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Introducing environmental decision making

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Many of the decisions we make have implications for our environment, particularly those concerning natural resources and waste. Taking account of environmental factors in decision making can be both complex and challenging. This free course, Introducing environmental decision making, considers decisions in their broader contexts and advocates a systems approach to environmental decision making.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • recognise and explain some different approaches to decision making
  • recognise and explain some major factors that influence decision making
  • recognise and explain what is understood by environmental decision making and several key concepts that are relevant to it
  • recognise and explain how to identify some environmental issues that are of interest or concern and explain why
  • recognise and explain what the authors of the course mean by a system, its boundary and environment.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 24 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 23rd March 2016
  • Advanced level
  • Posted under Nature & Environment
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Introducing environmental decision making


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We all make decisions in everyday life, both as individuals and in groups. These range from simple – for example, choosing what to eat, which route to take to work, which products to buy in the shop – to complex decisions about changing jobs, moving house, choosing schools and participating as a member of a local community in planning decisions and improvements.

What processes do we go through in making these decisions about different possible courses of action? Are they the same every time? Are they the same for everyone?

Just as there are different types of decision, there are also different approaches to decision making that are relevant in different circumstances.

Some decisions are made rationally and logically, while others are made more instinctively or less consciously, sometimes based on the smooth performance of a practised skill. Yet others appear not to be made intentionally at all, but are dictated by sudden changes in knowledge or circumstances – for example, when trying to decide between one route and another and finding that one way is blocked. In practice, other options may still be available but it appears as though the decision has been made for you. Variation in choice may also mean that one person has a decision to make and another does not. (My examples, above, of choosing what to eat or buy assume that I have a choice.)

Individuals and groups also have different preferences for how they make decisions and articulate what they do. Decision making is, at times, such a dynamic process that it can be difficult to tell whether a decision is being made or not. Whether we are directly involved in decision making (and in what capacity) or how we are affected by decisions others appear to have made, also affects our perspectives on decision making.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 3 study in Environment & Development [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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