Reductionist and integrative research approaches to complex water security policy challenges
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Zeitoun, M.; Lankford, B.; Krueger, T.; Forsyth, T.; Carter, R.; Hoekstra, A. Y.; Taylor, R.; Varis, O.; Cleaver, F.; Boelens, R.; Swatuk, L.; Tickner, D.; Scott, C. A.; Mirumachi, N.; Matthews, Nathanial. 2016. Reductionist and integrative research approaches to complex water security policy challenges. Global Environmental Change, 39:143-154. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.04.010
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/78532
This article reviews and contrasts two approaches that water security researchers employ to advance understanding of the complexity of water-society policy challenges. A prevailing reductionist approach seeks to represent uncertainty through calculable risk, links national GDP tightly to hydro-climatological causes, and underplays diversity and politics in society. When adopted uncritically, this approach limits policy-makers to interventions that may reproduce inequalities, and that are too rigid to deal with future changes in society and climate. A second, more integrative, approach is found to address a range of uncertainties, explicitly recognise diversity in society and the environment, incorporate water resources that are less-easily controlled, and consider adaptive approaches to move beyond conventional supply-side prescriptions. The resultant policy recommendations are diverse, inclusive, and more likely to reach the marginalised in society, though they often encounter policy-uptake obstacles. The article concludes by defining a route towards more effective water security research and policy, which stresses analysis that matches the state of knowledge possessed, an expanded research agenda, and explicitly addresses inequities.
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