Critical Political Ecology: The Politics of Environmental Science

By Tim Forsyth | Go to book overview

4

Social framings of environmental science
The objectives of this chapter are to summarize further problems with environmental science resulting from debates about language and social divisions. The chapter will:
• introduce debates from Sociology of Scientific Knowledge concerning the role of framings and language in influencing how environmental information is collected and presented;
• discuss the drawing of “boundaries”-between different social groups; scientists and “lay” people; or human and non-human objects-and their importance for the politics of environmental science; and
• outline different approaches to acknowledge the influences of different social framings on the evolution of environmental knowledge and explanations, with implications for making current environmental science more transparent and representative of different social groups.

This chapter builds on the discussion of Philosophy of Science in Chapter 3, and forms a further illustration of how social norms and experiences have become absorbed into scientific statements commonly considered as both factual and universal. Understanding how such social framings influence science is a crucial component of a “critical” political ecology. Later chapters discuss how we can change existing science toward more transparent and socially representative outcomes.


Social framings of science and knowledge

The preceding chapter discussed the importance of perspective, or local experience, in how scientific inquiry proceeds. Indeed, according to debates such as semantic or transcendental realism, the local perception and evaluation of different biophysical processes can be crucial in determining how environmental “changes” are considered to be environmental “problems.”

The local perception or evaluation of environmental changes may be referred to as “framings.” This term refers to the principles and assumptions underlying political debate and action. An environmental debate, for

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