Accepted Paper:

Science, faith and environmental apocalypse  


Hauke Riesch (Brunel University London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will reflect on catastrophic environmental futures as a millennial narrative, drawing parallels between ecological apocalypse and millennial redemption narratives.

Paper long abstract:

With climate change, environmental degradation, and renewed threats of nuclear war often being discussed in apocalyptic terms sometimes directly borrowed from eschatological literature, this paper will use Moscovici's (2001) social representation approach to look at how contemporary accounts of the catastrophic future are influenced by older millennial narratives of the apocalypse. Millennial narratives include not only dire warnings about a catastrophic future, but also offer chances of redemption and hopes of a possible better world. While a few studies have looked at environmentalism as a millennial movement from a perspective of the sociology of religion, I will argue that combining these perspectives with an STS-based analysis can bring new insights into how environmental apocalypses can be understood and ultimately communicated. Discussing examples from UK and German environmental literature, I will use Moscovici's approach recast as a sociology of the public understanding of science (Bauer and Gaskell, 1999) with insights from O'Leary's (1994) rhetorical analysis of the apocalyptic, to construct our fears of current environmental catastrophe as a (late) modern eschatological narrative, and discuss the implications of the eschatological account of our ecological future on efforts to mitigate against it.

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (1999). Towards a paradigm for research on social representations. Journal for the theory of social behaviour, 29(2), 163-186.

Moscovici, S. (2001). Social representations: Explorations in social psychology. New York University Press.

O'Leary, S. D. (1994). Arguing the apocalypse: A theory of millennial rhetoric. Oxford University Press.

Panel A18
Uncertain futures: green alternatives and STS interventions