The contrasting roles of science and technology in environmental challenges

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Title: The contrasting roles of science and technology in environmental challenges
Authors: Voulvoulis, N
Burgman, M
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Sustainable development is widely recognised as an existential challenge. To address it, humanity needs to change its ways. However, people seem slow to act, not always understanding and often denying environmental imperatives, creating substantial social and psychological barriers. Social inertia and denial have been allegedly amplified by a public discourse increasingly distrustful of science. But is this discourse a rejection of science or an erosion of trust in how science is applied? The paper examines the main differences between environmental science and technology, reviews how the wider science- technology convergence has affected them and evaluates potential implications for sustainability challenges. We question whether the ‘convergence’ between environmental science and technology, could be behind the growing public dissatisfaction and distrust of environmental science and policies. Although environmental science plays a role in enabling understanding and communicating complexity, technology requires political, social and economic skills, beyond conventional disciplinary expertise. To avoid putting academic freedom at risk, environmental technologists, a new breed of professionals, should have a clear understanding of scientific capacity and uncertainty and be able to engage with stakeholders, policy makers and the public to design integrated, interdisciplinary and holistic solutions, and also better define the many environmental problems we face.
Issue Date: 27-Feb-2019
Date of Acceptance: 3-Jan-2019
DOI: https:/
ISSN: 1064-3389
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Journal / Book Title: Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Copyright Statement: © 2019 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Keywords: MD Multidisciplinary
Environmental Sciences
Publication Status: Published online
Open Access location:
Online Publication Date: 2019-02-27
Appears in Collections:Centre for Environmental Policy
Faculty of Natural Sciences

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