“Epistemic Silences: Investigating Epistemic Injustice in the Context of Climate Change”


Published on Dec 19, 2014

As a collection of phenomena that transcend political and disciplinary boundaries, climate change presents both management and epistemological challenges. While the dominant discourses and approaches to climate change have focused on the biophysical, political, and economic aspects of the phenomenon, increasing discussion and debate addresses the ways in which climate change represents a cultural and moral challenge (Moore and Nelson 2010; Gardiner 2011), and the possibilities for new moral insights and forms to arise out of this global challenge.

Environment advocate Gus Speth claims that climate change is not simply an environmental and economic issue, it is also moral and humanitarian issue, requiring “new consciousness” resulting from “profound change in social values, culture and worldviews” (2009: 9-10; 25). Political scientist Paul Wapner contends that climate change may be seen to present a unique socio-historical moment that, when genuinely engaged, has the potential to provide access to untapped human capacities of compassion, perseverance, devotion, and innovation. In his view, deep engagement with “climate suffering” may lead to deepened human capacities (Wapner 2012).

These arguments suggest that shifting social values and worldviews will bring about greater humanitarian and environmental consciousness such that justice is extended more widely across human and ecological communities. One of the many necessary preconditions for the greater reach of both economic justice and environmental justice – both of which climate change seems poised to worsen through disparate impacts on those least able to bear them – is greater epistemic justice, and concomitant dedication to a practice of approaching the silences created by dominant epistemic practices.

Elizabeth Allison, PhD received her PhD (2009) in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California, Berkeley. She also holds a Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School, and a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She has taught environmental studies in academic settings at UC Berkeley, Yale, and Williams College, and through experiential modes in youth development programs in Vermont and California.

Elizabeth’s current research explores the role of religious and spiritual discourse and practice in environmental action through case studies of natural resource management in the Himalayas, where she has lived and conducted field research for more than two years. Additional research interests include environmental ethics, political ecology, religion and ecology, the politics of knowledge, biodiversity conservation, and climate change.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

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