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Living Well Now and in the FutureWhy Sustainability Matters$
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Randall Curren and Ellen Metzger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036009

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036009.001.0001

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Managing Complexity: Three Case Studies

Managing Complexity: Three Case Studies

(p.125) 5 Managing Complexity: Three Case Studies
Living Well Now and in the Future

Randall Curren

Ellen Metzger

The MIT Press

This chapter identifies problems of sustainability as systemic action problems and presents illustrative case studies in environmental governance: the management of energy, water, and food systems. It begins by examining the widely discussed idea that problems of sustainability are wicked problems, and argues that systemic complexity and decisional complexity are the factors fundamentally involved in such problems. This opening discussion of the nature of sustainability problems and the case studies that follow bring together and illustrate thematic strands of the preceding chapters, including the costs, benefits, and hazards of complexity, the respective roles of market and government mechanisms, and trans-boundary environmental governance. The illustrative cases concern the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Australia’s National Water Management System, and the changing patterns of food production in the Mekong Region of Southeast Asia. The cases progress in this way from the local and regional to the national and international, and all are concerned in one way or another with relationships between water, food, and energy systems: the widely discussed water-food-energy nexus.

Keywords:   wicked problems, complex systems, environmental governance, water-food-energy nexus, Gulf of Mexico, BP oil spill, Australian National Water Management System, Mekong Region

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