Valuing the global environment : publics, politics and participation.
Bulkeley, Harriet Ann
University of Cambridge
Department of Geography
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Bulkeley, H. A. (1999). Valuing the global environment : publics, politics and participation. (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11613
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The pursuit of sustainability represents a considerable challenge. It demands on the one hand that cross-media, trans-boundary, inter-generational issues should be addressed while on the other hand suggests that any solutions and actions should be community driven and locally based. However, much of the literature addressing the environmental problematique has tended to separate global and local dimensions. Thus, the human dimensions of the global environment remain contained within the sphere of international relations, while interest in �public participation focuses on local environments. This thesis rejects any such global-local dichotomy and brings into focus the multiple scales through which social and political processes constitute, construct and mitigate global environmental issues. To this end it examines policy and public responses to the greenhouse issue in Australia. Given the controversial stance adopted by Australia in the international climate negotiations this casestudy is empirically significant. Moreover, it provides a context in which to examine theoretical developments within the social sciences linking contemporary environmental concerns to deeper changes within modernity. The thesis develops a conceptual framework that draws on Beck's (1992) Risk Society and emphasises the importance of considering the socially and institutionally embedded processes through which global environmental issues are constituted and contested. The methodologies were selected in the light of this framework. A network approach is adopted with respect to the policy process, and assessment is made through the analysis of documents, media, speeches and interviews with actors involved. Simultaneously, a survey questionnaire and focus groups were conducted with parents and students in order to explore some public responses to greenhouse in Newcastle, NSW. Through the iterative engagement of the conceptual framework with empirical findings three key themes were selected by which the analysis of the thesis is structured: knowledge, values and responsibility. The thesis assesses the extent to which public and policy responses to the greenhouse issue represent the institutionalisation of ecological modernisation, and considers whether this accords with the types of reflection on the reflexivity of modernity that Beck (1992) suggests is necessary for environmental solutions. While progressive concepts of knowledge, values and responsibilities are mooted within the policy process with respect to greenhouse they are mainly constrained within the temporal and spatial referents of modernity which pose impenetrable boundaries for greenhouse solutions. Despite emphasis on the need for precautionary action, greenhouse policy responses have largely been determined with respect to the economic concerns of key resource and energy interests. Public understandings of greenhouse issues drew on scientific storylines, local knowledges, values and moral responsibilities expressed for future and distant environments and societies. However, actions taken by individuals, although morally sanctioned, were seen as largely ineffective in a context of inertia by influential institutions in which little trust was invested. In some areas of the policy network such inertia is being overcome through the realignment of institutions and actors as greenhouse interests are redefined. Energy efficiency and renewable energy schemes have been kick-started by greenhouse concerns through New South Wales Government, Newcastle City Council, and energy companies. However, these remain small-scale, and there has been no attempt to incorporate public concerns through the kind of community participation seen as vital in other parts of the sustainability agenda and theoretically championed by a number of commentators. Such participation is dismissed on the grounds of both the global scale of the problem and the need for expertise in decision-making. Until there is a stronger recognition of the local dimensions of greenhouse, the networks through which the issue is being engaged and acted upon, ancl the extent of public understanding of the issue, such participation is unlikely to be forthcoming. Possibilities for the unproblematic pursuit and attainment of global (and local) sustainability therefore seem slim. This thesis points to the need to give further consideration to the conflicts inherent within the sustainability agenda and why, and how, certain aspects of sustainability are prioritised whilst others remain sidelined.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11613