The world’s “wicked” environmental problems, such as global water poverty, climate change, massive deforestation and forest-burning, and river and urban air pollution, are too complex to be solved by one single discipline. Well, most problems are.
Often, such wicked problems are best assessed, and hopefully solved, with a pragmatic approach. Why? Instead of being disentangled in the rigid dualism of the pure positivism and pure interpretivism schools of thought, the pragmatic approach recognises the empirical and practical consequences of ideas. It has the advantages of helping improve communication among scientists from different schools of thought in an attempt to advance knowledge and, more importantly, offer the best opportunities for deciding actions to understand complex real-world phenomena, according to Johnson and Onwuegbuzie.
The pragmatic approach considers both quantitative and qualitative methods as important and useful. As Saldaña expressed: “I myself take a pragmatic stance toward human inquiry and leave myself open to choosing the right tool for the right job. Sometimes a poem says it best; sometimes a data matrix does. Sometimes words say it best; sometimes numbers do. The more well-versed you are in the field’s eclectic methods of investigation, the better your ability to understand the diverse patterns and complex meanings of social life.”
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Anindrya Nastiti is an engineer by training who chose to pursue interdisciplinary research in the intersections of environment, health, economics, governance, and human behaviour. In recent years, she has focused on the multifaceted realities of access to drinking water in urban and peri-urban areas, including the issue of water equity and human rights to water. She has been working closely with researchers in several other disciplines, particularly econometrics, governance, sociology, and medicine, mainly under the Alliance for Water, Health, and Development: a framework for collaborative research and PhD education. Since 2012, she has been a faculty member of the Environmental Management Technology Research Group, the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), Indonesia. She is a PhD candidate in a double-degree program between ITB and Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.