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The Critical Load graph: A rhetorical trope
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, The Tema Institute. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

It is often said that pictures and graphical visualisations have a greatpower to unify and simplify ideas: "a picture says a thousand words" as thesaying goes. The ability of graphs to explore and summarise large sets ofnumbers is also well known (Tufte, 1983: introduction). Although scientistsfrequently have recourse to graphical illustrations when explaining complexproblems, the role of pictures and graphs in forwarding scientific findingshas received relatively little attention in studies of science compared to the attention given to texts. Ronald Giere and Michael Ruse have suggested thatthis lack of interest may be explained by the strong influence of logical empiricism in scientific culture (Giere, 1996; Ruse, 1996). Logical empiricism emerged in the eighteenth century in the transition between an oral-visualculture and a text-based culture, nurturing a suspicion towards pictures andarguing that human thinking relies on words. In this textual culture pictures are reduced to persuasive aids, if considered at all, being thought of as pedagogical tools or simple 'illustrations' used to facilitate the presentation and sharing of scientific findings (Stafford, 1994). Another reason why visual displays in science have been underestimated and neglected compared to scientific texts, may simply be, as suggested by David Lynch, that methods for analysing verbal materials are more advanced than thosefor analysing pictures (Lynch, 1990:151).


National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-79020OAI: diva2:537711
Abstract is an abridged version of the introduction.Available from: 2012-06-27 Created: 2012-06-27 Last updated: 2012-06-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Setting Limits in Nature and the Metabolism of Knowledge: The Case of the Critical Load Concept
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Setting Limits in Nature and the Metabolism of Knowledge: The Case of the Critical Load Concept
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the 1980s, the earlier understanding that environmental problems are relatively simple was questioned. In order to handle the perceived complexity, several responses emerged. The Critical Load concept is a prominent example of such a response, which was introduced in thesecond-generation Protocols of the Convention of Long Range Transport of Air Pollutants (CLRTAP). The aim of this thesis is to analyse the dynamics of the ideational content of the Critical Load concept, using a discursive approach on policy. At the centre of the analysis are theories, ideas and knowledge claims about nature and processes in nature. The empirical material consists of policy texts produced by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and interviews with SEPA employees.

The Critical Load concept can be interpreted as a meeting place where perceptions of different pollutants, objects in nature and scientific disciplines, meet and interact under the common view of nature as being robust within limits. Chemical mass-balance calculations oftransboundary air pollution in soils and forests dominate the operationalisation of the concept. The dominating chemical perspective has two origins. The first is the acidification concept, which has been the central issue of CLR TAP and has mainly been identified and discussed as a chemical problem. The second is the perception that chemical processes can be exactly measured in nature just as they can in the laboratory. Consequently, it is also generally assumed that estimates based on calculations of chemical processes fit well into the larger discourse of economically and ecologically efficient environmental policy-making within which the Critical Load concept has been situated. A change in the Critical Load concept, from exact mass balance calculations to risk analysis, could be identified with the introduction of new pollutants into the CLRTAP policy agenda. For certain types of pollutants even the possibility defining limits is denied. The conceptual change is here interpreted as a shrinkinglegitimacy of the concept, which also encompasses a weakening of the dominant view of nature as being robust within limits. It is, however too early to judge if this change will lead to larger discursive changes and a general refutation of the ideas that nature's limits are calculable and that such limits provide suitable foundations for environmental policy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings Universitet, 2003. 135 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 274
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-29565 (URN)14940 (Local ID)91-7373-655-4 (ISBN)14940 (Archive number)14940 (OAI)
Public defence
2003-05-30, Sal Elysion, Hus-T, Universitetsområdet Valla, Linköping, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-09 Created: 2009-10-09 Last updated: 2014-09-01Bibliographically approved

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Öberg, Gunilla
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Department of Water and Environmental StudiesFaculty of Arts and SciencesThe Tema Institute
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

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