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Science and the environment: Assessing cultural capacity for ecological modernization

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Abstract

Ecological modernization is emerging as a new paradigm for the environmental improvement of advanced nations. Rather than emphasize the use of remedial technologies as has been customary since the 1970s, this approach reframes the relationship between economics and the environment to overcome the zero-sum antagonism of the earlier era. This transformation faces numerous obstacles, and ultimate success will depend on a wide range of predisposing national characteristics, including institutional design and economic organization. The current analysis focuses specifically on an often overlooked third factor, cultural endowment, examining the extent to which it will likely condition the capability of individual nations to meet these challenges. Particularly important cultural attributes for ecological modernization are a strong public commitment to science and a robust environmental consciousness. Using data from several cross-national sources, including the Euro-Barometer, the World Values Survey, and the International Social Survey Programme, this analysis assesses the cultural capacities of a sample of fifteen advanced nations. The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, because of widespread lay respect for science and extensive public endorsement of environmental protection, appear to have enhanced cultural potential to pursue ecological modernization.
... Ecological modernization is argued to be a response to the failures of the initial wave of environmental management in the 1970s and early 1980s, and also served to break the impasse between the pursuit of economic progress and responsible environmental management, by reframing the terms of the discourse, enabling a perspective of the sustainable utilization of nature (Cohen 1997(Cohen , 1998. In addition to technological innovation, developments in institutional dimensions and cultural dynamics were regarded as important driving forces in environmental reform (Hajer 1995;Spaargaren and Mol 1992;Cohen 1997;Dryzek 1997). ...
... These results suggest that Filipinos have become more willing to commit the Philippines to international environmental agreements, associate economic progress together with environmental protection, and at the same time believe in equitable participation in environmental efforts. This development thus bodes well for advocates of environmentalism, both local and international: as it follows observed global discursive trends (Bäckstrand and Lövbrand 2007;Cohen 1998), enjoining the Philippines with other like-minded nations in pursuing multilateral endeavors such as the climate change, acid deposition, ocean resource management, among others that entail coordinated efforts among countries and utilization of modern efficient technological methods to address ecological issues facing contemporary society. While at the same time, it maintains its roots in local environmentalism grounded in principles of equity in considering the economic capacities and social context of countries and their fair contribution in joint efforts on global commons. ...
Article
Data from the International Social Survey Programme 2000 and 2010 environment modules were analyzed to explore the relationships between attitudes, behavior, and sociodemographic variables to citizens’ preferences to aspects of environmental discourse in the Philippines. Overall, significantly more people agree to multilateralism, equity, and the link between the environment and economic progress in 2010 as compared to 2000. A series of multinomial logistic regressions were conducted to determine significant predictors to peoples’ disposition to variables related to three overarching environmental discourses. After controlling for other covariates, the study found that the more the Filipinos adhere to statements toward science and nature that are negatively connoted: the more likely they are to agree to international multilateral commitments and ascribe to equity for poorer countries in environmental efforts; and less likely to disagree to the aspects of multilateralism, equity, and the link between the environment and economic progress. Furthermore, the results showed that demographics and civic participations generally did not have a statistically significant impact on Filipino’s agreement or disagreement to environmental discourses. The paper then discusses the implications of the findings and conclusions of the study.
... Despite issues of definition, over the past few decades the discourse and practice of household efficiency has become a cultural norm in many European countries, the United States and Australia, although the UK appears to be lagging behind (Cohen 1998). Although it is easy to accept the logic of this framing, it is important to take a closer look at the epistemological and political assumptions that underpin this discourse, as these assumptions map out the role of the individual in the sustainable consumption project. ...
... The difference between past and present emancipatory projects lies in how these moral questions are asked. They are being addressed in new spaces, using new discursive tools that are distinctive to modemity (Cohen 1998, Eder 1996. As such, AaH can be positioned as one of these new discursive tools, which individuals use to engage with moral debates. ...
Thesis
The sustainable development paradigm has focused political and academic attention on the concept of sustainable consumption. As current levels of domestic energy use and waste production in post-industrial countries have been increasingly acknowledged as contributors to detrimental global environmental change, debates have emerged about how best to promote the widespread adoption of patterns of sustainable consumption. National strategies, in countries that include the UK, have been developed to affect changes in consumption patterns. This thesis focuses on the environmental information campaign, one strategy that encourages citizens to adopt environmentally friendly consumption patterns or 'lifestyles'. To date, these information campaigns have been ineffective at encouraging individuals to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles. This thesis aims to address why this may be the case. It investigates one behaviour change programme called Action at Home. It does so by talking to its participants as they take part in the programme. It investigates the discursive processes Action at Home participants engage in when thinking about making changes to their lifestyles. This thesis is theoretically set within grounded social science debates about how publics relate to the concepts and communications of sustainable development. Findings herein suggest that a constructionist and discursive approach to individual's engagement with sustainable lifestyles information can be helpful in building an embedded model of behaviour change. It situates the adoption of sustainable lifestyles within a 'life politics' project of high modernity, positioning the knowledgeable and political social actor and their lifeworld as central theoretical constructs. It concludes that using distanced and disembedded techniques to question deeply embedded and recursive sets of practices has limited viability as a policy tool, bringing the entire sustainable consumption project into question as a feasible political goal.
... One way of achieving this is to build up a structure of semiautonomous institutions to gather, assess and disseminate information on sustainable resource management to political decision-making bodies and to the general public (Jänicke 1997, Cohen 1998. A long-term strategy for securing scientific knowledge on sustainable development might involve university departments, independent research and monitoring institutes and agencies that work much like the semi-autonomous institutions presently found in the judicial and -to an increasing extentfinancial spheres. ...
... The respect for science can thus work negatively. Sweden along with the other Scandinavian countries exhibits a strong public commitment and lay respect for science and a robust environmental consciousness that appears to lay the ground for enhanced cultural potential to pursue ecological modernization (Cohen, 1998). The discussions on entanglements of nature/culture crucial to solving current environmental problems do not enter domestic environmental policy-making in Sweden as much as they do in relation to Swedish development policy for the global South. ...
Article
Engaging with knowledges outside of western science and questions of power is increasingly being acknowledged as an imperative for helping solve intractable environmental problems. What is unacknowledged is the difference in how this is reasoning is applied in relation to policy-making in the global North and South. While questions of power such as gender and people’s participation are integral to international policy-making in the Northern development policies for the South, there is often little on these perspectives in domestic environmental policy-making. Underlying this paradox are assumptions about science and development in policy-making that preclude a discussion of environmental alternatives. These assumptions generate blind spots in environmental policy-making that need to be addressed so that environmental policy in the global North too is able to respond to environmental problems on the basis of evidence and rather than assumptions about science and about the rest of the world.
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Article
Ecological modernization refers to the process of resolving ecological crises through radical improvements in resource efficiency and the substitution of environmentally harmful industrial processes for less harmful ones without undermining economic growth and other capitalist imperatives. An important theoretical perspective within environmental sociology, it is also the intellectual kin of global environmental policies that pursue objectives such as decoupling, green growth, and sustainable development. While numerous studies cast doubt on ecological modernization and its associated policy efforts, existing empirical analyses do not fully address the theory’s core hypothesis on the relationship between technological innovation and environmental impacts. I resolve this problem by using newly available global patent data on environmental technologies across 35 countries from 1982–2016. Results of panel regression analyses demonstrate that a nation’s development of environmental technologies only marginally attenuates the effects of economic activity on a nation’s ecological footprint, while the direct effect of patents is to increase, rather than decrease, a nation’s ecological footprint. These results offer further evidence of the limits of both (a) ecological modernization theory and (b) environmental policies that exclusively emphasize technological solutions to global environmental problems.
Chapter
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Thesis
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Introduction The aim of this study is to explore citizens’ attitudes towards science and nature of the recent decades, along with its relationships with other substantive variables such as private and public environmental behaviors in order to understand its significance to contemporary environmentalism and future research. The thesis research presented is a collection of scholarly papers by the author, comprised of published journal articles and conference papers reformatted accordingly to departmental formatting specifications. Although, the individual manuscripts that constitute each chapter were written concisely for publication and encapsulates concepts and arguments that allow it to be read and understood independently, this thesis also contain additional text that connects them. In addition to the integrative discussion and conclusion section of the last chapter, chapter 4 was also reorganized from its conference paper format in order to cohesively link potential relationships between concepts in environmental discourses and substantive variables within the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) that are discussed in preceding and succeeding chapters. However, chapters that were published journal articles were maintained in structure and content, with only minor changes in fonts and appearance in accordance to publishing rights and copyright responsibilities of the author. This thesis is presented as an attempt to produce a unitarily focused and documented program of research conducted for the doctoral program. All components were integrated into a cohesive unit with a logical progression fundamentally building from one chapter to the next and functions as an integrated whole in exploring environmental attitudes using established methods in novel arrangements, ranging from the international level to the specific case of the Philippines.
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