‘Environmental Leadership and Expertise: poor substitutes for responsible ownership and the ability to get and apply relevant intelligence?’.
In: RGS Annual Conference: '(Re)Thinking Expertise: Spaces of Production, Performance, & the Politics of Representation', 26th - 29th August 2008, RGS / Imperial College, London.
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While expertise is the means by which relevant intelligence may be applied to specific situations, it also plays a role in setting policy, selecting options and justifying contested choice. This legitimisation function is perhaps most evident in decision making for unwelcome projects. As 'scientific' knowledge is taken within adversarial processes of quasi-legal and political decision making some of its underlying assumptions may be challenged, in particular notions of objectivity, rigour and questions about the selection of evidence. Parallels may be drawn with the less well defined concept of leadership, especially that promoted in environmental contexts. While much of the literature on environmental leadership promotes a marketable product, training courses in management skills, it is also associated with claims that go beyond reasonable use of the concept. Difficult and contested situations are met with ever more rhetorical promotion of the need for more leadership. Perhaps both inappropriate claims to expertise, as where status and knowledge in one field is assumed to transfer to a quite different set of circumstances. I suggest that ways of transferring ownership of, and responsibility for, the problem in question, combined with the means to gather, and to apply, whatever intelligence is necessary may be the answer.