Monsters, Time Travel and Environmental Sociology

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:40
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Stewart LOCKIE, James Cook University, Australia
Time is an omnipresent and yet largely under-theorized concept within sociology. On the one hand, time seems straightforward, one variable amongst many in the complex world of the social. And yet when we consider how time is implicated in processes of socio-ecological change things quickly get messy. Framing our response to these processes in terms of sustainability results in the assignment of rights to future generations, attempts to calculate the risks of yet indeterminate environmental change, questions over how to value the future in light of uncertainty, and so on. Time is no longer a fixed, linear, independent variable but something far more interesting. This paper argues for an approach to the sociology of time that moves beyond the critique of modernity and which supports the quest for sustainability. It treats sustainability as a material force, an agent in its own right that mediates human relationships with ecosystem processes, natural resources and future generations. As a force that is the product of human action, but never entirely under our control, sustainability brings the future into the present while demanding that future be based on learning, deliberation and accountability. Anticipating and assembling positive social-ecological futures requires reflexive engagement with the technologies and projects through which humans attempt to capture the temporal dynamics of Earth-system processes. Environmental sociology is well placed both to unpack the techniques through which this occurs (e.g. climate modeling and scenario building) and to help re-build them in ways that are more sensitive to the challenges of environmental justice and the realities of social practice.