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Context to a conversation : the contribution of science to sustainable forestry

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Title: Context to a conversation : the contribution of science to sustainable forestry
Author: Cushon, Geoffrey Harold
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Interdisciplinary Studies
Copyright Date: 1995
Subject Keywords Sustainable forestry; Forest management
Abstract: The currently topical problems of forest management are issues of trans-science. They can be framed in the language of science but they cannot be resolved in the language of science. They involve historically contingent phenomena for which predictive certainty is not possible and they involve issues of moral, aesthetic and economic value. What is the role of science in contributing to the public debate on what are fundamentally social issues such as clear-cut logging or the preservation of old-growth forests? A history and philosophy of science, in general, and ecological science, in particular, is presented that traces the transition, over the last half century, from a positivist science of universal, timeless, predictable order to a science that attempts to interpret local, particular aspects of nature. The former relies on identifying restricted spatio-temporal scales that facilitate prediction while the latter focuses on an understanding of the causal relations within interrelated systems that facilitate explanation of system properties. A kind of contextual or dialectical holism is advocated wherein system components are considered in the context of the whole and the whole is considered as an epiphenomenon resulting from causal interaction of the parts. A history of forest science is presented that identifies sustained yield forestry as a construct of positivist science. Recent insights by ecological science, into the complexity and contingency of forest ecosystems, reveal the limitations of this simplified view. Moreover, the application of a single large-scale strategy such as sustained yield forestry to managing forests in British Columbia contained value assumptions that no longer reflect the full range of values that the public express. The currently topical debates on clear-cutting, logging in municipal watersheds and over-cutting are offered as examples of how questions of fact and questions of value become linked. Although these debates have been carried on in the language of science they are essentially social issues and cannot be resolved by science. The role of science in contributing to the resolution of social issues, such as the development of a sustainable forestry, is not to develop specific solutions but to contribute to the social dialogue in a subservient fashion. Science can characterize the context in which disagreements about matters of value take place. Science can use its experimental protocols to help society construct living experiments that allow us to learn our way into the future. Science can take part in an equitable conversation on sustainable forestry that will facilitate a better understanding of the beliefs and values of the human component of forested ecosystems.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/7228
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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