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The politics of environmental discourse : ecological modernization and the policy process

Your lymph estimates rather go the early term. An example of how the idea can be applied to the analysis of social movements can be found in Howes Howes, M. Globalisation and environmental protest. Policy, Organisation Soc , 20 2 : 77 — Dryzek et al. The design challenge, therefore, is to restructure the institutions of power in such a way that they provide a pathway for community feedback without blunting the capacity of civil society to generate more radical criticisms and original thinking. Significant discursive change is a hallmark of strong EM because it rejects the binary opposition of economic and environmental interests Gouldson and Murphy Gouldson, A and Murphy, J.

Furthermore, major changes in discursive practices are considered essential, where ecological principles are seen as the required policy goal of both institutions and businesses Gouldson and Murphy Gouldson, A and Murphy, J. In turn, businesses can reap the benefits that better technology and better informed decision-making can bring through increased efficiency and profit as well as reduced waste, lower raw material costs, and reduced energy use per unit of production.

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EM shares much in common with the notion of sustainable development that transformed the thinking of decision-makers in the s by linking technical, economic, social, political and ecological issues into a package that required an integrated response Howes Howes, M. Others see sustainability as a related but broader concept because it is has a stronger social justice element that puts the emphasis on meeting the needs of the poor, future generations and other species WCED Welford, R and Hills, P.

Ecological modernisation, environmental policy and innovation priorities for the Asia-Pacific Region. Int J Environ Sustain Develop , 2 3 : — Why ecological modernization and sustainable development should not be conflated.

This second view, however, is more applicable to the weak version of EM rather than the strong. Early programmes based on EM did retain something of the Eurocentric and corporatist social consensus foundations on which it was built by requiring collaboration between government, business and the community, as well as a strong economy and the capacity to invest in change Christoff Christoff, P. All dressed up with nowhere to go: the discourse of ecological modernization in Alberta, Canada. Can Rev Soc Anthropol , 41 1 : 47 — The theory has evolved, however, and more recent variants may have the potential to be useful in other social and political contexts, albeit with some modifications Mol Mol, A.

There remains, however, a strong European flavour in EM that results from its mainly German theoretical origins. Overall, EM is a broad concept that ranges between weak and strong extremes. The weaker versions focus on autonomous technological innovation and the application of market mechanisms, while the stronger versions add notions of a substantial institutional restructuring, a renewed role for social movements and a major discursive shift to new ways of thinking about environmental issues and responses.

Arguably, EM has three main strengths. First, it invites an integrated approach to environmental issues by conceptually linking ecological priorities with other policy areas e. Second, its theoretical framework feeds into the broadly accepted policy goal of sustainable development. Third, it can generate programmes for change that constructively engage with the existing institutions of power.

This is not to say that EM provides a panacea for the world's ills. There are many critics of this school of thought as well as the related policies of sustainable development.

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These critics are drawn from both the left and right of the political spectrum see, for example: Gallopin et al. Global impoverishment, sustainable development and the environment: a conceptual approach. Int Soc Sci J , 41 August : — Beyond Brundtland: green development in the s , London : Zed Books. Sustainable development: a critical review. World Develop , 19 6 : — The mirage of sustainable development. Futurist , 14 — Before and beyond ecologically sustainable development: the process and limits to the government's response to environmental concerns.

September 29 — October 3. Melbourne : Monash University. Sustainable development and agenda the secular bible of global free markets and pluralist democracy. Third World Q , 19 4 : — They point out that neither will put an end to poverty or inequality, they will not stop violence or injustice, they are not a remedy for the ills of a postcolonial world, and they inherit many of the underlying problems of market economics, liberal democracy, and the welfare state.

Many of these limitations have been acknowledged by the proponents and originators of EM but they still see some value in the concept Janicke and Jacob Janicke, M and Jacob, K. This article does not have the space to revisit in detail the arguments for and against EM — it would require a whole book to do justice to the debate. The point here is just to acknowledge that this dispute exists and is ongoing.

What this article argues is simply that EM has helped to place environmental issues firmly on the mainstream political agenda, it offers the opportunity to hardwire ecological feedback into economic decision-making, and has the potential to buy the world more time by slowing the rate of environmental damage. It is not an end point for development nor does it provide a utopian vision for the future.

It is simply a useful staging post that goes beyond business as usual and may prepare the ground for more substantial transformations. This is why EM is able to generate both a useful tool for analysis and a strategic programme for action. EM originated as a theoretical framework to explain rapidly evolving responses to environmental issues within Europe, and Germany in particular, where the theory originated Dryzek et al. The distinctly European origins beg the question of how useful, and therefore effective, it might be in the Australian context Curran Curran, G. Ecological modernisation and climate change in Australia.

Environ Polit , 18 2 : — Financial subsidies to the Australian fossil fuel industry. Energy Pol , — Ecological modernisation: a realistic green road for China?

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The politics of environmental discourse: Ecological modernization and the policy process

Environ Polit , 16 4 : — Ecological modernisation beyond Western Europe: the Case of Brazil. Environ Polit , 17 5 : — Europeanising Hungarian waste policies: progress or regression. Environ Polit , 13 1 : — Is it similar enough to Europe to allow for EM to be transplanted with relative ease? Australia does bear some similarities to Germany where the school of EM originated. They both have federal parliamentary political systems with well established welfare states administered by a sizeable bureaucracy.

There is an active civil society in both that generates pressure groups and movements to engage with both business and the state e. Environment and politics , London : Routledge. Nonetheless, there are key socio-economic and environmental differences between the two, some of which are summarised in Table 2 below. Although both countries have a similar levels of GDP per capita, Germany has a much larger economy overall with a significantly greater proportion dedicated to industry and high technology. Australia has a larger landmass, a smaller population, and relies far more heavily on primary industries such as agriculture and mining Papadakis OUM.

South East Queensland regional plan. Office of urban management , Brisbane : Queensland Government. Doing ecological modernisation in Australia: the climate policy challenge. April 11— England : University of Bath. Global environmental diplomacy: Australia's stances on global warming. Austr J Int Affairs , 56 2 : — This is evident in the structural differences in exports and the key environmental issues faced by both countries. Geograph Res , 44 2 : — Australia also faces some unique issues relating to the provision of infrastructure and services to remote and indigenous settlements McKenzie and Howes McKenzie, M and Howes, M.

Remote renewable energy in Australia: barriers to uptake and the community engagement imperative. September 25— University of Newcastle.


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All of these differences have the potential to significantly alter the application of the five EM themes outlined in the previous section because they generate different opportunities and barriers to change. In so far as technical innovation our first major theme of EM is concerned, clearly Australia has less capacity both total and relative in terms of research, development and deployment — something that could affect its ability to ecologically modernise. In addition only Although there are some notable exceptions particularly in the agricultural and mining sectors , on the whole Australian industry tends to import technology developed in other countries rather than develop its own Howes Howes, M.

The relatively small population and vast distances create other problems for the deployment of new technology McKenzie and Howes McKenzie, M and Howes, M.