Climate Change and Ocean Governance: Politics and Policy for Threatened Seas. By Paul G. Harris, editor. 2019. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Elizabeth Nyman
2020 Global Environmental Politics  
Scientific evidence indicates that we have entered a new geological epoch, termed the Anthropocene, in which human activities have become a significant geological force. How do we confront this new reality where our relationship with our biophysical environment has changed so significantly? On what basis do we determine how to respond? In The Politics of the Anthropocene, Dryzek and Pickering argue that rather than engaging with these critical questions, the core institutions of our society
more » ... e markets and states) instead severely constrain our ability to identify and then answer them. The authors argue that a "pathological path dependency" in our institutions systematically represses information on the Earth system to prioritize a narrow set of economic objectives. They attribute these behaviors to the critical importance of economic growth to these institutions and their origination in a time when our impact on the Earth system was significantly smaller. To address this problem, the authors propose the notion of "ecological reflexivity." This concept builds off the established idea of reflexivity and involves confronting the core commitments of our society and changing the response where necessary (Beck et al. 1994) . Dryzek and Pickering extend this idea to include the Earth system, so the reflexivity would be of social-ecological systems (the human and nonhuman world), rather than just social systems. Ecological reflexivity, as they outline it, involves a cyclical process of recognizing changes in social-ecological systems; reflecting on the changes occurring and rethinking core values; and then responding to these changes by rearticulating core aims, discourses, and values and reconfiguring practices. Dryzek and Pickering demonstrate how ecological reflexivity could be applied. They first illustrate how it can shape the way that we understand values in society. For example, "sustainability" can reflect the dynamic nature of the Earth system in the Anthropocene and our role in these changes, rather than serving as a static view of conserving ecological conditions when those conditions may no longer be attainable. In examining how ecological reflexivity could then be implemented, Dryzek and Pickering focus on what they term the "formative sphere," rather than on institutions. This "formative sphere" is a theoretical domain in which ideas, principles, and values are generated and developed. It operates across, separate from, and potentially within existing institutional configurations, but
doi:10.1162/glep_r_00571 fatcat:z6rdelsuo5b23lew4iuge54rai