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ECPR Rising Star Award

Walking the Tightrope: New Technologies for Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Policy
Green Politics
Climate Change
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Jesse Reynolds
University of Utrecht
Panel Discussant
Patrick Smith
National University of Singapore

06/09/2019 17:50 - 19:30
Building: (Building B) Faculty of Law, Administration & Economics Floor: 2nd floor Room: 201
“Technology” in its broadest sense -- artifacts that are created by human ingenuity and the complex social systems in which those artifacts are embedded -- constitute one of the most potent and powerful drivers of social, political, economic, and environmental change. Technologies have catalyzed environmental problems, as well as helped resolve them. Yet technology is underexamined in the field of environmental politics.

Now, at the dawn of the Anthropocene, and in the face of competing suggested roles of technology in Earth’s and humanity’s future, the importance of understanding technology and how best to shape its development and application is thrown into sharp relief. Although humanity’s impacts on Earth systems have thus far been largely unintentional, some emerging technologies, in particular, will enable human activities to alter basic planetary features intentionally. Large-scale interventions in Earth systems to remove greenhouse gases are now part of mainstream climate scenarios. Slightly reducing incoming sunlight to counteract climate change is steadily moving from the fringe toward the center of climate response discourses. New biotechnological innovations, such as CRISPR-powered gene drives, could allow the intentional local eradication of invasive species or disease vectors and possibly the reintroduction of extinct species. And artificial intelligence, internet of things, digital ledgers, and “big data” might reshape the development and enforcement of environmental regulation. The powers of certain emerging technologies or of existing technologies used at greater scales could perhaps facilitate movement toward more sustainable futures. Technology could also, though, hasten and worsen environmental destruction. These technologies will fundamentally change how humanity interacts with Earth systems and, by extension, how humanity sees itself in relation to the non-human world. This raises numerous challenging questions. Who will benefit, and who might lose out? Who is included in decision making, and who is presently absent? Will these technologies alter or reinforce existing power relations and distributions of resources? Do these technologies enhance or hinder democratic participation? What is the role of corporate power in governance and how can it be limited? Are new institutions, rules, and norms needed, or can we adapt extant ones to legitimately govern Anthropocenic technologies? To what extent can and should governance anticipate technological developments?

Questions of the role of institutions, norms, and power in shaping of environmental outcomes are well-established areas of investigation for global environmental politics scholars. Technology, though, as a stand-alone phenomenon for investigation, along with the ways in which technology interacts with other things of interest, have received much more limited attention.

This panel pulls together scholars to interrogate, across a range of technological forms and using a variety of approaches, the place of technology in the shaping of environmental outcomes. We aim for the panel's contributors to use environmental politics’ conceptual and methodological tools to shed light on technology’s roles in modern life and, in turn, for the panel to demonstrate the importance of a sophisticated and sustained examination of technology for the field of global environmental politics. We presently have three abstracts, and are open to one more.

Paper List

Title Details
Contested Knowledge and Expertise in Sustainability Politics View Paper Details
Engineering Biodiversity: The Politics and Governance of Gene Drives and De-Extinction View Paper Details
Leveraging Blockchain Technology for Innovative Climate Finance Under the Green Climate Fund View Paper Details
The Problem Structure of Solar Radiation Management View Paper Details
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