I’m not guessing, I’m post normal thinking!!

C&H Uncertainty

When I first started work in the environmental field, the person who was mentoring me told me “the best environmental scientists are the one who can guess the best”.  He was of course referring to the calculated guesses we make when trying to determine all the variables which have an impact on a system and which ones will have the most impacts.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he was describing how people carry out post-normal/systems science.

As outlined in the lecture when trying to solve a problem you need to analyse how a system works.  You look at the inputs and outputs and influencing factors.  A post normal scientist will then also factor in a range of intangible factors and allow for levels of uncertainty as some influencing factors may not be obvious or even present at the time of data collection and analysis.

Having listened to the lecture I now have a new job title to put on my linked in account.  I didn’t know until this semester, but for the last 13 years I have been a post-normal project manager.  I have taken the non-variable, known factual components of mine rehabilitation (specific drain numbers and sizes, fill of specific qualities, trees per hectare, soil and water volumes etc) and then taken into consideration as many variables as possible in order to successfully complete the project.

Rehabilitation is more than just moving some soil, planting some trees and doing some follow up maintenance.  Projects I have worked on have incorporated heritage, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, soils, nutrients, contaminants, bush fire, weeds, feral animals, flooding, drought, flora and fauna, hot and cold weather, demands and expectations of neighbors, politicians and the general public, knowledge derived from scientific research, people’s practical knowledge and on site failures and successes.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Alex Auhl says:

    Hi Justin

    This is a really great article. Making “good” estimates is such a valuable skills. The comic is so accurate too – sometimes knowledge leads to inertia, but hopefully that is only temporary.

    I am pretty sure you taught me some good estimation skills during ecology fieldwork too!!

    Looking forward to reading your next article!!


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