Introduction to themed issue: Ignorance and uncertainty in environmental decision-making

Trevor Birkenholtz, Gregory Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


There is growing scholarly engagement with the role of uncertainty in questions of environmental decision-making. Yet ignorance, while prevalent in the STS literature, has received less attention in geography and cognate disciplines. In our introduction to this special collection, we review the literature on ignorance and uncertainty to make two contributions. First, we engage each concept to demonstrate that, in general, ignorance is a ‘lack of knowledge’ (or the appearance of lack of knowledge) while uncertainty is a ‘lack of knowledge clarity’ (or the appearance of lack of knowledge clarity). Second, we argue that while it is useful for theory building to distinguish between the two concepts, it is helpful also to view them as interrelated and processual. We demonstrate this relationality and the different forms it takes by introducing a process-based typology: ignorance and uncertainty as outcome; ignorance and uncertainty as resource; and ignorance and uncertainty as obstacle. The six papers in the collection offer a diverse set of engagements with ignorance and uncertainty including grounded case-studies and theoretical interventions focused on environmental decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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