Open Conference Systems, RUC Sunrise Triple C Conference: Climate – Change – Communication

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The matter of climate change: what it is and how to be concerned with it
Gert Goeminne

Last modified: 2010-04-15


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The current environmental crisis is commonly understood as a human failure to find a sustainable way of interaction between culture and nature. In recent months, the Copenhagen climate summit (December 2009) has accordingly been cast as a failure resulting from the political incapacity to stand up for a stable climate. Rather than endorsing this viewpoint, this paper will depart from the argument that the very way it is formulated is symptomatic of the key cause of the climate change impasse, namely the lack of conceptual and political space required to think of climate change as a ‘nature-culture’ hybrid and deal with it accordingly. The general aim of my research project of which this paper makes part, is to conceive the environment as a genuinely political concept, open to struggle and contestation, in this way constituting an essential component of social change. The underlying starting point is that the current environmental policy approach of ‘rational decision making’ inherently rejects a plurality of socio-environmental visions, invoking a conception of both science and politics that is characterized by rationalism and universalism. As opposed to this essentialist belief in a rationally attainable consensus without exclusion, this paper puts forward the constitutive role of exclusion in the emergence of both natural and social order. Invoking Bruno Latour’s constructivist approach, I will change focus from a representationalist understanding to a practice-inspired account of science in which the composition of a matter of fact necessarily implies a politically significant differentiation between internalities and externalities. This will eventually enable us to conceive of climate politics as being constituted by an adversarial struggle over who and what is to be taken into account, a struggle that is ultimately based on the idea that every composition, including a scientific one, excludes and differentiates.


climate change, antagonism, exclusion, politics of composition

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