Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies
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Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies

Edited by Matthias Ruth

This volume presents methods to advance the understanding of interdependencies between the well-being of human societies and the performance of their biophysical environment. It showcases applications to material and energy use; urbanization and technological transition; economic growth and social vulnerabilities; development and governance of social and industrial networks; the role of history, culture, and science itself in carrying out analysis and guiding policy; as well as the role of theory, data, and models in guiding decisions.
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Chapter 2: Public meanings of science and the environment

Simon Locke


This chapter considers environmental issues as discussed in the literature on the public understanding of science (PUS). The environment is a particularly salient topic in the field and so the account given here is necessarily selective, though it aims to provide some coverage of both the public understanding of the environment and the public understanding of environmental science. It might be thought that these matters are effectively the same, but for reasons to be discussed they need to be viewed as rather different. The further question might then be posed as to whether the distinction is important given that it might be assumed that the latter is what counts and the former either irrelevant or, at worst, an active impediment to the latter’s communication and advancement. As is to be explained, however, things are far from this simple; in fact, it is this way of thinking about the public in relation to science that has proven to be deeply problematical, serving to establish both the central agenda of concerns and the main fault-lines of dispute that, over the past 30 years, have defined the field commonly known (if not entirely satisfactorily or consensually) as the public understanding of science. The chapter begins by identifying a broad set of dilemmas that inform PUS and are particularly pronounced in the case of environmentalism, which may help to account for what seems to be something of a historical link between the development of the two concerns dating back to the 1970s.

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