What is Uncertainty and Why Does it Matter?

STEPS Working Paper 105 April 2019 Uncertainty defines our times. Whether it is in relation to climate change, disease outbreaks, financial volatility, natural disasters or political settlements, every media headline seems to assert that things are uncertain, and increasingly so. Uncertainty, where we do not know the probabilities of either likelihoods or outcomes, is different…

Engineering and Sustainability: Control and Care in Unfoldings of Modernity

SPRU Working Paper series SWPS 2019-06 (February) Forthcoming as a chapter in Diane P. Michelfelder and Neelke Doorn (eds), Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Engineering, London: Routledge, 2019 This chapter explores some underlying issues bearing on relationships between engineering and Sustainability. It aims to help point towards ways in which engineering practice might avoid some…

The new politics and geographies of scarcity

Scarcity is a dangerous idea and has long been a totalising discourse in resource politics and mainstream economics. A large body of work has critiqued the naturalisation of scarcity in discourses of environmental change, and has highlighted problems in how scarcity is conceptualised and the ways in which scarcities are socially and politically generated. Despite…

How Deep Is Incumbency? Introducing a ‘Configuring Fields’ Approach to the Distribution and Orientation of Power in Socio-Material Change

This paper examines a variety of theories bearing on ‘socio-material incumbency’ and explores methodological implications. The aim is to develop a systematic general approach, which builds on strengths and mitigates weaknesses in prevailing analytical frameworks. Defining power as ‘asymmetrically structuring agency’, incumbency is visible in a diversity of power gradients constituted by multiple economic, political…

Low-carbon China: Emerging phenomena and implications for innovation governance

This paper is an introduction to the special section of the journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions (EIST). The special issue investigates emerging phenomena associated with low carbon transitions in contemporary China. It looks at supply and demand side dynamics, the changing role of citizens and a range of policy approaches characteristic of the Chinese…

Narratives and Pathways towards an Ecological Civilization in Contemporary China

This journal article by Sam Geall (chinadialogue.net, University of Sussex,  Chatham House) and Adrian Ely (SPRU/STEPS) draws on theoretical insights from the pathways approach to explore the ways in which dominant policy narratives in China might drive particular forms of innovation for sustainability and potentially occlude or constrain others. In particular, the authors look at ecological civilization (shengtai wenming)…

The Joys of Truth: Science Policy in the Public Interest

Since 1974, Professor Erik Millstone has been conducting research into the causes and consequences of scientific and technological change in food and agriculture. In 1987 he joined SPRU where his work has been centered on developing a policy-relevant approach to the sociology of regulatory science and has been highly influential in the areas of food additives,…

Agri-food transitions and the “green public sphere” in China

Studies of China’s agri-food transitions have so far largely overlooked the role of the public in policymaking and practice. We argue that a deeper understanding of public perceptions of – and engagement with – agricultural innovation, is required to better understanding the dynamic responses that exist to the multiple complex and intersecting challenges facing China’s…

Transdisciplinary research as transformative space making for sustainability: enhancing propoor transformative agency in periurban contexts

In this paper, we discuss how transdisciplinary development research (TDR), if approached in particular ways, can produce new knowledge and also foster deeper systemic changes in the knowledge system itself. We are concerned with systemic change that supports propoor sustainability transformations, and conceptualize the processes that contribute to this type of systemic change as “transformative…

Waste to Energy in Delhi: Alternatives towards Sustainable Urban Waste Management

With the increasing waste production in urban areas, multiple technological solutions, models of waste governance and alternative practices of solid waste management have started acquiring momentum in Indian cities. Of the numerous solutions to this problem, waste to energy technology is emerging as an essential solution in India. Hence, this paper probes whether the emergence…