Researching climate crisis and energy transitions: Some issues for ethnography

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Journal Article
Energy Research and Social Science, 2018, 45 pp. 340 - 347
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© 2018 It is often argued that there is a sharp disjuncture between the abstracted prospect of large-scale climate crisis and direct experience on the ground. Ethnographers investigate experiences, so how are we to research climate crisis? The anticipated crisis is unknowable in its depth and reach; the everyday experience of consumer capitalism confines horizons to infinite accumulation and ‘growth’. Here, ethnography has potential as an interpretative tool to highlight ways in which the crisis and proposed energy transitions are encountered. Various forms of ‘climate ethnography’ explore this nexus between climate science and on-the-ground contexts where climate change is experienced, where policy is being developed or applied, or where institutional and political formations are seeking traction. The article surveys this emerging field, paying particular attention to studies relevant to energy and climate research. It especially reflects on definitions of climate ethnography as ‘ethnography with a mission’ debating the effort to advance normative agendas and develop research insights that can help gain a stronger purchase on the widening crisis.
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