Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Tyoto

By Ken Conca; Geoffrey D. Dabelko et al. | Go to book overview

SHEILA JASANOFF


15
Skinning Scientific Cats

Let me begin with the picture that unquestionably accounts for the birth of the modern environmental movement. The World Commission on Environment and Development has this to say in its influential work, Our Common Future:

In the middle of the 20th century, we saw our planet from space for the first time. Historians may eventually find that this vision had a greater impact on thought than did the Copernican revolution of the 16th century. . . . From space we see a small and fragile ball, dominated not by human activity and edifice, but a pattern of clouds, greenery, oceans and soil. Humanity's inability to fit its activities into that pattern is changing boundary systems fundamentally.

The idea of the scientific revolution is never far from the minds of those who comment on the Apollo picture. Many environmentalists have argued that what the picture of the biosphere truly accomplished was a paradigm shift in our ways of thinking about how the world works: the "fourth discontinuity" It was a moment that displaced the human ego by making it conscious of the physical finiteness of the place it inhabits. The effect was on a par with the three great discontinuities of the past: the Copernican revolution, which displaced the earth from the centre of the human universe, the Darwinian revolution, which displaced human beings from the

____________________
Originally published in New Statesman and Society, 26 February 1993, pp. 29-30. Copyright © New Statesman and Society. Reprinted with permission.

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