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Modeling Amazonian Environments: some considerations on the science-policy interface in Brazil

Wed, August 20, 11:00am to 1:00pm, Intercontinental Hotel, Moliere

Abstract

This presentation will discuss, through an ongoing ethnography of a scientific project, some challenges of thinking through the science-policy interface in Brazil and of doing STS inspired multi-sited ethnographies. The specific focus is on one international research project which tries to build policy-relevant knowledge about the Amazon, based on coupled models of land-use change, climate and socio-economic drivers of deforestation. The use of models aims to provide an understanding of critical feedbacks between climate, land use and socioeconomic changes, which may enable the construction of early warning systems for potentially irreversible losses of critical environmental services in the Amazon. In tackling such complex multi-institutional and multi-national scientific endeavors in Brazil, questions arise concerning the specific geopolitics of knowledge production in large multinational projects; the challenges of doing work between disciplines, combining social, natural and modeling sciences; and the related difficulties of incorporating human variables into complex models of climate and environment. Relating to policy, the growing use of models suggests potent new issues for STS, concerning the politics of constructing infrastructures of knowledge for policy. As such structures provide the means for measuring, monitoring and assessing variables of interest, they help redefine problems such as deforestation and its meanings both locally and globally. As such definitions become embedded in policies, technologies and concepts, their “social life” becomes an exciting object of study for ethnographers from both STS and Anthropology, suggesting rich points of interface between these two communities of practice which deserve further reflection.

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