By Anya Galli and Amanda Dewey
Of particular interest was a Saturday morning session on environmental policy, with papers on disclosure conflicts surrounding crude oil trains and frack chemicals, scientific and public knowledge about the dangers of non-stick chemicals, and the relationship between World Bank structural adjustment policies and forest loss. Given our work on US climate and energy policy for the Climate Constituencies Project, we were especially interested in a paper by Joshua Basseches of Northwestern University entitled “Rethinking the Legislative Process: ‘Buffering Opportunities’ as Limits of Social Movement Influence in Environmental Policymaking.” In it, Basseches describes the ways in which certain gatekeepers have the ability to limit social movement influence over policy-making. He finds that legislators in privileged positions keep discussions of policy matters private, thereby limiting the ability of social movement organizations to strategize and influence legislation. Overall, each of the papers in this session provided unique vantage points into highly relevant environmental policy debates.
The Environment and Technology session series on advances in micro, meso, and macro level research were also popular, with standing room only crowds of environmental sociologists in attendance. Each session included strong research across a range of methods and units of analysis. William Ryan Wishart’s presentation, “The Coal Coalition and Energy Policy Planning Network in 2009: Class Capacities and Climate Politics,” raised interesting questions about the influence of the coal industry on policy-making on the meso-level panel. John Aloysius Zinda also presented interesting work on vegetation gain in China and the effects of community officials’ strategies on local economic and environmental change. On the micro-level panel, PSE Director Dana R. Fisher presented work (with PSE Fellows William Yagatich and Anya M. Galli) on volunteer stewardship and the Maryland Watershed Stewards academies. Keep an eye on the PSE Blog for an upcoming post about this project.
The popularity of these sessions indicates three things about the ASA Section on Environment and Technology: we have a robust membership, we have generated a substantial amount of interest in environmental research, and the section organizers might want consider booking bigger rooms for its sessions next year! It is exciting to see so many scholars finding innovative ways to understand environmental problems, and to have the opportunity to discuss such interesting work in person. The Section on Environment and Technology has grown substantially and we look forward to seeing even more great environmental research at the ASA 2017 Annual Meeting in Montreal!
Anya Galli is a PhD Candidate and Amanda Dewey is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland. Both are Fellows at the PSE and research assistants on the Climate Constituencies Project.