Innovations and Challenges Related to Resource and Environmental Management

  • Bruce MitchellEmail author


Innovations are necessary if resource and environmental management are to evolve and improve. In this chapter, a critical review is provided for concepts that have already shifted, or have the potential to enhance, the practice of resource and environmental management. Resilience highlights that management approaches should facilitate capacity of systems to tolerate disturbances without flipping into an entirely new regime. As a result, resilience questions some basic beliefs associated with sustainable development. Adaptive management emphasizes that we always face uncertainty and thus should expect to encounter surprises. Thus, we need to be able to adapt, ideally through active adaptive management. To adapt, we need to create capacity for social learning, whether by individuals, groups, or organizations through single-, double-, and triple-loop learning. Collaborative approaches serve as a fundamental component of an ecosystem approach and require structures and processes to incorporate insight from stakeholders. Governance reminds us that resource and environmental management should not focus on technical issues, but also need to consider how decisions are and should be made, as well as the nature of relationships and the implications of power differentials. All these concepts are pertinent regarding environmental justice, which directs us to ensure no group of people experiences disproportionate costs from resource and environmental management decisions.

For water management, integrated water resource management (IWRM) has become a means frequently used to address the water and land, surface and groundwater, and upstream and downstream relationships associated with interconnected terrestrial and hydrological systems. Implementation challenges are being experienced with IWRM and require attention. The concept of virtual water has been developed to reduce the vulnerability of water-scarce regions to meet food requirements but also raises other challenges. The soft path approach has emerged as a complement to traditional supply-and-demand management approaches. It requires us to reconsider not only how but why we use water for some services. And, finally, more attention is needed regarding water ethics if a more principled approach to water development and management is to be achieved.


Resilience Adaptive management Social learning Collaborative management Environmental justice Integrated water resource management Virtual water Soft path approach Water ethics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental ManagementUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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