Lee K.N. 1993. Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment.


Presents adaptive management as a learning framework to inform and correct public policy within the domain of environmental management.

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This book begins by reflecting on the 1992 Earth Summit, noting the lack of any real action in the way of implementing the mandate created through the Summit. It is argued that this situation is unlikely to change until the human community learns how to focus the required action with patience and honesty. In this publication, the author frames adaptive management as a process of learning through deliberate, long-term experimentation with economic uses of ecological systems. This is in contrast to a trial and error approach to public policy, which has inherent dangers. Tools for broad-scale social experimentation are presented within the metaphor of ‘navigational aids: the compass and gyroscope. The compass represents adaptive management using the physical and social sciences to inform and correct public policy. The gyroscope symbolises the importance of bounded conflict as a process to challenge and test answers offered by the sciences through democratic debate. The author broadly challenges current notions of progress, providing a framework for how the collective human endeavour might navigate an alternative course.


This seminal work initiated the specific linking of the adaptive management framework to processes of learning. Its value to adaptive learning within human-nature interactions is that it encourages a workable definition of sustainability as a social learning process applicable at a range of scales, from local to global. This social learning process is deliberately experimental, rather than the current mostly ad hoc trial and error approach to sustainability policy and decision-making. This publication essentially contains the nucleus of current academic thought on effective means for integrating science and politics through democratic social engagement.