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Conserv Biol. 2008 Aug;22(4):862-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00922.x. Epub 2008 Apr 10.

Finding hope in the millennium ecosystem assessment.

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Energy and Resources Group, 310 Barrows Hall, MC 3050, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050, USA.


Over the past quarter century, a new scientific activity has emerged: collective assessments by large numbers of scientists from different disciplines combining their expertise to better understand human interrelations with nature and to inform policy. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment exceeded all such assessments before it in both the breadth of its coverage and the depth of its analysis of socioecological system dynamics. The findings are not encouraging. Nearly all ecosystems are being degraded and will continue to be degraded for decades to come even if policy changes are initiated now. For scientists participating in the assessment, the MA had another disconcerting aspect. It clearly shows that our fragmented, disciplinary knowledges cannot simply be combined to form an understanding of a whole complex system. Counterbalancing the despair of the findings and scientific difficulties of aggregating specialized knowledges, the MA demonstrated the potential of a deliberative democratic approach to grappling with complex problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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