Constructions of environmental issues in scientific and public discourse
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We have two possibilities to explain why there is continuing change on the public agenda of environmental issues. Either the changes are viewed as reactions of social actors to real alterations of the environment, or they are viewed as reactions to alternating cultural conditions. The willingness of society to recognize and solve environmental problems depends upon the claims-making activities of differently motivated social actors in public discourses. The sciences produce cognitive and interpretative claims, focusing either on pure description or giving evidence for the need to act. The deconstruction of scientific claims may lead to a relativistic overall devaluation of knowledge needed to encounter environmental problems. A model is introduced that integrates socio-ecological approaches with cultural studies oriented ways to treat societies and their environment. The necessity to built complex procedures of eco-social regulation increases historically along with the growing complexity and differentiation of societies. Society has to determine environmental limits and goals, which are not directly observable, but need to be reconstructed and agreed upon. If it is the task to mediate environmental problems, the more general concepts of ecosystem integrity or environmental health perform better than the rather specific goal function concepts.