Engaging Anthropocene Science: Perspectives on the role of geoscientific practices in Anthropocene debates

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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10900/85828
http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:21-dspace-858286
http://dx.doi.org/10.15496/publikation-27217
Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2019-01-22
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Biologie
Advisor: Potthast, Thomas (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2018-12-17
DDC Classifikation: 300 - Social sciences, sociology and anthropology
320 - Political science
333.7 - Natural resources and energy
550 - Earth sciences
Keywords: Anthropozän , Wissenschaftsforschung , Wissenschaftsethik , Geowissenschaften
Other Keywords:
stratigraphy
anthropocene
Earth system science
science and technology studies
science ethics
planetary boundaries
geo-engineering
Earth system governance
interdisciplinarity
License: Publishing license excluding print on demand
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Abstract:

This cumulative thesis encompasses five papers that apply the theoretical perspective of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to the Anthropocene, investigating what scientific representations of the phenomenon exist, how they were created and with what effect. The analysis focuses on the geosciences and particularly stratigraphy, which have played a central role in the development of the Anthropocene discourse. The STS perspective offered by the thesis is indispensable for understanding the Anthropocene because it shows how the very activity of producing scientific knowledge on the Anthropocene shapes conceptions and societal responses to Earth system change. The fundamental contribution of STS to environmental debates is the notion that environments, especially of the global variant, require representation and that science has predominantly provided the latter. STS critically investigates the representational practices of science: it thus demonstrates that resulting scientific facts are inevitably contingent on social, historical and geographical contexts, and, therefore, always ambiguous. Applying this perspective, will help to understand the production of geoscientifically valid claims about the Anthropocene, and to analyse their conceptual and political consequences. Beyond the contributions of the individual papers, the thesis yields three main overarching results. Firstly, it highlights that geoscientific knowledge about the Anthropocene is the result of social process including a) particular settlements of scientific controversies through geoscientists, especially disagreement about the boundary and character of Anthropocene strata, b) processes of aligning novel research results and existing research practices through which new facts gain credibility within the research community, and c) the drawing of boundaries between areas of authority, including the ability and willingness to study the Anthropocene, which render geoscientific knowledge relevant to Anthropocene discourses. Secondly, the analysis shows that geoscientific representations of the Anthropocene a) affect wider concepts of Earth system change, and b) engender normative logics that have socio-political implications, i.e. either to limit anthropogenic Earth system change or to accept and intentionally manage it. Thirdly, this thesis reveals that the novel character and the wide societal popularity of the Anthropocene do not induce changes in geoscience scholarship. Established research practices prevail over innovative interdisciplinary approaches and the societal implications of geoscientific research are externalised. This research provides the basis for reflecting possible changes in (geo-)scientific practice so to reconcile the societal reach of geoscientific knowledge with the agency of geoscientists to influence the knowledge that they produce.

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