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Investigaciones geográficas

versión On-line ISSN 2448-7279versión impresa ISSN 0188-4611


RUIZ RIVERA, Naxhelli  y  GALICIA, Leopoldo. Geographical scale as integrative concept for understanding socio-environmental problems. Invest. Geog [online]. 2016, n.89, pp.137-153. ISSN 2448-7279.

The aim of this paper is to contribute to the knowledge of the concept of scale for an integrated geographical understanding of socio-environmental problems in Mexico. This objective is accomplished by comparing the same scalar dimensions of two different problems: the first one is adaptation to climate change policies in Mexico, and the second is deforestation. This paper presents the main elements that have been discussed in recent years in the Anglo literature on the concept of scale, particularly the extent, resolution, level, hierarchy, the problem of modifiable area unit and spatial fallacies. The properties of geographical concepts emerge and can be observed according to the combination of scalar elements. The most fundamental scalar principles discussed in the field refer to identify the combination of elements in which it is possible to observe each geographical phenomena's variability, characteristics and properties. One of the most relevant problems of the scalar thinking refers to the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP), which stems from the data aggregation; the relevant values represented for each spatial unit relate to each other in different ways according to how they organized within a hierarchical structure. Data aggregation affects how the variability and heterogeneity of a phenomenon can be observed, given that the change of scale may show or hide specific properties of the dataset in a change of resolution. This problem is relevant for the inferences that stem from the data, given that individualistic or ecological fallacies may emerge if the dataset characteristics are not correctly interpreted in terms of representation, similarity or heterogeneity.

Applying these principles to the comparison between two different geographical problems of different epistemological nature, we show the importance of this concept for the geographical thought; the comparison highlights the need to generate systematic reflections in this regard for the Geography produced in Spanish language.

Regarding the socio-environmental problems addressed, the climate change adaptation policies in Mexico show a lack of conceptual and programmatic integration in different levels; the lack of an adequate concurrent relationship between them creates a problem to generate effective results for adaptation. We identify three policy levels (global, national and local), in which we briefly examine the relevant policy instrument and actor(s) that negotiate, design and/ or implement it in each level. For the international level we briefly present the role of the Mexican government on the negotiation and adoption of the Kyoto Protocol principles and goals; for the national level, we examine the approach and jurisdiction of the Special Program of Climate Change and the related juridical field; for the local level, we discuss the Municipal Climate Action Programmes, their design and scope, as well as the lack density that has prevented these instrument to influence other policy levels. This section discusses the hierarchies between these levels, the extension (jurisdiction) under which each of them are relevant and the importance of each scalar level for visualizing the main characteristics of the different adaptation policies.

Regarding deforestation and land use change, the scale analysis reveals that might be direct (proximate) and indirect (underlying) and operate on multiple levels; also, its consequences are manifested in different scales of space and time. The spatial heterogeneity of land use change reveals the combination of biophysical and social, economic and political conditions, so the deforestation rate and causes change with observation scale. The implication of scale is that important land use processes could remain undetected, thus not monitored by traditional tools and aggregated land use categories typically applied. On the other hand, the choice of the time scale could undetect economic or social processes that change from year to year, which obscure the underlying causes of deforestation. It is therefore necessary to see change in land use with a view hierarchies.

Palabras llave : Geographical scale; adaptation; climate change policy; land use change and deforestation.

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