Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School
A pioneer in her field, Prof Sheila Jasanoff calls for a new imaginary in the transition to sustainability.
“The transition to sustainability is often imagined as a linear process: as seamless and universal as the rise of industrialism and capitalism that created the very threats to human survival on a limited planet today,” says Sheila Jasanoff. She identifies two dominant and contrasting visions of a sustainability transition: “In one dominant imagination, the transition will require turning back the clock, with 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 ‘silver bullet’ that will solve the problems of clean energy or food scarcity once for all and everywhere.”
A new imaginary
But how useful are these totalizing visions of pathways to a more sustainable world? According to Jasanoff, sustainability may call for a new imaginary of the un-modern. An imaginary that 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 argues that we need to question and reconfigure the scales of technological, economic, legal, and ethical interventions to generate creative and integrated pathways to a sustainable Earth.
About Sheila Jasanoff
Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. Jasanoff wrote more than 120 scientific articles and chapters and several books including The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, Designs on Nature, and The Ethics of Invention.
Jasanoff is the founder and director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at Harvard; previously, she was founding chair of the Science and Technology Studies Department at Cornell. She has held distinguished visiting appointments at leading universities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente.