ABSTRACT

In many societies a growing consensus has arisen about the importance of ecological knowledge. More and more people are coming to understand that such knowledge can help to address some of the most pressing problems we face at both global and regional levels. It can do so not only by providing research and e ective management options to deal with global warming, the depletion of natural resources and the deterioration of soils and water resources, but also by underpinning widespread calls for greener systems of production and consumption, in industrialized as well as newly industrializing countries. Debates about natural disasters, about the purity of nature and about the perceived crisis of the nature-culture relationship in general have one thing in common: they revolve around the important role of ecological knowledge in social processes and in negotiations over the kind of environment in which we wish to live. Accordingly, institutions engaged in environmental and ecological research are believed to have the necessary expertise to tackle environmental concerns and to develop solutions. In many countries, environmental research has become rmly established, whether in the context of implementing conservation programmes for water and land resources, establishing national parks and ecosystem services, designing environmentally friendly products, or promoting emerging technologies and green lifestyles. ‘Environmental research must turn its attention to developments in the eld of innovation in order to be able to contribute towards precautionary policies’1 has become a widespread credo. Nowadays, environmental research is one of the innovative forces in modern societies and is no longer identi ed with the rather technophobic ideas and practices of the 1960s and 1970s when environmental movements were emerging and gathering strength in the US and Europe.