Wednesday, 9 January 2008

STEPS SEMINAR: ANDREW JAMISON ON THE QUEST FOR GREEN KNOWLEDGE

By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

Read Andrew Jamison's presentation
Listen to the podcast of this seminar introduced by Andy Stirling, co-director of the STEPS Centre

To give the first STEPS Seminar of 2008 we are delighted to welcome Andrew Jamison of Denmark's Aalborg University to SPRU this afternoon. He is here to talk about issues discussed in his last two books (Hubris and Hybrids and The Making of Green Knowledge); the quest for green knowledge and the mixing science and politics in environmental governance. (Photo: Andrew Jamison gives his STEPS Seminar)

The 'hubris and hybrids' way that science and technology has been appropriated by cultures is where Prof Jamison begins. The hubris is an extremely dangerous take, and leads to unintended consequences, he says, and then there is the taming of the hubris by hybrids - the way that humand and non-humans are combining. And the contrast between the two ideas is where we're going to focus today.

Within the first couple of Prof Jamison's presentation slides Al Gore and Arnold Scharzenegger have already made an appearance, illustrating attempts to change a cultural process that has gone too far in the wrong direction. We're talking climate change in the US here, of course.

Taking the idea of hubris and hybrids one step futher leads us to the notion of (Habit)us - a barier to change. We have a theefold struggle between hybridisation, hubris and Habit(us) - which is 'business as usual', the usual way of dealing with problems, says Prof Jamison. Bjorn Lomborg makes an appearance here, thanks to his book, Cool It, where the case is made for calmning down about climate change - he is the "nemisis" to the Al Gore-style hubris, says the Professor.

We move on to how the environmental movement was transformed into environmental governance and this is where the hubris (green business) - habitus (skepticism) -hybrid (green knowledge) matrix comes into being. The matrix shows the contending regimes of environmental governance, have a look at Prof Jamison's presentation slides on this, it's much easier to grasp the idea.

Prof Jamison takes us now on a journey of the history of transformation from Big Science to technoscience, during which process green business has emerged. With that transformation the state begins to play a more strategic role in fostering particular areas of innovation, or systems, and the emergence of green business grows out of this. Maarten Hajer's The Politics of Environmental Discourse, 1995, gets a name-check here.

Back to the idea of green business as cognitive praxis - shifting the emphasis from making appropriate technology to a product based on environmental principles, a shift from movement to institutions: so from organisationsal alliances to competeing firms; or from public eduction to popularisation and marketing; and from movement intellectuals to green salesmen.

"There is an attempt being made to eductae or train scientists to produce green products rather than to educate the public about environmental problems - this is a fundemental shift in focus and knowledge aim and ambition," says Prof Jamison. So, the the emphasis shifts to become an ecological conusmer rather than an ecological citizen.

Prof Jamison has been making the case for a ‘Mode 3’ or change-oriented research that doesn’t develop solutions but “takes its point of departure in the problems, such as climate change, and try to see that what’s necessary when we make knowledge is to put our preferences into research as therefore see it as an intervention in a political process.”

We need to find new ways to find the skill and confidence in communicating combined with skill and confidence in producing new knowledge, says Prof Jamison. What’s often involved now is this new fascination with public engagement in British science and technology policy.

“What’s important is to turn it around and not so much for scientists to go out and tell the public what they’re doing, but in getting the scientist to bring his own personal values into what he’s doing…Green knowledge-makers should give up this old idea of disinterested knowledge ,” says Prof Jamison. It’s what he calls the ‘hybrid imagination’.

“We have to change the way we talk about science and technology, change the dynamic and not see climate change as a business opportunity – according to the hybrid business model – or how the sceptics see it – but to combine the challenge with other challenges in a new discourse about environmental citizenship.

Vandana Shiva gets a name check here, for her work in anti-GMO, organic and slow food campaigning. Her hybrid imagination is trying o help us develop ways of talking that combine global justice and environmental interests with taking on corporate domination of agriculture in India.

Most recently Shiva gave us the term “Earth democracy” – a wonderful term, according to Prof Jamison. “She gives us a new vocabulary to help us talk about some of these changes…as well as a new way of practising our scientific research.”

And it is at this point that for the first time ever, and hopefully not the last, we would have ended a STEPS seminar with a blast of rock music. From Peter Garrett, Australia’s new environment minister and ex band member of Oz rockers Midnight Oil, to be exact, as an example of a hybrid imagination at work right now. But unforntunately we didn't have the technology at the ready. Which is a shame as Prof Jamison then, excitingly, reveals that he himself has been writing songs in an attempt to find new ways to express himself as a scientist. You can hear his songs on his home page. Tune in, turn on, just don't drop out.

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