TTI.5 Environmental Controversy Award – 2nd Edition

Best case study of an environmental controversy

from the course Description of controversies

For the second consecutive year, The Transition Institute 1.5 has awarded the TTI.5 Award for best study of an environmental controversy. The prize is awarded to the best case study of a controversy dealing with an environmental issue, selected among the papers written by students of the civil engineering program of Mines Paris–PSL. The articles are written as part of the course Description of Controversies coordinated by Madeleine Akrich, sociologist and Research Director at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI). The prize was presented on 28 May 2024 at the 2nd TTI.5 Workshop, following a presentation of the three nominated projects and a vote by the public.

The winning group, represented by Aude Gounelle and Mignot, that also includes Paul Guillot, Xavier Sécheresse, Marie-Louise Communal, Xinyi Shen, Yirui Li and Auguste Pierfitte is the author of the study entitled :

« Vivre avec le loup ? Une cohabitation est-elle possible ? »
[Living with wolves? Is a cohabitation possible?]

During the second half of the 20th century, following the disappearance of the wolf in France, the subject did not receive much attention until the natural reappearance of the wolf on the territory from the Italian Alps in 1992. Faced once again with having to coexist with this predator, livestock farmers adopted the same viewpoint as their ancestors, considering the wolf a threat that had to be eliminated. But the twentieth century also saw the emergence of environmental and ecological awareness on a European scale, leading to the establishment of protected species status under the Bern Convention in 1979. Among these species, the wolf has the status of ‘strictly protected’ species and therefore benefits from enhanced protection that significantly limits the measures that farmers can take to protect their herds, such as shooting. This new issue has given rise to a controversy in France that brings to the fore a question never raised before about the cohabitation of wolves and humans in France.
As the status of the wolf is decided at European level, this controversy extends beyond France, even though the actual management of the wolf is decided at national level in accordance with European decisions. In particular, the wolf’s protection status is currently being debated in the EU arena.

Matthieu MAZIÈRE, Aude GOUNELLE, Adrien MIGNOT and Madeleine AKRICH (©F. TOULET)

Controversy description projects at Mines Paris – PSL

The course Description of Controversies is part of the curriculum for third-year students in the Civil Engineering program at Mines Paris-PSL. This course aims to educate engineering students about the evolution of their professional and civic context. The aim is to introduce them to the uncertain world of scientific and technical research by describing an object: a socio-technical controversy.

The topics proposed to the students have the following characteristics: an ongoing controversy, on a targeted subject (for example: not “GMOs” but “the problems raised by the authorization of the cultivation of a transgenic potato plant which is controversial in a specific period and in a specific territory”), involving a diversity of protagonists (scientists, experts, jurists, institutions, members of parliament, associations, etc.), for which various sources of information are available (general press, scientific press, professional press, discussion forums, blogs, websites, parliamentary reports, etc.).

The controversy study consists in a case study. A group of students follows a controversy in real time to discover its complexity and singularity. A team of sociologists specializing in the analysis of science and technology supervise the students in the development of a pragmatic and argued empirical point of view.

The three projects nominated

The papers detailing the results of the three projects nominated for the TTI.5 Environmental Controversy Award 2024 are available online.

« Vivre avec le loup ? Une cohabitation est-elle possible ? » [Living with wolves? Is a cohabitation possible?]
Marie-Louise COMMUNAL, Aude GOUNELLE and Adrien MIGNOT presented the group’s work.

« Autoroute A69 : Quand la cause environnementale nationale s’invite au développement local » [A69 Highway. When a national environmental cause gets involved in local development]
Alexa BRUNEAUX, Pauline DELARUE, Matthieu ROYER DE VÉRICOURT and Gabrielle VERNET presented the group’s work.

« La Réutilisation des Eaux Usées Traitées : Quelle place donner à la REUT dans un contexte de stress hydrique croissant ? » [Reuse of treated wastewater: What role can REUT play in a context of growing water stress?]
Elise LEI, Raphaël GARDIES and Quentin SCHMUTZ presented the group’s work.