Monday, April 13, 2009

Wynne on Risk and Environment, and Technology

Technology has become so ingrained in our culture that discussions of society often incorporate technology's influence. That's why, after discussing grassroots environmentalism (and the complications thereof) in the last few classes, we are now shifting gears toward the discussion of risk vis-a-vis technology and the environment.
Wynne is concerned that discourse surrounding the assessment of technology has become a 'downstream' discourse that has focused primarily on the risks and negative environmental consequences brought on by such technology. How likely is it that such a technological advance will cause harmful consequences? If such harmful consequences do occur, how serious would the impact be? Wynne does not dismiss such critiques of technology, pointing out that these risks and impacts cannot be completely controlled.

Wynne argues that such discourse omits a great deal of important 'upstream' discussion on the use of technology, including the purpose of the technology, intended benefits, and whether questions surrounding the technology can be answered. He argues that "the definitive modern focus of public discourse on the theme of risk and insecurity alone, as if this were the universal natural meaning of the public issues involved over new sciences and technologies, is a key obstacle to any democratic impetus." In other words, he says, discussion of the risk and environmental consequences of technology are hindering the development of new technologies that would - you guessed it - be more sustainable.

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