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Democratic transformations in earth system governance

Jonathan Pickering, University of Canberra

Tue 22 October 2019

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Confidence in the ability of democracies to safeguard environmental sustainability has been shaken by failures to address climate change and biodiversity loss, along with a rise in anti-environmental populism across a range of countries. There is substantial (albeit contested) evidence that democracies perform better on environmental issues than non-democratic countries. And a resurgence in environmental activism, particularly among young people, offers renewed hope that democratic practices can coexist with progress towards sustainability. Nevertheless, major questions remain: are democracies capable of governing the rapid, wide-ranging economic and social transformations needed to address mounting risks to the Earth’s life-support systems? And what policy options are available to achieve sustainability transformations in ways that are democratically legitimate? This talk, based on a co-authored article in progress, aims to synthesise existing knowledge on the democratic implications of transformations towards sustainability and to chart new directions for research in this area. By linking ideas of sustainability transformations and democratic transformations together, we show how each can illuminate the other.

About the speaker

Jonathan Pickering is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. His research focuses on democracy, reflexivity and justice in global environmental governance, and he is currently working on an Australian Research Council Laureate project on ‘Deliberative Worlds’ led by Professor John Dryzek. His research has been published in a range of journals including Climate Policy, Environmental Politics and Global Environmental Politics. He has co-authored with John Dryzek a book on The Politics of the Anthropocene (Oxford University Press, 2019) and with several colleagues a Cambridge Element on Deliberative Global Governance (2019).

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