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Anthropocene Dynamics in the Prehistoric Pacific

Modeling Emergent Socioecological Outcomes of Environmental Change

Thomas P. Leppard

How will human societies evolve in the face of the massive changes humans themselves are driving in the earth systems? Currently, few data exist with which to address this question. I argue that archaeological datasets from islands provide useful models for understanding long-term socioecological responses to large-scale environmental change, by virtue of their longitudinal dimension and their relative insulation from broader biophysical systems. Reviewing how colonizing humans initiated biological and physical change in the insular Pacific, I show that varied adaptations to this dynamism caused diversification in social and subsistence systems. This diversification shows considerable path dependency related to the degree of heterogeneity/homogeneity in the distribution of food resources. This suggests that the extent to which the Anthropocene modifies agroeconomic land surfaces toward or away from patchiness will have profound sociopolitical implications.

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Giorgio Osti

The article aims to add a ludic perspective to those generally used for studying environmental issues in social sciences. To introduce in the debate a play/game metaphor enriches the interpretations of environmental crisis and provides a further motivation to action. The ludic perspective has a sociorelational background. That tradition of studies helps in constructing a set of categories that are then applied to environmental education (EE). The choice of such a topic is motivated by two factors: EE is an aspect generally practiced but mistreated in the main theorizations, and EE is exemplary of the potentialities of the playing games metaphor, which are the desire to create, the acceptance of slow changes, the protection of an experimental bubble, and irony toward environmental issues.

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The Relocation of Transcendence

Using Schutz to Conceptualize the Nature Experiences of Secular People

David Thurfjell, Cecilie Rubow, Atko Remmel, and Henrik Ohlsson

Denmark, Estonia, and Sweden are, if measured by certain sociological criteria, considered to be three of the world’s most secular countries. Nature—forests, pristine beaches, and the countryside—plays a specific role in the allegedly secular discourse of the mainstream populations of these nations. Not only is it almost without exception deemed as a positive asset worthy of protection, it is also thought of as holding certain existential qualities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, this article suggests that Alfred Schutz’s conceptualization of transcendence—further developed by Thomas Luckmann—can be used to describe the existential experiences in nature of contemporary secular people. The article results in a suggestion for an operational definition of transcendence.

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Research in the Dark

Explorations into the Societal Effects of Light and Darkness

Nona Schulte-Römer

Edensor, Tim. 2017. From Light to Dark: Daylight, Illumination, and Gloom. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Bille, Mikkel. 2019. Homely Atmospheres and Lighting Technologies in Denmark: Living with Light. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

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Ehsan Nouzari, Thomas Hartmann, and Tejo Spit

The underground provides many spatial planning opportunities as it offers space for structures, but also functions as a resource for energy. To guide developments and use the capabilities the underground provides, the Dutch national government started a policy process for the Structuurvisie Ondergrond (a master plan). Stakeholders are involved in the policy process because of the many interests linked to underground functions. However, past policy processes related to the underground dealt with lack of stakeholder satisfaction. This article explores a quantitative approach by focusing on (a) statistical testing of four criteria of interactive governance and (b) using said criteria to evaluate the satisfaction of stakeholders in a policy process. This article highlights the usefulness of a more quantitative approach and provides new insights into the relation between interactive governance and the procedural satisfaction of stakeholders. It also provides insights that help to improve interactive governance in terms of process management to achieve greater procedural satisfaction.

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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.