Dangerous Knowledge and Global Environmental Change
Whose Epistemologies Count?
November 26, 2014
The question of how the social sciences and humanities ought to relate to science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM) subjects is a recurrent one. It’s become a burning question in the world of “global change science” of late because the scope, scale, and magnitude of the human impact on Earth is unprecedented. Groups of otherwise sober geoscientists are sounding the alarm, as indicated by the concepts of the “Anthropocene,” “planetary boundaries,” and “global tipping points.” There’s been talk of a “new social contract” between global change researchers and the societies their inquiries are intended to serve. As part of this, geoscientists are now looking to those of us who study diverse human perceptions, norms, values, relations, institutions, and practices. As geoscientists recognize, we need to analyze, interpret, and change the habits of whole societies if we are to reduce and adapt to the enormous biophysical changes we are collectively instigating. Heide Hackmann and coauthors term this the “social heart” of global environmental change (2014). It implies that environmental social scientists and environmental humanists must step forward and make a difference now so that Earth future resembles something far less bleak than imagined by Cormac McCarthy in his shattering novel The Road.
November 25, 2014
The scholarly journal Environment and Society was founded with a specific goal in mind: to bring the environmentally focused research, analysis, and theory building from the social sciences—particularly anthropology, human geography, sociology, and political science—to an audience who might not read the flagship journals of our various disciplines, but would, nevertheless, benefit from knowing about our approaches to environmental problems. As an environmental anthropologist, I have encountered scholars trained in the natural sciences, the humanities, and various policy-oriented fields throughout my career. While these interactions have taken multiple forms, one constant has been the need for a much more broad and robust understanding of the contribution that the social sciences make to complex socio-ecological questions. Environment and Society is an effort to promote that understanding and to foster dialogue between scholars in the many disciplines that are coming together today to bring positive change to this ecologically troubled planet.