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Session Overview
RN12_02a: Social Theory and the Environment
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Felix Wittstock, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Location: BS.3.21
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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Shaping Environmental Expertise For Social Transformations: The Role Of Social Sciences

Rolf Lidskog

Örebro University, Sweden

Numerous international expert bodies and assessment centres have evolved around environmental issues with the aim to assess scientific knowledge and make it policy relevant. Even if social sciences have increasingly been welcomed to these bodies, evaluations have found that they still play a limited role. A reason for this is that they often are restricted either to give advice on procedural aspects or to handle down-stream issues and end-pipe solutions.

This paper take this situation as point of departure and elaborates on the character of a social scientific expertise for environmental matters. Drawing on findings from Science and Technology Studies (STS), environmental sociology and critical social theory, it stresses that in order to give robust and relevant expert advice, this expertise needs to include at least three aspects. An understanding of how society works (analysis of social dynamics); an identification of the character of a particular environmental problem (diagnosis of pathologies); and a proposal for how to solve the problem at stake (therapy, i.e. means for initiating and supporting social transformations). The paper ends by discussing the benefits and risks of including all three aspects in the making of social science environmental expertise.

A Revisit Of Human Ecologies As A Social Mosaic : Boundaries, Barriers And Belonging Between Natures And Cultures.

Sophie Némoz

University of Bourgogne / Franche-Comté, France, Laboratory of Sociologie and Anthropology, MSHE Claude Nicolas Ledoux CNRS USR 3124

The continuation of investigations reconducted at a distance of ten years on the grounds of transitions to more sustainable societies in France and in Europe (Némoz, 2008; 2009; 2016; 2017; 2018) aims to analyse the worlds’ experienced as social life processes. The contribution starts from the assumption that they are formed and reformed over time, as interactions emerge between bodies, organizations and environments not only natural but also material and social. In that sense, the act of living could take shape based on an ecology. Rather than consider “sustainability” as an absolute, we are inspired by urban and rural anthropologies and their ethnographic methods.

The paper will argue that no normativity in line with habitat invites us to over determinate the social and existential variations, nor their futures. The technique of revisits proves to be a heuristic device to gain a better understanding of the impact and consequences of inequality and uncertainty on different territorial arenas. Coming and returning to the same field studies a decade later have allowed us to deepen a differently shared vision of sustainable cities and housing as already given and applied facilities. Hence, the keynote will explore the connections as a process of living nature where the ethnographies are designed by dynamics of totalisation that we must always complement.

Is Eco-Social Welfare State Even a Possibility? A Social Security Reform in Finland

Paula Saikkonen

National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland

Kate Raworth has used the term doughnut model to describe sustainable societies. Basically, it means that society is sustainable if it does not cross its ecological ceiling but offers social foundation for the citizens. At the moment there is no country to fit in in this mode. However, the Nordic welfare states, Finland among others, are successful in providing good social foundation. Unfortunately, they overuse resources and are unable to fit in ecological limits.

The paper asks what means sustainability in the Finnish social security reform and in what way sustainability is presented in the documents. In Finland, the social security reform has been under discussion and in preparation for around two years. There was a project at the Prime Minister’s office to scrutinize alternatives and possibilities for the reform. Its work finished at the end of February, just one and half month prior to parliamentary elections. Research material consists of the documents produced by this project.

Unsurprisingly, it is noticed that economic and social sustainability are handled together whereas ecological sustainability does not appear. However, as the aim of the reform is a resilient social security system that is able to cope with the constant change in labour market caused by the technological development and it is emphasized in the documents that the reform should be implemented step by step, it could be possible to modify as one path towards the eco-social welfare state.

What Is Better For Us: Air or Money? - The Feminine Perception of Changes in the Field of Environmental Protection and Energy

Katarzyna Iwinska

Collegium Civitas, Poland

The paper is to show the case study research from Upper Silesia, a region of Poland, which is one of the most intensively mined areas in Europe. The region has developed since the 19th century based on mining and metallurgical industries and is one of the most densely populated and industrialized region in Poland to this day. For almost two centuries Silesia was one of the world’s largest producers of coal, and the identity of this region is till these days composed of classical images of the modern industrial society.

Based on qualitative interviews and active participative research with Silesian women I tackle the issue of environmental and ecological awareness using Giddens‘ theory of discursive and practical consciousness (and unconscious motives/cognition).

The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the opinions, first associations and reflections about the environment, pollution and energy in the coal mining region. The findings are presented within the dilemma between modern and postmodern views on ecological issues and can help in better understanding the social challenges and cultural changes in the region.

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