process is of two types: it derives most obviously from the information we feed into the process, and less obviously - though perhaps more significantly - from the way we formulate the research designs that produce that information. We do not control the results of our research and we cannot predict them. But we do condition them by our research designs, and we could gain much by some careful rethinking of these designs. Revamping the research design paradigm is probably the surest way to achieve tangible results in the relatively short term at the level of scientific contribution to the political process and to policy.

If the results of research are to be fed effectively into the political process, the design of the research must not be politically one-sided. Ecological, social and cultural research must be integrated theoretically in design and in execution, in order to be more acceptable at the stage of application. How could such integration be achieved? if we accept a socio-centric explanation of differences in approach. we must accept all different approaches as potentially valid. We must then regard the differences as complementary, rather than competing, or "right" and "wrong."

Integration is best ensured through some degree of institutionalization, through formal organization. It is true that formal organizations tend to accentuate some of the less desirable features of human nature-divisiveness, defensiveness, and competitiveness. But we must react to this knowledge not by suppressing it and continuing to pursue our competitive interests in the name of science, but by designing a formal structure that will give equal voice not only to different disciplinary approaches to a particular problem, but also to non-scientific approaches among the various people whose interests are involved. We already know that formal organizations such as bureaucracies and businesses are formed for the purposes of transcending various aspects of human nature, since they are designed to achieve what the unaided individual cannot achieve.

The task of the scientist, after all, is to increase information and understanding. Policy decisions belong to the political process, which should be informed by science. If scientific research is organized as democratically as we firmly believe the political process should be organized, we would be able finally to see ecological processes in three dimensions. Democracy in science has to be organized in the same way as in politics. The constituencies must be defined. In this case the constituencies would be scientific disciplines and social groups; because for the former their subject matter and for the latter their social interests are at issue. Then the differences in their interpretations of the problem would be argued out in a forum established for the purpose. The resolution - the strategy for action would then integrate all the points of view on an equal footing. As in any political process there would be winners and losers. Democracy seldom provides an ideal government. But it is the surest way we know of representing all the scientific and social interests relevant to a particular issue (Cf. Spooner 1982a: p. 409).