Research

My main research is in environmental politics.

Questions that currently interest me concern the relationship between environmental regulation and liberalism; the compatibility between geoengineering technologies and democracy; and the diverse visions and understandings of the ecological transition of local environmental actors in Luxembourg, France, and Belgium.

Published Papers and Chapters

The ‘New’ Environmental Narratives and the Resurgence of Old Debates  (2021), Global Cooperation Research Papers 27. Duisburg: Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research (KHK / GCR21).  DOI: 10.14282/2198-0411-GCRP-27
Abstract: The paper takes a critical view of the narrative of sustainable development and argues that three different environmental narratives – ecomodernism, environmental authoritarianism, and degrowth – are now providing alternative problem-solving accounts of environmental governance. The paper analyses the three narratives according to a common set of categories. Furthermore, it argues that these three narratives are bringing again to scholarly attention debates – over the limits to growth, the limits to technological innovation, and the potential limits of democracy in guiding environmental politics – which, at the end of the last century, had been effectively defused by the hegemonic sustainable development narrative. Finally, the paper explores the significance of the resurgence of these debates for environmental politics.

Saving Liberalism through Meaningful Choices. Restating the Case for an Individual Carbon Card (2021) in New Political Economy. Online first. DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2021.1890705.
Abstract: Contrary to the narrative of sustainability, the article departs from the position that there is a tension between environmental regulation and liberalism as we commonly understand it. The article argues that this tension emerges because effectively addressing climate change will require to alter profoundly the way we live. The article analyses this tension in terms of two explanans: first, there are physical limits to the actions people can perform without endangering the environment; second, consumption has become a language with which is possible to express one’s identity and, it will be argued, cannot be easily regulated. The article advances the argument that the introduction of a carbon card policy could ease this tension: it allows a limit to be placed on individual polluting activities while safeguarding a realm of choice over the goods and services that people want to acquire, thus allowing them to retain the social meaning of consumption. Finally, the article argues that a carbon card policy could also have other ‘positive externalities.’

“The normative orders of the Anthropocene”  (2020) in Kettermann, M. (ed.) Normative Orders, New Perspectives of Research, Campus: Frankfurt/New York, pp. 165-182.

Incomplete ecological futures (2020) in World Futures (76) 1, pp. 17-38. DOI: 10.1080/02604027.2019.1671092.
Abstract: The scenario planning literature has so far not provided a detailed study of the negative policy consequences which could unfold from an incomplete realization of future scenarios. In order to address this shortcoming, the article analyses four GSG scenarios – Market Forces, Policy Reform, Eco-Communalism, and New Sustainability Paradigm – and associates them with a theory of environmental politics – respectively, the Environmental Kuznets Curve hypothesis, the a-growth theory, the degrowth proposal, and ecomodernism. Then, through a literature review of those theories, the article explores the dynamics which could prevent humanity from realizing the visions of sustainable futures enshrined into the four scenarios; by doing so, the article provides a picture of how GSG’s and similar scenarios might become incomplete ecological futures.

The Post-Sustainability Trilemma (2019) in Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 21 (6), pp. 769-784. DOI: 10.1080/1523908X.2019.1673156 (OPEN ACCESS)
Abstract: The article introduces the Post-Sustainability Trilemma (PST) and argues that it provides a novel description of current environmental politics which is alternative to the one provided by the narrative of sustainability. According to PST, the three policy goals of (i) economic growth, (ii) participation, and (iii) environmental protection cannot be simultaneously attained. Only two of these could. The three possible combinations of PST are then analyzed: (i)-(ii) techno business-as-usual; (ii)-(iii) post-growth approaches; (i)-(iii) environmental authoritarianism. Finally, the paper questions whether and under what conditions PST stands. That at least two policy goals could be obtained is a debatable, and debated, claim. In this sense, PST might be considered an over-optimistic framework to organize environmental politics. These considerations open up a space to argue that, given the set of policy possibilities offered by PST, more radical conclusions – such as radical degrowth, radical decentralization or, even, uncivilisation – might follow.

Ecomodernist metaphors: What they reveal and what they hide (2019) in Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, pp. 247-249. DOI: 10.1007/s13412-019-00546-z
Abstract: The article analyzes two metaphors for representing ecomodernism, i.e., the idea that humans should use technology to decouple the effects that human activities have on the environment from the environment. As metaphors are powerful representation tools, their study contributes to understanding how and why a specific environmental ideology can be pushed on the frontline of political action. The two metaphors are (i) a rocket traveling through the atmosphere (Bostrom, Glob Policy 4(1):15–31, ; Karlsson, Anthropocene Rev 3(1):23–32, ) and (ii) a truck driver moving past an emerging multi-vehicles pile-up (Szerszynski, Environ Human 7(1):239–244, ). While, at a first look, they seem quite similar, their differences reveal their authors’ profound disagreement over the ecomodernist project. On the other hand, the similarities hide important aspects of the ecomodernist project which are not considered in either of the two metaphors. Both ecomodernist metaphors conceal ideological commitments, normative presuppositions, and assumptions about the physical and the social world.

What can environmental narratives tell us about forestry conflicts? The case of REDD+ (2017) in International Forestry Review 19 (S1), pp. 98-112. DOI: 10.1505/146554817822407439 (OPEN ACCESS)
Abstract: The aim of the article is to introduce three environmental narratives – ecological modernization, civic environmentalism, and radical environmentalism – to analyse them from the point of view of their normative presuppositions, and then to show how this narrative/normative apparatus can be used as a heuristic device to explain a set of conflicts afflicting market-based forestry policies. Using this narrative/normative apparatus as a template, the article provides a review of academic and grey literature on REDD+ projects, in order to show how conflictual situations in the implementation phase of market-based forestry policies can be explained by the competing systems of values of the different actors involved, as well as by their strategic positioning in relation to dominant ideas in environmental politics. The article is useful to REDD+ practitioners, helping them appreciate how the stories people tell about the environment and how these are used by different actors can shape policies on the ground.

The narrative of public participation in environmental governance and its normative presuppositions (2015) in Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law (RECIEL), 24 (2), pp. 139-151. DOI: 10.1111/reel.12120
Abstract: This article argues that the narrative of public participation in environmental governance that emerged from the Earth Summit in 1992 can be read as a direct challenge to the neoliberal approach to environmental governance. The challenge comes from constructing the concept of public participation as (i) the practice of providing decision-makers with more and better information in order to help them design more equitable policies, and (ii) the practice of potentially influencing policy decisions by bringing new perspectives and values into the decision-making process. The article shows how this counter-narrative has itself now become a contested terrain: among a variety of normative presuppositions justifying practices of public participation, one can also find a market-friendly rationale.

Reviews

Limits. Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care by Giorgos Kallis (2020) in Environmental Politics, 29 (2), pp. 360-361.

Work in Progress

  • The “new” environmental narratives and the resurgence of old debates