Abstract

Calls for more broad-based, integrated, useful knowledge now abound in the world of global environmental change science. They evidence many scientists' desire to help humanity confront the momentous biophysical implications of its own actions. But they also reveal a limited conception of social science and virtually ignore the humanities. They thereby endorse a stunted conception of 'human dimensions' at a time when the challenges posed by global environmental change are increasing in magnitude, scale and scope. Here, we make the case for a richer conception predicated on broader intellectual engagement and identify some preconditions for its practical fulfilment. Interdisciplinary dialogue, we suggest, should engender plural representations of Earth's present and future that are reflective of divergent human values and aspirations. In turn, this might insure publics and decision-makers against overly narrow conceptions of what is possible and desirable as they consider the profound questions raised by global environmental change.

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Acknowledgements

N.C. acknowledges the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) for supporting the conception and completion of this article. D.B. acknowledges the Economic and Social Research Council (awards RES 070-27-0035 and RES 000-27-0174) for supporting research generative of some ideas contained in this article. Finally, the authors thank M. Hulme for his assistance.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia

    • Noel Castree
  2. Department of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester M139PL, UK

    • Noel Castree
  3. Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EN, UK

    • William M. Adams
  4. School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, Queens University, Belfast BT7 1PB, Northern Ireland

    • John Barry
  5. Institute of Policy Development and Management (IDPM), University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

    • Daniel Brockington
  6. Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, 2518 AX The Hague, The Netherlands

    • Bram Büscher
  7. Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Edifici Z, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra 08193, Spain

    • Esteve Corbera
  8. Department of Geography, King's College, University of London, London WC2R 2LS, UK

    • David Demeritt
  9. Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, London WC1H 0XG, UK

    • Rosaleen Duffy
  10. Department of Science and Technology Studies, University of Vienna, Universitätsring 1, Vienna 1010, Austria

    • Ulrike Felt
  11. Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M, Canada

    • Katja Neves
  12. Department of International Relations, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9SN, UK

    • Peter Newell
  13. Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Trieste, Piazza Europa 1-34127, Trieste, Italy

    • Luigi Pellizzoni
  14. School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University, Monash, Victoria 3800, Australia

    • Kate Rigby
  15. Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    • Paul Robbins
  16. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia

    • Libby Robin
  17. Department of Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Deborah Bird Rose
  18. Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University, New York, New York 10012-2339, USA

    • Andrew Ross
  19. Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

    • David Schlosberg
  20. KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

    • Sverker Sörlin
  21. Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA

    • Sverker Sörlin
  22. Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • Paige West
  23. Department of Geography, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth SY23 3DB, UK

    • Mark Whitehead
  24. Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4YN, UK

    • Brian Wynne

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Contributions

N.C. wrote the first and second drafts of this article, with detailed editorial assistance from W.M.A., D.B., D.D., L.R. and D.S. On both occasions all the other authors contributed substantive insights and made numerous suggestions for improvement that were incorporated into the final version.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Noel Castree.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2339

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