Conference Agenda

RN12_09a: Environmental Risks and Conflicts
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Martin David, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UfZ
Location: BS.3.21
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Ontologies Of The Anthropocene In Portugal – Low Carbon Transitions, Social Movements And Climate Politics

António Carvalho, Ana Raquel Matos, Vera Ferreira, Emanuele Leonardi, Stefania Barca

University of Coimbra, Portugal

Social and institutional devices to tackle climate change are often understood as belonging to the “post-political” realm, and they are frequently coupled with sociotechnical interventions considered necessary to contain the disastrous consequences of CO2 emissions. Despite displaying distinct material and ontological politics, devices such as solar radiation management, carbon capture and storage and political attempts to reduce CO2 emissions all have in common the vision of a catastrophic future supported by technoscientific expertise. The current proliferation of grassroots movements, climate technics and carbon taxes indicate that the “common world” of the Anthropocene is prone to ontological heterogeneity, thus complicating its politics.

This presentation sets out to delve into the ontopolitical heterogeneity of the Anthropocene in Portugal, focusing on two case studies – the Transition Network (TN) (a grassroots environmental movement founded in the UK in the early 2000s) and institutional attempts, led by the Portuguese government, to reduce CO2 emissions and enforce low carbon transitions at the national level. We carried out semi-structured interview with members of the TN and participant observation at relevant events; we also analyzed parliamentary debates, legislation and grey literature pertaining to low carbon transitions within the Portuguese context, including the recently developed Carbon Neutrality Roadmap.

This presentation stems from the R&D project TROPO – funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology – that aims at providing a sociological mapping of the multiple dimensions of climate politics in Portugal. It will explore the imaginaries, technics and means to attain a low carbon society, analyzing the ways in which energy, economics, technologies and affect are enrolled by distinct social groups, enacting multiple versions of the Anthropocene in Portugal.

Polish Smog: Metrological Conflicts, Ontology and Neoliberal Capture

Michał Wróblewski

Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland

High level of PM10 and PM2,5 makes Polish air quality one of the worst in Europe. This is related to the fact, that Polish individual energy consumption is based mainly on coal. Although the problem exists for quite long time now (since the 90s), it became a subject of public concern only recently. One of the example of this concern is a social demand for data. Many companies sell simple sensors that can be used in home environment or create its own infrastructure and collect data in Polish cities. The latter are used by big web portals, that show information about air quality to millions of viewers every day. To collect accurate and reliable data on suspended particulates it is necessary to calibrate measuring infrastructure and to standardize the way data will be indexed. However on the level of technical standardisation and data infrastructure there are serious discrepancies between aforementioned stakeholders. Each one of them uses different sensors and devices, adopts different legal norms, uses different analytical standards and different methods of data visualisation.

In the presentation I want to 1) show controversies around air pollution monitoring practices; 2) analyze the social enactement of the smog in different data and metrological regimes; 3) show how data and data infrastructure mediate the relations between the public sector, the private sector and the citizens.

Dark Or Bright? Controversial Views On Sustainable Lighting In Times Of Technological Change

Nona Schulte-Römer, Josiane Meier, Etta Dannemann, Max Söding

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Germany

In the 21st century, ‘sustainable lighting’ is closely associated with LED technology. In the past ten years, light emitting diodes have been introduced worldwide in urban spaces, in streets and living rooms to save energy. However more recently, the idea of ‘sustainable’ LED lighting has come under pressure. Biologists, physicians and biologists voice increasing concerns that blue-rich light emitted by LEDs disturbs the biological clock of living organisms, including humans, and might have negative health and behavioural effects. Looking at their scientific findings, they call for precautionary measures: the preservation of natural darkness and the installation of light sources with a limited light spectrum (e.g. yellow light). However, these environmental concerns seem to contradict the idea of human-centric lighting. To increase our visual comfort, most lighting professionals prefer LEDs with a continuous spectrum that comes close to daylight with a good colour rendering. In our paper, we outline the controversy and possible solutions based on insights from our recent project Light Pollution – A Global Discussion (2018), which included expert discussions and an interdisciplinary expert survey. Our findings show how the ecological focus on the unwanted, non-visual effects of LED lighting challenges established ideas of safe or aesthetically appealing illuminated environments. In this light, LED technology looks no longer sustainable, but ambivalent: energy-efficient, but also a potential source of light pollution.

Coexisting Alongside the Port with Tangible Burdens and Invisible Risks

Jānis Daugavietis1, Kristīne Āboliņa1,2, Agnese Zīle-Veisberga1

1Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia, Latvia; 2Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Latvia

Quantitative international comparative studies since the beginning of the 1990s show that the environmental attitudes of Latvian and Baltic citizens differ significantly from the average of European countries and are often in the group of the most indifferent countries (Gooch 1995; Gerhards & Lengfeld 2008; Franzen & Vogl 2013; Dalton 2015; Budžytė & Balžekienė 2018 etc.). When surveying the inhabitants of Rīga communities (Kundziņsala and Mangaļsala), whose neighborhoods are adjacent to the territory of Rīga port, and who are experiencing the day-to-day operation of the port (including pollution and accidents), we ask: is their environmental awareness and ecological anxiety different from the other people in the city and country? Doing this environmental issues are conceptually divided and operationalized as 'visible' (smells, dust, noise, landscape degradation, shrinking access to the river, port area sprawl) and 'invisible' (pollution of air, water, soil and common space, city plans, imagined past). We put forward the following hypotheses: (1) citizens of ‘port communities’ are aware and not satisfied with “visible” problems to a greater extent than residents in Rīga and Latvia in general; (2) but only a small part of the population is able to assess 'invisible' problems. Self assessment of the people living next to the port is compared with data from environmental quality assessment based on the opinions of experts and results of field studies.