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Environmental Values

The Songlines of Risk

Sheila Jasanoff

Environmental Values 8(1999): 135-152. doi: 10.3197/096327199129341761

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: environmental risk, risk assessment, agency, causation, uncertainty

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

Valuing Birds in the Bush: For Pluralism in Environmental Risk Assessment Peter Lucas

Re-framing Flood Control in England and Wales. J. Ivan Scrase and William R. Sheate

Representing Global Public Concern: A Critical Analysis of the Danish Participatory Experiment on Climate Change. Gwendolyn Blue


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