My essay review of three books on science and policy just appeared in the journal Global Environmental Politics:
Lentsch, Justus, and Peter Weingart, eds. 2011. The Politics of Scientific Advice: Institutional Design for Quality Assurance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lidskog, Rolf, and Göran Sundqvist, eds. 2011. Governing the Air: The Dynamics of Science, Policy, and Citizen Interaction. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Østreng, Willy. 2010. Science Without Boundaries: Interdisciplinarity in Research, Society, and Politics. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
The three books provide some interesting views on the relations between science and environmental policy. There is a lot of interesting work now going on in this area, and these books provide a good overview, particularly of work in Europe. As a sample, here is the first paragraph of my review (the complete review is six pages):
Scientific advice has rarely seemed so essential, yet so fragile. Action on climate change, transboundary air pollution, and other concerns requires expert guidance. But research budgets are under pressure and scientific advice is being outsourced, even as environmental issues remain wrapped in uncertainty and ignorance. The political contexts of scientific advice have also shifted. Scientists’ definitions of what counts as good advice are no longer sufficient: their counsel must now not only meet scientific standards, but be perceived as relevant, legitimate, and accountable—an evolution in expectations that exemplifies the blurring of the boundaries between science and society. These expectations illustrate the essential dilemma of science advisors: to serve as a constructive and trusted partner to policy makers, while maintaining professional independence.
And here are the last two paragraphs:
Several useful lessons emerge from these books. They remind us of the influence on transnational environmental relations of globalization and of actors operating beyond the state. These have made it more difficult for states to work in isolation, whether internationally or domestically. These factors accentuate the need for cooperative action, and hence for policies and scientific knowledge that are perceived as legitimate and trustworthy. Because of the spatial diffusion of sites of knowledge, and the presence of plural rationalities with their associated controversies and potential distrust, strategies for science must be inclusive, socially robust and sensitive to context. Experience has also demonstrated the value of a flexible boundary between science and policy, and the need to view expertise not just as a source of knowledge and assertions grounded in a confident certainty, but also as a basis for social learning, given the inevitability of ineradicable uncertainties. Ultimately, ideas about good science should be linked to ideas about how democracies should reason.
These books also suggest ample opportunities for further research on knowledge and policy—for example, the relations between states and autonomous institutions (under what circumstances might states be willing to defer to these institutions?), the role of ideas in shaping collective action, and the interplay between non-state actors at various scales. These and other issues illustrate how a considerable amount of scholarship is now focused not just on describing science and international environmental relations, but on exploring how expertise can play more effective roles in responding to environmental challenges. Together these books provide an excellent overview of the current state of play, particularly in Europe, and some of the possibilities for future work.
— Stephen Bocking - Environment, History, Science
Paper and panel submissions are now being received at www.wceh2014.org for the 2nd World Congress for Environmental History (WCEH), 7-14 July 2014, to be hosted by the University of Minho and the International Council of Environmental History Organizations, in the attractive northern Portuguese city of Guimarães.
The conference language is English. The organizers welcome proposals from all disciplines that address any aspect of environmental history in any historical period. We encourage proposals in the following formats: INDIVIDUAL PAPERS; PANELS; ROUNDTABLES; POSTERS; and ALTERNATIVE FORMS of presentation. Detailed submittal instructions are available on the conference website.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: 31 AUGUST 2013
Decisions will be communicated by the end of November, 2013.
— International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations
La plateforme Revues.org annonce la mise en ligne de 19 numéros en version intégrale de la revue Géographie et cultures, consacrée à la géographie culturelle.
« Géographie et cultures est une revue française de géographie culturelle, avec cette particularité d’être centrée sur le « tournant culturel » et plus largement sur les cultural studies. Conçue comme une plate-forme d’idées, d’objets et de formats nouveaux, elle contribue au renouvellement de la géographie en dressant un panorama actualisé de l’état de la recherche dans ce domaine. Fondée en 1992 par Paul Claval, la revue Géographie et cultures est aujourd’hui publiée par le laboratoire Espaces, Nature et Culture (CNRS). »
Source : http://www.revues.org/10032
— NiCHE News
Chaos and Resilience in Human and Natural Ecosystems Post by Kieko Matteson Spring 2013 saw some of the worst flooding in central European history. After a relentlessly rainy May, in which nearly every day of the month was marked by … Continue reading →
— Seeing the Woods Blog
The battle to protect Clayoquot Sound, the old growth rain forest on Vancouver Island, was one of the defining campaigns of the Canadian environmental movement during the early 1990s. Thousands participated in protests to halt clearcut logging in the area, all the while launching a new generation of environmental leadership within this country. (One of these figures was Tzeporah Berman, whose memoirs are discussed elsewhere on this site.) After environmentalists won major concessions to protect the area, Clayoquot Sound more or less faded from the public consciousness.
A recent story in the Globe and Mail reveals renewed concern for the area’s ecological integrity. Continued logging, fish farming, and the threat of mining on Catface Mountain have led Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck, veterans of the earlier protests, to form Clayoquot Action. Described on their website as “a frontline conservation organization committed to peacefully protecting the biocultural diversity of Clayoquot Sound,” they aim to take on Imperial Metals, which has acquired mineral rights to the area.
Lewis and Glambeck suggest that they have no plans to orchestrate the massive protests that characterize the earlier campaign. As Berman’s book demonstrates, the activists learned a great deal about working behind the scenes during the nineties. Protests are great at showing that people care, she notes, but without carefully defined objectives such activities can result in little progress. Likewise, Berman also notes the importance of forging alliances and finding common ground with other interests in order to make gains. In short, a cause such as this requires not just passion and idealism, but also a healthy dose of pragmatism.
Clayoquot Sound is an irreplaceable environmental treasure. It will be interesting to see how much Lewis and Glambeck’s work will be informed by the earlier campaign.
— Great Green North
Because the archive didn’t open until noon today, I stopped by the Frösö zoo, a local privately-owned zoo which opened in 1960. The zoo has a “Nature room”, which the owners label as the only biological museum in northern Sweden. So I wanted to pop in and see if they happened to have beavers or muskox in their display, since I knew that they did not have live specimens of either one in the zoo.
I had expected to see the beavers. They are a common component of museums in Sweden as far as I can tell. At Frösö, the group of beavers inhabiting the “Middle Northland” (basically meaning ‘local’) section of the packed-to-the-teeth diorama was pretty standard, happily chewing on wood. No surprises there. More interesting was the muskox, whose placement was much more surprising.
The muskox stands in the last section of the exhibit in the area labelled as ‘Svalbard’. A sign upon entering said that the exhibit was set up as a journey from ‘Skåne to Svalbard’ — which is a nice alliteration but kind of silly since Skåne and Mid-Sweden are in, well, Sweden and Svalbard is not. In any case, that’s how they set up the exhibit and the muskox appears as one of the largest animals in Svalbard (there is also a polar bear which is standing so it looks exceptionally large).
What’s exceptional about this is that the exhibit was opened in 1986 … and the last known sighting of muskox on Svalbard was in 1985. The first reintroduction of muskox had taken place in 1929 with the release of 17 calves captured in Greenland. The herd appeared to thrive: according to reports in 1936, the herd had grown to 30, and by the mid-1960s, there were anywhere from 50 to 100. Suddenly the population declined in the 1970s and the whole group died out by 1985. At the same time, the breakaway herd of muskox from Norway had come over to Härjedalen (the adjacent county) in 1971 and stayed. So in 1985, there were actually muskox in the neighborhood, so to speak.
Thus when the exhibit opened, this muskox was placed in exactly the wrong place. Although muskox had been reintroduced to Svalbard, they were no longer there, so did the muskox belong there? At the same time, live muskox were currently inhabiting mid-Sweden, so did the muskox belong in that part of the exhibit instead?
Some reintroduced animals, like the beaver, have quickly been integrated into exhibits. I’ve seen them in lots of museums in Sweden. But clearly the muskox wasn’t seen as a Swedish animal by Rune Netterström who set up the exhibit. In the Biologiska Museet in Stockholm, muskox appear only as part of the ‘Greenland’ diorama rather than in the Swedish landscape because they were not in Sweden at the time the museum was designed. Nothing has been changed since that initial design even though the animal’s ranges have changed.
More broadly, this should make us think harder about how animal exhibits are put together. Where do we place animals whose geographies have changed, whether by our doing or theirs? If animals move to new places because of climate change (and let’s hope they do so that they don’t die out), will we be willing to relabel our exhibits? Because our named places (like Mellan Norrland) are associated with particular habitats, are we going to have to rethink which habitats and animals we show in the future? Are we willing to place ‘exotic’ species that are a common occurrence in the landscape in our dioramas so that we show what’s really out there?
The Frösö zoo muskox stands among Svalbard’s animal life as the last muskox, gazing toward the Mid-Sweden exhibit where muskox currently live. It is a misplaced specimen without a home.
— Dolly Jørgensen, The Return of Native Nordic Fauna
I love finding stories about P. M. (Peder Martinius) Jensen Tveit. The famous beaver whisper was front and center in my research at the Jamtli archive today. This was a man who loved beavers.
Jensen Tveit had an extended correspondence with the Jämtlands county heritage director Eric Festin and the forester Per Olov Steen about a beaver reintroduction effort in Råndalen, Härjedalen (which is close to Funäsdalen where I’ll be visiting the Swedish muskox later this week). There were lots of logistical details that had to be worked out and Jensen Tveit was a busy man. In his letter to Steen on 20 January 1935, he apologised for the delay writing back, but he was busy catching beavers — he’d be delivering a pair to Laxå (halfway between Oslo and Stockholm) at the end of the month and two pair to Finland after that, although he still needed to catch one more female.
In October 1935, Jensen Tveit came as promised with two beaver pairs to the release site in Härjedalen. The newspaper coverage of the event featured jensen Tveit’s involvement, like the one in Ljusdals Tidningen with a picture of him and Steen holding the beavers about to be released.
But the most impressive coverage was a short profile article about him in the major newspaper Dagens Nyheter with the title “Bäverkärlek” (Beaver love). Jensen was characterised as “a beaver enthusiast who believes beavers are the best of all the animals.” Then the article recounted a story Jensen told the reporter, which is worth reporting in full (my translation of course):
I remember for example a beaver male who when he was captured was separated from his partner and youngsters. Eventually they were reunited, although in captivity. The joy of meeting again was touching. But the male was so strangely tired when he saw his beloved that he lay face down and was dead, dead from joy. Well, beaver’s love is infinite, he likewise can hate to death, but never more than he has the right to.
Ah, the drama! The beaver loved his family so much that the joy of being reunited overwhelmed him and he died. Now that’s one for the storybooks. And so it was. When another, much longer profile article appeared on Jensen in the Östersund local paper in July 1936, he retold that story along with two others about the beaver’s cleverness. I’m sure it was one of those Romeo and Juliet style sagas that was told and retold during the last few years of the Swedish beaver reintroductions.
The assignment of emotions in this case is anthropomorphism in its extreme. Beavers are indeed monogamous so I’m sure the beaver recognised his life-long mate, but to say he died from love? That’s over the top. We humans have a tendency to think animals think like us.
Jensen stressed his love for beavers and their love for him on his letterhead from 1937, which featured three pictures of him with his beavers. He is holding, petting, and feeding them. Awwww. So cute.
But you have to wonder about his statement that the beaver could also die from hate. Did he mean that it could die from hating another beaver? Certainly males put in the same enclosure are known to fight, so one could die that way. Or could he perhaps have meant that a beaver could die from hating him, the beaver lover? After all, if I was a beaver and got trapped, taken away from my family and put into a wire cage with a little pool of water (like the middle picture shows), I wouldn’t be all too keen on my captor. But my guess is that he didn’t think the beavers hated him, even if they did. I’m sure he thought the beavers loved him, just as he loved them.
— Dolly Jørgensen, The Return of Native Nordic Fauna
Post by Ellen Arnold How much plastic do you think is in your life? Probably more than you realize. Werner Boote’s documentary film Plastic Planet explores the rapid expansion of plastics production and consumption since the 1950s, bringing both a … Continue reading →
— Seeing the Woods Blog
The Peace Arch monument marking the Canadian-U.S. border at Surrey, BC: Source: Wikipedia
In a few weeks, I will be moving from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
— The Otter - NiCHE
Today on my way to Östersund, where I will start working in the archive tomorrow, I took a detour to Namforsens Hällristiningsmuseum (Namforsen’s rock carving museum). There are around 2300 rock carvings on the boulders at the rapids. I was hoping to find that they had carvings of beaver, or possibly even muskox.
The visit to the accessible areas revealed that the Stone Age inhabitants were most interested in moose: male moose with big antlers, female moose, moose calves, hunting moose – lots and lots of moose! In the visitor’s center, the other other animals mentioned were one potential bear and foxes/dogs.
At the museum, I found out that there is a digital version of the rock art site through HumLab at my university. So when I got to my hotel and to a decent internet connection, I checked it out. The list of animals was pretty much the same as in the museum. But I took a closer look at the one identified as “a lizard”, which seemed to me like an odd thing to put on a rock carving in mid-Sweden. And what do you know? I’m pretty sure it is a beaver. Unlike the other animals which are shown in profile, the beaver is shown from above, with the head to the left and obvious fat, long tail to the right.
The image of beaver shown from above seems to be the way it appears in rock carvings of the European north. According to Jan Magne Gjerde’s PhD thesis on Fennoscandia rock art, beavers have been identified at several sites in northern Russia. One of those is a site on Kanozero Lake on the Murmansk coast of northern Russia, where the beaver looks remarkably like the image from Namforsen. Beavers have also been identified at a couple of Norwegian sites, like Møllerstufossen. The beaver form shown from above has likewise been found in Karelia (shared by Finland & Russia), according to an article about folklore in rock art.
Considering that beavers were supposedly quite numerous and that according to archeological finds, early hunters regularly ate them, it’s surprising to me that beavers don’t appear more often. Was it because of the beaver’s small size as prey? Was it because of the potential methods for hunting? Was it because there aren’t herds of them? We’ll never know.
It could be that more beaver have been carved, but they have been misidentified. That could be a reasonable historical assumption since many of these sites were ‘discovered’ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when beavers were no longer present in the area of the carvings. Nikolai Spassov has made a similar argument about misidentification of muskox as European bison in French caves (thanks to Dr. Spassov for sending me his articles!). Spassov found that scholars working on these continental caves didn’t think of muskox as a continental animal and thus almost always classified the drawings as bison, even though the horns and body configuration are clearly showing muskox. Although these drawings have lasted millennia, our scholarship is rarely written in stone.
— Dolly Jørgensen, The Return of Native Nordic Fauna