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By: Mark Huxham and David Sumner
268 pages, Figs, tabs
Science is vital in informing the increasingly urgent and complex environmental decisions that affect all our lives, from international agreements on action to limit climate change to decisions on growing genetically modified crops. It is clear, however, that many environmental decisions are taken in the face of scientific uncertainty or ignorance, and involve questions of politics and ethics that go beyond science. Science alone cannot answers such questions as "Are the risks of nuclear power acceptable?" and "Why should we conserve wild species?" Science and Environmental Decision Making explores the use and limitations of science in helping to answer environmental questions, emphasising the importance of ethics, politics and sociology in the decision making process. Starting with the question "What is meant by a scientific explanation?", the first three chapters provide a simple introduction to the philosophy and sociology of science and the importance of these fields to environmental scientists.They explain the logic of testing ideas in science and look at some of the absolute limits of scientific explanation, showing how value judgements inevitably influence scientific work, before exploring commercial and political influences on science. Chapters 4-10 show how these themes are relevant in case studies ranging from genetic engineering in agriculture to conservation, marine eutrophication and the use of models, and radiation protection. Each chapter is written by a researcher active in the area and begins with an editorial introduction highlighting the major themes illustrated by the case study. This book is aimed at students of ecology, environmental science, environmental management and geography. It will also be useful reading for sociology students who study how the science is applied.
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