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The Songlines of Risk

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Abstract:

Two decades of social and political analysis have helped to enrich the concept of risk that underlies the bulk of modern environmental regulation. Risk is no longer seen merely as the probability of harm arising from more or less determinable physical, biological or social causes. Instead, it seems more appropriate to view risk as the embodiment of deeply held cultural values and beliefs - the songlines of the paper's title - concerning such issues as agency, causation, and uncertainty. These values are incorporated into the formal methodologies, such as quantitative risk assessment, by which industrial societies assess risk. The meaning of risk accordingly varies from one cultural context to another, posing difficult problems for global environmental governance. The paper reflects on the role of science in promoting convergent perceptions of risk across disparate political cultures.

Keywords: agency; causation; environmental risk; risk assessment; uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3197/096327199129341761

Publication date: 1999-05-01

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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