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Allan C. Hutchinson and Joel Colón-Ríos

The relationship between democracy and constitutions is a long and fractious one. Those who lean towards the constitutionalist side have tended to perceive democracy as a threat to political order and the preservation of important values, whereas those who take a more democratist stance tend to treat constitutions as elite hindrances to popular rule as much as anything else. In this paper, we will give the constitutionalist thesis a broader theoretical and political scrutiny. By way of explanation, we will address and recommend the possibilities and problems for putting into practical operation such an anti-constitutionalist stance; the recent experience of the U.S. State of California offers itself as a good forcing-ground for these ideas. In short, from a democratic standpoint, the challenge for the citizenry is not so much about defining the values of constitutions, but constitutions whose change is outside the scope of popular decision making, supposed to exclusively take place through judicial interpretation or through an amendment formula designed precisely to make change difficult and unlikely. Too often, constitutions place checks and limits on democratic participation in the name of some other set of vaunted truths or elite-favouring values. For the strong democrat, it is formal constitutions and their institutional paraphernalia that do more to inhibit and dull democracy's emancipatory potential than to nurture and fulfil it.

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Bertha Mook

Although there is a realization in Western society today that childhood is changing, the topic remains clouded in confusion and contradictory viewpoints. The central question, if and how the nature of childhood itself has changed, has led the author to conduct a metabletic inquiry. Metabletics or the science of change is a human science research approach that incorporates phenomenological methods and seeks to understand a phenomenon by taking its historical development, its social cultural context and relevant synchronistic developments into account. In exploring the changing nature of childhood, historical, metabletic, and phenomenological studies were consulted as well as some selected sources from literature, art, and entertainment that portray the lives of children and, in particular, of boys in the past and in the present. First, a brief historical perspective on the changing nature of childhood from traditional to modern times is presented. This is followed by the concept of modern childhood and its transition to a postmodern childhood. The author aims to describe the essential characteristics of childhood with a focus on boyhood as lived in different historical time periods in order to contribute to a clearer understanding of its changing nature. The present study is exploratory and opens a vast domain that awaits further detailed investigations.

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Bleu, Blanc…Green?

France and Climate Change

Éloi Laurent

The deadly heat wave of August 2003 convinced a majority of French of the dramatic impact of climate change. This article aims at presenting evidence and analysis about public perception, environmental performance, and policy development in France with regards to this major public apprehension. The French are indeed among the most concerned people in the world and the EU about climate change, and they seem more willing than others to act resolutely to mitigate it. Yet, if the performance of the French economy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (GHS) is flattering, ambitious public policies will have to be implemented to achieve the "factor 4" objective set in 2005 (a four-fold reduction of GHG by 2050). This was precisely the main purpose of the "Grenelle environnement," which in 2007 tried to build into the law the national consensus on climate change and the sustainability of which is bound to be tested by acute economic difficulties.

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Introduction

Emerging Kinship in a Changing Middle East

Soraya Tremayne

The introduction to this issue has two strands. First, it contextualises the articles, which address kinship from varied perspectives, and situates them in their broader cultural context. Second, it adopts a comparative perspective by differentiating between the present articles with those published a decade earlier on the same themes in this journal, to examine whether, how and to what extent kinship has changed in the face of modernity, globalisation, wars, migrations and political change. It concludes that, compared with a decade ago, kinship has not only not weakened, but it has revived further and penetrated other institutions beyond family, or called upon to ensure and protect the continuity of cultural norms and values, from the threats paused by modernity and by the global, cultural and political invasions.

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Stefan Heiland, Silke Spielmans and Bernd Demuth

The article examines the relevance of demographic change for the development of rural landscapes, especially in Germany's shrinking regions. To date, no empirical investigations have undertaken the matter. Thus, the article is mainly based on literature analysis and the findings of expert workshops. The research indicates that demographic change does not have as strong impact on landscapes as other factors such as agricultural policy, climate change, and the promotion of renewable energies. Nonetheless, from the perspective of nature conservation, there might be some indirect effects caused by structural and institutional changes of administrations, which could lead to a decline in importance of landscape-related concerns. In addition, changes in environmental consciousness due to rising cultural diversity could lead to a different societal attitude toward landscapes and their values.

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Rethinking Adaptation

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.

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Robert Eastwood

This article is a non-technical review of the economics of global policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Quite a lot is known about the likely physical consequences of anthropogenic climate change, but much uncertainty remains. In particular, account needs to be taken of possible catastrophes such as ice sheet melting. How are we to balance the known costs of taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the present against the uncertain benefits of such action for future generations? How convincing is the case for substantial measures to be undertaken now? If the case for such action is accepted, should emissions be controlled via Kyoto-style national emissions targets or by the imposition of carbon taxes? How can the challenges of burden sharing between developed and developing countries be addressed?

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Changing Paradigms

Flux and Stability in Past Environments

Liliana Janik

This article introduces and illustrates the need to reassess the way we conceive of human 'adaptation' to the natural environment. The primary case considered is the south-eastern Baltic Sea region during the mid-Holocene. The article argues for the importance of the notion of a metastable ecosystem in debate about climatic and environmental changes. Through a discussion of the culturally governed choices made by human communities in non-equilibrium ecosystems, we are able critically to examine highly influential theories of environmental determinism.

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Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo and Joseph Awetori Yaro

The hydra-headed nature of climate change—affecting not just climate but all other domains of human life—requires not just technological fixes but cultural innovation. It is impossible to ignore a devoutly religious majority in Ghana, a nation where diverse religious communities' perspectives on climate change and their views on the way forward are crucial. This article aims to empirically explore how Christian, Islamic, and indigenous African religious leaders view the challenges of climate change and what countermeasures they propose. Interestingly, most our informants have indicated that the reasons for the current environmental crisis are, in equal degree, Ghana's past colonial experience and deviation from religious beliefs and practice, while the main obstacle to sustainable development is poverty. There was unanimity on the reclamation of religious values and principles that promote the idea of stewardship as a way forward toward a sustainable future. This, however, functions more as a faith claim and a religiously inspired normative postulate than a program of concrete action.

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Peter Del Tredici

Urban habitats are characterized by high levels of disturbance, impervious paving, and heat retention. These factors, acting in concert, alter soil, water, and air conditions in ways that promote the growth of stress-tolerant, early-successional vegetation on abandoned or unmaintained land. In most urban areas, a cosmopolitan array of spontaneous plants provide important ecological services that, in light of projected climate change impacts, are likely to become more significant in the future. Learning how to manage spontaneous urban vegetation to increase its ecological and social values may be a more sustainable strategy than attempting to restore historical ecosystems that flourished before the city existed.