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    The data treadmill: water governance and the politics of pollution in rural Ireland

    Hesse, Arielle and Bresnihan, Patrick and White, James (2023) The data treadmill: water governance and the politics of pollution in rural Ireland. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. pp. 1-17. ISSN 1354-9839

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    This paper draws on fieldwork in rural Ireland to argue that environmental data can reinforce knowledge systems that shield structural problems and blunt efforts to rethink the role of community engagement in environmental governance. It offers a cautionary reading of how data has been instrumentalised by the EU and Irish State by showing how data diffuses responsibility and depoliticises environmental activism in cycles of funding and data collection. Since the 2000 Water Framework Directive, water governance in the European Union has increasingly relied upon extensive scientific, evidence-based decision-making and community and stakeholder involvement. We explore how these changes shape efforts to document and remediate water pollution. We expand upon Shapiro et al.’s (2018)’s “data treadmill” to understand how data rescales responsibility for pollution and its effects. The “data treadmill” gives name to cycles of data and funding that propel logics and strategies of environmental governance. We show how the data treadmill operates by perpetuating a narrative that effective action requires more precise data and evidence and solves questions of responsibility through bespoke approaches to environmental pollution. The data treadmill constrains communities through prevailing logics that surround data and environmental governance: communities become tied into European funding programmes that require, on one hand, the expertise of various professionals and consultants, on the other, place-based knowledge and social relationships to deliver innovative responses to structural problems. We offer a critical analysis of current institutional and policy in the EU and Ireland to highlight perils and contradictions of data-centric environmental governance as practiced.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Environmental governance; environmental data justice; public participation; environmental policy; uncertainty; responsibility;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
    Item ID: 16906
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Patrick Bresnihan
    Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2023 16:32
    Journal or Publication Title: Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability
    Publisher: Taylor & Francis
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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