Unit 11 spent much time discussing the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is perhaps one of the greatest inclusions in environmental management thinking. It gives the natural environment the benefit of the doubt and makes a virtue of the fact that there are “unknown, unknowns”.
“Unknown unknowns” is a phrase that comes from the “Cynefin framework” developed early last decade to help “which allows executives to see things from new viewpoints, assimilate complex concepts, and address real-world problems and opportunities. (Cynefin, pronounced ku-nev-in, is a Welsh word that signifies the multiple factors in our environment and our experience that influence us in ways we can never understand.) Using this approach, leaders learn to define the framework with examples from their own organization’s history and scenarios of its possible future. This enhances communication and helps executives rapidly understand the context in which they are operating.” This came from an article on Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making and https://www.acu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/659004/David_Snowden_A_Leaders_Framework_for_Decision_Making.pdf ) from 2007. This framework is a great risk management tool that is highly applicable in environmental management.
A great example of the precautionary principle and the Cynefin framework at work was the decisions last year and this year to come up with a plan to start the process to address climate change, known simply as the Paris Agreement (of 2015). This is probably the largest ever application of both principles, ever:
- Precautionary principle: The Anthropocene was given the benefit of the doubt.
- Known knowns: We know Co2 is causing global warming.
- Known unknowns: We know it is warming the planet, possibly at a much greater rate than earlier forecast.
- Unknown unknowns: There will be unknown consequences across air, water, land, flora, fauna and humans. We need to expect the unexpected.
Given the work to date and the questions apparent, the Paris climate agreement was a great example of risk management, the precautionary principle and the Cynefin framework.