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Researching Cities, Transforming Ecology

An Investigation into Urban Ecology Agendas

Céline Granjou, Joëlle Salomon Cavin, Valérie Boisvert, Maud Chalmandrier, Silvia Flaminio, Christian Kull, and Marco Moretti

Abstract

In the last two decades, new academic journals, textbooks, and research networks attest to ecologists’ rising interest in cities. How did ecologists come to enter cities and to view them as places worth studying? To what extent does this new interest launch a broader redefinition of the type of knowledge that matters in ecology? Drawing on the new political sociology of science, and using a review of publications in urban ecology, we argue that the politics of urban ecological knowledge does not merely correspond to the promotion of a new subfield of ecology dedicated to cities: it has launched instead a broader, contested redefinition of the goals, practices, and relevance of ecology as a whole. We unpack the tensions between a “city-driven agenda” aiming to integrate ecological science into the interdisciplinary field of urban sciences, and an “ecology-driven agenda” aiming to research cities as part of ecological discipline.

Open access

The Ordering of Green Values

Ecological Justification in Public Fracking Controversies in Germany and Poland

Claudia Foltyn, Reiner Keller, and Matthias S. Klaes

Abstract

The article presents a comparative study of shale gas media debates in Germany and Poland. Drawing from the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD), it addresses discursive conflicts over the use of hydraulic fracturing and its environmental impacts in both countries. The authors relate their analysis to the theoretical debate that emerged in the 1990s in French sociology concerning the question of “green justifications” that form a specific way of how social actors intervene, dispute, and build compromises in public discussions to protect non-human entities. Referring to these discussions, this article identifies several ecological justification clusters and the associated social actors that are ‘compromised’ or enclosed in existing orders of worth.

Open access

Plastic Packaging, Food Supply, and Everyday Life

Adopting a Social Practice Perspective in Social-Ecological Research

Lukas Sattlegger, Immanuel Stieß, Luca Raschewski, and Katharina Reindl

Abstract

This article presents practice-theoretical conceptions of societal relations to nature as a fruitful alternative to common system approaches in social-ecological research. Via the example of plastic food packaging, two different practice-theoretical approaches to food supply are discussed regarding their suitability for relating the material properties of packaging to their everyday use by producers, retailers, and consumers: (1) the network approach (portraying food supply as a network of practices; these practices include material elements that interrelate with other elements like competence or meaning) and (2) the nexus approach (investigating the interrelation between social practices and material arrangements in which they take place). Depending on the given research interest, both perspectives have their pros and cons: the network approach is stronger in understanding the everyday use of technologies, while the nexus approach encourages the integration of infrastructures and environmental contexts that are not directly observable within the practice.

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.

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.