International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Climate Change: How Debates over Standards Shape the Biophysical, Social, Political and Economic Climate

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 18, issue 3 (2011), pages 167-180

Author: Lawrence Busch
Affiliation: Center for the Study of Standards in Society, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

ISSN: 0798-1759


In their understandable zeal to ward off the ‘nay-sayers’, for whom climate change is merely an illusion, rural sociologists have defended the modern constitution that separates the natural from the social. Yet, standards must be developed to identify the phenomena of concern to both climate scientists and the public. Standards must be identified to stabilize the phenomena of interest, making them into something that can be acted on. In addition, standards must point the way forward and measure progress toward the amelioration of the problem(s). In short, standards simultaneously perform, measure, and point toward the transformation of ‘the climate.’ Yet, even as standards are necessary, they may actually lead us astray. Drawing on Foucault and recent work in Science Studies, I argue that grappling with climate change will require changing the political and even epistemological climate, re-enacting the sciences as well as agriculture and food.

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