Inderscience Publishers

Post–normal science and ecological economics: strategies for precautionary approaches and sustainable development

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Ecological economics provides a research field for critical reflection on relationships between the economy and the life–sustaining ecosystems. With focus on strong uncertainty, irreversibility, strong sustainability, precautionary approaches and ethical complexity, ecological economics differs from the approach of environmental economics and shares several of the characteristics of post–normal science. Ecological economics and post–normal science express the imperative for urgent environmental action in response to strong uncertainty. The capacity to act on available knowledge is essential for precautionary approaches. As a framework for reconsidering important knowledge–generating processes in the science–policy context, we discuss the precautionary approaches suggested in the report 'Late lessons from early warnings' from the European Environment Agency. We illustrate the role of strong and emerging uncertainties by specific cases, including biodiversity loss, genetically modified organisms (GMO), electromagnetic radiation and climate change impacts in the Arctic, as examples of areas where the reflexive context suggested by post–normal science and ecological economics is called for. As a practical approach with important policy applications, it would be useful to include perspectives from ecological economics and post–normal science in the processes of enhanced knowledge gathering and decision–making processes.

Keywords: post–normal science, PNS, ecological economics, precautionary approaches, sustainable development, biodiversity loss, genetically modified organisms, GMO, electromagnetic radiation, Arctic environment, sustainability, uncertainty, irreversibility, ethical complexity, ethics, climate change

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