Envisioning strategies for sustainable development and its governance are knowledge-intensive processes. Against this background, conflicts about the correct form and actual validity of knowledge supporting sustainable development have arisen. What can be seen as evident-and what not? This article is based on the argument that there are differing modes creating evidence within “epistemic“ and “practice“ communities. Therefore, I propose to decipher knowledge production for sustainable development as processes of social experimentation in Dewey's sense. To do so, I introduce the concept of a “formative public“ for analyzing the cultural and institutional contexts of such processes. The argument is underlined by a focused description of the cases of chemical regulations and climate change politics. The findings support the argument that the politics of sustainable development has to elaborate guidelines and institutional structures for processing knowledge as a social experiment in order to resolve the conflicting ideas mirrored through differing accounts of the evidence.
Donna Houston, Diana McCallum, Wendy Steele and Jason Byrne
Cosmopolitical action in a climate-changed city represents different knowledges and practices that may seem disconnected but constellate to frame stories and spaces of a climate-just city. The question this article asks is: how might we as planners identify and develop counter-hegemonic praxes that enable us to re-imagine our experience of, and responses to, climate change? To explore this question, we draw on Isabelle Stengers’s (2010) idea of cosmopolitics—where diverse stories, perspectives, experiences, and practices can connect to create the foundation for new strategic possibilities. Our article is empirically informed by conversations with actors from three Australian cities (Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth) who are mobilizing different approaches to this ideal in various grassroots actions on climate change.
A Framework for Ethnographic Research on the Perceptions of Climate Change
Sophie Elixhauser, Stefan Böschen and Katrin Vogel
Ethnographers studying the local dimensions of climate change find themselves confronted with a methodological problem: climate change is both an abstract concept and a locally present phenomenon, yet it does not emerge from lived experience. We tackle this problem by means of a research framework that combines discussions on place and Tim Ingold’s (2011) idea of a meshwork. This article is based on research on climate change perceptions in two Alpine communities, located in Bavaria (Germany) and South Tyrol (Italy), respectively. We show how a focus on climate knots and their meshworks allows the grasping, describing, and visualizing of the different dimensions of climate change in these two local settings. This framework, as we further show, helps to reveal social and cultural patterns and underlying structures.
Emotions, Evolution, and Climate Change
Debra J. Davidson
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.
J.G. Ballard's early novels The Drowned World (1962) and The Crystal World (1966) take a climatological approach to apocalyptic dystopia. This has led survey studies of climate fiction to identify these novels as founding texts of the genre. Yet Ballard wrote in an era before global warming had been identified by climate scientists, and his fiction is as much psychological and ontological as it is physiological. Ballard both adheres to and deviates from the global warming narrative now accepted by contemporary climatology, working within and beyond the SF subgenre of post-apocalyptic fiction. This paper assesses the extent to which these dystopian narratives can be understood as climate fiction and explores the debt that more recent cli-fi may owe to Ballard.
Suzanne Graham and Victoria Graham
English abstract: Apart from Mauritius, five of the six African small island developing States (ASIDS) are relatively new to democracy with several only transitioning from one-party states to multiparty states in the early 1990s. Goals 13 and 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are priority goals for the ASIDS. Given that one of the key tests of a healthy democracy is the depth of civil society, this article seeks to examine the quality of political participation in the ASIDS in relation to these two priority SDGs. In so doing, this article considers conventional and nonconventional forms of participation and the potential impact these different avenues for a public “voice” might or might not have on the ASIDS’ government management of climate change and marine resources.
Spanish abstract: Excepto Mauritius, los otros cinco pequeños estados insulares africanos en desarrollo (ASIDS en inglés) recién incursionan en la democracia; algunos de ellos transitan de estados con un solo partido a estados múlti-partidistas a principios de los años noventa. Los objetivos 13 y 14 de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sustentable (ODS) son prioritarios para los ASIDS. Considerando que una prueba de democracia sana es una sociedad civil robusta, este artículo examina la calidad de la participación política en los ASIDS en relación con estos dos ODS. El artículo considera las formas convencionales y no convencionales de participación y el impacto potencial que estas distintas vías de “voz” pública pueda tener en el manejo del cambio climático y los recursos marinos de las ASIDS.
French abstract: A l’exception de l’île Maurice, cinq des six petits états îles en dévelopement (PEID) d’Afrique sont relativement nouveaux en matière de démocratie dans la mesure où certains ont uniquement transité du parti unique au multipartisme au début des années 90. Treize des quatorze ODD sont prioritaires pour les PEID. En partant du constat qu’une des preuves clefs d’une démocratie saine réside dans l’amplitude de la société civile, cet article cherche à examiner la qualité de la participation politique dans les PEID en relation avec deux ODD prioritaires. Ainsi, l’article considère des formes de participation conventionnelles et non conventionnelles ainsi que leur impact potentiel sur une expression publique en particulier, à savoir l’existence d’une gestion gouvernementale des PEID d’Afrique en matière de changement climatique et de ressources marines.
A Critical Review
Hannah Gibson and Sita Venkateswar
The Anthropocene refers to the planetary scale of anthropogenic influences on the composition and function of Earth ecosystems and life forms. Socio-political and geographic responses frame the uneven topographies of climate change, while efforts to adapt and mitigate its impact extend across social and natural sciences. This review of anthropology's evolving engagement with the Anthropocene contemplates multifarious approaches to research. The emergence of multispecies ethnographic research highlights entanglements of humans with other life forms. New ontological considerations are reflected in Kohn's “Anthropology of Life,” ethnographic research that moves beyond an isolated focus on the human to consider other life processes and entities as research participants. Examples of critical engagement discussed include anthropology beyond disciplinary borders, queries writing in the Anthropocene, and anthropology of climate change. We demonstrate the diverse positions of anthropologists within this juncture in relation to our central trope of entanglements threaded through our discussion in this review.
Speaking Scientific Truth to Power
Charles F. Kennel
This article takes up three issues associated with connecting knowledge with social action. First, we discuss some of the pitfalls of communication and perception that are always there when natural or social scientists present their versions of truth to decision-makers. Next we review how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deals with these pitfalls in producing its global assessments. While there is only one global assessment, there will be thousands helping local communities adapt to climate change. Each will need its own analogue of IPCC, its own 'knowledge action network'. Social Anthropology will play a key role in such networks, and so will have to devise its own ways to cope with the same issues that face climate scientists when they provide advice to action leaders. The way assessments are done at the regional and community levels, especially in the developing world, will necessarily differ from IPCC practice, but the considerations that brought the IPCC into being will still apply.
Indigenous Resurgence, Decolonization, and Movements for Environmental Justice
This volume of Environment and Society aims to set forth a theoretical and discursive interruption of the dominant, mainstream environmental justice movement by reframing issues of climate change and environmental degradation through an anticolonial lens. Specifically, the writers for this volume are invested in positioning environmental justice within historical, social, political, and economic contexts and larger structures of power that foreground the relationships among settler colonialism, nature, and planetary devastation.
The Anthropocene can be understood as a crisis of blame: it is not only a geological era but also a political zeitgeist in which the marks of human agency and culpability can be perceived nearly everywhere. Treating global climate change as a metonym for this predicament, I show how life in the Anthropocene reconfigures blame in four ways: it invites ubiquitous blame, ubiquitous blamelessness, selective blame, and partial blame. I review case studies from around the world, investigating which climate change blame narratives actors select, why, and with what consequences. Climate change blame can lead to scapegoating and buck-passing but also to their opposites. Given that the same ethical stance may lead to radically different consequences in different situations, the nobleness or ignobleness of an Anthropocene blame narrative is not a property of the narrative itself, but of the way in which actors deploy it in particular times and places.