Risk and imagining
Timothy O'Riordan and Peter Timmerman
In considering innovative future research with regard to environmental risk, the authors of this chapter have been drawn, in the first instance, towards presenting examples of research which – as our title indicates – are “imagined,” “alternative,” and also “future”-oriented in a special way. As will become apparent, these examples have certain elements in common; however, what they share above all is a turning away from models of incremental future risk assessment towards more broadly based evaluations of alternative futures. The differences between these methods are stark, and depend upon a recognition that “risk” and “risk assessment” as concepts and processes already contain (or reflect) implicit assumptions or expectations about what the future is, and what will be necessary to manage it. Reconsidering these, as the introduction to this volume argues, raises basic questions about trust, equity, and the working out of what has been called “our common future” (Nagpal and Foltz 1995; WCED 1987).
How do the implicit assumptions of risk assessment – which is an artefact of modern technological civilization – affect our consideration of the future, a quasi-artefact constantly in the making?
The continuing escalation of concern about risk, including the polar