‘Evidence-based democratic deliberation’.
Global environmental change research and the challenge of socioecological cohesion
The latest expertise by the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU 2019) develops the idea of ‘evidence-based democratic deliberation’ in order to square the reality of planetary boundaries with democratic due process in late liberal societies. This assumes a specific relationship between science and society, namely that scientific knowledge making precedes democratic deliberation in broader society. I want to argue in this talk that focusing exclusively on this approach runs the risk of proliferating an emerging polarisation of societies into those who recognise science as a necessary contribution to an enlightened debate about planetary environmental change and societies’ options, and those who regard science as part of an elite establishment that could not care less about ‘ordinary people’. To counteract this dangerous ‘us/them’ framing, I suggest that global environmental change (GEC) research needs to conceive of its own knowledge as ‘situated’, acknowledge epistemological pluralism and ontological multiplicity, and find ways of generating a broader sense of shared ownership of GEC knowledge. Scientific practice needs to contribute to socialecological cohesion if it wants to contribute to a great transformation.