Murky Waters? Science, Politics and Environmental Decision-Making in the Brisbane River Dredging Dispute
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Environmental sociology and the sociology of scientific knowledge provide a strong theoretical foundation for investigating the role of science in environmental disputes. The field of environmental dispute resolution has built a body of literature, outlining the techniques and practices that underpin the successful resolution of disputes, over controversial environmental issues. However, the literature on dispute resolution has generally neglected the role of science in environmental disputes. This thesis develops a theoretical framework based on concepts from environmental sociology and the sociology of scientific knowledge in order to critically examine the role of science in environmental disputes. In particular, this thesis combines the theory on claims-making from environmental sociology with actor-network theory and the theory on boundary-work from the sociology of scientific knowledge, to analyse the way in which science was involved in the dispute over phasing out extractive dredging from the Brisbane River. Data were collected from qualitative in-depth interviews with key players in the Brisbane River dredging dispute and combined with analysis of relevant documents and newspaper articles. Each of the components of the theoretical framework developed in this thesis contributes to an in-depth analysis of the way in which science was involved in the dredging dispute. The environmental claims-making analysis examines the way in which the claim that extractive dredging was an environmental problem for the Brisbane River was constructed and contested. The actor-network analysis compares the two competing actor-networks that were developed by one of the major concrete companies and by the anti-dredging campaigners. The boundary-work analysis examines the social construction of the science / politics border as an important site of boundary-work, before exploring other related forms of boundary-work within the case study. When combined, these theories highlight the social and political processes that underpin the inherent difficulties associated with applying science to effective environmental dispute resolution. The theoretical framework developed in this thesis highlights the way in which an analysis of environmental claims-making, actor-networks and boundary-work, extends the literature on environmental dispute resolution. This thesis therefore makes a significant contribution to the field of environmental dispute resolution, by illustrating the advantages of drawing on theoretical perspectives from environmental sociology and the sociology of scientific knowledge.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Australian School of Environmental Studies
Item Access Status
environmental dispute resolution