A pioneer in her field, Prof Sheila Jasanoff calls for a new imaginary in the transition to sustainability. She will give a keynote lecture on ‘unmodern imaginaries’ at the Pathways to Sustainability conference on 24 January 2019.
“The transition to sustainability is often imagined as a singular process, as seamless and universal as the rise of industry and capitalism that created threats to human survival on a limited planet,” says Sheila Jasanoff. She points at two main visions on the transition to sustainability. “In one dominant imagination, the transition will require turning the clock far back, toward a future that embraces the preindustrial past and the virtues of smallness. In a sharply contrasting vision, the transition will require a giant leap forward, a technological moonshot that will solve the problems of clean energy or food scarcity once for all and everywhere.”
A new imaginary
Nevertheless, how useful are these totalizing visions to achieve a more sustainable world? According to Jasanoff, sustainability may call for a new imaginary of the unmodern. An imaginary that embraces and reconciles binaries that have been artificially locked into non-intersecting packages: big vs. small, disruption vs. conservation, technological vs. ecological.
Approaching sustainability from the standpoint of infrastructures, Jasanoff will argue that we may need to disaggregate the scales of technological, economic, legal, and ethical interventions to generate creative pathways to a sustainable Earth.