Scientific Controversies as a Source of Environmental Information: The Case of Sulphate Odour from a Swedish Paper Mill in the Early 20th Century
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ISSN der Zeitschrift
Environmental Communication in the Information Society - Proceedings of the 16th Conference
Environmental Communication – Information Distribution
Sociologists and science theorists have shown an increased interest in the explicit study of scientific controversies. In this paper we claim that the study of scientific controversies over environmental issues may represent an important source of environmental information for the public, for policy makers, the conflict thus shapes environmental values and ultimately policy. For instance, by highlighting the uncertainties of environmental science, people are encouraged to focus their attention on environmental risks, values and tradeoffs per se and not only on scientific “facts” provided by experts. This paper exemplifies this notion by considering an early science-based conflict over air and water pollution from a Swedish paper mill in the early 20th century. We analyse in particular how the scientific controversy affected the publics and the policy makers view of the pollution problem. The paper also provides some general observations about the value of scientific controversies in shaping environmental policy.