What We Disagree about When We Disagree about Sustainability
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSociety & Natural Resources. 2013, 26 (11), 1268-1282. 10.1080/08941920.2013.797527
Criteria for sustainability are frequently contested and changed based on competing or new types of knowledge. This is a potential problem for policy and decision makers struggling to come up with policies regarding environmental threats and pondering which technologies to promote and which to avoid, and when dealing with past choices made on different or false knowledge claims. Such questions may be incentives for status quo, as making mistakes might cause public contempt for politicians and experts. Complex issues like environmental impacts cannot be expected to be managed through criteria without controversy and change. Understanding the dynamics of such controversies is important to be able to cope with them. In this article I propose an analytical approach based on the notion of “framing” intended to contribute toward this goal. Empirically the approach builds upon the study of two controversies about the sustainability of energy sources: one about peat, the other about bioenergy.