Environmental Management

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 463–478 | Cite as

Self-organization theories and environmental management: The case of South Moresby, Canada

  • Alex G. S. Grzybowski
  • D. Scott Slocombe


This article presents a new approach to the analysis and management of large-scale societal problems with complex ecological, economic, and social dimensions. The approach is based on the theory of self-organizing systems—complex, open, far-from-equilibrium systems with nonlinear dynamics. A brief overview and comparison of different self-organization theories (synergetics, self-organization theory, hypercycles, and autopoiesis) is presented in order to isolate the key characteristics of such systems.

The approach is used to develop an analysis of the landuse controversy in the South Moresby area of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada. Critical variables are identified for each subsystem and classified by spatial and temporal scale, and discussed in terms of information content and internal/external origin. Eradication of sea otters, introduction of black-tailed deer, impacts of large-scale clearcut logging, sustainability of the coastal forest industry, and changing relations between native peoples and governments are discussed in detail to illustrate the system dynamics of the South Moresby “sociobiophysical” system. Finally, implications of the self-organizing sociobiophysical system view for regional analysis and management are identified.

Key words

Self-organization Land-use planning Systems approaches Societal transformations Native peoples Environmental management 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. New York Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex G. S. Grzybowski
    • 1
  • D. Scott Slocombe
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUSA
  2. 2.School of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Environmental StudiesUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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