Critical Political Ecology: The Politics of Environmental Science

By Tim Forsyth | Go to book overview

9

Democratizing environmental science and networks
This chapter now examines the political institutions and procedures that can increase transparency and public participation in environmental science. If environmental science reflects social and political framings, then how can political debate be reformed to make these framings more visible and relevant to more people? How can people not represented in the framings of environmental explanations be empowered to influence environmental science?The chapter will:
• discuss the dilemmas of enhancing public participation in environmental science. Some observers have suggested that increasing participation may democratize scientific debates by acknowledging diverse forms of expertise, and by building trust in science. Against this, critics have suggested that scientific consensus and certainty are based upon the enforcement of networks and boundaries that are, by definition, exclusionary.
• examine how environmental assessments and scientific organizations may increase transparency and accountability. Such actions may form new ways of regulating the production of scientific knowledge, and may improve the communication of scientific findings from scientific networks to other groups.
• consider how alternative scientific networks or institutions may be empowered, especially from marginalized social groups or in developing countries. Such networks may often not seek to impose predefined “laws” or explanations of environmental degradation, but build local capacity to achieve inclusive political debate about the management of resources and environmental risks.

In common with Chapter 8, this chapter therefore presents practical means to address some of the problems of environmental science discussed in earlier chapters. The aim of a “critical” political ecology is to conduct environmental politics without using a priori definitions and explanations of environmental degradation. This chapter helps achieve this objective by describing political arenas that allow the discussion of

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