As I see it, the benefit of rethinking this question in terms of path dependencies (plural) is not only that their durations differ, but the with-respect-to’s are highly variable as well. Path dependencies already in place for sustainable futures are commercial or institutional or legal or technological or behavioral or climatic–and more.
To my mind, the value-added of First differentiate path dependencies! is considerable. The three most interanimating of importance are:
1. Further differentiation forces attention in environmental crisis management on comparing and contrasting the “with respect to what?” With respect to this as distinct from that path dependency? These versus those? And if so, attention first here rather than there? . . .
2. Further differentiation forces management attention to the specific failure scenarios of interest and the levels of granularity at which they are said to be actionable. At least two types of failure scenarios are of interest: those for how the crisis unfolds and those for how the crisis responses fail.
Specifying action-levels of granularity is also important because the answer to the “What happens next?” question so central to on-the-ground crisis management has to be more than “What happens is, well, more path dependence. . .”
3. Further differentiation forces, in other words, management attention on cases of interest in terms of their failure scenarios, different both in terms of their with-respect-to-what and the action-levels of granularity for management purposes.
This means “cases of interest” must as well be differentiated from the get-go, e.g., “cases out there in reality” as distinct from, say, “the case emerging from your interaction with issues of concern” (Charles Ragin’s typology of cases, for example)
But so what practically?
I can now answer one of the three key questions posed for an upcoming symposium on environmental crisis management:
- What are reasonable and feasible ways to anticipate future sustainability crises while coping with the ongoing ones?
My answer derived from the preceding is, I believe, best posed as another question;
If we can’t differentiate path dependencies by better focusing on case-level, variably granular failure scenarios in and for environmental crisis management, how are we ever to better anticipate future sustainability crises while coping with the ongoing ones?