Published on Nov 03, 2020

We invite earth system governance scholars to contribute to an upcoming Special Issue of Earth System Governance on artificial intelligence and digitalization. Josh Gellers (University of North Florida) will serve as guest editor.

Technology and the environment have long been associated with one another. Thousands of years ago, technological advancements in agriculture led to the development of hand-held tools used to improve the human capacity to cultivate land. Today, new technologies present significant opportunities to better manage natural resources and safeguard the environment. For instance, artificial intelligence is increasingly being applied in the context of agriculture, climate finance, renewable energy, and transportation in order to achieve operational efficiencies that vastly exceed those achievable through human decision-making. However, at the same time, their introduction and the speed with which they are introduced pose serious governance challenges to a planet in the throes of a human-induced climate crisis. Distributed ledger technology threatens to undermine state sovereignty while presenting a decentralized form of financial transparency. Facial recognition algorithms are being used to identify activists participating in social justice protests. Digital devices such as ‘wearables’ and social media applications collect petabytes of personal data that can be weaponized to influence the outcomes of elections or place private information in the hands of technology companies or governments. Therefore, central to the task of maximizing the environmental benefits and mitigating the potential pitfalls of novel technologies is understanding how their use is governed, by whom, and to what end(s).

The Earth System Governance project’s latest research framework presents a number of themes relevant to this task, including Democracy & Power, Architecture & Agency, Justice & Allocation, Anticipation & Imagination, and Adaptiveness & Flexibility (see Burch et al. 2019). With these research lenses in mind, this Special Issue seeks to attract previously unpublished work that probes the promises and perils of AI and digitalization from an Earth System Governance perspective (broadly construed). Submissions may take the form of Perspectives of 2-4k words, Reviews of up to 12k words, and Research Articles of 8-10k words (see explanations here). Theoretical, empirical, critical, and summative papers are all welcome. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Artificial intelligence and environmental decision-making
  • Digitalization and human rights in the context of environmental issues
  • The digital divide and Earth system governance
  • Robots used for and operating in the environment
  • Blockchain and climate change
  • Digital surveillance and environmental activism
  • Big Data and natural resource exploitation
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles and environmental crimes
  • New technologies and renewable energy

If you are interested in contributing to this Special Issue, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Josh Gellers at by 30 November 2020. Full manuscripts will be due by 1 May 2021. The Special Issue is slated for online publication by the end of 2021 or early 2022. All articles will be subject to double-blind, peer review. The editorial staff places high priority on obtaining submissions from authors representing diverse backgrounds (i.e. in terms of gender, region, seniority).