Thesis: Category Errors in Natural Resource Management Planning – Issues and Solutions
Documenting nature’s contribution to human wellbeing, e.g., as human values or ecosystem services, is critical to the effective management of natural resources. However, problems with classifying preferred end states, including the mixing of means and ends, undermine research, planning and policy applications. Essentially, mixing means and ends is, in philosophical terms, a category error that has important implications for resource management. Although such errors are most damaging in goal-setting and thus decision-making, they also cause numerous related problems in natural resource management. For example, the misuse of system properties – such as sustainability, profitability and resilience – as goals in their own right. The proposed study will address category errors in natural resource management, the issues they raise, and their resolution. Research will focus on biological resources, but other resources will also be considered. This research will be documented through four proposed papers.
Why my research is important
To wisely use our natural resources it is essential that the trade-offs and synergies amongst fundamental objectives are made transparent and that the views of stakeholders, or their representatives, are made explicit. Category errors inhibit wise planning and decision-making in natural resource management. Successful completion of the research outlined above will make an important contribution to natural resource management by providing a framework of concepts and definitions that, if implemented within the discipline:
a. Reduce the use in mathematical analyses of categories that are both incomparable and non-comparable;
b. Allow synergies and trade-offs amongst fundamental objectives (expressed as end state values) to be more rigorously elicited and described using sets of comparable entities, a fundamental task for decision-makers applying benefit-cost approaches; and
c. Improve communication among stakeholders concerning the values and processes associated with managing natural resources.