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Environment, Power, Development in Global South: Revolutions, Blue & Green

Thomas D. Hall

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Is Risk a Drive for Change? Pollution and Risk Displacement in 1970s to 1980s Hong Kong

Lam Yee Man

ABSTRACT

Many people believe risk drives change. Environmental degradation, depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming all help advance global environmental development. However, why do some countries react promptly while some are slower to react to environmental risk? Reasons vary, but this article focuses on how the specific way risk was formulated and introduced in Hong Kong impeded drastic and swift environmental development. Tracing back to the time when the notion of pollution was first formulated in Hong Kong, this article argues that pollution was not defined as what it was. Instead, pollution was defined and introduced to the public as a problem of sanitation, turning pollution into a problem of categorization—a risk that could be easily resolved. This article contributes to the study of both pollution and risk by studying pollution as a social construct in the unique case of Hong Kong. A warning from Hong Kong—instead of addressing and resolving it, risk could be discreetly displaced.

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Nature, Science, and Politics in the Anthropocene

Tracey Heatherington

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New Wine and Old Wineskins? Novel Ecosystems and Conceptual Change

Brendon M. H. Larson

ABSTRACT

The concept of novel ecosystems (CNE) has been proposed as a way to recognize the extent and value of ecosystems that have been irreversibly transformed by human activity. Although the CNE has recently been subject to critique, existing critiques do not appear to seriously engage with the extent of anthropogenic change to the world’s ecosystems. Here, I seek to provide a deeper, philosophical and constructive critique, specifically arguing that the usefulness of the CNE is limited in the following three ways: (1) it is too static, (2) it is too vague, and (3) it is too dualistic. Although the CNE provides some conceptual advance (“new wine”), some of its conceptualization and packaging weakly support this advance (“old wineskins”), so I consider some ways to further develop it, in part to encourage more widespread recognition and appreciation of novel ecosystems.

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The Political Economy of Water in the Past, Present, and Future

John Sonnett

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Sediment and State in Imperial China: The Yellow River Watershed as an Earth System and a World System

Ruth Mostern

ABSTRACT

China’s Yellow River is the most sediment laden water course in the world today, but that came to be the case only about a thousand years ago. It is largely the result of agriculture and deforestation on the fragile environment of the loess plateau in the middle reaches of the watershed. This article demonstrates that the long term environmental degradation of the Yellow River was primarily anthropogenic, and furthermore, it explains how the spatial organization of state power in imperial China amplified the likelihood and consequences of landscape change.

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Acknowledgements

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Changing Approaches to the Future in Swedish Forestry, 1850–2010

Erland Mårald and Erik Westholm

ABSTRACT

This article explores the changing construction of the future in Swedish forestry since 1850. The framework is based on three concepts: (1) knowability, addressing changing views of knowledge; (2) governability, addressing changing views of the ability to steer the future; and (3) temporality, referring to varying ways of relating to time. The results reveal that until the 1980s, trust in science-based forestry triggered other knowledge-based activities, such as education, surveys, and field trials. The future was seen as predictable and forecasts were expected to support increased forest production. In the 1970s, the environmental debate about the forest incorporated a pluralistic futures agenda. High-production forestry using intensive management methods was questioned. Futures studies shifted focus from predictions to scenarios, highlighting a less predictable future open to human agency. Paradoxically, with increased knowledge of forest ecology and forest markets with improved modeling techniques, the future horizon shifted to one of risks and uncertainties.

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Dam Close Water Resources and Productions of Harmony in Central Japan

Eric J. Cunningham

ABSTRACT

This article examines socio-cultural circulations associated with dams and other water management technologies in central Japan. Such technologies and the circulations of water they enable link communities across Japan’s rural and urban spaces in social, political, economic, and cultural ways. They also produce anxieties by highlighting social inequalities and the disparate impacts of water resource development in modern Japan. Using Makio Dam in central Japan as a case study, I argue that actors in both upstream and downstream communities actively imagine and enact social relationships that work to ease the tensions that arise from unidirectional flows of water by producing sensations of harmony and common identity.

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Hidden Climato-Economic Roots of Differentially Privileged Cultures

Evert Van de Vliert

ABSTRACT

This theory-based study tests the interactive impacts of the demands of thermal climate and wealth resources on variations in privileged culture represented by mental health, personal freedom, and political democracy. Multiple regression analysis of aggregated survey data covering 106 countries shows that cultures vary from minimally privileged in poor countries with demanding climates (e.g., Azerbaijan and Belarus) to maximally privileged in rich countries with demanding climates (e.g., Canada and Finland). In between those extremes, moderate degrees of privileged culture prevail in poor and rich countries with undemanding climates (e.g., Colombia and Singapore). Rival explanations and competing predictors, including degrees of agrarianism versus capitalism, latitude and longitude, and parasitic disease burden, could not account for these findings in support of the burgeoning climato-economic theory of culture.