Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network – Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020
Conference sub-theme: “Radical ecologies and future natures”
Session organizers: Jevgeniy Bluwstein, Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, firstname.lastname@example.org & Salvatore Paolo De Rosa, Laboratory of Environmental Humanities, KTH of Stockholm, Sweden, email@example.com
Session keywords: ecological apartheid, climate change, dystopian futures
In the last years, climate change events and debates have invigorated the proliferation of various imaginaries of a catastrophic future in science and popular culture alike. Increasingly, we are warned about the coming of an “uninhabitable Earth” (David Wallace-Wells 2019) and a state of “self-combustion” (Schellnhuber 2015). These fears are channeled into blockbuster movies picturing cosmic apartheid of hi-tech space dwelling communities living off poor masses left on a destroyed planet (Elysium 2013), pockets of survivors on a scorched Earth fighting for residual resources (Mad Max 2015), hyper-fascist states rising amidst wars and a crisis of social reproduction (Children of Men 2006), and dead landscapes where living is meaningless (The Road 2009). Or take Atwood’s warning in the Handmaid’s Tale about a dystopian society where climate injustice and reproductive injustice go hand in hand (Dolan 2019). As we anticipate a set of possible future social formations against the background of climate change (Wainwright and Mann 2013), we are already confronted with the realities of climate colonialism (Whyte 2017) and climate wars (Parenti 2011).
While states are already preparing counter-insurgency strategies to deal with an anticipated dystopian future (Parenti 2011, Turse 2016), we are also witnessing a broader societal convergence of neo-Malthusian environmentalism and life-boat ethics with reactionary ecologies, white nationalism, eco-fascism and eco-apartheid (Lennard 2019, Goldstein 2019, Hartmann and Kahn 2019, Ojeda et al. 2019, Cohen 2019, Ajl 2019, Kaminer et al 2019, Out of the woods 2014). Some of these currents dovetail with a racialized conservation and development biopolitics of militarization, securitization and planetary-scale human population management (Lunstrum 2018; Büscher et al. 2016; Cavanagh 2014).
Given this state of affairs, this session provides space to discuss and explore dystopian socio-ecological futures, some of which may be already emerging in the present. Rather than reflecting on the kind of futures we need or want (eco-modernist, eco-socialist, degrowth, post-capitalist, etc.), this session will explore what plausible socio-political (trans)formations ecological and climate crises will bring about. We believe political ecology can and must contribute to the study of ecologically dystopian futures, drawing on the intersection of empirical research, conceptual exploration and socio-cultural and political analysis.
Several questions come to mind which we invite contributors to explore: What kind of bio- and geo-political ecologies (see Dalby 2014, 2013; Bigger and Neimark 2017; Bluwstein 2018) can we expect in the future in light of the colonial-capitalist present and the resurgence of walled states against the background of run-away climate change (Gregory 2004; Brown 2017; Grosfoguel 2002)? How may environmentalism, nature and life, as well as citizenship, nation- and statehood become reconfigured under ecological/climate apartheid? What forms of ecological apartheid could (co-)exist and what would a political geography of eco-apartheid look like? What kind of socio-ecological metabolisms and associated ideologies support emerging formations towards elitist, nationalist and classist immunization from the worst outcomes of planetary ecological degradation (Swyngedouw and Ernstson 2018)?
We seek theoretical and empirical contributions that speak (but are not limited) to these pertinent questions.
Ajl, M. 2019. ‘Eco-Fascisms and Eco-Socialisms’. Verso, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4404-eco-fascisms-and-eco-socialisms
Bigger, P. and Neimark, B. 2017. ‘Weaponizing nature: The geopolitical ecology of the US Navy’s biofuel program’, Political Geography, 60: 13-22
Bluwstein, J. 2018. ‘From colonial fortresses to neoliberal landscapes in Northern Tanzania: a biopolitical ecology of wildlife conservation’, Journal of Political Ecology, 25: 144-68
Brown, Wendy. 2017. Walled states, waning sovereignty (Mit Press)
Büscher, B. Fletcher, R. … and Shanker, K. 2016. ‘Half-Earth or Whole Earth? Radical ideas for conservation, and their implications’, Oryx 51(3): 407-410
Cavanagh, Connor J. 2014. ‘Biopolitics, Environmental Change, and Development Studies’, Forum for Development Studies, 41: 273-94
Cohen, D. A. 2019. Eco-Apartheid is Real. The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/green-new-deal-housing-climate-change/
Dalby, S. 2013. ‘Biopolitics and climate security in the Anthropocene’, Geoforum, 49: 184-92
Dalby, S. 2014. ‘Environmental Geopolitics in the Twenty-first Century’, Alternatives, 39: 3-16
Dolan, M. 2019. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Trying To Warn You About Climate Change’. Bustle, https://www.bustle.com/p/the-handmaids-tale-is-trying-to-warn-you-about-climate-change-18667636
Goldstein, J. 2019. The Eco-Fascism of the El Paso Shooter Haunts the Techno-Optimism of the Left. Society and Space, http://societyandspace.org/2019/08/08/the-eco-fascism-of-the-el-paso-shooter-haunts-the-techo-optimism-of-the-left/
Gregory, D. 2004. The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq (Blackwell)
Grosfoguel, R. 2002. ‘Colonial Difference, Geopolitics of Knowledge, and Global Coloniality in the Modern/Colonial Capitalist World-System’, Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 25: 203-24
Hartmann, B. and Kahn, B. 2019. How Climate Change Is Becoming a Deadly Part of White Nationalism. Gizmodo, https://earther.gizmodo.com/how-climate-change-is-becoming-a-deadly-part-of-white-n-1837010929
Kaminer, M., Fahoum, B., Konrad, E. 2019. From heat waves to ‘eco-apartheid’: Climate change in Israel-Palestine. 972mag, https://972mag.com/climate-change-israel-palestine/142669/
Lennard, N. 2019. The El Paso Shooter Embraced Eco-Fascism. We Can’t Let the Far Right Co-Opt the Environmental Struggle. The Intercept, https://theintercept.com/2019/08/05/el-paso-shooting-eco-fascism-migration/
Lunstrum, E. 2018. ‘Capitalism, Wealth, and Conservation in the Age of Security: The Vitalization of the State’, Annals of the American Association of Geographers 108(4): 1022-37
Ojeda, D., Sasser, J.S, Lunstrum, E. 2019. Malthus’s specter and the anthropocene. Gender, Place and Culture
Out of the woods 2014. The dangers of reactionary ecology. Libcom, https://libcom.org/blog/dangers-reactionary-ecology-30062014
Parenti, C. 2011. Tropic of Chaos. Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. Bold Type Books
Schellnhuber, H. J. 2015. Selbstverbrennung. Die fatale Dreiecksbeziehung zwischen Klima, Mensch und Kohlenstoff. Bertelsmann
Swyngedouw, E., & Ernstson, H. (2018). Interrupting the Anthropo-obScene: Immuno-biopolitics and Depoliticizing Ontologies in the Anthropocene. Theory, Culture & Society. doi:10.1177/0263276418757314.
Turse, N. 2016. Pentagon video warns of “unavoidable” dystopian future for world’s biggest cities. The Intercept, https://theintercept.com/2016/10/13/pentagon-video-warns-of-unavoidable-dystopian-future-for-worlds-biggest-cities/
Wallace-Wells, D. 2019. The Uninhabitable Earth. Life after Warming. Penguin Random House