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Catherine Mei Ling Wong

In East Asia, climate change as a policy concern has been a late developer. The last decade, however, has seen the mainstreaming of environmental issues in core policy circles, but in the form of market-friendly, pro-industrial development framings. This paper problematizes such environmental framings by looking at the politics of state-led ecological modernization and the institutional reforms that have emerged out of it. It argues that State-led ecological modernization necessarily leads to environmental framings that are too narrowly defined by state and industrial interests - hence the focus on carbon emissions, energy security and the impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The State-driven assumption that society can modernize itself out of its environmental crisis through greater advancements in technological development also ignores the fact that this process often leads to the creation of other environmental and social problems, which in turn undermines the fundamental goals of stability and sustainability. Civil society needs to be given greater space in the policy and framing processes in order to have a more balanced policy approach to environmental reform in a more equitable way.

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Environmental Expertise as Group Belonging

Environmental Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies

Rolf Lidskog and Göran Sundqvist

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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Carol Hager

The energy revolution poses a fundamental challenge to the German corporatist institutional model. The push for renewables in Germany arose almost entirely outside the prevailing channels of institutional power. Eventually, federal legislation helped support the boom in local energy production that was already underway, and it encouraged the further development of new forms of community investment and citizen participation in energy supply. Recently, the federal government has tried to put the genie back in the bottle by shifting support to large energy producers. But, as this article shows, the energy transition has provided a base for local power that cannot easily be assailed. The debate over German energy policy is becoming a contest between centralized and decentralized models of political and economic power. Prevailing institutionalist theories have difficulty accounting for these developments. I analyze the local development of renewable energy by means of a case study of the Freiburg area in southwestern Germany, which has evolved from a planned nuclear power and fossil fuel center to Germany's “solar region”. Incorporating insights from ecological modernization theory, I show how the locally based push for renewables has grown into a challenge to the direction of German democracy itself.

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Anna Wesselink and Jeroen Warner

The aim of this special volume is to critically examine the various ways in which floods and flood management are framed in current policies, especially the “space for rivers” policies that have been adopted in many countries of Western Europe. The articles in this volume discuss different aspects of this framing, while employing different theoretical frames. Of these, Spiral Dynamics stands out as the most intriguing and least known. The papers thereby potentially contribute to reframing policy contents and/or procedures: either because they show alternative policy contents and/or because they show different ways of looking at policy making. This introductory article provides an overview of what framing means in a policy-making context, thereby highlighting the politics of engaging in (re)framing.

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Michael J. Lorr

Urban sociology and urban studies increasingly employ the idea of sustainability to explain, analyze, and critique city redevelopment. While the ambiguous and oxymoronic nature of sustainability goals has been extensively covered in the past, the current resurgence and popularity of the term “sustainability,“ especially under the aegis of “urban sustainability“ or “green“ cities, requires us to rethink the usefulness of sustainability as a concept for understanding and evaluating urban redevelopment. Confronting this challenge, this article reviews three of the most common theoretical approaches to sustainability, problematizes those approaches in the context of North American cities, and then provides a working definition of urban sustainability. Finally, the article recommends four plausible research hypotheses to guide future research on urban sustainability.