Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasive uncertainties: environmental change and the politics of limited science.

Abstract

Political actors often want to know as much as possible about the social effects of new and unforeseen environmental changes. The natural scientists who study environmental change, however, cannot always provide the precise environmental knowledge desired by political actors. This is because to study contemporary environmental change is to study systems that are immensely interactive and complex, a fact that often limits scientists' ability to provide full guarantees regarding future impacts. My question, then, is how do the limitations of performing science about environmental change interact with the politics of environmental change? To answer this question, I examine how a particular set of ecologists, biologists, and others struggled to provide guarantees regarding the future migration of Asian carp, an invasive species that was threatening to enter the Great Lakes and potentially disrupt existing socio-environmental relationships. Data are derived from a combination of 32 semi-structured interviews and document analysis. I discuss these data using a social-biophysical stratification framework, and find that the limitations of performing science about environmental change can restructure political opportunities for enacting or invalidating environmental interventions, and also that these limitations in themselves closely tied the performance of science to local environmental politics.