Materialism as Morality in the ANWR Oil Drilling Debate: A Critical Investigation into the Reification of Science, the Marginalization of Values, and the Power of Discourse within Environmental Conflict
Moyer, J. (2014) Materialism as Morality in the ANWR Oil Drilling Debate: A Critical Investigation into the Reification of Science, the Marginalization of Values, and the Power of Discourse within Environmental Conflict, no. 197.
Modern science is well established as the institution through which knowledge is legitimated, facts are produced, and credibility is assigned. Operating within the prevailing capitalist socio-political order, science is also controlled by the wealthy elite, whose resources are required for its production, evaluation, and implementation. Beyond disproportionately serving powerful interests, however, science enables the most privileged groups within society to embolden certain understandings of the world and marginalize others, to shape public perceptions, behaviors, and norms, and thus to reinforce the existing social systems and institutions that support their own dominance. Building on critical scholarship that addresses inequality by problematizing the structures and practices that reproduce power, this thesis examines the prominent and politically opposed positions of the oil industry and mainstream environmentalists in the U.S. policy debate over whether to permit petroleum development in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Specifically, through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), I explore how these two 'mid-stream' scientific actors, which have effectively appropriated the wider 'for' and 'against' drilling campaigns respectively, each engage with the generation as well as dissemination of technical knowledge in order to substantiate their arguments and enhance the authority of their claims. The analysis presented here demonstrates that the hegemonic framing of the ANWR conflict, which I describe in terms of Materialism as Morality, reifies scientific expertise whilst burying values beneath assumptions of objectivity and neutrality. It also allows incongruent truth claims to eclipse the many legitimate but competing perspectives, priorities, investments, ideologies, risks, and ethical dilemmas that lie at the heart of the ANWR drilling debate. Moreover, this framing is implicit in the perpetuation of systemic social and environmental injustice. Ultimately, my research argues for a transformative politics that engages all stakeholders in the negotiation of competing interests, the discussion of social values, and the production of scientific knowledge; and above all, which recognizes the interconnectivity of all three.