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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.

Free access

Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda

In any region of the world, in any country, each beginning of the year offers us a scenario for potential changes, purposes, goals and hopes, and 2019 does not have to be the exception. Despite various forecasts of slower global economic growth in the coming year (World Bank, Forbes, Reuters), and despite the latest reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on stressful atmospheric conditions, among other environmental discomforts around the planet, we cannot limit our human capacity to see the future with courage and optimism.

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Edith Kauffer

Regions & Cohesion is proud to present two photographs by Edith Kauffer that are related to the journal’s special section on transboundary waters and river basins. The section includes three articles with focus on water issues at the border between Mexico and the United States in a context of scarcity, with bilateral agreements eventually contested and relatively tense. At the complete opposite of these realities, the following images show the heterogeneity of transboundary river basins at the Mexican borders, particularly in the case with Guatemala.

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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Designing a Green Belt for Xalapa City

Veracruz under current Mexican policies

Griselda Benítez, Gerardo Alvarado-Castillo, René A. Palestina, Mara Cortés, Kari Williams, and Israel Acosta

English abstract: Green Belts are often proposed as an alternative for containing urban sprawl, restoring ecological processes, recovering connectivity, and maintaining the multi-functionality that cities need. This article analyzes a proposed Green Belt for Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. It is spatially examined through GIS analysis and designed on the notion of Garden City as a strip to circumvent the city. Existing conditions are also discussed. Two existing conservation initiatives are compared to the proposed Green Belt strategy. Its establishment requires agreements between Xalapa and surrounding municipalities. The proposed strategy brings local government and citizens together to preserve the remaining vegetation and thus promote the well-being of local inhabitants.

Spanish abstract: Los cinturones verdes frecuentemente se han propuesto como una alternativa para contener la expansión urbana desordenada, restaurar los procesos ecológicos y recuperar la conectividad, y mantener la multifuncionalidad que las ciudades necesitan. Este artículo analiza un esquema de Cinturón Verde para Xalapa, Veracruz, México. Es espacialmente examinado, diseñado bajo el concepto de Ciudad Jardín, como una franja que rodea a la ciudad, el análisis se elaboró con un SIG. Las condiciones existentes también se discuten. Se comparan dos iniciativas de conservación existentes con la estrategia propuesta de Cinturón Verde. Su establecimiento requiere acuerdos entre Xalapa y los municipios aledaños. La estrategia propuesta requiere reunir a los gobiernos locales y ciudadanos para preservar la vegetación remanente y así promover el bienestar de los habitantes locales.

French abstract Les ceintures vertes sont fréquemment proposées comme une alternative pour limiter l’expansion urbaine désordonnée, restaurer les processus écologiques, récupérer la connectivité et maintenir la multifonctionnalité que les villes requièrent. Cet article analyse une proposition de ceinture verte pour Xalapa dans l’état du Veracruz au Mexique. Celle-ci est examinée et élaborée en particulier à partir du concept de cité-jardin, formée par une trame qui entoure la ville et son analyse a été élaborée par un Système d’information géographique (SIG). Les conditions existantes sont également discutées. Deux initiatives de conservation qui suivent la stratégie de la ceinture verte sont comparées. Leur mise en oeuvre implique des accords entre Xalapa et les municipes des alentours. La stratégie proposée impose la réunion des gouvernements locaux et des citoyens pour préserver la végétation restante et faciliter la promotion du bien-être des habitants.

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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.

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El desarrollo sostenible como política pública

Caso Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado de Quito

María del Carmen Zenck Huerta, Puiyen Urrutia Camchong, and Ingrid Ríos Rivera

*Full article is in Spanish

English abstract: Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was chosen by WWF in 2016 as one of the most sustainable cities in Latin America, a distinction it shares with Bogotá, Cali, Monteria, San Isidro, Miraflores, Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Belo Horizonte. To reach this recognition, the local governments of these cities implement economic, social and environmental policies that lay the legal foundations for an integrally sustainable and coherent development. This study explores the unique case of Quito, whose decentralized autonomous government implements a local public policy on social responsibility for the promotion of the sustainable development of the territory, based on corporate co-responsibility and citizen participation, incorporating international standards such as the Global Compact Principles, GRI, ISO 26000 and the SDGs.

Spanish abstract: Quito, capital de Ecuador, fue elegida por WWF en 2016 como una de las ciudades más sostenibles en América Latina, distinción que comparte junto a Bogotá, Cali, Montería, San Isidro, Miraflores, Río de Janeiro, Recife y Belo Horizonte. Para llegar a este reconocimiento, los gobiernos locales de estas ciudades implementan políticas económicas, sociales y medioambientales que sientan las bases legales para un desarrollo sostenible integral y coherente. Este estudio explora el caso único de Quito, cuyo gobierno autónomo descentralizado implementa una política pública local en responsabilidad social para el fomento del desarrollo sostenible del territorio, sustentada en la corresponsabilidad corporativa y la participación ciudadana, incorporando normas internacionales como los Principios del Pacto Global, GRI, ISO 26000 y los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible.

French abstract: Quito, la capitale de l’Équateur, a été choisie par le WWF en 2016 comme l’une des villes les plus durables d’Amérique latine, une distinction qu’elle partage avec Bogota, Cali, Monteria, San Isidro, Miraflores, Rio de Janeiro, Recife et Belo Horizonte. Pour parvenir à cette reconnaissance, les gouvernements locaux de ces villes mettent en oeuvre des politiques économiques, sociales et environnementales qui jettent les bases juridiques d’un développement durable intégral et cohérent. Cette étude explore le cas unique de Quito, dont le gouvernement autonome décentralisé met en oeuvre une politique publique locale de responsabilité sociale pour la promotion du développement durable du territoire, fondée sur la coresponsabilité des entreprises et la participation des citoyens, intégrant des normes internationales telles que le Pacte Mondial Principes, GRI, ISO 26000 et les ODD.

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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Fabiola Lizama-Pérez, María de los Ángeles Piñar-Álvarez, Alejandro Ortega-Argueta, María Azahara Mesa-Jurado, María del Carmen Sandoval-Caraveo, and Ady Patricia Carrera-Hernández

English abstract: This article assesses the implementation and performance of Local Agenda 21 (LA21) in Mexico over a decade (2004–2013). Official records of municipal evaluations from all 31 Mexican states were analyzed, comprising 39 indicators of four dimensions of sustainable development: institutional, economic, social and environmental. A positive evolution of the implementation of LA21 was observed, with the economic and social dimensions presenting the best and worst performances, respectively. In general, the local governments of northern Mexico performed better than their southern counterparts. The voluntary nature of LA21 implementation is highlighted, yet necessitating a strengthening of municipal capacities in long-term planning, inter-administration continuity, efficacy evaluation, and integration of all sectors into a more coherent municipal agenda.

Spanish abstract: Este estudio analiza la implementación y desempeño de la Agenda Local 21 (AL21) en México en un periodo de una década (2004–2013). Se analizaron registros oficiales de evaluaciones municipales de los 31 estados de la república, que comprenden 39 indicadores de cuatro dimensiones del desarrollo sustentable: institucional, económico, social y ambiental. Se observó una evolución positiva en la implementación de la AL21, con las dimensiones económica y social mostrando el mejor y peor desempeños, respectivamente. En general, los gobiernos locales del norte de México tuvieron mejores desempeños que sus contrapartes del sur. Se destaca la naturaleza voluntaria de la implementación de la AL21, que todavía necesita un fortalecimiento de las capacidades municipales en la planificación de largo plazo, en la continuidad inter-administrativa, la evaluación de eficacia y la integración de todos los sectores en una agenda municipal más coherente.

French abstract: Cette étude analyse la mise en oeuvre et les performances de l’Agenda 21 local (AL21) au Mexique sur une période de dix ans (2004-2013). Les archives officielles des évaluations municipales des trente-et-un états de la République ont été analysées. Elles comprennent trente-neuf indicateurs de quatre dimensions du développement durable: institutionnel, économique, social et environnemental. Une évolution positive a été observée dans la mise en oeuvre du LA21, les dimensions économique et sociale affichant respectivement les meilleures et les plus basses performances. En général, les administrations locales du nord du Mexique ont obtenu de meilleurs résultats que leurs homologues du sud. On souligne la nature volontaire de la mise en oeuvre de la LA21, qui nécessite toutefois encore un renforcement des capacités municipales dans la planification à long terme, dans la continuité inter-administrative, l’évaluation de l’efficacité et l’intégration de tous les secteurs dans un agenda municipal plus cohérent.

Free access

Ka’ux

Mixe language and biodiversity loss in Oaxaca, Mexico

Alfonsina Arriaga-Jiménez, Citlali Pérez-Díaz, and Sebastian Pillitteri

English abstract: The community of Tlahuitoltepec, in the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca, is losing Traditional Ecological Knowledge due to socially driven changes in its natural environment. Mixe is one of the 69 indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca, and is spoken almost exclusively in Tlahuitoltepec. Using an ethnographic approach, with loosely structured interviews among key members of the community, we analyzed the theory that biodiversity loss is linked to the loss of indigenous languages and traditional ecological knowledge. Our findings show that certain words in Mixe, used to refer to animals that are no longer observed in the community or its surroundings, are not well known by young people. The case of Ka’ux reflects what happens to traditional ecological knowledge and to an indigenous language when biodiversity is lost.

Spanish abstract: La comunidad de Tlahuitoltepec, en la Sierra Mixe de Oaxaca, pierde conocimiento ecológico tradicional debido a cambios sociales en su ambiente natural. El Mixe es una de las 69 lenguas indígenas habladas en Oaxaca, y es hablado casi exclusivamente en Tlahiutoltepec. Aplicando un enfoque etnográfico, con entrevistas semiestructuradas a miembros clave de la comunidad, analizamos la teoría sobre si la pérdida de biodiversidad se relaciona con la pérdida de lenguas indígenas y conocimiento ecológico tradicional. Nuestros resultados muestran que algunas palabras mixes usadas para nombrar animales que ya no se observan en la comunidad o sus alrededores, no son bien conocidas por la gente joven. El caso de Ka’ux refleja que ocurre con el conocimiento ecológico tradicional y a las lenguas indígenas cuando la biodiversidad desaparece.

French abstract: La communauté de Tlahuitoltepec, dans la Sierra mixe d’Oaxaca, perd ses connaissances écologiques traditionnelles en raison de changements sociaux dans son environnement naturel. Le mixe est l’une des soixante-neuf langues indigènes parlées à Oaxaca et elle est parlée presque exclusivement à Tlahuitoltepec. En utilisant une approche ethnographique, avec des entretiens semi-structurés parmi les membres clés de la communauté, nous avons analysé la théorie selon laquelle la biodiversité est liée à la perte des langues autochtones et des connaissances écologiques traditionnelles. Nos résultats montrent que certains mots en mixe utilisés pour désigner des animaux qui ne sont plus observés dans la communauté ou ses environs ne sont pas bien connus des jeunes. Le cas de Ka’ux reflète l’impact de la perte de biodiversité sur les connaissances écologiques traditionnelles et sur une langue autochtone.