Critical Political Ecology: The Politics of Environmental Science

By Tim Forsyth | Go to book overview

7

The globalization of environmental risk
Chapters 5 and 6 discussed how environmental science and politics have co-evolved over time in a dynamic fashion. Now, Chapter 7 examines how environmental explanations have become extended across space through such means as global models or the projection of understandings of risk onto different societies. The chapter will:
• discuss the evolution of debate about “global” environmental problems as a paradigm in environmental science. Some observers have claimed that global environmental problems are major new risks that are increasingly prevalent worldwide. Against this, critics have suggested that our understandings of “global” problems still reflect the values and practices of scientific networks, and fail to acknowledge how global “changes” present “risks” at local levels.
• examine how research about environmental problems in remote societies has often replicated predefined assumptions about environmental risk and degradation from outside. Ironically, such replication has often occurred with debates that seek to highlight “local, ” or “indigenous, ” knowledge.
• analyze environmental vulnerability-or exposure to risk-by comparing approaches that seek to mitigate biophysical changes as the presumed cause of risk, and those that incorporate understandings of local livelihoods and ability to adapt to risk. Worryingly, some approaches that attempt to mitigate biophysical change alone might actually increase local vulnerability to environmental changes.

This chapter therefore adds to the discussion of “critical” political ecology by examining the political factors through which explanations and representations of ecology are assumed to apply across different spatial scales. Making such factors more transparent, or developing alternative forms of explanation, are discussed in later chapters.

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