CfP POLLEN2022: Political ecology meets abolition: Exploring the relationship between policing and environmental injustice

Session organisers:

Andrea Brock, University of Sussex, A.Brock@sussex.ac.uk,

Nathan Stephens-Griffin, University of Northumbria, Nathan.stephens-griffin@northumbria.ac.uk

Background

In 2020, at least 227 environmental defenders around the world were killed by policing forces – police, militaries, paramilitaries, private security forces (Global Witness, 2021) – and all around the world, those who stand against ecological destruction are systematically harassed, intimidated and repressed by police of various kinds. Policing forces protect and enforce ecologically destructive projects and activities, from mining to infrastructure projects and mega prisons. They are integral to the transportation and import of ecologically disastrous fossil fuels – whether through the protection of pipelines or guarding freight ships – and the protection of animal abuse, blood sport, vivisection, and the animal industrial complex.

At the same time, policing itself has a huge ecological boot print. Militaries and police forces not only protect fossil fuels, but they run on oil: the US Department of Defence is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels and number one carbon emitter in the world. Public and private security forces, including the police, rely on huge amounts of extracted resources and fossil fuels, and produce significant amounts of environmental pollution and wastes in their daily operations. Indeed, these dynamics are not new; the history of policing is inseparable from the colonial past and present. Policing today, we therefore suggest, is inseparable from ecological degradation in the services of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.

Some environmental justice activists and others involved in more militant ecological struggles have long worked with abolitionists in their communities, critiquing the ways policing, prisons, and pollution are entangled and racially constituted (Braz and Gilmore 2006). Others have long pointed to the ways in which militaries protect fossil fuel (emissions) (Greenpeace, 2021) and the problematic absence of military emissions in climate negotiations (Parkinson, 2021) and the impact of militarism on the climate more broadly.

Policing, we suggest, helps enforce a social order rooted in the ‘securing’ of property, hierarchy, and human-nature exploitation. Environmental justice scholarship – and political ecology more widely – has been relatively reluctant to take up the challenge of exploring these interconnections (Brock and Stephens-Griffin, 2021; Brock and Stephens-Griffin, forthcoming; Dunlap and Brock, eds., forthcoming). However, recent work has sought to unearth the complex connectivity between ecological and carceral harms in society (Pellow, 2019); rethink the spatial politics of environmental justice within a Black Radical Tradition (Pulido and de Lara, 2018), and interrogate the emancipatory potential of ideas such as ‘abolition ecology’ (Heynen, 2018) and ‘total liberation’ (Pellow, 2014). Elsewhere, work has explicated the related issues of ‘green militarism’ (Bigger and Neimark, 2017; Belcher, Neimark and Bigger, 2020) and political responses to protest ‘from above’ (Geenenand Verweijen, 2017). Nevertheless, the connections between policing, and ecological destruction and injustice remain underexplored.

In this session, we invite contributions that explore these links. Beyond investigating the policing of environmental struggles, we seek to expand our focus to investigate how the overall system within which these struggles take place is the outcome of policing and associated violence(s). This may involve technologies of policing, including criminalisation, stigmatisation and framings as eco-extremists, but also more bureaucratic forms of violence and everyday policing (by non-police – e.g., welfare state, teachers).

Call for papers

We hope to explore new understandings of contemporary policing of ecocide – the logics, technologies and strategies; the political economy and ecology of policing, and the role of different actors – including, but not limited to police, militaries, private securities, mercenaries, bailiffs, and self-policing. These may include cases of policing of resistance, but also ways in which the overall system is upheld through policing.

We ask what forms and shapes this policing takes place, how we might be able to resist it, what kinds of alliances and links between anti-police and ecological struggles exist and may exist in the future?

How is policing linked to militarism and the greenwashing of militarism? What might a world without policing look like?

Papers in any form may address any number of topics related to political ecologies of policing and abolition, including but not limited to:  

  • Abolition and abolitionist futures
  • Prisons, police, pollution
  • The intersections between the policing, white supremacy, and ecological destruction
  • Policing, patriarchy and ecofeminism
  • Policing of/for extractivism
  • Green militarism and ecocide
  • Policing in the name of green capitalism
  • Policing the right to kill
  • Changing dynamics in contemporary policing
  • Abolition and animal liberation
  • Total liberation and policing
  • Global North and South dynamics of policing
  • Colonialism, policing, and ecology
  • Policing as a hegemonic assumption, ideology and/or logic
  • Historical and colonial continuities and entanglements

We invite papers and presentations that explore and develop these themes as they intersect with political ecologies. If you want to present a paper in our session, please send your abstract in a Word attachment to a.brock@sussex.ac.uk and nathan.stephens-griffin@northumbria.ac.uk no later than January 15th, 2022. The abstract should be max 300 words (excluding title and author info) and should include affiliation (if applicable) and contact information for all co‐authors.

References

Belcher, O., Neimark, B. and Bigger, P. (2020). The U.S. military is not sustainable. Science Vol 367, Issue 6481 • pp. 989-990 •DOI: 10.1126/science.abb1173 https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/science.abb1173

Bigger, P. & Neimark, B. (2017). Weaponizing nature: The geopolitical ecology of the US Navy’s biofuel program. Political Geography, 60, 13-22

Brock, A. and Stephens-Griffin, N. (2021) Policing Environmental Injustice, IDS Bulletin, Online First, https://doi.org/10.19088/1968-2021.130  

Geenen, S. and Verweijen, J. (2017). Explaining fragmented and fluid mobilization in gold mining concessions in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Extractive Industries and Society, 4(4), 758–765.

Global Witness (2021) Global Witness reports 227 land and environmental activists murdered in a single year, the worst figure on record, September 13th, Global Witness, https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/global-witness-reports-227-land-and-environmental-activists-murdered-single-year-worst-figure-record/

Heynen, N. (2018) “Toward an Abolition Ecology”, Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics, 0(1) 240-247. https://journal.abolitionjournal.org/index.php/abolition/article/view/49 Accessed: 16th September 2021.

Parkinson, S. (2021) Challenging the military carbon bootprint, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Presentation given at the People’s Summit for Climate Justice, COP26, Glasgow, UK, on 8th November, 2021. https://www.sgr.org.uk/sites/default/files/2021-11/SGR-COP26-military-carbon-bootprint-Nov21.pdf

Pellow, D.N. (2014). Total Liberation: The Power and Promise of Animal Rights and the Radical Earth Movement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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