Friday, 23 March 2012

Geographies of truth and power: putting the linear model in its place

Those who study the interactions between science and politics will often speak of the ‘linear model’ of science-policy relationships. By this they refer to the underlying assumptions in science-policy arrangements which hold that good scientific knowledge must always precede good decision making, and that the latter is wholly dependent on the former. In fact, the assumptions of the model often seem to go beyond an assumed relationship of dependency between decision making and science to approach a deterministic state whereby scientific claims can actually pre-empt and resolve policy conundrums. In this post I'll discuss some of the criticisms of this model before exploring some of the geographical or spatial elements of this assumed science-policy relationship.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Models, mosquitoes and the power to adapt

When it comes to climate change, why are mosquitoes afforded a more active role than people in our visions of the future? This sounds far-fetched, but in climate impacts studies the capacity of mosquitoes to adapt to changing climates has been increasingly accepted, but the same cannot often be said for the adaptive capacity of human beings. What does this say about how we use climate models in decision-making?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Patience (After Sebald): a geographer's reflections

I went to see Grant Gee's film 'Patience (After Sebald)' at Cinema City in Norwich this weekend, and I was completely blown away. I came out of the cinema with ideas and reflections rushing through my head, feeling all tingly and with a strong conviction that I had to find out more. Here is my attempt to make sense of this wonderful film and wonderful book that it's based on, from the perspective of a geographer interested in questions about space, place, exploration and experiencing landscapes.
Picture from the film, Grant Gee

Monday, 5 March 2012

Public reasoning and environmental governance: an example from New Delhi

I had a conversation last Friday evening with a man whose village is under threat of submergence beneath the reservoir which will rise behind a new dam that is being proposed for his home valley in North-east India. He has been instrumental in organising his community's response to the proposals, although the protests have thus far fallen on deaf ears. He feels that the entire culture of this remote Himalayan community will be devastated by the plans to harness hydro-electric power. He fears the disappearance of a language, an identity, a way of life. He told me that he is prepared to die to protect the land which he inherited from generations of ancestors, and that what is currently a very peaceful State could turn into a hotbed of political violence if the Government of India's plans to build dozens of new dams come to pass.

Must we eat our own tails?

Building on my recent post on the Merton Stone blog about learning and environmental problems I will consider the concept of reflexivity and why it might be useful to studies at the interface between science and policy.

So firstly, what is reflexivity? Implying an act of 'self-reference' the term has a multitude of definitions across and within different academic disciplines. A rare point of agreement seems to be that reflexivity is a good thing and therefore we should have more of it. It is useful to distinguish between more inward-looking and outward-looking interpretations of reflexivity - and I would suggest that whilst the former have been more prolific, the latter are more constructive in theory and in practice.