Publication Details

Castree, N. (2015). Geography and global change science: Relationships necessary, absent, and possible. Geographical Research, 53 (1), 1-15.


Initiated by geoscientists, the growing debate about the Anthropocene, 'planetary boundaries' and global 'tipping points' is a significant opportunity for geographers to reconfigure two things: one is the internal relationships among their discipline's many and varied perspectives (topical, philosophical, and methodological) on the real; the other the discipline's actual and perceived contributions to important issues in the wider society. Yet, without concerted effort and struggle, the opportunity is likely to be used in a 'safe' and rather predictable way by only a sub-set of human-environment geographers. The socio-environmental challenges of a post-Holocene world invite old narratives about Geography's holistic intellectual contributions to be reprised in the present. These narratives speak well to many geoscientists, social scientists, and decision-makers outside Geography. However, they risk perpetuating an emaciated conception of reality wherein Earth systems and social systems are seen as knowable and manageable if the 'right' ensemble of expertise is achieved. I argue that we need to get out from under the shadow of these long-standing narratives. Using suggestive examples, I make the case for forms of inquiry across the human-physical 'divide' that eschew ontological monism and that serve to reveal the many legitimate cognitive, moral, and aesthetic framings of Earth present and future. Geography is unusual in that the potential for these forms of inquiry to become normalised is high compared with other subjects. This potential will only be taken advantage of if certain human-environment geographers unaccustomed to engaging the world of geoscience and environmental policy change their modus operandi.



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