The complexities in environmental decision-making for the Murray-Darling Basin
People are part of a complex natural system and have the ability to actively interfere with their environment. Collective decisions made by governments represent social rules that limit the extent of people's interference with the environment that support them. Environmental decisions made by governments usually carry an ethical bias and are limited by the perception of the risks and uncertainties that may affect society's well-being in the medium to long run. The recently published Guide to the proposed Basin Plan represents a draft for a legislative instrument that aims to reclaim some of the water back onto the environment to safeguard declining natural ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin. By limiting diversions into agricultural uses, irrigators in particular are encouraged to adapt water use to produce more with less; it may also affect some ecosystems that have become part of the modified landscape in the Basin. While humans may discriminate between endemic and modified components of the landscape, the rest of the biome is already adapting, with varying levels of success, to what they experience in their own setting. The policymakers' task is compounded as the changes in the social systems may be enforced through other institutional adjustments brought about by climate change, globalisation and as a response to the GFC. It seems plausible that uncertainty will rule the day and adaptation to allow efficient decision-making under information asymmetry may provide opportunities to compete better. This study assesses the complexities in collective decision-making for improving the environmental assets in the Basin and what could help minimise the impacts on the agricultural systems and improve the resilience of rural communities in the long run.
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