Chapter 6 - Conclusion
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2021
“Wicked problems” are problems that are complex, multidimensional, hard to solve and often harder to define (Rittel and Webber 1973). Contrasted against “tame problems” with straightforward solutions, wicked problems are dynamic, encompassing many issues and stakeholders, and evade straightforward, lasting solutions (Howes and Wyrwoll 2012).
Howes and Wyrwoll have argued that many of Asia's environmental problems are wicked in nature; a result of Asia's upward growth rate and one that will only worsen as Asia continues to grow. While growth will help make more resources available to direct at these problems, without effective environmental management, growth will simply “heighten the divergence across many facets of economic activity between private and social costs” (Howes and Wyrwoll 2012).
One such problem that they identify is transboundary haze. This problem has many sources (local incentives, institutional incapacity, decentralization, foreign demand of palm oil, and timber exports), which blurs problem formation: Is the central problem air pollution, sustainable resource use, biodiversity, or climate change? The impact of haze is distributed regionally (health costs from air pollution, atmospheric brown clouds) and globally (climate change), making the problem a highly interdependent one. The solution set is also particularly complex, as many potential solutions require another set of supporting solutions.
The wickedness of this problem is such that the effectiveness (or not) of haze governance at the regional level is interdependent on various other stakeholders and levels of governance, including political and businesselites, local agencies, smallholder villagers, multinational supply chains and even financing institutions.
Indeed, Indonesia has identified the strategic management of its carbonrich peatlands as the cornerstone of its Nationally Determined Contributions presented to the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties 25 in 2019. But as Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia continue to develop, the trade-off between the social costs of clean air, the global costs of the climate and the private costs of profit and development become harder to reconcile.
The challenges to achieving a viable solution set to this problem are compounded by there being much that remains unknown at the ground level.
- The Forests for the PalmsEssays on the Politics of Haze and the Environment in Southeast Asia, pp. 97 - 100Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak InstitutePrint publication year: 2021