Our common future? Cross-scalar scenario analysis for social–ecological sustainability of the Guiana Shield, South America

Jay Mistry, Celine Tschirhart, Caspar Verwer, Rob Glastra, Odacy Davis, Deirdre Jafferally, Lakeram Haynes, Ryan Benjamin, Grace Albert, Rebecca Xavier, Isabella Bovolo, Andrea Berardi

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Scenarios help build a shared understanding of potential futures and allow us to engage with how interventions or activities may impact on people and the environment. There are many scenario sets that have been developed at the global and regional level, but to a lesser extent at the national and local levels. Yet fewer studies have explicitly linked imagined futures at different social–ecological scales. In this paper, we discuss how scenario analysis was used with indigenous communities and national level stakeholders in Guyana, South America, to explore context specific futures in relation to linked social-ecological systems. These futures were then analysed against published regional (Amazonian) and international scenarios using a qualitative coding approach and supported by quantitative factorial analysis. This allowed us to develop a matrix of multi-scalar scenarios, showing how scenarios at all scales interact. From this, we were able to identify virtuous and vicious cycles amongst the different scales where developments produced feedbacks to make situations worse, better or counteract change at other levels. Our results show that there is considerable mismatch between the different scales of analysis, with the national scale playing a key role as mediator. In addition, we highlight the importance of focusing on the root causes shaping futures as well as participatory forms of scenario development in order to provide better policy and decision support, and stimulate engagement at all levels of organisation in the process of change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-148
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date9 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Participatory scenarios
  • Cross-scalar
  • Guiana Shield
  • Guyana
  • Indigenous
  • Stakeholders

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