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Environmental science, sustainability and politics

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Research evidence and pleas that humans are undermining their own survival on a robust and unforgiving planet seem to be falling on deaf ears. The drive for economic and military security remains more powerful than the evidence that both of these objectives are being undermined by environmental damage, social disruption, unjust treatment and forced migration. Yet the signs are growing that environmentally and socially sound futures may be vital prerequisites for economic and military stability. So, at the heart of multi-nationalism, sustainable development is beginning to be recognized as a crucial element in reliable international agreements. The consequence of all this is that environmental science has become highly political, and geographers need to recognize and work within an expanding political process. Examples of new forms of governing via sustainability science for sustainable futures are offered in the latter part of the paper, especially at local government level. The antagonistic pressures of established power and economic hegemony are never far away. Indeed, the confirmation of these established patterns of power still pervades the politics of environmental science. But it is possible that these antagonistic political frameworks are beginning to be transcended by the more influential aspects of sustainability partnerships incorporating new arrangements between government, private capital and civil associations. These partnerships will not be easy to create, for they criss-cross boundaries of familiarity and rules of operation. But geographers can play a critical role in helping to shape them and assess the best circumstances for ensuring their success.
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Keywords: environmental science; governance for sustainability; science-policy; sustainable development; the new localism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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