CfP POLLEN20 – Political Ecologies of Environmental Future-Making

Call for participants
Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Please send expressions of interest to the session organizers, Katinka Wijsman (The New School, and Marta Berbés-Blázquez (Arizona State University, Proposal abstracts (300 words) should be sent by October 25, 2019.

Session abstract

Millions of youth and allies around the world took to the streets for the climate strike on September 20th, 2019, demanding a different future than the one that ‘business as usual’ politics and economics predicts, where runaway climate change and increased environmental injustice continue to increase. Outfitted with banners and chanting their demands, these activists expressly politicized the future, reminding us that ‘the future’ is an important reference for political intent and action and not merely a technological or scientific concern to be predicted and managed.

This session interrogates the politics of environmental futuring-making, with particular interest in techniques and technologies used to imagine environmental sustainable futures. Futuring techniques ranging from calculative anticipatory practices such as computer-modelling to imaginative anticipatory practices like scenario making or visioning are increasingly used to inform environmental decision making at different levels. Although differences exist between, for example, transformative/progressive and preservative/conservative modes of future making, between modes emphasizing present futures (in future studies) or future presents (in futurology), all futuring work is ontological: it shapes possibilities of particular ways of being, knowing, and doing. Critical reflection on the social and historical positionality of futuring techniques is thus warranted, as proposed futures embody specific, yet implicit, orientations regarding time and governance (Rickards et al, 2014), and the good life (Knappe et al, 2019).

We are open to theoretical and empirical papers, as well as methodological reflections, that seek to contribute to a better understanding of the politics of future-making through description, exploration, and theorization. Questions that might be explored in this session include (but are not limited to):

  • How do future-making activities, e.g. speculation, foresight, models, transition arenas, scenario exercises, engage and (de)politicize environmental futures?
  • How do different communities use futuring techniques to hedge against, prepare for, and act upon alternative environmental futures?
  • What are the assumptions, precommitments, and contributing factors shaping approaches to imagining, understanding, and representing environmental futures?
  • What are the political, temporal, and spatial dimensions underpinning trajectories of environmental futuring-work?
  • How are existing orientations to the future and to time amplified, recreated, or critiques in environmental policies and actions?
  • How is time governed in sustainability and resilience politics?
  • What are the (im)possibilities of politicizing the future?
  • What are the sociomaterial politics of future-making?
  • What political and social orders are promoted in visions of future environments?
  • How do present-day power inequalities and power struggles shape future-making practices?
  • How can power asymmetries, inequalities, and exclusions in future making be overcome?


Knappe, Henrike, Anne-Katrin Holfelder, David Löw Beer, Patrizia Nanz (2019). “The politics of making and unmaking (sustainable) futures: introduction to the special feature” in Sustainability Science14:891-898

Rickards, Lauren, Ray Ison, Harmut Fünfgeld, John Wiseman (2014). “Opening and Closing the Future: Climate change, adaptation, and scenario planning” in Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 32: 587-602

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