Adaptively Managing Resource Linkages on the Path to Sustainability

Wilbanks (this volume) states that "sustainability is a path, not a state." Without a doubt, this path is not straight, but rather one containing diversions and surprises—some resulting from the resource linkages that we understand and can anticipate; others that emerge unexpectedly. Human decisions and human foibles will be as much an instigator of these surprises as will resource-related limitations or transitions. As Schmitz (this volume) describes in his discussion of nature and its preservation, surprises will force us to adopt the approach of adaptive management, in which decisions must be made in the absence of complete understanding of the systems and of the full consequences of the decisions.

Notwithstanding the reactive nature of adaptive management, such activity will need to draw upon information that is as complete and informative as it can be. We cannot avoid the fact that the existence, strengths, and potential consequences of linkages are currently obscure in many ways, but that their potential to constrain or enhance sustainability may be immense. The mission dictated by this volume is thus obvious: we must expand our horizons, delve into unfamiliar data sets, and cultivate dialog with new partners. Such actions will lead to a suitable understanding of the vitally important linkages of sustainability.

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