Why Environmental Management Requires an Interdisciplinary Approach

To help manage the environment, I have to understand a bit about the natural and social sciences. This is what I’ve been learning through the Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management program of the University of the Philippines Open University (as of April 2021).

About the natural sciences, I’ve been learning about what happens in ecosystems and how things happen. It’s important to understand the physical, chemical, and biological processes at work before we act on the environment. I also have to understand the impact of human activities on the climate and our natural resources. After all, our decisions and actions rapidly and drastically alter the environment.

Those decisions and actions can be influenced by politics, economics, technology, and society. Our individual and collective values, self-interests, perceptions, education, histories, beliefs, policies, and adaptations act in several different directions to influence our environment-related thinking and actions. For this, the social sciences provide useful insights and guidance to better plan and execute environmental measures. Often, we have to work through and around the retrenched ideas and practices. We also have to gain political and public support, which then requires understanding different cultures, policies, and institutions.

For example, a nationwide tree planting program requires huge funds and large-scale cooperation. However, the public might not see it as something important and urgent (e.g. we could instead use the money on building new dams and other infrastructure). Tree planting and forest conservation might also require taking away indigenous peoples from their homes, religious and cultural sites, and ancestral lands (especially if their livelihoods and other activities affect the forests and uplands).

A nationwide greening or tree planting program will have to go through deliberation and legislation. We have to direct billions of pesos to this program and everything should be decided and done in a proper and transparent way. Everything should also be in line with international agreements, current local laws, and scientific findings. Environmental initiatives and measures should be based on science, and then supported and sustained by human actions.