Workshop Confronting Manageability Paradigm/Introduction

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Notes and Remarks on the Introduction

Ingmar's notes and connotations

Re inputs:

Well, of course I liked Anke's and my input :) We need to discuss further. Especially we seem to need clarify what of the characteristics of contemporary Western capitalist environmental management is already appearing earlier in history - how is the past related to the present?

Re discussion:

These are just some thoughts on what I deem relevant for keeping in collective mind:

  • Modelling: We had a long discussion about different models (with comments from Ian {taking a descriptive stance}, Leeny {taking a normative stance: prefiguring utopia}, Ivo, Diana {adds the dimension 'time'}). Each model depicts some aspects of human/society-nature relations which others do not. Can there be a perfect model on which to act on? Is taking a "global perspective", i.e. the view from no-where (see Donna Haraway's situated knowledge and godeye's view; see also Tim Ingold's "globes and spheres"), productive for criticising environmental management practices? Would it be useful to see this way of looking "global perspective" as part of the practices within environmental management (maybe a knowledge practice)? Lauro makes the point by suggesting to question for which 'purpose' models exist.
  • Ontology and epistemology: Anup suggested questioning the categories which are used in the above discussions: what is "nature", how do we define it? This leads to the insight to all definitions are socially constructed and thus historically, socially and politically shaped (including all the dimensions, such as class, caste, race, gender, sex, ...). Taking this perspective requires becoming aware of all the presuppositions which we bring into analysis. Ian argued for so-called "brute facts". I think it would be worthwhile to look together into Critical Realism as this approach considers both an epistemology informed by social constructivism as well as a realist ontology. Anke's understanding that there is one biophysical reality and multiple cultural realities seems interesting in that respect. However, taking a constructivist Science and Technology Studies point of view the question emerges of what that biophysical reality should be independently of a knower. The very idea of a biophysical reality is cultural as well. Specific issues/examples:
    • "How is 'quality' defined in 'air quality'?"
    • "In order to manage unambiguous concepts and boundaries between them are necessary."
  • Strategy: We heard an implicit debate over whether we should orient towards reality or utopia. I think that is a wrong dichotomy. Any attention to reality is prefiguring some future. By making us aware of the utopia which we aim at, more effective action might be possible. It might be helpful to use the notions of grounded or rational utopia (David Pepper, Pierre Bourdieu), bestimmte Negation (Adorno). Specific issues/examples:
    • "Nature is defined normatively. What are our values?"
    • versus:
    • "We do not want to discuss values, but agree on the facts."

One issue which sums up the discussion for me quite well is this: The participants argued over whether and, if yes, how to define "nature". I agree that such a definition is required for the very idea of "managing" nature. However, the purpose of the workshop was this - and my interest continues in this direction: We aim at objectifying something called "environmental management" ("EM"), i.e. making the latter the object of our study, rather than nature. We should scrutinise what "EM" is!

Sebastian's notes and connotations

Personal notes: Including some short comments of mine --Seba 22:32, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

11th January

  • Anke introduced the historic approach (according to Peter Sieferle)

The development of society from hunters and gatherers to a feudal society and finally reaching industrial development. Corresponding toa society with no problems, minor problems and many environmental problems. Going hand-in-hand with the change from a solar-based based society, to society based on the use of fossil fuels.

In the capitalist industrial society there is a need for growth. However growth in physically limited world must be questioned.

  • Ingmar evaluates how industrial societies try to deal with rising environmental concern (according to Gramsci).

The concept of so-called passive revolutions which have the aim of sustaining the status quo plays a key role. Current institutions such as the capitalism rather seek to integrate criticism (at least partially) in order to avoid revolutionary change. Such integration takes place by reformulating environmental problems for example by market logic. Explaining environmental problems as the market failure makes them manageable by already available tools of the market economy.

(Pre-emptive approach, active policy, week self-regulation instead of hard regulation and control by the government and other potentially involved and affected parts of society)

Everything that challenges the status quo, any kind of fundamental criticism of capitalism, industrialism, modernism, progress is more or less ignored. A discourse on sustainability under such social (economic, market) pressure ends with sustainable growth as the solution, instead of rethinking the idea of growth and progress at all. Environmental management has been trapped by the mental jacket: " we have to know everything, we have to calculate it, then we can manage it". Less damage by better technology, more efficiency, technological and scientific progress allows (or will allow for) management.

(This is completely neglecting the historic experience, the fallacy of communism and a controlled, planned economy. Once it already proved that it is not possible to know everything to calculate it and plan. Neither economy nor nature can be planned or managed.)

Not more in technology, a basic change in perception and the founding ideas of current society could help. Social innovations are needed: teaching, EMS, auditing, accounting, creating a space for the environment in institutions (public and private). The key word is ecological modernisation.

However the discourse is dominated by industrial capitalism. It is claimed that the current system is not inherently damaging to the environment. These claims are supported by the following:

1. From passive to active policy
2. Changing the role of science, moves into policy-making
3. From protection costs to prevention pays
4. From nature as a free good to nature as a public good
5. Burden of proof it shifted from which to to the company, to the polluter
6. Including environmental NGOs, consulting agencies into policy-making
   (green washing, white west)

However all the steps should be questioned and shall be taking a close look to the reality if it really happens as claimed and what really is the result and who is benefiting.

  • Ian speaks of the new grammar of how to talk about the environment. The environmental problem is cast as manageable by experts.

(Instead of involving the whole society and making clear that every citizen by his or her behaviour is forming the society we live in) A funny example is given by Ian: sustainability as sustainable growth of corporate profit. Biological fingerprint. Meadows beyond the limits of growth. US lifestyle 3.5 earths are needed. Mickey Mouse graph

Sebastian's visit to another (engineering) event a few days later

Personal comment: Including some short comments of mine --Seba 22:32, 28 January 2008 (UTC) [1] [2]

Today (22 January 2008) I did join a presentation/speech organised by the VDI, the Association of German Engineers at the library of the University of Cottbus.

Today's guest speaker was Dr Gerd Eßer, CEO of the INPRO, Innovationsgesellschaft für fortgeschrittene Produktionssysteme in der Fahrzeugindustrie (so-called Society for innovation of advanced production systems in the automotive industry).

His topic was "sustainable competition in the automotive sector through innovation".

He was starting his presentation with a picture of Noah's Ark. Stating that environmental problems always existed and innovative technology was always the solution. That the Bible contains the first innovative technical description of how to overcome environmental problems (it was implied).

Environmental catastrophe makes technical innovation a matter of survival.

However regulation in the (German/European) automotive industry is too high as it is inflicting costs which make cars less competitive. Also there are contradicting requirements the customers (for example high motorisation and power versus reduced carbon emissions and fuel consumption, safety and durability versus light weight construction, etc).

One has to understand that the German economy is strongly dependent on the automotive industry. 80 per cent of its positive foreign trade balance is represented by cars. A recession in the car sector always has severe effects on the German economy.

The automotive industry is one of pillars of the German economy and since long is engaged in creating sustainability (TDI 1989, Ecomatic 1991, hybrid car 1997,1 L car 2002, blue motion).

In Germany Carbon dioxide emissions from traffic are declining, which is because of the care and engagement of the automotive industry. German cars are regularly certified by a label called ÖkoTrend as the most environmentally friendly.

Sustainable competition means to be sustainably competitive, you can only be competitive if you make money with what you do. However finally competitiveness can only be achieved by innovation, through successful innovation. As new products are not always successful there is a big risk which this industry has to bear.

Also there is the problem of copied designs and products (especially from China and India). To prevent such copied products and production processes have to be made as complex as possible. It isn't actually so important to make new inventions but to design the production process accordingly.

Coordinated development of production processes is the best copy protection. The company INPRO is designing such processes for its investors (and founders):

  • BASF (responsible for raw materials),
  • Thyssen/Krupp (supplier),
  • Siemens (automation and supplier),
  • VW, Daimler (OEM).

I was amused to see so quickly it wasn't just a joke (what Ian said during the workshop) that certain actors of society regard sustainability as sustainable growth of profits.