Chapter 8: Integrating science and politics in political ecology
Many discussions about political ecology adopt fixed assumptions about either politics or ecology. When this happens, political discussions are often based on a predefined idea of ecological science; and scientific facts are often shaped by political values. This chapter, however, argues that political ecology can only be effective if it aims to analyze how politics and ecological knowledge co-evolve. The chapter starts by explaining how attempts to separate scientific research and politics can simplify ecological explanations in ways that reduce the effectiveness or inclusiveness of environmental policy. It then reviews some alternative approaches that aim to consider environmental science and politics simultaneously. The chapter then discusses the debate about climate change denialism as a way to demonstrate that ecological science will always reflect social norms, but also how presenting climate science as separate from social influences can reduce the effectiveness and inclusiveness of climate change policy. Integrating science and politics in political ecology in this way does not imply that science cannot help explain complex problems, or that political action is not urgently needed. Rather, it demonstrates that environmental policy is more effective and less exclusive when it acknowledges connections between science and politics. Understanding these connections, and how political power is expressed through expert organizations and other forms of authoritative knowledge, are therefore increasingly important research agendas in political ecology.
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