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Introduction: The Ecology of Shrinkage

Dieter Rink and Sigrun Kabisch

Since about the 1980s, shrinkage processes have been observed mainly

in the developed countries. Although population decreases has been

the main focus, other phenomena—such as the reduction of jobs, the

restructuring of industrial and urban regions, and the scarcity of public

commodities and natural resources—also deserve attention. Shrinkage

is by no means becoming the dominant mode of development

though some regional exceptions do exist. In this sense, it is comparable

to the modern growth processes that do not run concordantly.

Modern shrinkage processes are concentrated in certain economic

branches, institutions, social groups, and last but not least, regions.

Consequently, we find profound disparities with some countries where

parts of society face shrinkage processes while others face growth

processes. As observed by some scholars (e.g., Oswalt 2008), the growth

mode is losing its dominance in modern societies. However, a paradigm

shift toward shrinkage has not yet taken place. Rather one has

to assume a longer phase of side-by-side, contra-, and co-operative

growth and shrinkage processes. This phase may be shaped by its own

contradictions and conflicts, in particular by a high level of uncertainty.

In contrast to the social growth phase roughly until the early

1970s, this phase will probably be less easy to steer. Although growth

coalitions, typical for the previous phase, were based on the assumption

that profits were redistributed as welfare, the shrinkage alliances

are confronted with the financing of losses. Shrinkage processes challenge

operational routines and bring with them new positions of interest

that require novel coalitions among actors.

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Introduction: Contested Landscapes—Space, Place, and Identity in Contemporary Ireland

Henrike Rau

Ireland’s transition from a predominantly rural to a (sub)urban society over the course of the twentieth century coincided with fundamental changes in its socio-cultural and environmental fabric (Corcoran et al. 2007; Moore and Scott 2005; Punch 2004).1 In particular, the recent suburbanization of many Irish towns and cities has raised interesting questions about the spatial organization of human social life. How important is public space for democratic participation? What kinds of spaces do people require to engage with others, or to get involved in community activities? Can we use spatial resources more sustainably and, if so, what are the consequences of such a transition for public and private spaces?

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Environmental Cosmopolitans

Ben Campbell

Cosmopolitanism has become a rediscovered conceptual frontier within the social sciences. It has emerged in the space for relational thinking about contemporary movements of people and ideas beyond old societal boundaries, as an alternative to the homogenizing implications carried by globalization. It forefronts new cross-territorial contexts of encounter attending to samenesses and differences among people, places, and the nonhuman, presenting new kinds of translocal issues for anthropologists of the environment. While cosmopolitanism draws historically on aspects of Enlightenment universalist rationalism, current applications of the term forefront an empathy and respect for other people’s cultures and values. This is frequently drawn into a distinction between “normative” and “cultural” cosmopolitanisms. The first Kantian sense involves a context-transcendent level of ethical principles with general validity, while the second is about taking cognizance of difference and invokes some positive tolerance of multiplicity and appreciation of others. In both cases there is a sense of a projected “ethical horizon” (Werbner 2008).

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Introduction—New Directions/Cities and Rivers: Interdisciplinary Studies in Knowledge Production

Robert Frodeman, Julie Thompson Klein, Carl Mitcham, and Nancy Tuana

Over the course of the last six years, New Directions: Science, Humanities, Policy has taken a case-study approach to questions concerning the nature of knowledge production. Launched in 2001, New Directions promotes interdisciplinary collaborations where physical scientists, social scientists, and humanists work together with public science agencies, the private sector, and communities to deepen our understanding of and develop effective responses to societal problems. Two key elements characterize all New Directions projects. First, by involving the sciences, engineering, and the humanities, in dialogue with the public and private sectors, New Directions unites the two axes of interdisciplinary—the wide and the deep. Second, these experiments in interdisciplinary problem solving function as a means for thematizing the problem of the breakdown between knowledge production and use.

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Inaugural Introduction

Sing C. Chew and Matthias Gross

The founding of Nature and Culture comes at a time when proenvironmental

attitudes in the world are still high, but the discourse on ecological issues has been eclipsed mostly by issues of security, terrorism, and economic growth. This trend might also be because the debates on ecological issues to date are mostly based on natural scientific evaluations and findings on the state of the natural environment. What is lacking is more input from the humanities, social sciences, and historical sciences so that this dialogue can be interdisciplinary, and even transdisciplinary in nature. To foster such a dialogue, Nature and Culture is intended to be a unique forum for the international community of scholars and practitioners to present, discuss, and evaluate critically issues and themes related to the historical and contemporary relationships that societies, civilizations, empires, regions, and nationstates have with nature. Its pages welcome authors working in areas related to this overall thematic, and especially those who are working on the frontiers of understanding and explaining this historical/contemporary nature/culture relationship, regardless of discipline. Our object is to produce a journal serving those scholars and practitioners whose theoretical orientations extend beyond disciplinary boundaries, and who are moving beyond specific specializations toward broader syntheses with intentions to participate in intellectual and practical discussions on our ecosystem’s past trends and future prospects.