Human-environment research: Past trends, current challenges, and future directions
This chapter reflects on issues and questions underscoring the preceding chapters while providing a brief overview of current and future directions in the study of human-environment interactions. A discussion of future directions begins with recognizing that the challenges of studying complex coupled humanenvironment systems are not new, although current processes of globalization and climate change render such challenges pressing, and of wider societal relevance. In this brief overview, we highlight questions related to institutions, ecosystem services, health, adaptation to climate change, urbanization, and methodological challenges. This chapter reflects on issues and questions underscoring the preceding chapters while providing a brief overview of current and future directions in the study of human-environment interactions (HEI). A discussion of future directions begins with recognizing that the challenges of studying complex coupled humanenvironment systems are not new, although current processes of globalization and climate change render such challenges pressing, and of wider societal relevance. As we look into the present and future of HEI research, we are challenged with many of the same long-standing questions confronted from a variety of disciplinary angles as in past decades. These challenges pertain to complexity, scale, heterogeneity, governance, and barriers to interdisciplinary bridging, among other themes. Although we are constantly improving upon methodological tools and analytical concepts in human-environment research, a key challenge remains to bridge disciplinary knowledge to the demands of (interdisciplinary) problems we face today. This has been a central concern for the contributors to this volume. Different disciplinary traditions have confronted the question of how local populations interact with larger social, ecological, and economic processes and how we understand complex pathways of change and transitions in HEI systems and their variance across scales. These questions have required the research community to consider the tradeoffs of scaling up (and down) human-environment analysis and confront common yet questionable assumptions about different degrees of social and environmental homogeneity. We have learned that context, units of analysis, and the choices of temporal and spatial scales regarding the questions asked can strongly influence the understanding obtained. Yet, the many challenges of scaling (e.g., how to gain insights into lower-level phenomena from broader-scale behavior or vice versa) continue to define an important conceptual and analytical frontier for the HEI research community and the social sciences in general. It is important to recognize the evolution of such efforts, as discussed in the introduction to this volume and illustrated in different chapters, as part of the effort put toward interdisciplinary approaches to HEI research. We have come a long way from opportunistic methodological and theoretical borrowing to increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative research frameworks (Moran 2010; Ostrom 2009). The emergence of social-ecological systems frameworks, as discussed below, illustrates relevant advancements on this front. Progressively, these developments are influencing the training of a new generation of scholars and practitioners equipped with language and skills to address old, new, and pressing questions confronting us today. In these and other frameworks, there is a critical need to detail the historical trajectories of HEI systems in order to generate accurate and robust understanding of their dynamics.
Human-Environment Interactions: Current and Future Directions
Brondízio, Eduardo S. and Chowdhury, Rinku Roy, "Human-environment research: Past trends, current challenges, and future directions" (2013). Geography. 604.