In order to address global environmental challenges many currently dominant societal ideas, institutions and practices related to the natural environment, science, technology and innovation need to be fundamentally rethought. Drawing on the recent Deep Transitions framework, this paper focuses on whether such shifts in the fabric of industrial societies can be detected during the past 120 years. Combining the text mining of newspapers with data from existing databases, we present empirical evidence on nine pervasive and durable traits of industrial societies from five G20 countries. We detect a sea-change in environmental discourse from the 1960s and an institutional rupture from the 1980s, but only a minor shift in practices. In contrast, technoscientific institutions have changed far less, whereas techno-optimist discourse has resurged in recent decades. In addition to alleviating environmental problems, we suggest that more attention should be turned to rethinking many societally dominant assumptions about science and technology.
- Deep transitions
- Industrial modernity