chapter  2
21 Pages

RURAL RESOURCES

This Chapter aims to introduce the concept of resources and resource management, and to focus attention on the overall structure and dynamics of the rural resource system. 2.1 THE CONCEPT OF A RESOURCE Definitive statements on terminology within resource management are extremely elusive because, as CRiordan^ notes, there is no satisfactory defin­ ition of a resource, and no one definition has remained generally acceptable through time. This elusiveness arises partly because the very subject of'resources1 is inherently inter-disciplinary if not multi-disciplinary, and operational definitions vary between interested disciplines. Also important is the fact that a resource (in general terms) is not necessarily a tangible object, but it is a culturally-defined and abstract concept. In essence, anything can be regarded as a resource if it offers a means of attaining certain sociallyvalued goals. These goals can be extremely wideranging and they will vary through both space and time. Attainment of such goals is generally influenced by the prevailing social, political, economic and institution framework of the individual, group or unit responsible for the decision-making and so these elements ali become important in any resource management system. Formulation of the Concept The foundations for much present-day thinking within resource management were laid down by Zimmermann^. He viewed a resource in terms of a functional

relationship between three things - human wants, human abilities, and human appraisal of the environ­ ment around him (using environment in its most general sense). The environment comprises both social/economic and physical/environmental elements and it offers a basic reservoir of what Zimmermann termed 'neutral stuff1. This neutral stuff can be evaluated in terms of human wants - which are both biological (such as the provision of food and shelter and social (our sense of value and our aspirations) and human needs, at that point in time. On the basis of this evaluation, decisions might be taken to transform this aspect of neutral stuff into some form of useable resource. Whether or not this can occur, and the ease and speed of it happening, will depend largely on prevailing knowledge (that is, understanding of how to do it) and technology (having the capability to do it) (FIGURE 2.1). In short, therefore, cultural appraisal of the neutral stuff is designed to isolate opportunities offered by that environment, from the restrictions which cannot (under existing technology and/or the prevailing cultural and social system) be converted into useable resources. Perception of Opportunities Appraisal of opportunities depends on perception of their presence, recognition of their capacity to satisfy human wants, and development of means of utilising them to achieve socially-derived goals. Thus both technological and organisational abilities are of Central concern, the latter particularly in the context in which resources are considered in this book. The resource management system depends heavily upon the type and degree of organisation within the system - these determine efficiency of resource use and flexibility of resource management, as well as the basic functioning of the overall resource system. Once perception of the opportunities has isolated certain resources as suitable for use then alternative strategies for resource use can be evaluated (FIGURE 2.1) and final decisions made about resource management and opportunity costs. Resources are thus created to satisfy human wants. This act of 'creation1 depends on many factors, such as the identification of opportunities, the

FIGURE 2.1 The Resource System - A General Model Source: after R.M. Auty (personal Communication,

characteristics of the reservoir of neutral stuff, and on the deployment of organisational and technological abilities. To take the example of rural land-use as a 'resource1 problem, the act of 'creation' will depend on factors such as existing land uses and evaluations of land capability for different forms of land use; the physical properties of the land in question, and social and economic views on the suitability of that land for different uses; the level and type of land management, and development control; and levels of experience and technical capabilities in successfully changing land use to that required. Zimmermann concluded that 'availability for human use, not mere physical presence, is the chief criterion of resources. Availability in turn depends on human wants and abilities'.3 Thus 'resources are not, they become; they are not static but expand and contract in response to human wants and human actions'.4 2.2 PERSPECTIVES IN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Within any planning situation, three basic aspects of resources are of Central value5 - the analysis of resource availability and status (the role of the resource surveyor); approaches to the management of both given and potential resources (resource manager); and Strategies for developing the resource base (resource developer). Inevitably, however, the emphasis given to these three aspects of resource use varies under different planning situations - depending, for example, on whether one is evaluating likely resource-use through the eyes of a developer or a planner; or whether the planner is considering future possibilities for development control (in which case his interest might focus more explicitly on resource survey) or on existing problems of land-use conflict (where he will be concerned with the more pressing problems of resource management). It is likely also that the emphasis between the three aspects of resource-use has altered over time. 0'Riordan^, for example, has contrasted the nineteenth century preoccupation in the United States and Great Britain with resource development (where Production and consumption of given resources were related basically to willingness to pay and

maximisation of net private gain), with more recent concern with resource management (where resource use is geared more closely to optimisation of net social benefits). This change was consequent upon the development of welfare economics, which sees public intervention and social control as necessary to regulate the excesses of private action in the public interest and it represents a basic shift of interest within the field of resources in general. The thesis around which this book is woven is based on resource management rather than simply resource development, although the two are intimately related together. Resources are an inter-disciplinary area of study, and they have been regarded from many points of view (FIGURE 2.2). This inter-disciplinary foundation does allow resource management to benefit from contact with many areas of enquiry and from a correspondingly broad range of interests and concepts, but it also creates problems in agreeing on key issues and viable solutions. These problems arise because of a variety of factors such as methodological differences between individual disciplines, vari­ ations in the viewpoints and aspirations of the individuals involved, the politics, prejudices, conservatism and flexibility of the different types of institutions involved, and the inevitable existence of Communication gaps between even closely allied fields of study. Such problems are highlighted in (VRiorda^s? study of the resource management process in the Norfolk Broads in England which illustrates how the different parties involved in using and managing the area disagree on what precisely are the main causes of environmental deterioration in the Broads. This lack of agreement on initial causes inevitably fosters differences of opinion on suit­ able courses of remedial action, and makes efficient decision-making very difficult. Issues and Contraints It is clear that each of these perspectives in res­ ource management is not of equal significance in its potential or actual impact in decision-making. Constraints can perhaps be rationalised into a threefold hierarchy (TABLE 2.1): (a) the fundamental factors (of primary importance)

which make technical feasibility and strategic implications of basic importance at the outset in any resource management decision-making situation;

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(b) the pragmatic factors (of secondary importance) which relate to the economic, administrative and social dimensions of decision-making, and

(c) the responsibility elements (of tertiary importance) such as environmental and ethical issues.