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.
Environmental Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies
Rolf Lidskog and Göran Sundqvist
A Case Study of Pakistan
Syed Shahbaz Hussain and Pirzada Sami Ullah Sabri
This article analyzes and explores what policies Pakistan adopted to tackle its environmental challenges, effects and outcomes. The research consists of an overview of Pakistan's national environmental policy development and explains the motives and reasons to understand in what context the state formulates these policies. It also makes assessments and evaluations about to what extent policies are successful in achieving their objectives. The study suggests some implications of the Pakistan experience to cope with the global challenges of environmental protection.
Environmental social scientists should analyze ideologies that reproduce ecologically unsustainable societies through the method of ideology critique. Ideology refers to ideas and practices that conceal contradictions through the legitimation and/or reification of the social order. Ideology critique is a method that allows the researcher to unmask systemic contradictions concealed by ideology. While the primary purpose of this project is to revisit and revise conceptual and methodological tools for the environmental social sciences, I provide examples of ideologies that may aid in the reproduction of the “treadmill of production” or the expansionistic production cycle that accelerates resource use and pollution.
This article adduces evidence of the central role played by scientists in the 1970s and “lay persons” in the post-Chernobyl period in the production and legitimation of alternative types of knowledge and expertise on the environmental and health risks of nuclear energy in France. From a constructivist perspective, it argues that this shift in the relationship of “lay persons” to knowledge production is linked not only to the rise of mistrust vis-à-vis scientific institutions but also, and especially, to a change in the way they have reacted to “dependency” on institutions and to “state secrecy”. Counter-expertise is constructed as a politics of surveillance where alternative interpretations of risk are buttressed by a permanent critique of the epistemic assumptions of institutional expertise. The identity of “counter-expert” is socially elaborated within this process.
Anthropocene as Science Fiction and Scholarship-in-the-Making
Heather Anne Swanson, Nils Bubandt and Anna Tsing
How might one responsibly review a field just coming into being—such as that provoked by the term Anthropocene? In this article, we argue for two strategies. First, working from the premise that the Anthropocene field is best understood within its emergence, we review conferences rather than publications. In conference performances, we glimpse the themes and tensions of a field-to-come. Second, we interpret Anthropocene as a science-fiction concept, that is, one that pulls us out of familiar space and time to view our predicaments differently. This allows us to explore emergent figurations, genres, and practices for the transdisciplinary study of real and imagined worlds framed by human disturbance. In the interplay and variation across modes for constructing this field, Anthropocene scholarship finds its shape.
Marianne Ryghaug and Marit Toftaker
This article focuses on the introduction of electric vehicles in Norway and how electrical cars are understood culturally in relation to conventional car use. Theoretically, elements of social practice theory and the analysis of processes of domestication are combined to frame practical, cognitive, and symbolic dimensions of electric car use. The empirical data consists of individual and focus group interviews with electric car users. The analysis unpacks the implications of user-designated meaning in driving practices, competencies considered necessary when driving electric cars, and the material aspects regarded as critical features of electric car driving. Preliminary findings suggest that the practice of electric car driving alters user habits by making transportation needs more salient and raises both the technological and energy consumption awareness of users.
A Study in Social Cohesion
This article examines willingness to join China's emerging green movement through an analysis of data from the China General Social Survey of 2006. A question asked about environmental NGO membership shows that while only 1 percent of respondents claim to be members of an environmental NGO, more than three-fifths say they would like to join one in future if there is an opportunity, slightly less than one-fifth reject the idea and the remainder are “don't knows.” The article tests explanations of willingness to join based on instrumentality, ideology, social identity and social capital networks. It finds that instrumental considerations dominate, although ideology, identity and networks contribute incrementally. The conclusion considers the usefulness of willingness to join as an indicator of social cohesion within the framework of a wider effort to evaluate social quality.
Eleni Tourlouki, Antonia-Leda Matalas and Demosthenes Panagiotakos
The present work documents the core diet of a population in a Mediterranean island that has been minimally eroded by industrialization and tourism, and links present food-consumption patterns to the foods' historical roots and to the exploitation of natural resources available to the community. Demographic, behavioral, cultivation, and food-intake information were collected among inhabitants of the isolated northern villages of Karpathos. The core diet of the elderly village inhabitants was found to be based on wheat, barley, legumes, and olive oil. Inhabitants in the northern villages of Karpathos rely on local resources for most of their food. Absence of mechanized farming, the social role of women, and customs of inheritance are factors that have contributed to the preservation of traditional food-related practices.
This article aims to empirically test the so called low-cost hypothesis. The hypothesis posits that cost moderates the strength of the relationship between environmental concern and behavior. The effects of the behavioral cost and environmental concern on household waste recycling were evaluated, using empirical data collected from 2,695 respondents in Cologne, Germany. Empirically, a clear effect of both behavioral cost and environmental concern can be identified. Recycling rates are higher when a curbside scheme is implemented or the distance to collection containers is low. In addition, the probability of recycling participation rises when the actor has a pronounced environmental concern. This effect of environmental attitudes does not vary with behavioral cost and opportunities. Therefore, the low-cost hypothesis is not supported by the study.
Lam Yee Man
Many people believe risk drives change. Environmental degradation, depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming all help advance global environmental development. However, why do some countries react promptly while some are slower to react to environmental risk? Reasons vary, but this article focuses on how the specific way risk was formulated and introduced in Hong Kong impeded drastic and swift environmental development. Tracing back to the time when the notion of pollution was first formulated in Hong Kong, this article argues that pollution was not defined as what it was. Instead, pollution was defined and introduced to the public as a problem of sanitation, turning pollution into a problem of categorization—a risk that could be easily resolved. This article contributes to the study of both pollution and risk by studying pollution as a social construct in the unique case of Hong Kong. A warning from Hong Kong—instead of addressing and resolving it, risk could be discreetly displaced.