Institutional Interplay: The Environmental Consequences of Cross-Scale Interactions
Oran R. Young
Because individual institutions are highly complex, most analysts focus on specific institutional arrangements, asking questions about the formation, performance, and evolution of these systems on the assumption that a consideration of forces exogenous to individual institutions is not essential for these purposes (Agrawal, this volume:Chapter 2).1 But as the density of institutions operating in a social space increases, the likelihood of interplay between or among distinct institutions rises. In complex societies, institutional interplay is a common occurrence; the resultant interactions can be expected to loom large as determinants of the performance of individual institutions and of their robustness or durability in the face of various pressures for change. With regard to institutions that address environmental matters—commonly referred to as resource or environmental regimes (Young, 1982a)—this means that interplay is a force to be reckoned with in evaluating whether regimes produce outcomes that are sustainable, much less results that meet various standards of efficiency and equity.
Two sets of analytic distinctions will lend structure to an examination of institutional interplay and help to locate the principal concerns of this chapter within the overall domain of interplay (Young et al., 1999). Institutions interact
Institutions also interact with one another as a result of both functional interdependencies arising from inherent connections and strategic links arising from exercises in political design and management. Functional interdependencies are facts of life. They occur, whether we like it or not, when the substantive problems or activities that two or more institutions address are linked in biogeophysical or socioeconomic terms. The international regimes dealing with the protection of stratospheric ozone and with climate change exhibit inherent links both because chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are the central concern of the ozone regime, are also potent greenhouse gases and because a number of the chemicals that seem attractive as substitutes for CFCs are greenhouse gases as well (Oberthür, 1999). Regimes dealing with the regulation of marine pollution and with the protection of stocks of fish and marine mammals are connected in this inherent sense because the success or failure of efforts to control pollution can be expected to have significant consequences for the well-being of marine ecosystems and the stocks of fish and other organisms they encompass.
Strategic links or interactions involving political design and management, by contrast, arise when actors seek to forge connections between or among institutions intentionally in the interests of pursuing individual or collective goals (Young, 1996). Some exercises in political design are motivated mainly by a desire to enhance institutional effectiveness. Efforts to nest regional regimes (e.g., the various regional seas regimes) into larger or more comprehensive arrangements (e.g., the overall law of the sea), for example, are properly construed as initiatives intended to promote the effectiveness of the smaller scale systems by integrating them into larger systems. Other strategic links reflect conscious efforts to cope with the side effects of arrangements established for other purposes.
Whatever their ultimate results, recent calls for the creation of a World Environment Organization (WEO) owe much to the perception that the operation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now producing significant environmental impacts as unintended byproducts of the administration of the global trading system and that there is a need to create a counterpart to the WTO to level the playing field in interactions among regimes dealing with trade and the environment (Biermann, 2000). In still other cases, strategic links arise as responses to opportunities to improve efficiency by centralizing the supply of services needed to operate two or more distinct institutional arrangements. Funding mechanisms and dispute settlement procedures are obvious cases in point. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), for example, provides funding both for the climate regime and for the regime designed to preserve biological diversity (Sand, 1999). But other services may be subject to such jointness of supply in specific cases.
These distinctions make it possible to locate the central concerns of this chapter within the realm of institutional interplay. The emphasis throughout is on vertical interplay or interactions among institutions operating at different levels of social organization. The levels of interest range across the full spectrum from micro-scale or local systems to macro-scale or global systems.2 For the most part, however, I direct attention to interactions among (1) local institutions and (sub)national institutions and (2) national institutions and international institutions. In discussing the consequences of these cross-scale interactions, I start with functional interdependencies. How does the creation of a system of public property at the national level affect the operation of common-property systems at the local level? How does the character of the national political systems of member states affect the operation of global regimes dealing with issues like climate change or the loss of biological diversity? When functional interdependencies are benign, there is no need to pursue the analysis further. But when these interdependencies are malign or favor the interests of some stakeholders over those of others, as they often do, it is natural to move on to a consideration of strategic links. Are there ways to manage cross-scale interactions to minimize conflicts of interest or to maximize efficiency in the pursuit of common goals? In this connection, the chapter seeks to draw lessons from a consideration of functional interdependencies that may prove helpful to those concerned with the politics of design and management.
Whereas earlier chapters in this book seek to evaluate existing work, this chapter breaks new ground in the study of institutions governing human/environment relations. Interest in institutional interplay is rising rapidly today. But there is no significant body of literature about such matters to review or sizable collection of data sets to evaluate in addressing this subject. As a result, the account I present in this chapter is necessarily more preliminary and tentative than the analyses of earlier chapters. Thus, I proceed by articulating some initial hypotheses about probable consequences of cross-scale interactions and illustrating them with a series of empirical examples. For the most part, these hypotheses rest on utili-
tarian premises in the sense that they focus on the incentives of key actors as they respond to institutional arrangements or, for that matter, endeavor to manipulate them in ways that further their own interests. The examples show how these processes play out in a range of situations involving human uses of terrestrial and marine resources. But at this stage, they are largely illustrative in nature. My goal is to demonstrate the significance of institutional interplay and to suggest an agenda for future work in this emerging field rather than to arrive at well-tested conclusions about the consequences of institutional interplay in specific settings.
The basic argument of the chapter is easy to state but profound in its implications. The extent to which specific environmental or resource regimes yield outcomes that are sustainable—much less efficient or equitable—is a function not only of the allocation of tasks between or among institutions operating at different levels of social organization but also of cross-scale interactions among distinct institutional arrangements. Understandably, the occurrence of more or less serious conflicts arising from institutional interplay can trigger initiatives on the part of influential actors or interest groups intended to structure the resultant interactions to their own advantage. But such conflicts also can give rise to exercises in institutional design aimed at managing institutional interplay in order to promote the common good or the public interest. In the following sections, I argue that it seldom makes sense to focus exclusively on finding the right level or scale at which to address specific problems arising from human/environment relations. Although small-scale or local arrangements have well-known problems of their own, there are good reasons to be wary of the pitfalls associated with the view that the formation of regimes at higher levels of social organization offers a straightforward means of regulating human activities involving large marine and terrestrial ecosystems. In most cases, the key to success lies in allocating specific tasks to the appropriate level of social organization and then taking steps to ensure that cross-scale interactions produce complementary rather than conflicting actions.
INTERPLAY BETWEEN (SUB)NATIONAL AND LOCAL RESOURCE REGIMES
Patterns of land use and the sustainability of human/environment relations associated with them are determined, in considerable measure, by the interplay of (sub)national—predominantly modern and formal—structures of public property and local—often informal—systems of land tenure based on common property arrangements.3 For their part, patterns of sea use and the sustainability of the relevant marine ecosystems are affected greatly by the interplay of (sub)national regulatory systems—legitimized by the creation of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) during the 1970s and 1980s—and subsistence or artisanal practices guiding the actions of local users of marine resources.
For purposes of analysis, this section takes the following preliminary hypotheses as a point of departure. National arrangements afford greater opportunities to take into account the dynamics of large marine and terrestrial ecosystems and to introduce practices involving whole ecosystem management (Sherman, 1992). But regimes organized at the national level also allow for and sometimes promote commodification or, in other words, large-scale, consumptive, market-driven, and frequently unsustainable uses of targeted resources (e.g., timber, fish). These regimes provide arenas in which the interests of powerful, nonresident players often dominate the interests of small-scale local users. Local systems, by contrast, are apt to favor small-scale uses of living resources that evolve over time from the experiences of resident harvesters. Furthermore, local systems are less tied to market systems, and accord higher priority to sustaining local ecosystems over the long term. Because informal/local and modern/national systems commonly coexist—though they seldom enjoy equal standing in relevant political and legal arenas—actual patterns of land use and sea use are affected substantially by cross-scale interactions between these disparate systems operating at different levels of social organization. In the following subsections, I evaluate these hypotheses with reference to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and illustrate the dynamics involved with brief accounts of the use of forest lands in South-east Asia, grazing lands in the Russian North, and fish stocks in the eastern Bering Sea. But similar forms of interplay involving marine and terrestrial resources occur in many other settings.
Systems of Land Tenure
The rights of national governments to exercise jurisdiction over all lands and natural resources located within the boundaries of the states in which they operate are widely acknowledged.4 This is what accords governments the authority to promulgate regulations applying to the activities of both owners of private property and users of common property. But beyond this, governments can and often do assert far-reaching claims to the ownership of land and associated natural resources in the form of public property by virtue of conquest (e.g., Russian ownership of Siberia), the exercise of royal prerogative (e.g., the establishment of crown lands in Sweden), purchase (e.g., the acquisition of Alaska by the United States), inheritance (e.g., Canada’s inheritance of crown lands under the British North America Act of 1867), succession (e.g., Indonesia’s claims to lands once owned by the Netherlands in the East Indies as an element in the process of decolonization), or some combination of these claims. In most countries, claims to public property are remarkably extensive. Despite the publicity surrounding privatization, the government of the Russian Federation claims most of the land base of Russia as public property. The government of Canada treats the bulk of the country’s land base as public property.5 Even in the United States, widely
regarded as a bastion of private property and free enterprise, the federal government alone claims about one-third of the nation’s land as public property (Brubaker, 1984).
Yet this is not the whole story regarding systems of land tenure. Although effective control has flowed steadily toward national governments during most of the modern era, many small indigenous or traditional groups residing within states and engaging in distinctive social practices have not relinquished their claims to ownership of large tracts of land and natural resources in the form of common property (Berkes, 1989; Bromley, 1992). Often, these claims overlap or conflict with assertions on the part of national governments to the effect that the areas in question are part of the public domain. Indigenous land claims in British Columbia, for example, cover virtually all the land area of the province. In some cases, national governments have recognized these claims and taken steps to reach settlements with indigenous and traditional claimants. Particularly noteworthy in this connection are the comprehensive claims settlements that the government of Canada has negotiated with northern indigenous peoples over the past several decades and the cooperative arrangements under which the government of Denmark and the Greenland Home Rule handle matters of land use in Greenland. In other cases, the efforts of local communities to assert ownership—or even use— rights have met strong resistance on the part of national governments. The efforts of Sweden’s Sami to gain recognition of their rights to use grazing lands constitute a striking case in point (Svensson, 1997). In still other cases, national governments have made little effort so far to take seriously the claims of local communities to rights involving common property. Throughout much of the Russian Federation, where the legacy of collectivization introduced during the period of Soviet rule remains strong, serious land claims on the part of local peoples are just beginning to surface (Fondahl, 1998).
How can these clashes between the claims of national governments to public property and the claims of local communities to common property be resolved? In some cases, such as the settlement of Native land claims in Alaska, the eventual outcome has taken the form of a formal transfer of title to some lands to Native peoples (or organizations acting on their behalf), usually in return for acceptance on the part of these peoples of the extinguishment of residual claims to other areas.6 As experiences in places like Australia, Canada, Greenland, and Fenno-Scandia make clear, however, the concept of property encompasses a bundle of rights, and the contents of this bundle can be allocated in any of a variety of ways.7 This has given rise to lively debates about the nature and extent of usufructuary rights in situations where user groups have not been granted full title to land and natural resources. Among the most significant aspects of this debate are issues concerning the rights of national governments to authorize consumptive uses of forests, hydrocarbons, and nonfuel minerals in areas that are important to the conduct of longstanding subsistence or artisanal activities featuring the use of living resources on the part of local peoples.
What difference does the resultant interplay between (sub)national systems of public property and local systems of common property make with regard to overall patterns of land use and to the sustainability of human/environment relations in various areas? The answer to this question emerges from a consideration of differences in the incentives of national policymakers and local stakeholders. For the most part, governments can be expected to look upon public property as a means to promote the national interest through activities inspired by the search for export-led economic growth and the effort to attract foreign direct investment. More often than not, this means treating forests and nonrenewable resources as commodities to be harvested or extracted to meet the demands of world markets. Two other factors reinforce this approach to the use of public property, especially in the developing world and in countries in transition. National governments tend to cater to the interests of politically powerful individuals who have no roots in local areas and who look on concessions covering natural resources located on public property primarily as a means of amassing personal wealth. A particularly virulent form of this phenomenon involves the practice of crony capitalism and the emergence of black markets that many observers of Southeast Asia have described in detail (Dauvergne, 1997a). Environmental groups and some other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often endeavor to counter or at least mitigate these forces. But intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), such as the multilateral development banks, whose mandates emphasize the acceleration of economic growth in developing countries, frequently act to reinforce the resultant bias against the preferences of local peoples with regard to patterns of land use (Lipschutz and Conca, 1993). The actions of the World Bank in supporting large-scale irrigation systems, road construction, and nonrenewable resource extraction throughout the developing world offer striking illustrations of this pattern.
It would be a mistake to idealize local peoples as stewards whose social practices do not cause major changes in ecosystems. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that swidden agriculture, the deliberate burning of forest understory, and the harvesting of wildlife all can produce major ecological consequences (Krech, 1999). Unsustainable practices involving the use of natural resources appear to have contributed to the collapse of some small-scale systems in areas as diverse as the Middle East and Central America. But so long as their informal socioeconomic systems remain intact, local peoples do not have strong incentives to harvest timber for export, to extract hydrocarbons or nonfuel minerals to sell on world markets, or to build massive dams to support large-scale irrigation systems and industrial agriculture.8 Where systems of common property controlled by local users prevail, therefore, we can anticipate that patterns of land use will differ markedly from the patterns likely to arise where systems of public property prevail. In essence, we should expect to find a pronounced tendency toward large-scale exports of products like timber, palm oil, hydrocarbons, and nonfuel minerals in systems where public property arrangements govern the use of land and natural resources. In comparison, local users operating under common property
systems are more likely to use land to support subsistence or artisanal lifestyles and to avoid the extractive and developmental patterns characteristic of public property systems. Needless to say, these dynamics will be more complex in those increasingly common situations where the balance between national claims to public property and local claims to common property is contested or in which efforts to resolve such contests have resulted in complex and sometimes confusing allocations of the full bundle of property rights among several distinct groups of claimants. Yet the general trend seems clear.
To see how this reasoning plays out in practice, consider recent developments affecting the forests of Southeast Asia and the grazing lands of northern Russia. As a number of observers have pointed out, the tropical forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have been harvested in an unsustainable manner over the past several decades (Peluso, 1992; Dauvergne, 1997a). Dauvergne (1997a:2), for example, has shown that “loggers have degraded much of Southeast Asia’s old-growth forests, triggering widespread deforestation” and that these activities “irreparably decrease the economic, biological, and environmental value of old-growth forests.” Why has this happened? Many commentators have emphasized demand-side considerations, pointing to the role of Japan as a consumer of tropical timber and arguing that Japanese companies often operate close to the margin and have few incentives to promote sustainable uses of Southeast Asian forests. At least as important, however, are supply-side considerations and, more specifically, the rules of the game governing decisions about alternative uses of Southeast Asian forests. A critical link in this story lies in the creation of systems of public property controlled by national governments as part of the process of decolonization and the establishment of independent states in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines in the aftermath of World War II. In effect, the emergence of public property in these countries constitutes a necessary condition for the pattern of forest degradation that has spread throughout this region. There is nothing in such arrangements that compels national governments to negotiate forest concessions in the quest for export-led growth and to acquiesce in the practices referred to as crony capitalism. But the shifting balance between systems of public property and systems of common property has played a key role in allowing these developments to happen. Local users pursuing long-established lifestyles have no incentives to adopt strategies leading to forest degradation and, in the process, undermining the resource base needed to sustain these lifestyles. Among other things, this explains the views of many activists who see links between campaigns to reform land use practices that cause forest degradation and the struggle to strengthen the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.9
Another illustration involves patterns of land use in northwestern Siberia, where world-class reserves of oil and especially natural gas have been discovered in areas that indigenous peoples, such as the Nenets living on the Yamal Peninsula and the coastal plain of the Pechora River Basin, have long used as commu-
nal migration routes and pastures for reindeer (Osherenko, 1995). During the Soviet era, there was little doubt about the choice between hydrocarbon development and the protection of local lifestyles in this region. The national government claimed ownership of the area’s land and natural resources as public or state property; oil and gas development was granted priority not only as a means to promote economic development but also as a source of hard currency earnings, and the concerns of the region’s indigenous peoples generally were ignored or treated as secondary matters. At the time of its demise, the Soviet Union was the world’s largest producer and exporter of natural gas. Yet as Osherenko has shown, recent years have witnessed new developments in patterns of land use in this region (Osherenko, 1995). This is partly a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resultant economic decline occurring throughout the Russian Federation. In part, however, it reflects a growing effort on the part of indigenous peoples to reclaim reindeer from the collective and state farms of the Soviet era and to reassert common property rights to the migration routes and grazing lands needed to sustain local economies. From the perspective of these peoples, this pattern of land use is superior to nonrenewable resource development, regardless of world market prices for oil and natural gas.
It is far too soon to make predictions about what the future will bring in this region. The development of gas fields on the Yamal Peninsula, for example, is currently in a state of suspended animation. Rising world market prices, along with a revival of the overall Russian economy, could generate pressure to resume the development of gas fields and transportation corridors in this sensitive area. But it is clear that the shifting balance between national claims to public property and local claims to common property will play a role of considerable importance in determining future patterns of land use in northwestern Siberia.
Systems of Sea Tenure
The story of sea tenure differs—often quite dramatically—from the account of land tenure set forth in the preceding subsection. Whereas we have no difficulty organizing our thinking around concepts like patterns of land use and systems of land tenure, comparable phrases relating to marine resources—“sea use” and “sea tenure”—have an odd ring to them. Why is this the case? Broadly speaking, it is fair to say that this divergence stems from the fact that there is little history of private property and only limited experience with public property in the ordinary or normal sense of the term when it comes to the management of human uses of marine resources.
Part of the gap between arrangements dealing with land use and their counterparts governing sea use is attributable to the fact that it is often difficult to establish effective exclusion mechanisms applicable to marine resources (Dietz et al., this volume:Chapter 1). This is because marine resources run together in a fluid manner and, in the case of living resources such as fish, often include organ-
isms that move freely from place to place in ways that would frustrate any efforts to establish possessory rights that run with individual or even community owners. Seeking to create private property rights in many fish stocks would be like endeavoring to turn migratory birds into private property in systems of land tenure. Even so, it would be a mistake to exaggerate this argument regarding property rights in marine resources. In cases where the relevant resources are sedentary (e.g., clam and oyster beds), there is a good deal of experience with the creation of property rights, especially in the form of use rights that allow their holders to exclude others from harvesting living resources such as clams, oysters, and even lobsters in designated locations (Acheson, 1987). Even more highly developed are the rights accorded to those who engage in various forms of aquaculture that depend on the existence of secure rights to fish pens and other place-specific marine structures.
As these last observations suggest, moreover, it is important to consider arrangements under which individual elements in the bundle of rights associated with property are relevant, even when there is little prospect of establishing systems based on the full bundles of rights we ordinarily have in mind in thinking about private property and public property. In many situations, for example, use rights to particular fish stocks have been established in forms such as preferences granted to harvesters using particular locations and specific gear types or rights to harvest a specified proportion of the total allowable catch (TAC) for a specific fishery in any given year. The recent emergence of systems of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) in a variety of fisheries is particularly noteworthy in this connection (Iudicello et al., 1999; Tietenberg, this volume:Chapter 6).
In part, the scarcity of systems of private property and public property associated with marine resources arises from limitations on the authority of states to exercise control over marine systems. From the beginnings of the modern states system in the 17th century, states have been treated as territorial units possessing virtually unlimited jurisdiction over terrestrial ecosystems located within their borders but comparatively little jurisdiction over adjacent marine systems (Anand, 1983). Early on, states began to assert some jurisdiction over waters located adjacent to their coasts in the form of a belt known as the territorial sea. For the most part, however, the granting of jurisdiction over the territorial sea was justified largely as an arrangement required for purposes of defense. Under this arrangement, coastal states agreed to allow outsiders to engage in a variety of activities— innocent passage of ships, the laying of submarine cables, overflight by aircraft— taking place within or affecting their territorial seas. Beyond this belt, states considered it impermissible to lay claim to marine systems as public property in the sense of areas actually owned by the state in the same way that the state owns the public domain.
Given this background, it makes sense to look at the 20th century as an era marked by striking expansions of the jurisdiction of coastal states over marine systems in both spatial and functional terms (Juda, 1996). The traditional 3-mile
territorial sea has grown to 12 miles, and the establishment of EEZs has granted coastal states jurisdiction over approximately 11 percent of the world ocean and most marine living resources. Justified largely on the basis of arguments regarding conservation or the achievement of sustainable use, the expanded jurisdiction of coastal states over marine systems now extends to the management of a range of activities dealing with the harvesting of both renewable and nonrenewable resources and with the protection of marine systems from various forms of pollution. Even so, it is important to note that the authority of coastal states is still restricted in ways that make it difficult for states to acquire bundles of rights comparable to those applying to terrestrial systems included in the public domain. Coastal states do not have the authority to transfer title to marine systems to private owners in the way that states traditionally have been able to dispose of sizable portions of the public domain. Many governments consider it inappropriate even to collect economic returns from the use of marine resources treated as factors of production, a practice that is routine in situations involving the use of natural resources (e.g., timber, hydrocarbons) located on the public domain. These restrictions have not deterred states from developing regulatory regimes operated by government agencies (or their subunits) and designed to ensure that users of marine resources pay attention to matters of sustainability and environmental quality associated with their activities. Nonetheless, they have produced a situation in which it seems awkward to think in terms of systems of sea tenure.
At the same time, there are substantial parallels between systems of land use and systems of sea use when it comes to the operation of small-scale local arrangements, quite apart from the aggregation of management authority in the hands of the state. In virtually every case, these local arrangements can be thought of as featuring some form of common property (Pinkerton, 1989). Not surprisingly, numerous variations occur, depending on the character of the biogeophysical systems involved, the nature of the harvesting procedures employed, and the content of the cultural norms operative among the members of the group of appropriators. Nonetheless, nearly all these systems have a number of features in common. Although they do not assign full bundles of rights to individual users, they often do grant individuals priority in the use of particular fishing sites or the use of specific gear types. They typically exclude outsiders or, in other words, nonmembers of the community of owners from using the resources in question. They normally feature informal arrangements that evolve on the basis of trial and error and that undergo de facto adjustments over time as a way of adapting to changing conditions in the relevant biogeophysical systems or changing circumstances of the societies within which they operate. Yet the rules in use that comprise these institutional arrangements are ordinarily well understood by members of the relevant user communities, and they are buttressed in most cases by compliance mechanisms that are effective in bringing the behavior of individual appropriators into conformance with the constellations of rights and rules that make up the core of these practices.10
How have these small-scale arrangements governing the actions of local users of marine resources performed in practice? As in the case of systems of land tenure, it would be a mistake to idealize indigenous or artisanal systems of sea use. To be sure, anthropologists have succeeded in documenting a sizable number of cases in which these local systems have been sustainable over relatively long periods of time. A particularly intriguing feature of these studies is the exploration of compliance mechanisms (e.g., arrangements featuring taboos) that prove effective from the point of view of guiding the behavior of users toward sustainable practices, even when they are not based on any scientific understanding of the dynamics of the ecosystems in question (Fienup-Riordan, 1990). Nonetheless, there is no basis for assuming that all small-scale systems of sea tenure produce results that are sustainable. Although this is a sensitive and—in some circles—contested matter, there is little doubt that the actual record associated with subsistence and artisanal systems of sea use features a fair number of failures as well as successes, especially in cases involving volatile biogeophysical systems that undergo large-scale nonlinear changes from time to time (Wilson, this volume:Chapter 10).
By the same token, the record compiled by the regulatory regimes created by (sub)national governments to guide uses of marine resources is generally unimpressive. Justified in large part by the need to manage large marine ecosystems on an integrated basis and to bring to bear the insights of science in order to ensure sustainability in the use of marine resources, these regimes have been insufficient to prevent a growing crisis in many of the world’s fisheries brought on by an excess of harvesting capacity and an inability—both scientifically and politically—to establish and enforce appropriate quotas or other restrictions governing the consumptive use of living marine resources (McGoodwin, 1991). In fact, national governments have provided regular subsidies to harvesters in a manner that has led to the acquisition of larger and more powerful harvesting capabilities along with heavy debt loads. As this last observation suggests, moreover, the regulatory regimes established by national governments have exhibited a marked tendency to favor the interests of some types of users over others. Thus, large, well-financed, and politically active harvesters generally have profited from the introduction of national systems of sea use in contrast to small-scale subsistence or artisanal harvesters, who have little experience beyond the local level and few of the resources needed to influence national (or even subnational) policies relating to the use of marine resources.
Overall, it is probably fair to say that the result has been a trend toward the commodification of marine resources favoring large commercial operators over small operators, eroding the role of local common property approaches to sea tenure and leading to outcomes that are hard to defend in terms of conservation or even efficiency. Environmental NGOs have become increasingly active in efforts to counter this trend. Recently, moreover, national regulators have begun to experiment with a range of policy instruments (e.g., permits to fish, individual trans-
ferable quotas or ITQs) intended to eliminate or suppress some of the worst features of this commodification (Iudicello et al., 1999). The track record associated with these efforts is not yet extensive enough to justify firm conclusions. Taken together, however, it seems fair to conclude that these institutional innovations show considerable promise at least as responses to the specific problem of overharvesting (National Research Council, 1999a). Yet there is no basis at this stage for granting high marks to state-based systems of sea tenure with regard to the production of outcomes that are sustainable over time, much less results that can be defended on grounds of efficiency or equity.
To see how the interplay between modern/national and more informal/local systems of sea tenure plays out in practice, consider the situation that has developed in the eastern Bering Sea Region over the past 25 years (National Research Council, 1996). During the 1970s, the state of Alaska instituted a limited-entry regime for the inshore fisheries of this area—those fisheries taking place within a 3-mile belt over which the state has jurisdiction—largely in response to declining harvests of salmon (Young, 1983). Shortly thereafter, the federal government followed suit by creating a Fishery Conservation Zone (FCZ) together with a set of regulatory arrangements dealing with the harvesting of all species of fish in an area extending from the outer boundaries of state jurisdiction to a point 200 nautical miles from the coastline (Young, 1982b). Although it would be incorrect to argue that these initiatives have had no positive consequences, they have given rise to a number of unintended side effects largely due to problems of interplay with other institutional arrangements. The limited-entry system covering inshore fisheries has disrupted informal arrangements featuring a fluid mix of subsistence and commercial fishing; placed severe restrictions on the ability of young people unable to afford the price of a permit to enter the fisheries; and led to a loss of permits among rural fishers whose financial insecurity causes them to succumb from time to time to the temptation to sell fishing permits to meet short-term needs for cash. For its part, the creation of the FCZ in the eastern Bering Sea precipitated a dramatic rise in the participation of American fishers in this area and the consequent phasing out of foreign fishers. Because the regime established to regulate fishing in this area has the status of a national arrangement, the state of Alaska has been barred from instituting measures to protect local fishers in the area from competition on the part of large, heavily capitalized fishers based in Washington and Oregon. The exclusion of foreign fishers from the FCZ caused them to shift their focus to an area of the central Bering Sea located just outside the FCZ and known as the doughnut hole.11 By the early 1990s, the pollock stocks in this area had collapsed.
During the 1990s, both the U.S. government and the state of Alaska took some steps to address these unfortunate side effects arising from the institutional innovations of the 1970s and 1980s. These include the creation of community development quotas (CDQs) intended to bolster the economies of small, coastal communities (National Research Council, 1999b) and the negotiation of a six-
nation convention designed to address the problem of overharvesting of pollock in the central Bering Sea (Balton, 2001). Although these are clearly steps in the right direction, it is premature at this stage to conclude that they will solve the problems arising from institutional interplay in the Bering Sea Region. CDQs do not provide a substitute in sociocultural terms for the existence of a strong cadre of local fishers, and the pollock stocks of the doughnut hole have yet to recover sufficiently to activate the management procedures established under the six-nation convention. Accordingly, there is a real danger that the innovations of the 1990s will be assessed in the future as responses that were too little and too late. In any event, it is clear that the growth of coastal state jurisdiction over marine resources and the subsequent emergence of (sub)national systems of sea use have triggered new forms of institutional interplay in this realm whose consequences have been costly not only for many individuals, but also for the welfare of small coastal communities in an area like Alaska.
INTERPLAY BETWEEN INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL REGIMES
Turn now to institutional interplay occurring at higher levels of social organization and, more specifically, to the hypothesis that the effectiveness of international environmental regimes—measured in terms of efficiency and equity as well as sustainability—is determined, in considerable measure, by the interplay between rules and decision-making procedures articulated at the international level and the political, economic, and social systems prevailing within individual member states. International regimes normally set forth generic rules applicable to all their members, leaving the implementation of these rules to be handled mainly by public agencies and actors located within individual member states.12 It follows that the effectiveness of these regimes depends on the performance of national institutions and is likely to vary substantially from one member state to another. Arrangements that perform well when there is a good fit between the provisions of international regimes and the political and economic systems of member states can fail miserably when the interplay between these arrangements is problematic. Following an account of the logic of this hypothesis, this section turns to brief illustrations of this type of interplay in the cases of regimes dealing with tropical timber in Southeast Asia and protected natural areas in the Circumpolar North and of regimes addressing the fisheries of the Barents and Bering Seas. As in the case of interplay between local and (sub)national institutions, similar dynamics occur in many other settings.
Competence, Compatibility, and Capacity
It is tempting to assume that once countries sign and ratify agreements establishing international regimes, they will proceed to carry out the obligations they
assume under these agreements as a matter of course. As numerous studies of national implementation of international obligations have shown, however, there is no basis for making such an assumption (Skjaerseth, 2000; Underdal and Hanf, 2000). Implementation typically varies greatly from one regime to another as well as among individual members of the same regime. Not surprisingly, then, the study of factors influencing implementation at the national level has become an important area of emphasis for regime analysis (Underdal, 1998; Victor et al., 1998; Weiss and Jacobson, 1998). What are the key determinants of whether members succeed in implementing the rules of international agreements within their own jurisdictions and whether they accept the outcomes flowing from decision-making procedures operating under the auspices of international regimes? In some cases, this is essentially a matter of political will. Governments can and do sign agreements they have no intention of implementing. Executive branch officials who sign international agreements in good faith may be unable to persuade legislators to pass implementing legislation and allocate the resources needed to operate these arrangements. Furthermore, changes in the composition of governments can bring to power officials who did not participate in the creation of a regime and have little interest in fulfilling obligations undertaken by their predecessors. At the same time, three sets of factors of a more general nature that bear directly on the matter of institutional interplay have emerged as important considerations in this context. For shorthand purposes, we can label these factors competence, compatibility, and capacity.
Competence is a matter of the political and legal authority needed to implement commitments made at the international level. Competence in this sense is largely a function of the constitutional arrangements prevailing within individual countries. In the United States, for example, international conventions do not become legally binding until they are ratified by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Even then, the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee that commitments embedded in legally binding conventions will always take precedence over domestic laws (Higgins, 1994). As a result, American negotiators in international forums frequently oppose otherwise attractive institutional arrangements on the grounds that there is little prospect that they can survive the pressures arising from domestic legal and political processes. Small wonder, then, that many other countries find the United States a difficult partner when it comes to the creation and implementation of international regimes. In other cases, the problem arises from the allocation of authority between national and subnational units of government in contrast to the separation of powers among the component parts of national governments. In the Canadian confederation, where authority over many issues resides with the provinces in contrast to the federal government, for example, the government in Ottawa lacks the competence to enter into legally binding commitments at the international level regarding numerous issues, without seeking the explicit consent of the individual provinces.13
Compatibility is a matter of the fit or congruence between institutional ar-
rangements set up under the provisions of international agreements and the social practices prevailing within individual member states. Whereas competence is a matter of authority, compatibility concerns standard practices or procedures for handling matters of governance that grow up in political systems over time. Given the decentralized character of international society, there is general agreement on the proposition that member states should be free to implement international commitments within their own jurisdictions in whatever way they choose to do so. But this does not eliminate the problem of institutional compatibility. Consider, by way of illustration, a case in which an international regime calls for the establishment of a system of tradable permits (e.g., permits for exclusive use of bands in the electromagnetic spectrum, permits for extracting minerals from specific sites on the deep seabed, permits for emitting specific quantities of greenhouse gases), while the social practices prevailing within some of the member states are based on the use of command-and-control regulations offering little or no scope for the sorts of incentive mechanisms associated with the creation of tradable permits. To make this concern more concrete, think of the issues now coming into focus with regard to the allocation of slots in the geostationary orbit or bands in the electromagnetic spectrum. For those committed to the proposition that tradable permits are essential to ensure efficiency and, therefore, to secure widespread acceptance of arrangements governing the use of these resources, the advantage of allowing and even promoting the emergence of markets in slots and bands seems beyond doubt. Yet such mechanisms are alien to the political cultures of many countries, and government agencies in these countries are lacking in experience with mechanisms of this sort that would allow them to assimilate such a governance system into familiar and well-understood ways of doing business (Chertow and Esty, 1997; Rose, this volume:Chapter 7; Tietenberg, this volume:Chapter 6).
For its part, capacity is a measure of the availability of the social capital as well as the material resources needed to make good on commitments entered into at the international level (Chayes and Chayes, 1995; Keohane and Levy, 1996). Of course, we are used to paying attention to the problem of capacity in cases where the economic and political systems of developing countries lack the resources needed to shift to alternative technologies (e.g., substitutes for ozone-depleting substances) or to enforce international rules within their jurisdictions (e.g., rules pertaining to trade in endangered species) (Gibson, 1999). But issues of capacity also arise in connection with the actions of advanced industrial countries. In the United States, for instance, international commitments may be treated with benign neglect in cases when no individual agency is willing to take responsibility for their implementation (that is, to become what is known as the lead agency) or when responsible agencies are unable or unwilling to obtain the material resources required to play this role. Consider, in this connection, the contrast between American participation in the regime for Antarctica, where there is no doubt about the role that the National Science Foundation plays as lead agency
with regard to matters pertaining to this arrangement, and in the emerging regime for the Arctic, where a dozen or more agencies want a say in what happens but none is able or willing to accept the role of lead agency (Osherenko and Young, 1989).
As this discussion makes clear, international regimes normally operate in social settings featuring substantial institutional heterogeneity among their members. What is more, those responsible for administering international regimes are seldom in a position to resort to what constitutes the normal procedure for handling interplay of this sort between national and subnational governments, a setting in which national governments ordinarily possess the ultimate authority to compel subnational governments to adjust their rules and procedures to ensure that they do not conflict with arrangements designed and implemented at the national level.14 The result is a mode of operation in which the rules of international regimes are framed in terms that are sufficiently generic to allow officials in individual member states considerable leeway in operationalizing them within their own jurisdictions. Up to a point, this is clearly desirable. National officials are not about to let the managers of international regimes dictate to them, and there is much to be said for allowing individual members to assimilate the rules of international regimes into their own systems in ways they deem appropriate.
The rise of what some observers now call transnational or even global civil society has begun to exert pressure on states to accept common standards in implementing the provisions of environmental regimes within their jurisdictions (Florini, 2000; Princen and Finger, 1994; Wapner, 1997). Nevertheless, the forces described in this subsection accentuate the hypothesis under consideration here to the effect that the consequences of international regimes will be determined in considerable part by the interplay between the regimes themselves and national practices prevailing in individual member states. Among other things, this should lead us to expect considerable variance in the performance of member states when it comes to fulfilling commitments made during processes of regime formation. This variance need not be critical to the overall performance of international regimes. In the case of equipment standards applicable to the construction of oil tankers, for example, the regime can operate effectively so long as a few key member states take the standards seriously (Mitchell, 1994). But in other cases, such as phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals (French, 1997), it is apparent that it takes conformance on the part of all (or nearly all) to provide effective protection of the relevant natural systems.
Regimes for Terrestrial Resources
To think concretely about the impact of this form of interplay on patterns of land use, consider the operation of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) and the effort to create a Circumpolar Protected Areas Network in the Far North. ITTA, created initially in 1983 and substantially restructured in 1994, is
first and foremost a trade agreement in which producers (e.g., Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines) and consumers (e.g., Japan) of tropical timber endeavor to stabilize and regulate the world market in wood products harvested from tropical forests (Humphreys, 1996; Dauvergne, 1997b). What makes this regime interesting from an environmental point of view is the recognition that most harvesting of tropical timber in recent decades has taken the form of highly destructive practices best described as the “mining” of forests and that there is a need to restructure the industry to make it more sustainable.
The centerpiece of the 1994 agreement is a commitment on the part of member states to implement a system of guidelines intended to ensure that both natural and planted tropical forests are managed sustainably and that biological diversity is protected in these forests. To this end, regime members committed themselves to the Year 2000 Objective calling for all tropical timber entering international trade to be produced from tropical forests under sustainable management by the year 2000. Only a few countries succeeded in fulfilling this commitment. Are others likely to be able to meet the standard of the Year 2000 Objective during the near future? Part of the answer depends on the actions of NGOs concerned with this regime (e.g., the Forest Stewardship Council). But the essential key to this issue lies in the interplay between the international regime itself and the national political systems of member countries, such as Indonesia and Japan (Guppy, 1996). At this stage, the prognosis is not particularly encouraging. Given the economic and political turmoil occurring in Southeast Asia in recent years combined with the continuing grip of crony capitalism, the capacity of a country like Indonesia to meet the Year 2000 Objective is limited, and the sanctions associated with nonconformance are likely to prove ineffectual. For its part, the severity of the economic downturn that has plagued Japan in recent years, together with the political influence of the major companies involved in the tropical timber trade, creates a setting that is not conducive to bringing effective pressure to bear on domestic users of tropical timber.
A major goal of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS)— launched in 1991 but integrated since 1996 into the broader framework of the Arctic Council—is to promote the conservation of flora and fauna in the Circumpolar North (Huntington, 1997). To this end, the AEPS established a Working Group on the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and provided it with a mandate to take the initiative in devising innovative means to achieve its general goal. Despite the relative weakness of CAFF in terms of formal authority, this initiative has generated a good deal of interest. CAFF has become a forum in which officials from government agencies and representatives of NGOs (e.g., the World Wildlife Fund) interact freely; it has succeeded in capturing and holding the attention of public agencies in a number of member states, and it has emerged as a mechanism for applying universal guidelines relating to biological diversity to the particular circumstances prevailing in the Circumpolar North.15 One of CAFF’s highest priorities has been to promote and oversee the creation of a Cir-
cumpolar Protected Areas Network (CPAN) or, in other words, a linked system of parks, preserves, wildlife refuges, and so forth located in all the Arctic countries and organized to provide harmonized management for the entire system (CAFF, 1996). The success of this initiative depends first and foremost on the willingness and the ability of management agencies located within individual member states to collaborate effectively or, in other words, to manage protected natural areas on a coordinated basis. This is where problems begin to arise in connection with this intuitively appealing initiative.
Within some key countries—the United States is a good example—management authority regarding the areas involved resides with a number of distinct agencies (e.g., National Parks Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management) that are not in the habit of cooperating effectively with one another, much less with their counterparts in other countries (Clarke and McCool, 1996). In other countries—the Russian Federation is a prime example—economic and political problems are so severe at this time that little energy and few resources are available for international cooperation. This initiative does not require integrated management across national jurisdictional boundaries; coordinated or harmonized management practices carried out by relevant agencies within each country would suffice. Yet the complexities of institutional interplay between international programs and national practices raise serious questions about the prospects for CPAN.
Regimes for Marine Resources
Turning now to institutional interplay relating to marine resources in the Barents Sea and the Bering Sea, an even more complex pattern of institutional interplay comes into focus. In effect, the regimes that have emerged in these areas feature interactions between and among three differentiable sets of institutional arrangements: the global rules governing EEZs, the (sub)national regulatory systems that individual coastal states have put in place to govern activities within their individual EEZs, and several regional arrangements created to deal with situations in which the EEZs of individual states either adjoin each other (i.e., the relevant states are adjacent or opposite states) or leave pockets of high seas surrounded by national EEZs. Although the introduction of EEZs was justified in large measure as an institutional innovation required to manage the resources of large marine ecosystems on a sustainable basis, it soon became apparent that this reform created a range of new problems, quite apart from its consequences with regard to the treatment of preexisting problems.
Marine ecosystems do not conform to any legal or political boundaries, however ingenious the effort to delineate them may be. As a result, many states that acquired expanded jurisdiction over the harvesting of living resources in their individual EEZs soon found themselves confronted with a sizable collection of new problems relating to what have become known as straddling stocks (Stokke,
2001). One response to this development, intended mainly to coordinate efforts to manage marine resources located partly within an EEZ and partly in the high seas, is embodied in the Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement, a global arrangement negotiated in the wake of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and signed in 1995.16 Another response, intended to coordinate the efforts of adjacent and opposite states to manage fish stocks common to their individual EEZs and specific areas of the high seas, has taken the form of the creation of a growing collection of regional fisheries regimes.
Two particularly interesting examples of these regional arrangements are the predominantly bilateral Norwegian/Russian regime dealing with the fisheries of the Barents Sea and the somewhat more complex set of arrangements that have emerged in the Bering Sea Region. Not only do these cases exemplify different strategies for dealing with institutional interplay, but they also have produced different outcomes. In the Barents Sea, Norway and Russia capitalized on the creation of EEZs to establish a bilateral regime that has phased out or drastically curtailed participation on the part of fishers from third states and that has put in place a system under which the principal fish stocks of the entire region are managed on an integrated basis (Stokke et al., 1999). This system is not immune to biogeophysical surprises. It has had to adjust to shifting biological conditions (e.g., the location of spring spawning herring), and it has had to cope with severe stresses attributable to the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation and the subsequent decline in the capacity of Russia to regulate the activities of Russian fishers (Hønneland, 2000; Stokke, 2001). But by and large, this is a case in which the interplay between two sets of national arrangements and an international regime has been managed in such a way as to produce positive results.
The situation that has emerged in the Bering Sea Region, by contrast, illustrates a somewhat less successful response to institutional interplay. Russia and the United States responded to the creation of EEZs by establishing complex but somewhat poorly coordinated national regimes in the western Bering Sea and the eastern Bering Sea, respectively. In addition, the 1990s brought the creation of a regional agreement covering salmon stocks migrating back and forth through the EEZs of the two countries, along with a six-nation agreement dealing with the pollock stocks of the doughnut hole and designed to prevent a recurrence of the collapse of these stocks that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike the Barents Sea, this is also a region in which NGOs (e.g., Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund) have become increasingly active. But the results of the complex mosaic arising from these developments are far from reassuring. Both coastal states have experienced problems in controlling harvests of living marine resources within their own EEZs. The pollock stocks of the doughnut hole have not recovered sufficiently to allow for any harvesting under the terms of the international agreement created to manage these stocks. Above all, there are a number of disturbing indications that anthropogenic forces have played a role in triggering
severe stresses affecting the Bering Sea ecosystem as a whole (National Marine Fisheries Service, 1997; National Research Council, 1996; World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy of Alaska, 1999). These include startling declines in populations of several unharvested species, such as sea lions, northern fur seals, sea otters, and red-legged kittiwakes, as well as some harvested species, such as spectacled eiders and several species of geese. No doubt, it would be wrong to point to problems of institutional interplay as the sole cause of these troubling developments. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that difficulties plaguing efforts to manage the interplay of institutional arrangements across levels of social organization constitute a significant feature of this story.
IMPLICATIONS AND TAKE-HOME MESSAGES
The principal conclusion to be drawn from the analysis set forth in the preceding sections is that cross-scale interactions among resource regimes generate an inescapable tension. Higher level arrangements offer opportunities to consider functional interdependencies in large marine and terrestrial ecosystems and to devise regimes based on the precepts of ecosystems management. Yet substantial costs often are associated with the creation of higher level arrangements that take forms such as an inability to come to terms with local variations in biogeophysical conditions and a lack of sensitivity to both the knowledge and the rights and interests of local stakeholders.
Those operating at higher—national or international—levels typically are compelled to devise and promulgate structures of rights and regulatory rules in terms that are broadly encompassing and generic. This may cause few problems in dealing with marine and terrestrial ecosystems that are homogeneous. But problems mount rapidly where there are local variations both in pertinent biogeophysical conditions (e.g., the population dynamics of fish stocks) and in patterns of human uses of natural resources (e.g., hunting and herding practices). In the absence of effective procedures for cross-scale coordination, the result is apt to be a proliferation of formal rights and rules that are poorly suited to local circumstances or the emergence of systems so encrusted with local exceptions and informal interpretations that they become unworkable.
Similar observations are in order regarding the rights and interests of various groups of stakeholders. Moving to higher levels of social organization can open up opportunities for increased efficiency in the use of resources and for more comprehensive approaches to equity. But the costs associated with such developments are apt to be substantial. National regimes increase the influence of economically and politically powerful actors (including nongovernmental organizations) who do not reside within the ecosystems they exploit, who can move their operations with relative ease to new areas once the resources of one area are exhausted, and who favor the exploitation of resources that are tradable in (often international) markets. For their part, international regimes often cater to the in-
terests of multinational corporations that have operations located in many places and that have no long-term commitment to the ecological welfare of particular areas and the social welfare of those who reside permanently in these areas. Under the circumstances, it is easy to see that shifts to higher levels of social organization, justified in order to manage large marine and terrestrial ecosystems in a holistic manner, can and often do lead to changes in patterns of land use and sea use that raise profound questions—not only in terms of sustainability but also in terms of normative concerns, including equity and efficiency.
Problems of this sort often trigger exercises in political design, and the vigor of the current debate about what has become known as the subsidiarity principle is testimony to the importance attached to finding effective ways to cope with the environmental consequences of cross-scale interactions. But the subsidiarity principle, which calls for management authority to be vested in the lowest level of social organization capable of solving pertinent problems, does not offer much help in coming to terms with the problems of vertical interplay addressed in this chapter. National and even international arrangements are needed to manage human activities relating to large marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Yet the dangers inherent in moving from local to national and from national to international regimes are severe. What is needed, in situations of this type, is a conscious effort to design and manage institutional arrangements that recognize different types of knowledge and protect the rights and interests of local stakeholders, even while they introduce mechanisms at higher levels of social organization required to cope with the dynamics of ecosystems that are regional and even global in scope.
This is not a task to be handled through efforts to determine the proper level of social organization at which to vest management authority. A more promising response to this tension involves the establishment of arrangements that many analysts have explored in recent years under the rubric of co-management (Berkes, this volume:Chapter 9; Osherenko, 1988). In the typical case, co-management involves the creation of environmental or resource regimes featuring partnerships between local users of natural resources and agencies of (sub)national governments possessing the formal authority to make decisions about human activities involving marine and terrestrial ecosystems as well as the material resources needed to administer management systems. This intrinsically appealing approach eventually may lead to a range of social practices that are of lasting significance in dealing with specific problems of vertical interplay. But it would be premature to jump to any such conclusion at this stage. Co-management is in danger of becoming a catch-all or residual category containing a ragtag collection of tenuously related approaches to resource management. Even in dealing with the interplay between local and national arrangements, experience on the ground with comanagement is limited, and we are far from the formulation of well-tested propositions about the determinants of success and failure in the creation and operation of co-management regimes. It is anything but clear whether experience
with co-management in dealing with local/national interactions can be scaled up to offer an effective method of organizing the interplay between (sub)national and international regimes. These observations are not meant to belittle the significance of co-management as a strategy featuring exercises in political design intended to manage problems arising from functional interdependencies; many analysts currently are engaged in interesting studies of co-management. Nonetheless, there is much to be done before we can assert that substantial progress is being made in structuring institutions in such a way as to eliminate or at least alleviate the tensions arising from cross-scale interactions.
We must bear in mind as well that the creation of institutions at every level of social organization is a political process centering on what can be described as institutional bargaining (Young, 1994). Whatever their consequences in terms of considerations like sustainability or efficiency, environmental or resource regimes always have significant consequences for the interests of those—nonstate actors as well as states—subject to their rules and decision-making procedures. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that individual actors often work hard to advance their own causes in processes of regime formation and that outcomes are likely to reflect the political influence of major participants or coalitions of participants in these processes.17 This is not to suggest that efforts to design institutions that will advance social goals like sustainability or efficiency are bound to become exercises in futility. In fact, institutional bargaining has several features that make it more open to design considerations than conventional distributive bargaining (Young, 1994). There is reason to believe that we can gradually develop a repertoire of best practices in this field through comparative studies of resource regimes and even the conduct of social experiments. Yet there is no escaping the fact that regime formation is better understood as a political process in which bargaining strength plays a central role than as an exercise in social engineering in which apolitical design principles predominate.
The argument of the substantive sections of this chapter is intended to initiate a study of the roles that cross-scale interactions among distinct institutions play in the overall picture of human/environment relations. The cases of land use and sea use are particularly interesting in this connection because patterns of land and sea use are directly and intimately linked to large-scale environmental changes, such as the loss of biological diversity and climate change. But similar issues of institutional interplay arise in conjunction with other concerns, including human uses of atmospheric and hydrological systems. There is no assumption here that institutions in general or the interplay among distinct institutions in particular can account for all the variance in human impacts on atmospheric, hydrological, marine, or terrestrial systems. On the contrary, institutional drivers interact with
other forces in complex ways; one of the main challenges facing those interested in the human dimensions of environmental change is to sort out the relative significance or weight of institutional drivers and other driving forces.
Yet an emphasis on the role of institutions in this connection has great appeal, so long as care is taken to avoid the assumption that institutional arrangements operate in a vacuum, producing results without regard to the character of the broader biogeophysical and socioeconomic settings in which they operate. The content of prevailing institutions is subject to intentional reform, a fact that opens up the opportunity to engage in design efforts in the interests of minimizing the negative consequences of existing institutions and supplementing or even replacing these arrangements in order to mitigate or adapt to environmental changes. The message of this chapter regarding efforts to design arrangements to minimize problems arising from institutional interplay is one of great caution but certainly not of pessimism. Even if we succeed in identifying institutional forces giving rise to environment problems, there is no guarantee that we can take the steps—including exercises in political design and management—needed to alter the operation of prevailing arrangements in a well-planned fashion. Nonetheless, the prospect that (re)designing institutions can play a role in controlling or managing environmental changes provides a compelling reason to invest time and energy in enhancing our understanding of the dynamics of institutional interplay.
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