Opportunities and challenges for the pursuit of sustainability under globalization: A study from Costa Rica

  • Author / Creator
    McLennan, Blythe
  • Globalization and human-domination of the globe have increased the complexity, scope and pace of human-environment interactions in ways that have fundamentally reconfigured the opportunities and challenges for sustainability. As a result, what society needs from science has shifted. Society and scientists alike now call for new ways of doing science that can support decision-makers to confront the complexity and uncertainty of sustainability in today’s more globalized world. The research presented in this thesis contributes to answering this call. The goal of the research was to examine complexities in how globalization shapes the opportunities and challenges for pursuing sustainability. It was conducted in a region of the world where human-environment interactions have been fundamentally transformed by globalization: Latin America. The research used a two-tiered, qualitative case study approach to examine environmental policy-making in Costa Rica and land-use management in Costa Rica’s dry North West. It had three specific objectives: 1. To analyze how environmental policy-making in Costa Rica was influenced by the transfer of policy ideas between the international and Costa Rican political systems; 2. To trial a novel methodology for conducting qualitative land-use research that can support natural resource managers to pursue sustainability while maintaining a high level of scientific credibility; and, 3. To examine the specific processes of forest recovery and rural livelihood change in Costa Rica’s dry North West, and their implications for sustainability and forest management. This research makes three key contributions to our understanding of interactions between globalization, sustainability and complex social-ecological systems. First, it counters a tendency towards oversimplification in both theories and solutions for sustainability. It shows that neither generalized large-scale theories nor single blueprint solutions are adequate on their own to address the complex reality of environmental policy-making and land-use management in Costa Rica today. Second, it demonstrates how the potential of qualitative research to support natural resource managers can be more fully realized through methodological innovation. Third, it reveals important ways that environmental policy-makers and natural resource managers can avoid the pitfalls of oversimplification to more directly confront the complexities of pursuing sustainability under globalization.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2009
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.