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Deliberating in the Anthropocene: Signs and sources of reflexive governance

Jonathan Pickering, University of Canberra

Tue 22 September 2015

11:00am - 12:00pm

Fishbowl, Building 24, University of Canberra


Many commentators believe that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—marked by humanity’s pervasive impact on global ecosystems. Resulting patterns of environmental degradation pose major challenges for the planet’s inhabitants as well as for political institutions worldwide. John Dryzek has recently argued that in the Anthropocene institutions need to cultivate “ecosystemic reflexivity”, which involves “listening more effectively to an active Earth system, capacity to reconsider core values such as justice in this light, and ability to seek, receive and respond to early warnings about potential ecological state shifts” (Dryzek 2014). But what would ecosystemic reflexivity look like in practice and how could it could be cultivated?

In this paper (co-authored with John Dryzek) we outline a preliminary typology of signs or indicators of ecosystemic reflexivity, and of factors that may enable or constrain reflexivity. Even if institutions may become reflexive through non-deliberative means, we argue—drawing on existing literature on deliberative systems and complex adaptive systems—that deliberative innovations hold considerable potential to promote reflexivity. In order to assess the strength of this argument in practice, we outline a planned case study on reflexivity in international institutions that fund development and environmental protection in low-income countries.

About the speaker

Jonathan joined the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in 2015. He is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Professor John Dryzek on his Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship project, ‘Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice and a Changing Earth System’.

He completed his PhD in philosophy at the Australian National University, based in the Centre for Moral, Social and Political Theory and graduating in 2014. His thesis explored opportunities for reaching a fair agreement between developing and developed countries in global climate change negotiations. Before joining the University of Canberra he taught climate and environmental policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, and has been a Visiting Fellow at the Development Policy Centre at ANU since 2014.

Jonathan’s research interests include the ethical and political dimensions of global climate change policy, global environmental governance, development policy and ethics, and global justice.

He has a Masters' degree in development studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and undergraduate degrees in arts and law from the University of Sydney. Previously he worked as a policy and program manager with the Australian Government's international development assistance program (AusAID, 2003-09).

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