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Science and Sensibility

Negotiating an Ecology of Place

Michael Vincent McGinnis (Author)


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If humans are to understand and discover ways of addressing complex social and ecological problems, we first need to find intimacy with our particular places and communities. Cultivating a relationship to place often includes a negotiating process that involves both science and sensibility. While science is one key part of an adaptive and resilient society, the cultivation of a renewed sense of place and community is essential as well.

Science and Sensibility argues for the need for ecology to engage with philosophical values and economic motivations in a political process of negotiation, with the goal of shaping humans' treatment of the natural world. Michael Vincent McGinnis aims to reframe ecology so it might have greater “trans-scientific” awareness of the roles and interactions among multiple stakeholders in socioecological systems, and he also maintains that deep ecological knowledge of specific places will be crucial to supporting a sustainable society. He uses numerous specific case studies from watershed, coastal, and marine habitats to illustrate how place-based ecological negotiation can occur, and how reframing our negotiation process can influence conservation, restoration, and environmental policy in effective ways.
Preface: Conversations with Sea and Stone

1. Negotiating Ecology in an Age of Climate Change
2. Household Words: Cultivating an Ecological Sensibility
3. Re-inhabitation: Watershed-Based Activism in Alta California
4. A River between Two Worlds: Watersheds and Wastesheds in Aotearoa (New Zealand)
5. Organic Machines and the End of Offshore Oil
6. The Politics of Civic Science: Marine Life Protection in California
7. The Challenge of Place-Based Ocean Governance in New Zealand
8. Toward a Blue Economy: Songs of Migration and the Leviathan of Global Trade by Sea
9. Islands in a Turbulent Sea
10. Restoring Place in the Theater of the Anthropocene

Michael Vincent McGinnis is Associate Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. He is the editor of Bioregionalism and is the author of Marine Governance: The New Zealand Experience.
"Science and Sensibility presents a compelling and motivating argument that can inform academic, individual, organizational, and political conversations around the tangible next steps that are needed to recover the commons, foster bioregional adaptation, and cultivate ecological identity."—Society & Natural Resources
"Michael McGinnis's Science and Sensibility is a pragmatic and enlightening analysis of the ethical and political conflicts in contemporary human societies as they face the new times of the Anthropocene. Unlike most studies written from this perspective, McGinnis's analysis is an insightful exploration of how bioregional thought, multiscalar governance, and place-based wisdom can help us adapt successfully to the many disruptions of rapid climate change. Reflecting his rich experiences in environmental policy and ocean governance issues from New Zealand to California, this book is a pleasure to read: McGinnis celebrates both the importance of sound science and the enduring need for a rich sensibility of place for living well as we adapt the ecological challenges of the twenty-first century."—Timothy W. Luke, University Distinguished Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

“In Science and Sensibility, Michael McGinnis’s capacity to move comfortably back and forth between scientific description, ecological history, personal reflection, and storytelling is both refreshing and effective. The topics he discusses are serious problems, yet he frames them without evoking a sense of paralyzing doom. The tone is one of intelligent caring, which invites the reader to contemplate the needs of a livable future and to consider ways to become meaningfully engaged.”—Richard Borden, Professor of Psychology and Human Ecology and Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic

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