Volume 3, Issue 1 (2012)

SPECIAL ISSUE: Knowledge, power and the environment: Epistemologies of the Anthropocene

Ravi Baghel

Conflictive Knowledge Constructions on Climate Change through Mainstream and Alternative Media?
Alexander Brand & Achim Brunnengräber
The article tackles the issue of the social construction of climate change from the perspective of a potential multiplicity of society-wide conceptions of climate change. Such conceptions possibly entail different understandings of what climate change is and how to cope with this phenomenon. A plausible assumption would be that such multiple meanings are conveyed by different types of media which cater to different segments of the overall audience. Against this background we ask whether there exists a genuinely alternative (liberal-leftist) perspective on climate change which might undermine the prevailing, hegemonic notion of climate change as an environmental problem amenable to prudent policy management. Such a counter-hegemonic construction would highlight the inherent relationship of climate change/deterioration and contemporary forms of capitalist economy. For the purpose of analyzing whether such an alternative account is in the making, we propose an analytical framework that focuses on conflictive and diverging media constructions of climate change. In the remainder of the article, we present some preliminary results of our research. Analyzing the output of two mainstream newspapers and two liberal-leftist media outlets within the United States and Germany, we find some evidence that the mainstream media indeed reconstruct climate change as an environmental problem first. As such it is, according to the mainstream reading, subject to prudent policy management. Alternative media, however, while delivering more critical accounts of the relationship between climate change and market-based solutions, are far more muted in their criticism than expected. This is especially true concerning the embeddedness of climate change into structures of capitalist production and consumption. Consequently, one has to be cautious in simply assuming that alternative media will and do act as producers of alternative knowledge(s) on climate change at this moment, even though other multiple crises of capitalism have become a staple in their coverage.

Citizens as political agents: A survey of competence, system satisfaction and the desire to influence the Finnish forest policy
Annukka Valkeapää & Kimmo Vehkalahti
The purpose of forest policy is to enhance the sustainable production of benefits of forests to serve the needs of all citizens. Theory of system justification claims that low status groups are the most likely to support, defend and justify existing social systems. This study explores how various aspects of forest related competencies affect satisfaction with the political system and the desire to influence decision making. The effect of competence on system satisfaction and the desire to influence outcomes, is evaluated using survey data on Finnish citizens' attitudes on forest policy. The results were in line with system justification theory: Competence decreases system satisfaction and increases the desire to influence outcomes. The dissatisfaction with the system becomes possible only if people have adequate knowledge. Forestry competent people tend to be satisfied with the system, while people with conservation knowledge tend to be dissatisfied. The challenges to the inclusion of citizens' views in political processes are addressed.

Irrigating a Socialist Utopia: Disciplinary Space and Population Control under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979
Daniel Bultmann
The article shows how the Khmer Rouge's restructuring of the environment into a socialist utopian space could be explained as an attempt to establish and tighten control over the populace and the factionalized movement. By inscribing power structures into the environment, the Khmer Rouge tried to 'create' loyal and faithful subjects. Michel Foucault's concepts of a 'disciplinary space' and panoptical control help to understand the massive environmental reshaping and it's connection to the regime's struggle for legitimation and control. Measures like the nationwide reconstruction of the irrigation system, sending the populace to the rice fields for a 'thought reform' through productive labor as well as an all-encompassing system of terror aimed at the transformation of the deviant populace into perfectly socialist people, whose daily life in the collective and personal necessities were planned down to the very last detail. The deviant nature of space and the deviant people populating it had to be rebuilt and disciplined until every little gesture, every thought, every construction in the nation's irrigation system corresponded to the socialist model. This attempt to construct an ideal socialist environment and its neglect of the diversity of topological requirements, furthermore, resulted in crop failures playing a significant role in the occurences of famines leading to subsequent starvation in the populace. Moreover, it also helps to explain the spiral of mistrust of the party's upper echelon against local leaders, which led to factional purges. The article, thereby, also highlights the complex and irreducible interplay between space and the micropolitics of power.

Environmental Change as Security Dilemma and its Institutional Implications
Serhat Ünaldi
Climate change poses a threat to the security and well-being of people in all countries. Their governments are entrusted with the task of guaranteeing this security in the face of unusual weather phenomena, extreme climatic conditions and conflicts resulting from scarcity and climate-induced migration. Whereas traditional security threats took the form of inter-state conflicts and have often been met at the national level – for example through military means –, climate change as a global phenomenon seems to call for new types of action. Some have argued for an overhaul of political institutions to meet the climate challenge. Solutions offered range from world government to decentralized sub-state entities. Yet, as will be argued, climate change is imminent and needs to be tackled now. This leaves little room for Utopian political visions. In discussing different approaches developed in the field of International Relations as they relate to climate change and security, this article argues for an acknowledgement of climate change as a new type of security dilemma. It then proceeds to defend the suitability of current international institutions for solving problems posed by climate change. Firstly, they are the only institutions currently available. Secondly, they are both immune to overt centralization as well as big enough to develop and implement sustainable solutions. Most hope lies with clusters of countries working together and setting examples that might eventually be followed elsewhere.