Trust Me If You Can: Trust As Strategic Tool for Decision Making to Deal with Ignorance and Uncertainty in Contaminated Sites of Germany and India

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Pradip SWARNAKAR , Humanities and Social Sciences, InstituteTechnology & Management , Gwalior, MP, India
Matthias GROSS , Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany
Alena BLEICHER , Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany
In this paper we will investigate the role of trust in decision making process under ignorance and uncertainty. Classical approaches to risk analysis are based on statistical calculations dependent on hitherto known variables. This research suggests that if knowledge for risk calculation is limited then the decision making of experts as well as ‘lay’ persons are dependent on their individual and intuitional trust. Based on newly emerging sociological theories of ignorance, this paper involves two field studies: redevelopment of contaminated sites in Germany and mitigation of groundwater arsenic contamination in India. Interestingly, in both the cases knowledge on underground processes is limited. Processes of cleaning-up in Germany usually are confronted with contaminations that had not been identified in investigation activities. Unexpected surprises by the actors often are taken as normalcy. In the Eastern Indian region, concentration of arsenic in groundwater increases due to geological processes in succession of a decreasing groundwater level, caused by human activities. So, today’s clean water may be poisonous by arsenic tomorrow. This creates a situation of ambiguity and confusion. Stakeholders (from policy makers to local inhabitants) have to take various pertinent decisions based on trust in individual, group or system. From the existing sociological literature the paper explores various dimensions of trust involved in decision making for both experts and non-experts.