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CSEC’s rationale

The Centre for the Study of Environmental Change (CSEC) was established in 1991 by the partnership of a London-based environmental activist, Robin Grove-White, and a Lancaster University based Professor of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Brian Wynne. Their aim in 1991 was to establish a research centre at Lancaster University that could combine the critical aspects of STS (the interdisciplinary study of Science Technology and Society) with the activism and political insight needed to understand and intervene in contemporary environmental problems and policies.


CSEC built up a substantial group of researchers in the 1990s. CSEC researchers were passionately interested in environmental politics, but they wanted to think about environmental issues as  sociological, cultural, philosophical phenomena, rather than a purely ‘physical’ or ‘policy’ set of issues and problems.


Many different aspects of the environment and of environmental politics have been the subject of CSEC research, including:

  • Climate change
  • Nature and capital in crisis
  • Biodiversity loss, databases and the archiving of nature
  • Energy generation, use and demand
  • Geoengineering
  • The promises of genomics
  • Participatory democracy
  • Sustainability and unsustainability
  • Techno-innovation: how and for whom?
  • Food systems and alternative agri-food networks
  • New Social Movements and environmental politics
  • Waste and human subjectivities
  • Reflexive modernity  
  • Rethinking environmental governance
  • Conflicts over basic human resources (food, energy, water)

Critical Intervention

CSEC researchers were among the first to really explore what it meant to embrace a social constructivist position with regard to nature and the environment at the same time as wanting, as academics, to intervene in and improve the quality of environmental debates.

CSEC researchers bring-to debates on nuclear waste, sustainability, climate change, GM crops, etc.-a distinctly qualitative, interpretive, sociologically informed understanding of what is at stake in contemporary environmental issues, movements and politics. CSEC has remained at the forefront of research that combines rigorous critical thinking with a commitment to intervening in contemporary environmental debates.

Find out more about recent and current research projects.


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Department of Sociology, Bowland North, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, UK
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