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Artisanal Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination of Surface Water as a Wicked Socio-Environmental Problem: a Sustainability Challenge
1  University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Published: 31 October 2013 by MDPI in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: In this research note, artisanal gold mining and its associated mercury pollution of surface water in West Africa is characterized as a socially complex (wicked) problem wherein stakeholders have conflicting interpretations of the problem and the science behind it, as well as different values, goals, and life experiences. For that reason, policy makers, public policy professionals, and other stakeholders who tackle with this problem must go beyond conventional expert and technical knowledge in order to effectively resolve it. In particular, effective solution may necessarily requires holistic, not partial or linear thinking, innovative and flexible approaches, the ability to work across agency boundaries, increasing understanding and stimulating a debate on the application of the accountability framework, effectively engaging stakeholders and citizens in understanding the problem and in identifying possible solutions, a better understanding of behavioral change by policy makers, and tolerating uncertainty and accepting the need for a long-term focus.
Keywords: Wicked problems; social messes; mercury pollution; policy failure; water; West Africa; multi-stakeholder decision support