Contemporary environmental debates reverberate with talk of a new ‘Anthropocene epoch’, strictly defined by human domination. The catastrophic threats we face are said to require a ‘great transition’ towards ‘planetary management’. Under growing environmental authoritarianism, democracy is increasingly cast as a failure, a luxury, or even an enemy of nature. Scientific and policy knowledges are becoming increasingly imprinted by preoccupations of incumbent power with rhetorics of control. Under this growing political mood, there seems ‘no alternative’ but compliance, or irrational denial and existential doom. Yet there are alternative ways to address the gravity of current ecological and social imperatives. Democratic struggle is the principal means by which knowledges and practices of sustainability were shaped in the first place. The author argues that concentrated power and fallacies of control are more problems than solutions. History shows the greatest ongoing forms of transformative progress owe more to plural knowledges and values and unruly, hope-inspired agonistic contention, than to single orderly technical ‘transitions’ based on science or structured control. The most effective modes for radical change often lie in spontaneous collective bottom-up ‘culturings’ of both knowing and doing together. Real hope of radically progressive social transformation may lie more in the mutualities of caring, than in the hierarchies of control. Among the greatest obstacles to this, are ideologies of technocratic transition.
Ismael Ràfols and Andy Stirling
The use of indicators is generally associated with a reduction of perspectival diversity in evaluation that often facilitates making decisions along dominant framings – effectively closing down debate. In this chapter we will argue that while this is indeed often the case, indicators can also be used to help support more plural evaluation and foster more productively critical debate. In order to achieve this shift, it is necessary equally to change understandings, forms and uses of indicators in decision making. These shifts involve, first, broadening out the range of ‘inputs’ taken into account; and second, opening up the ‘outputs’, in the sense of developing methodologies for indicator-based analyses to help in considering plural perspectives. In practice, this means a move towards more situated and participatory use of quantitative evidence in evaluation, a shift from universal indicators to contextualized indicating.