Facing global changes with resource over-appropriation and under-provision of public services: Exploring robustness-fragility trade-offs in three coastal areas
Coastal systems are special cases of coupled infrastructure systems (CIS). Here, system fragilities that exist elsewhere are magnified due to the unique features of the coastal natural infrastructure which exhibits a concentration of resource scarcity within a densely linked CIS in the vicinity of several key thresholds (e.g., salt vs freshwater). Accordingly, coastal regions warrant special attention and can provide early insights into other systems of intertwined human and natural infrastructure. In order to better understand the characteristics of such CIS, existing common pool resource (CPR) theories and methodologies were applied to the comparative analysis of coastal vulnerability to global change in three regions: Cornwall, Britain; Languedoc, France; and Eden District, South Africa. Utilizing an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach, we iteratively “translated” local research findings from the three systems into the Robustness Framework and applied the design principles of long-enduring CPR governance systems before comparing the outcomes. We found that: (1) the density of connections in the coastal systems magnified unintended consequences of poorly coordinated rules (e.g., rules governing coastal development, environmental protection, watershed management, etc.) which often pursue disparate goals; (2) a devolution of authority from the national to the local level coupled with government austerity measures is limiting the ability of local governments to mitigate the effects of climate change, and is fostering an under-provisioning of public soft infrastructure; and (3) short-term political agendas are favoring the production of large-scale hard infrastructure projects over long-term mitigation/adaptation strategies. These three characteristics inhibited institutional robustness, magnified CIS fragilities, and caused vulnerability transfers. We argue that our iterative and transdisciplinary comparative approach provides insights into key features of complex coastal CIS which may be useful to the examination and understanding of other densely linked systems.
Contributed session oral presentation
Wednesday, 23 August
11:00 - 12:30
11:00 - 12:30