Our team is an original experiment, bringing together social-science researchers to work on environmental issues. It has 46 members – 18 permanent, 22 doctoral students, six research associates – representing a variety of backgrounds: geography, planning, sociology, philosophy, economics, political science and anthropology.
Five keywords identify the main socio-environmental dynamics we study.
Adaptation: changes in ways of life driven by global changes, operating at various spatial and temporal scales, observed in terms of practices, that may be daily, leisure or event-centred, etc.
Biodiversity: governance of the living studied through animal spatialities, relations between humans and animals, and hybridization of expert and lay learning.
Energy: contemporary policies on energy transition, configuration of new energy resources and the recomposition they prompt in territory and landscape.
Risk: we study the risks associated with flooding, earthquake and atmospheric pollution, with the accent on social responses to natural events.
Landscape: long-term environmental and landscape dynamics (trajectories, bifurcations, inertia).
Through analysis of these socio-environmental dynamics (in the short or long term, human or not) our team has become a place for critical appraisal of key concepts (temporality, adaptation, transition, vulnerability, innovation).
Prime assets of the Environments team
Close links with university teaching, by way of two Master’s degree courses focusing on the environment (Géoïdes, Géosphères), a research Master’s degree in Innovation and Territory (Iter), another Master’s degree in Property Project Ownership (Mobat) and an international Master’s degree (IDS).
The practice of inter-disciplinary work in the social sciences and with other scientific communities (hydrology, climatology, ecology, forestry, biology, geology, energy, among others), through facilities based locally (OSUG, CDP Trajectoires, UGA-Climat, Zone Atelier Alpes), regionally (Ouranos-AurA) or nationally (GPRO Climat-Energie Alliance Athena; coordination Ancre/Athena).
About 15 ongoing projects (with CNRS, France’s Environment and Energy-Management Agency (Ademe), the National Research Agency (ANR), Grenoble-based Labex) and the development of international networks (Brazil, China, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, United Kingdom, Niger and Morocco).
To define the team’s project we compared approaches and concepts to identify common ground for exchange between members. We then designed a ‘compass’, reconciling environmental learning and appropriation regimes for environmental entities and resources.
The question of ‘learning’ brings into play a plural approach to the environment, as a system of interactions, described and analysed by historically formed scientific learning, in the light of relations. Such relations, formed through connections and disconnections between groups and environmental resources or entities, add situated intelligence to learning, coupled with qualification and sharing of underlying issues. The two polarities are in tension: the scientific reference, before laying claim to universality, is indebted to the emergence of groups and instruments that are clearly ‘connected’ to places where knowledge is produced; similarly the way we ‘reconnect’ with environmental issues, in order to grasp their singular expression where we live, works increasingly through citizen groups using miniaturized, mobile instruments that renew our capacity for observing and producing data. [...]
The issue of appropriation regimes questions the concrete processes by which society, at different periods and in different geographical, cultural and social contexts, has reassessed the environmental question in response to its own needs, to prevent risks and consolidate sovereignty. These processes are characterized, in particular, by their attempt to convert environmental entities into goods, taking many routes which may turn them into common or private goods. These processes are uncertain, due to the materiality of environmental entities and their resilience or resistance, but also due to the categories we use to understand and act on these issues. We aim to explore this basic tension between entities and disputed, negotiated environmental resources to make them common goods, at various scales, and entities and/or resources involved in privatization processes, in order to control them as substitutable, tradable goods.
These two polarities connect to many appropriation regimes which are central to our analysis. With regard to our project they mark a collective horizon, hinging on debate of environmental policies, their past management and increasingly frequent attempts to allow market forces to take charge of transitions, impacts and risks. These appropriation regimes afford opportunities for collective re-definition of what constitutes value, giving rise to innovative experiments, but also greater social and environmental inequality.
Our project is rooted in effective methodology, fed by the team’s ability to carry out surveys and interviews, thus keeping track of emerging socio-technical collectives while processing long data sets using statistics. We also use geographic information systems, archives in some cases, spatialization and spatio-temporal representation of phenomena. [...]
These research priorities open up a space for rich debate, spilling over into two team workshops: a reading group for group work on texts about building learning and environmental appropriation; a video group to give participants a practical grasp of directing and editing video documentaries.
Reading workshop: John Dewey, pragmatism and the environmental question
This year the reading workshop hinges on The Public and its Problems (1927), which urges political philosophy to focus attention on what affects ordinary experience, interrupts it and gives rise to states of ‘disadaptation’. This connects to questions our team is studying, regarding our relation to animals, landscapes or indeed extreme events. When thinking about these troubled situations Dewey encourages us to pay attention to the collectives they bring to the fore and the singular devices the latter invent to redefine what makes value and to experiment new ways of life.
We have turned to this important work to reconsider our material cultures and their ‘consequences’, the modalities by which ‘publics’ form, the place of human and social sciences with and/or alongside these publics, and lastly environmental thought more open to experimentation.
Contact: olivier.labussiere [at] umrpacte.fr
AMETIhST workshop: a group for interdisciplinary thought on the resilience of socio-environmental systems
Amethist (Anticipation, Mobility, Space-Time Scales, Integration, Water and Weather, Society, Territories) started in 2010, bringing together researchers from social, human and Earth sciences. In 2011 it adopted a slow-science approach to encourage multi and inter-disciplinary exchange, sharing theoretical tools and confronting them with our particular objects of study.
We started by looking at water and weather-related risks, and their spatial and temporal scales, then extended our scope to include resilience and, more recently, rhythm, drawing on various papers: C.S. Holling, Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological and social systems, Ecosystems; M. Grossetti, L’espace à trois dimensions des phénomènes sociaux, Sociologies; P. Michon, Rythme et sociologie, une introduction, Rhuthmos.
Video workshop: experimenting with new languages in the social sciences
The question of the animated image has a long past in the social sciences. Its use in research is developing in France and abroad, opening the way for new ways of (co-)producing knowledge and new bridges between science and society. The present workshop aims act as a ‘breather’ amidst increasingly intensive, internationalized and standardized scientific production. Our aim is to restate the question of the choice and transformation of the languages we use to explain human and social-science thinking to society. We are also keen to educate through practice, giving researchers, post-docs and PhD students hands-on experience of making and editing documentaries.