Social learning to cope with global environmental change and unsustainability

Authored by: J. David Tàbara

Routledge International Handbook of Social and Environmental Change

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782791
eBook ISBN: 9780203814550
Adobe ISBN: 9781136707995


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In the current context of global environmental change and increasing unsustainability, social learning can be understood as the cultural and structural processes through which human societies reframe their worldviews and establish new patterns of interaction with biophysical systems to better cope with the unintended, unwanted, cumulative and often unexpected collective consequences of social action. Social learning can be conceived both as the process, as well as the outcome, of institutional transformation and creation in response to human-induced environmental change. On the one hand, social learning occurs within a given social-ecological system of reference, which includes both the human and biophysical conditions in which learning takes place. On the other hand, learning materializes as a complex and combined result of various dynamics and mechanisms whereby new frames, capacities and goals reorient collective behaviours towards desired conditions. However, the final outcomes of social learning cannot be fully anticipated. Indeed, we cannot know what we will know and what eventually will result from our knowledge, mostly because this depends on the processes we will choose for learning which, at present, are still unknown.

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