Critical Political Ecology: The Politics of Environmental Science

By Tim Forsyth | Go to book overview
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Preface and acknowledgments

These are controversial times for writing about politics and environmental science. An increasing number of authors are acknowledging the political influences on scientific knowledge and organizations that undertake scientific research. Yet, discussing the link between science and politics commonly leads to accusations of being anti-environmentalist, or epistemologically relativist. There is a need for an approach to environmental politics that acknowledges the social and political framings of environmental science, yet which offers the means to build environmental policy that is both biophysically effective and socially relevant.

This book represents an attempt to rebuild environmental science in a more politicized way. The book is inspired largely by my own research experiences in the developed and developing world, but in part summarizes the concerns of a growing number of researchers about how we understand environmental problems. These concerns do not dismiss the need for environmental protection, or suggest that economic progress will solve all problems. Instead, the concerns are about the grave simplifications and inaccuracies within much environmental debate, often revealing different perceptions between people living in affected regions, and policymakers and concerned public elsewhere. These differences suggest there is a need to rethink explanations of environmental problems in ways that acknowledge the linkages between social factors and the gathering of information about biophysical change.

The book is located within the debate known as “political ecology” because this topic has become associated with assessing the political linkages between society and environmental change. The book, however, seeks to advance this debate by suggesting new ways to integrate political analysis with the formulation and use of “ecology” as the science underlying much environmental debate. It is subtitled The Politics of Environmental Science because the book argues that “science” cannot be separated from “politics” but that political factors underlie the formulation, dissemination, and institutionalization of scientific knowledge and networks. Such discussions, however, do not suggest that environmental concern is unwarranted, or that environmental science cannot have predictive success.

The book was written with assistance from the Economic and Social


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