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Environmental Values

Valuing Birds in the Bush: For Pluralism in Environmental Risk Assessment

Peter Lucas

Environmental Values 11(2002): 177-191. doi: 10.3197/096327102129341046

It is now widely acknowledged that social theorists can make an important contribution to our understanding of environmental risk. There is however a danger that the current ascendancy of social theory will encourage a tendency to assimilate issues around environmental risk to those at stake in entrenched debates between realist and constructivist social theorists. I begin by citing a recent example of this trend, before going on to argue that framing the issues in terms of a monism/pluralism dichotomy would make for a more informative analysis. Noting that realists and constructivists can make common cause against risk monism, I turn, in the second half of the paper, to setting out a positive case for risk pluralism. Citing some fictional examples of risk behaviour, I show how different individuals might rationally adopt different perspectives on the same risk. I conclude by exploring some implications of the truth of risk pluralism for two current approaches to environmental decision-making (which I term, respectively, the 'teleological-pluralistic' approach, and the 'economic-monistic' approach). I argue that the importance of risk pluralism lies in its capacity to highlight the shortcomings of the latter approach.

KEYWORDS: Pluralism, monism, realism, insurance, risk

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Editorial Introduction: Risk, Culture and Social Theory in Comparative Perspective Maurie J. Cohen

The Songlines of Risk. Sheila Jasanoff

This article is available online (PDF format) from Ingenta Journals. Access is free if your institution subscribes to Environmental Values. Reprints of this article can be ordered from ingenta or the British Library Document Supply Service

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