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Critical Dialogue on Earth System Governance

Do we need stronger global institutions? Or more global deliberation and democracy? Or possibly both? Such questions, central to many activities in the Earth System Governance community, stood recently at the centre of a “Critical Dialogue” by John S. Dryzek and Frank Biermann in the APSA journal Perspectives on Politics.

Download the Critical Dialogue here [pdf]

In this Critical Dialogue, Dryzek and Biermann both reviewed their last books, respectively. Frank Biermann, chair of the Earth System Governance Project and research professor at Utrecht University, reviews the book Democratizing Global Climate Governance (Cambridge University Press) by Hayley Stevenson and John S. Dryzek. In this book, Stevenson and Dryzek have argued that effective collective action depends crucially on questions of democratic depth. They chart the failures and successes of global climate governance to offer fresh proposals for a deliberative system that would enable meaningful communication, inclusion of all affected interests, accountability and effectiveness in dealing with climate change. Biermann’s review is followed by a response from John S. Dryzek.

The second book review is authored by John S. Dryzek, who is a member of the Earth System Governance Scientific Steering Committee and professor at the University of Canberra. Dryzek critically reflects on Frank Biermann’s most recent book Earth System Governance: World Politics in the Anthropocene (The MIT Press). In this book, Biermann had analysed global environmental politics in terms of the five analytical problems of earth system governance, and advanced a wide range of policy proposals for future environmental governance and a revitalized United Nations. Dryzek’s review is complemented by a direct response by Biermann.

In addition to this Critical Dialogue through book reviews and responses, Biermann and Dryzek, then joined by Arun Agrawal (University of Michigan and Earth System Governance Lead Faculty), had discussed their views already during a semi-plenary session “Contrasting Emphases in Earth System Governance: Decentralization, Multilateralism, and Deliberation” at the 2015 Canberra Conference on Earth System Governance, in December 2015.

In the same issue of Perspectives on Politics, another Critical Dialogue has been published in which Earth System Governance Lead Faculty members Walter F. Baber (California State University) and Robert V. Bartlett (University of Vermont) review the book “Engaging the Everyday: Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma” (The MIT Press) by John M. Meyer, and respond to his review of their own recent book “Consensus and Global Environmental Governance: Deliberative Democracy in Nature’s Regime” (The MIT Press).

Download the Critical Dialogue here [pdf]

The Earth System Governance Project has, from its very start, been about the open debate about key issues of sustainability and governance from local to global levels – including on the future directions that the project will take in the coming decade. Such reflections and critical debates will hence provide valuable input and stimuli also to a broader discourse on new directions in earth system governance research that the Project is embarking on.

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