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Water Use and User Attitudes

Common-Pool Resources and Longitudinal Change in a Brazilian Community

John Marr Ditty and Maria Eugênia Totti

Common-pool resources (CPRs) are subtractable resources that are physically or institutionally available for many users. The present study sought primary participant observation and focus group data on a Brazilian CPR-dependent community. It analyzes this data through the lens of CPR theory to assess ongoing local natural resource management efforts against longitudinal changes related to large-scale state and private development projects. The findings indicate that real or perceived changes related to the resources, technology, human populations, and decision-making processes in the study area have disrupted social arrangements and resulted in natural resource degradation. The article argues that, in order to achieve sustainability objectives, CPR-guided policy formulation must consider the social embeddedness of community-based actors and resources within their wider historical and social contexts, as well as user attitudes and relations among shifting conditions on multiple scales.

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Agony and the Anthropos

Democracy and Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Amanda Machin

The Anthropocene diagnosis, in which humanity has become a disruptive geological force, indicates an irresolvable political paradox. The political demos is inevitably and necessarily bounded. The Anthropocene, however, heralds the anthropos—the globalized more-than-human identity. The anthropos challenges the maintenance of political boundaries, yet any robust response to ecological predicament must be underpinned by a decisive demos. This article, informed by theories of political agonism, suggests that this paradox importantly provokes ongoing political contestation of the inevitable yet contingent exclusions from politics and the proper place of political boundaries in the Anthropocene. The article concludes that the Anthropocene diagnosis provides an opportunity for a lively democratic politics in which the demos is always prompted to reimagine itself and asks, who are “we” in the Anthropocene?

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Is Labor Green?

A Cross-National Panel Analysis of Unionization and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Camila Huerta Alvarez, Julius Alexander McGee, and Richard York

In this article, we assess whether unionization of national workforces influences growth in national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita. Political-economic theories in environmental sociology propose that labor unions have the potential to affect environmental conditions. Yet, few studies have quantitatively assessed the influence of unionization on environmental outcomes using cross-national data. We estimate multilevel regression models using data on OECD member nations from 1970 to 2014. Results from our analysis indicate that unionization, measured as the percentage of workers who are union members, is negatively associated with CO2 emissions per capita, even when controlling for labor conditions. This finding suggests that unionization may promote environmental protection at the national level.

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Mediterranean Basin Wetlands as a Vertebral Axis of the Territory

Relationships with Roman Roads and Contemporary Livestock Trails

Alejandro Fornell Muñoz and Francisco Guerrero

Within the framework of the new environmental history, this article focuses on the interaction between historical human societies and a given natural environment. Specifically, we study the spatial relationships between wetlands, Roman roads, and contemporary livestock trails, with the aim of verifying the role of wetlands as a support of territory planning since antiquity to the present. The documentation used includes geographical and ecological manuscripts together with ancient sources (texts, archaeology). Our results demonstrate an overlapping that remarks the importance of wetlands in the study area’s territorial ordering during various historical moments. This result also opens the possibility of applying this reality to others parts of the Mediterranean region with the same climatological conditions and a similar history. The clear heritage value of the wetlands are compelling enough to take the necessary protection measures for their conservation in the face of the growing threat of their deterioration and disappearance.

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Sicilian Futures in the Making

Living Species and the Latency of Biological and Environmental Threats

Mara Benadusi

Discourses and practices of anticipation occupy a hypertrophic space in contexts where uncontrolled industrial growth has inflicted grave damage on peoples and territories, even triggering environmental disasters. This article explores the use of nonhuman species as anticipatory devices in a petrochemical terminal in Sicily, focusing on public representations of three species: scavenger bacteria that play a cleansing role and underline citizens’ moral responsibility to secure their best possible futures through bioscience; migrating flamingos that breed under the petrochemical chimneys, raising the possibility of hopefulness by highlighting ecosystem resilience; and fish affected by spina bifida, which reveal human health status in advance, communicating the need to live in preparation for potential diseases. The analysis reveals the highly contentious character of these anticipatory devices and the contested ideas about possible futures they imply, thus shedding light on the ecological frictions that have repercussions locally and globally, in discourse and social practice.

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The Stuff of Soil

Belowground Agency in the Making of Future Climates

Céline Granjou and Juan Francisco Salazar

Despite soil’s vital ecological importance, its significance as a belowground tridimensional living world remains under-theorized in social and cultural research. Drawing on the reading of scientific literature and a series of interviews with scientists working at the juncture of soil and climate research, this article pursues a picture that highlights soil’s capacities to shape future climates, including by fostering major planetary tipping points; we elaborate on the cultural and ethical significance of that picture for opening up alternative stories in which agency and change are not human-only prerogatives. We develop a critical stance on the growing expectations of storing more carbon into soils and argue for a better consideration of the situated, heterogeneous, and volatile dynamics of carbon within soils. We eventually call for more responsible ways of thinking about, and caring for, the myriad conglomerates of living, decaying, and dead matter that basically make up the stuff of soil.

Open access

Adaptation Lived as a Story

Why We Should Be Careful about the Stories We Use to Tell Other Stories

Nicole Klenk

Abstract

Within the field of climate change adaptation research, “stories” are usually simply mined for data, developed as communication and engagement technologies, and used to envision different futures. But there are other ways of understanding people’s narratives. This article explores how we can move away from understanding stories as cultural constructs that represent a reality and toward understanding them as the way in which adaptation is lived. The article investigates questions such as the following: As climate adaptation researchers, what can and should we do when we are told unsolicited stories? How can storytelling, as a way of life rather than as a source of data, inform and elaborate scientific approaches to adaptation research and planning? In this article, I move away from the literature that seeks to develop narrative methods in adaptation science. Instead, I focus on stories that we do not elicit and the world-making practice of storytelling.

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Franco Ruzzenenti and Aleksandra Wagner

Abstract

The aim of the article is to discuss the unintended consequences of energy efficiency, in the context of defuturization, by addressing the phenomenon of the rebound effect. The energy discourse is presented as ideological discourse protecting the status quo, even if it contemplates alternatives solutions. The interpretation of energy efficiency in the light of the Luhmannian concept of temporal structures in the modern society is proposed, and two types of expert narratives on the rebound effect are outlined: the mechanistic rebound effect and the systemic Jevons paradox. Finally, we explain why none of them are noticeably reflected in public discourse on energy policy and are limited to the scientific milieu.

Open access

Environmental Expertise as Group Belonging

Environmental Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies

Rolf Lidskog and Göran Sundqvist

Abstract

What is environmental expertise? The background to this question is that many scholars consider environmental expertise crucial for discovering, diagnosing, and solving environmental problems but do not discuss in any depth what constitutes expertise. By investigating the meaning and use of the concept of expertise in three general theories within environmental sociology—the treadmill of production, risk society, and ecological modernization—and findings from science and technology studies (STS), this article develops a sociological understanding of environmental expertise: what it is and how it is acquired. Environmental expertise is namely about group belonging and professional socialization around specialized skills; that is, it concerns both substantial competence and social recognition. The implications of this general view on expertise are then used to enrich theories in environmental sociology.

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Rethinking Adaptation

Emotions, Evolution, and Climate Change

Debra J. Davidson

Abstract

Understanding that climate change poses considerable threats for social systems, to which we must adapt in order to survive, social responses to climate change should be viewed in the context of evolution, which entails the variation, selection, and retention of information. Digging deeper into evolutionary theory, however, emotions play a surprisingly prominent role in adaptation. This article offers an explicitly historical, nondirectional conceptualization of our potential evolutionary pathways in response to climate change. Emotions emerge from the intersection of culture and biology to guide the degree of variation of knowledge to which we have access, the selection of knowledge, and the retention of that knowledge in new (or old) practices. I delve into multiple fields of scholarship on emotions, describing several important considerations for understanding social responses to climate change: emotions are shared, play a central role in decision-making, and simultaneously derive from past evolutionary processes and define future evolutionary processes.