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Science, Scenarios and Surprise

Scenarios are a structured process for integrating complex information about the future, including traditional scientific data, model runs and perspectives of diverse stakeholders. Scenarios help the public, decision makers and scientists organize ideas about unpredictable changes in regional social-ecological systems, and build resilience against plausible but unpredictable events.

Biggs, R., M.W. Diebel, D. Gilroy, A.M. Kamarainen, M.S. Kornis, N.D. Preston, J.E. Schmitz, C.K. Uejio, M.C. Van de Bogert, B.C. Weidel, P.C. West, D.P.M. Zaks and S.R. Carpenter. 2009. Preparing for the future: teaching scenario planning at the graduate level. Frontiers of Ecology and Environment 8: 267-273. DOI 10.1890/080075.
Carpenter, S.R. 2008. Seeking adaptive change in Wisconsin's ecosystems. In Waller, D.M. and T.P. Rooney (eds.), The Vanishing Present: Wisconsin's Changing Lands, Waters and Wildlife. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois USA.
Polasky, S., S.R. Carpenter, C. Folke and B. Keeler. 2011. Decision making under great uncertainty: Environmental management in an era of global change. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26:398-404.
Steve Carpenter
Baseline conditions (left) and three scenarios for possible futures of lakes in the Northern Highlands Lake District of Wisconsin. Anaheim North explores the implications of rapid expansion of tourism. Walleye Commons investigates outcomes of severe resource conflicts that divide the community and lead to economic and ecological breakdown. In Northwoods Quilt, conflict leads to innovative kinds of zoning that harmonize competing interests. Refugee Revolution shows the impact of rapid population growth as people leave Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul after terror incidents.
Stephen Carpenter and Bill Feeny



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