Political ecology in the courtroom

Contributor: Jacob Phelps, Lancaster University (feature image: Jaclyn Schwanke)

Political ecologists have a particular interest in recognizing diverse values, questioning prevailing policy narratives, and challenging entrenched power dynamics.  It is therefore surprising that the field is not more concerned with discussions of courtroom proceedings, specifically lawsuits enabling governments, citizens and NGOs to challenge environmental injustice via the courts.  This relatively under-explored legal political ecology provides interesting directions for a field where many grow frustrated with the relative lack of applied theory and activist engagement. 

In this post, I discuss www.conservation-litigation.org, a collaboration among lawyers, ecologists, conservationists, critical social scientists, and economists that asks, “How can we sue large commercial wildlife traders?”.  It  explores how environmental liability lawsuits can hold large-scale, commercial traders liable for the egregious harm they cause. Such liability extends to providing remedies to that harm, such as paying for habitat restoration, animal rehabilitation, issuing apologies, funding species conservation and investing into cultural funds. 

Beyond the obvious opportunities for lawsuits to correct injustices by remedying harms, I highlight two reasons why such litigation offers are exciting spaces for political ecology: 

(1) They allow challenges to mainstream narratives about the values of nature, by pressing courtrooms to formally recognise diverse types of values; and 

(2) They enhance environmental democracy, challenging the state monopoly over the enforcement of environmental rights by creating space for other stakeholders.

These are empowering opportunities that remain underutilised globally, including across most of the Global South.


Ours is a scholar-practitioner-activist exploration of alternative legal responses to illegal wildlife trade.  Rather than the traditional focus on punishment, which often ends up targeting low-level wildlife traders with fines and imprisonment, we are exploring how strategic liability litigation can hold high-level actors responsible for remedying the harm they cause.  Amidst concerns on the over-criminalisation in conservation, this project shifts enforcement focus away from punishment and onto remedy; away from small-scale harvesters and onto large-scale commercial traders, and from government-led to citizen-directed enforcement actions. 

Environmental liability litigation will be familiar to many readers. The Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills are key examples of how government and citizen litigation can hold polluters responsible for actions such as clean-up, funding restoration and compensating victims.  We are exploring how this approach can be used to address a wider range of harms, including from illegal trade, and across broader geographies.  Enabling laws already exist in many countries, including China, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, and DR Congo, but are comparatively new in many countries; unfamiliar to legal practitioners, and rarely mobilised. Their potential to address key drivers of biodiversity loss from IUU fishing, illegal logging, illegal wildlife trade are untapped. 

We developed a practitioner-oriented framework for how these cases might be developed. It integrates ecology, law and geography to present diverse types of harm (to individuals, species, human wellbeing), and help to identify corresponding remedies that might be secured via a lawsuit.   It seeks to lower the barriers to justice by making lawsuits development more achievable.  

Venue for formal recognition 

Such litigation is motivating because it creates opportunities for plaintiffs to seek formal, public recognition of their values and rights. In order for a lawsuit to be successful, a court must recognise that the plaintiff has a right to make a claim (standing), that a specific harm occurred, and that it merits a legal response.  As such, lawsuits are a potential pathway for plaintiffs–including NGOs, citizens, community groups and government agencies–to convince a judge or jury of their values.  Such formal recognition of rights and plural values has legitimising potential, and geographers are uniquely placed to help others articulate these values in ways that are legible to lawyers, jurors and judges.

For example, although we (the public, decision-makers, judges) may often recognise that nature has many intangible values, these are rarely institutionalised into our formal governance processes, where a narrow utilitarian economic perspective prevails.  Indeed, much of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been guided by “the view that acknowledging and fostering the use of diverse conceptualizations of multiple values of nature and its contributions to people is required for adequately addressing the challenge of achieving global sustainability.”  Conservation litigation provides a vehicle through which to help translate these complex values into tangible, public, formal court orders. 

In our work, we discuss a hypothetical lawsuit against a repeat, commercial wildlife trader that illegally sells one Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutan. The example demonstrates that what may appear like harm to a single individual animal, has diverse, cascading impacts on different communities and types of values.   Notably, these include intangible and sacred values that are potentially non-commensurable with monetary compensation (e.g., moral harm, harm to cultural values).  These types of values merit broad, public recognition, and courtrooms are a way through which to achieve this.


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Harm to an individual orangutan has diverse, cascading impacts. Illustration by Alamsya Elang 

Enhancing environmental democracy 

Conservation litigation also challenges the state monopoly on the enforcement of environmental rights.  Enforcing legal violations, which typically includes enforcement of criminal and administrative regulations, is squarely the role of government agencies that have the right to fine and imprison. 

It is no secret that this presents challenges and frustrations for many conservationists, especially in the context of under-resourced government agencies, low capacity, different priorities, corruption and collusion.  Many civil society groups have responded very assertively, not only lobbying and pushing governments to fulfill their responsibilities to the environment, but also privatisation conservation enforcement.  This includes NGO and private sector management and enforcement of protected areas, as well as civil society investigations and prosecutions of wildlife violations.  These represent a distrust of government’s ability and willingness to execute their core functions, and a (sometimes questionable) attempt to deconcentrate and even democratise enforcement. 

Conservation litigation offers a very distinct, parallel space for non-state actors to engage with the enforcement of environmental rights and rules.  In many countries, legislation allows citizens and NGOs the standing to bring forward liability lawsuits for harm to the environment.  This can include making demands that responsible parties undertake remedial actions for harm caused to public goods (e.g., biodiversity, public waterways).  As such, rather than wait for government agencies to undertake enforcement actions or remedy harm, this type of litigation allows citizens to make requests via the legal system.

This is especially important in the context of uncertain government enforcement, and growing demands for environmental democracy. It aligns with the 1998 Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which has 41 parties across Europe and Central Asia.  Litigation provides a formal forum and pathway through which to increase this access.

Overcoming barriers to justice 

Strategic conservation litigation has the potential to facilitate access to meaningful, just remedies, highlight values that have struggled to achieve formal recognition in other venues, and increase democratic engagement in environmental enforcement.  There are also other  important types of important courtroom actions that speak directly to the interests of political ecologists, including to order injunctions to order the stop to harmful projects; lawsuits to order, revisions of unjust e legislation, and lawsuits to order government agencies to meet their legal mandages. The courtroom thus seems a uniquely appropriate setting for a field concerned with rights, (in)justice, contested narratives and creating meaningful change.

There are huge barriers to courtroom engagement and access to justice–technical, conceptual, procedural, political and financial.  This includes huge challenges for academics that engage with law, particularly those without legal training, for whom the jargon and detailed mechanics of national-level legislation can be daunting.  Importantly, they are even greater barriers for the marginalised communities who are often most affected by environmental harm.  This is precisely the reason for a strategic legal political ecology to operate in the public interest.  

Geographers and conservationists can help to bridge the gaps between how harm and remedies are experienced on-the-ground, how these are presented in lawsuits, and how formal legal processes can be navigated. Progress will necessarily require novel collaborations, including work with plaintiffs, public interest lawyers, public prosecutors and legal aid groups, to help overcome barriers to justice. 

Car Recycling: an often-overlooked way to decrease your vehicle’s environmental impact

Contributed by Gabe Vargas, Masters student at University of California, San Diego 

For many in the Global North, our personal impact on the environment is inexorably connected to cars.  According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and everyday passenger cars account for a majority of the sector’s emissions. 

What you might not know, is that the environmental impact of cars doesn’t just come from driving them.  The industrial processes that bookend a car’s lifespan—its manufacture at the plant, and its disposal —have a disproportionate impact on the environment, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution.  

While we can decrease our miles traveled along the margin, it will be a long time before the built environment in countries like the US renders cars unnecessary.  But, we can mitigate the impact of other sources of our cars’ pollution by recycling them.  

Why recycle cars? 

Automotive recycling has several key environmental benefits.  It diverts waste from landfills—importantly, both a large quantity of waste (10-12 million vehicles a year, according to Argonne National Laboratory, a leading institution researching car material recovery), and a disproportionate share of the hazardous waste that poisons our land and our communities’ water supplies.  It allows parts to be reused  further reducing environmental impact.  It also decreases the demand for mining, preventing significant environmental damage associated with resource extraction.  And it substantially decreases the carbon footprint associated with making new cars.  

According to SellMax in San Jose,  every year, car recyclers in the US and Canada produce sufficient steel to make 12,000,000 cars, recover parts that would have taken the energy equivalent of over 85,000,000 barrels of oil to replace, salvage 100,800,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel, 45,000,000 gallons of washer fluid, and 8,000,000 gallons of engine coolant.  That’s a lot of hazardous liquids that could have otherwise ended up in American watersheds. 

What can be saved? 

The Backbone: Iron and steel 

Iron and steel can be recovered from the cars’ frame—a significant fact, since these metals can make up over 60% of cars’ mass

By 2010, according to  Argonne National Laboratory, recovery of ferrous metals (iron and steel), from car recycling, constituted the largest source of scrap for the iron and steel industry.  Producing recycled steel uses 74 percent less energy than steel made from scratch (remember this energy would still come from burning fossil fuels).  

The Hidden Hazard: Tires 

Few symbols of decaying cars are more emblematic or familiar than a tire fire—after all, one has featured prominently in the opening sequence of the popular cartoon The Simpsons for decades.  And this fascination is somewhat justified—as a report by the municipal government of Lehigh County, PA summarizes, tire fires are incredibly dangerous They burn incredibly hot and produce toxic gases. , When put out with water, they leave behind a toxic slurry that contaminates groundwater and farmland. 

When not ablaze, abandoned tires still threaten public health.  When holding water, they provide habitats for mosquitos that carry West Nile Virus, Zika, and other diseases. 

Once recycled, tires have many uses. They can be made into new roads, clean-burning fuel to replace dirty oils, and incorporated into liners for garden beds. 

The Classic: Aluminum 

Few materials for recycling are as familiar to the everyday consumer as aluminum.  And there’s a reason that the image of tossing cans into blue bins has become so intimately linked with the process of recycling itself: aluminum recycling is one of the most efficient landfill-diverting processes.  

According to a 2010 literature review by Subodh Dasand their team from the technical publication Light Metal Age, the recycling process converts up to 99% of aluminum into usable products. (a far higher rate than many other materials—and it can be repeated almost indefinitely).  This results in less material entering landfills, and less aluminum being mined—which is extraordinarily important, given that aluminum mining largely occurs in destructive open pit mines. These mines devastate ecosystems, poison water sources for generations to come, and contribute to major human rights violations.   

Aluminum recycling also saves enormous amounts of energy.  According to the same review in Light Metal Age, recycling post-consumer aluminum saves up to 95% of the energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from mining, refining, and smelting aluminum by 95% as well.  This is even more important than it sounds, because, as the Environmental Protection Agency reports, aluminum smelting releases large quantities of incredibly strong, long-lived greenhouse gasses known as perfluorocarbons.  Each pound of these compounds released into the atmosphere  has the same impact as releasing 9,200 pounds of carbon dioxide—and will remain in the atmosphere for over 10,000 years. 

Aluminum was one of the first and most important metals to be recycled from cars.  As early as the 1980s, SAE International, a leading professional organization for engineers predicted that automotive recycling projects focused on reclaiming aluminum from car frames would come a critical means of “decreasing disposal problems” associated with environmental contamination from used cars while “lower[ing] demands on material resources” to produce new vehicles.   

Most aluminum in cars are now recycled, providing a significant boon to the environment. 


Other materials 

As noted in a 2006 journal article by  Muhamad Z. b. M. Sama and  Gordon N. Blount, many other materials can also be economically recycled from cars—including resins, foam, glass, copper, and rare earth metals in catalytic converters.  All of these require tremendous amounts of energy and pollution to produce, and are not biodegradable—that is, when placed in landfills, they will not decompose.  

Despite their polluting effect, we’ll have to keep living with cars for a while. But at least we can provide a future for our rivers and atmosphere with auto recycling until they are obsolete.

POLLEN March 2021 Updates

Dear POLLEN Members and Friends, 

Lots of updates to share this month: meet the POLLEN node at the University of KwaZulu-Natal who will host POLLEN 2022, new CFPs, publications and more!

POLLEN Secretariat 
Sango Mahanty | Sarah Milne | Ratchada Arpornsilp
Resources, Environment & Development @ The Australian National University 

Preliminary information is available at the conference website – read more about our hosts below. 

Getting to know your fellow POLLEN members

Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of the many POLLEN nodes to help build connections across our community. This month: The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College – our POLLEN 2022 host! 

The University of Kwazulu-Natal’s POLLEN node 

The discipline of Geography and the Centre for Civil society constitute the POLLEN node at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. UKZN was formed in January 2004, as a result of the merger between the formerly racially segregated University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal. UKZN has witnessed significant changes in terms of both staff and students’ activism against apartheid’s government-imposed racial segregation and more recently the ‘Fees Must Fall’ protests. Emerging from its past, the University aims to be a truly South African University of Choice that is academically excellent, innovative in research, and critically engaged with society.  

UKZN was ranked fourth out of the universities in South Africa and in the 351–400th in the world by the Times Higher Education University Rankings 2021. This Discipline of Geography at UKZN is based within the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences. It is housed across three campuses and focuses on research and teaching in Southern Africa as a spatial context for students in both the sciences and humanities, across three main components in Human Geography, Physical Geography and GIS and Earth Observation.  

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is based within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College, and aims to advance socio-economic and environmental justice by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue with civil society through research, publishing and teaching. 

The UKZN POLLEN node will host the 4th biennial POLLEN conference in 2022. The contested notions of the Global North and South, comparative political ecology, and the production of political-ecological knowledge are proposed central themes for the conference. This is the first time the conference will be held in the Global South, and the node will aim to use the occasion to think with and through the geography of both political ecology research, as well the perennial focus of the network on political-ecological change in hegemonic and counter-hegemonic conditions and contexts. The conference offers an opportunity to expand the POLLEN networks and (re)visit Political Ecology’s own problematic but received persistent dichotomies and categories (spatial, social, political, economic, etc.) more generally, aiming to critically engage, and where necessary disrupt, our continued reliance on them. 

Node members 

Adrian Nel is a senior lecturer and academic coordinator in the Department of Geography, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Adrian is a Human Geographer with an interest in contemporary human-environment relations in Southern and Eastern Africa. Adrian’s research is inflected through the lens of political ecology, which explores the roots of social conflicts over access and use of the environment and natural resources. He has been a long term and enthusiastic member of the POLLEN collective and is a councillor for the Society of South African Geographers (SSAG). Adrian has a PhD in Geography from the University of Otago and completed a post-doc with a dual affiliation with the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Shauna Mottiar is the director of the Centre for Civil Society at UKZN. Shauna completed both her MA and PhD in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her broad area of interest is democratic consolidation / democratic deepening in South Africa. During her time at the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, she worked on electoral processes and outcomes in Southern Africa. While at the Centre for Policy Studies her research focus was the local government in South Africa and its mandate to provide water, electricity and health (HIV/AIDS-related) services. Her research at the Centre for Civil Society included an examination of the Treatment Action Campaign for the Globalization, Marginalization and New Social Movements project and the social protest study. She has also worked on research initiatives for the Centre for Conflict Resolution and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes examining the role of Human Rights Commissions in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. 

Biniam Misgun is a lecturer in Development Studies and Economic History at the University of UKZN. He recently completed his PhD, supervised by a SANPAD project team of supervisors affiliated to the University of Cape Town, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Amsterdam. His thesis topic was Identities, Identifications and Strategies of Integration of African Migrants in South Africa: A Case Study of Ethiopian, Rwandan, and Senegalese Migrants. His broader research interests include the urban environment, city life and the Informal Economy, Migration and Development, state institutions in Africa. 

Andries Motau is a PhD student with the African Climate and Development Institute and the Minerals to Metals group at the University of Cape Town. He is also a QES Scholar with York University and a scholar under the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Climate & Development (ARUA-CD). Andries works as a researcher and facilitator at the Centre for Civil Society at the University Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN); where he facilitates screening for DocLove on Activism and Human Rights. Andries is passionate about creating inclusive communities and this has shaped his line of study and work. His PhD study is primarily focused on analysing the conflicting perspectives in the global South Just Transition movement using the Mpumalanga coal region as a case study. Some of his research interests are on climate change, climate justice, circular economies, civil society and natural disasters.  

Nonduduzo Mkhize is an MSc student at the University of KwaZulu-Nata, in the discipline of geography. Her research investigates land claim settlement models used by forestry companies in South Africa. Her interests are on social and environmental justice movements and how political and apolitical factors influence/shape policy and the implications it has on previously disadvantaged communities. She has aspirations of further developing her research and teaching into an academic career.  

Catherine Sutherland is a geographer who works at the interface between social and environmental systems with a focus on sustainable development. Catherine is interested in the relationship between society, space and environment and how this shapes environmental politics and policymaking. She has worked on topics such as the impact of mega-projects on social environments in Durban, social assessment theory and methodology, sustainability indicators, risk and vulnerability, and urban/social policy. Her research interests are closely aligned with her teaching which focuses on social policy and environment and development.

Promoting POLLEN collaboration 

Do you write with other members of POLLEN? In attempts to promote collaboration across the POLLEN nodes, please consider putting the following statement in the acknowledgements of your paper: “This article represents work conducted as part of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”  
When you do, please let us know about it so we can tweet it out on @PolEcoNet and get it in the next newsletter! 

The POLLEN Advisory Collective

The POLLEN Assembly at POLLEN20 decided to establish a POLLEN Advisory Collective consisting of people who have engaged with the network in various respects. The purpose of the collective is to function as POLLEN’s institutional memory and as a go-to resource for the POLLEN secretariat and network nodes for advice, guidance, to share experience and other forms of support. Look here for more information about the collective and its current membership.

Working papers, blogs and media 

Apostolopoulou, Elia. (2021) How China’s Belt and Road Initiative is changing cities and threatening communities. The Conversation UK: https://theconversation.com/how-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-is-changing-cities-and-threatening-communities-153515?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=bylinetwitterbutton 

Brad, A, Flemmer, R. und Hein, J. (2021) Raum und Ressourcen – Die politics of scale von Landrechtskonflikte. In: Bank, A. et al. (Hrsg.), Blogserie zum Themenschwerpunkt  “Politics of Scale in der deutschen Politikwissenschaft“, DVPW Blog:  https://www.dvpw.de/blog/raum-und-ressourcen-die-politics-of-scale-von-landrechtskonflikte-ein-beitrag-von-alina-brad-riccarda-flemmer-und-jonas-hein

Verweijen, Judith and Dunlap, Alexander. (2021) How extractive industries carry on harming 
the planet. The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/how-extractive-industries-manage-to-carry-on-harming-the-planet-155323

Al-Saidi, M. and Hussein, H. (2021) The Water-Energy-Food Nexus and COVID-19: Towards a Systematization of Impacts and Responses. Science of the Total Environment.  

Besek, Jordan Fox. (2021). “On the Interactive Nature of Place-Making: Modifying Growth  Machine Theory to Capture the Spatial and Temporal Connections that Spawned the Asian Carp Invasion.” The Sociological Quarterly 62(1): 121-142. 

Castellanos-Navarrete, A., (2021) Oil palm dispersal into protected wetlands: Human-environment dichotomies and the limits to governance in southern Mexico. Land Use Policy 103: 105304. 

Chakraborty, Ritodhi, Gergan, Mabel D, and Sherpa, Pasang, et al. (2021) A plural climate studies framework for the Himalayas. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 51: 42-54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2021.02.005 

Chandler David, Müller Franziska, and Rothe Delf (eds.) International Relations in the Anthropocene; a textbook featuring lots of dissident approaches (e.g. posthuman, decolonial and political-ecology). https://eisa-net.org/teaching-international-relations-in-the-anthropocene-roundtable-and-virtual-book-launch/ 

Di Quarto F., Zinzani A. (2021) European environmental governance and the post-ecology perspective: A critical analysis of the Water Framework Directive” Geo Journal 1-13. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10708-021-10402-9 

Dunlap, Alexander and Correa-Arce, Martín. (2021) ‘Murderous Energy’ in Oaxaca, Mexico: Wind Factories, Territorial Struggle and Social Warfare. Journal of Peasant Studies: 1-27. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2020.1862090 

Fladvad, B., Klepp, S. und F. Dünckmann (2020) Struggling against land loss: Environmental (in) justice and the geography of emerging rights. Geoforum 117, 80-89. 

Fleischman, F., S Basant, H Fischer, et al (2021) How politics shapes the outcomes of forest carbon finance. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 51, 7-14.   

García-López, GA (2020) Commons, power and (counter) hegemony. In Legun K., J. Keller, M. Bell, & M. Carolan (eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Vol. 1, pp. 152-175. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Gonzalez-Duarte, Columba. (2021) Butterflies, Organized Crime, and ‘Sad Trees’: A Critique of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Program in a Context of Rural Violence. World Development 142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105420.   

Hickmann Thomas, Lederer Markus, and Schwindenhammer Sandra et al. (eds.), The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Transformative Change through Sustainable Development Goals? Politics & Governance, Special Issue. https://www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/issue/view/239 

Hjort, M. (2021) Locating the subject of REDD+: between “improving” and safeguarding forest inhabitants’ conduct, Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law. 

Hope, J. (2021) Driving development in the Amazon: Extending infrastructural citizenship with political ecology in Bolivia. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Melo, Felipe P.L., Parry, Luke, Brancalion Pedro H.S., et al. (2021) Adding forests to the water-energy-food nexus. Nature Sustainability. 4: 85–92. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00608-z 

Müller Franziska, Neumann Manuel, Elsner Carsten, et al (2021) Assessing African Energy 
Transitions: Renewable Energy Policies, Energy Justice, and SDG 7. Politics and Governance, 9 (1). https://www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3615 

Quimbayo Ruiz, G.A. 2021. Reterritorializing conflicting urban natures: socio-ecological inequalities and the politics of spatial planning in Bogotá. University of Eastern Finland: Dissertations in Social Sciences and Business Studies. 

Rodríguez-de-Francisco, J.C., del Cairo, C., Ortiz-Gallego, D., et al. (2021) Post-conflict transition and REDD+ in Colombia: Challenges to reducing deforestation in the Amazon. Forest Policy and Economics 127, 102450. 

Svarstad, Hanne. (2021) Critical climate education: Studying climate justice in time and space. International Studies in Sociology of Education. 30(1-2): 214-232.  

Turhan, E. (2021). Envisioning climate justice for a post-pandemic world. Dialogues in Human Geography, 11(1), 4-7. https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820621995608

Villamayor-Thomas, S. & García-López, GA (2021) Decommonisation-commonisation dynamics and social movements: Insights from a meta-analysis of case studies. In P.K. Nayak, ed. Making commons dynamic: Understanding change through communication and decommonisation. London / New York: Routledge.

CfPs, Conferences, Talks 

CfPEcology, Economy and Society – the INSEE journal 
(https://ecoinsee.org/journal/ojs/index.php/ees/index) Call for papers: research paper, thematic essay/survey, commentary, notes from the field, book review, report. For more 
information, contact insee.ees@gmail.com 

CfP: An International Virtual Workshop On Urban Climate Justice organized virtually by Climate Justice Network during 28-30 June 2021. Information is found here: 
Due 1 April 2021.  

CfPConviviality. The Political Ecology Research Centre at Massey University and the Centre for Space, Place & Society at Wageningen University & Research welcome submissions for virtual conference during 1-7 June 2021. Submission information is here: https://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/conviviality/ Due 5 April 2021. 

CfA: The 9th International Conference on Sustainable Development is an academic conference that focuses on research for sustainable development. The Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Programs (MDP), in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), will hold the Ninth Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD) on 20-21 September, 2021 virtually. The call for abstracts can be found here: https://ic-sd.org/2021/03/01/2021-conference-call-for-abstracts/. Due 1 May 2021. 

Call for application: Farming for Climate Justice is a workshop series and networking 
opportunity for early career researchers (ECRs) in the UK and South Africa under a collaboration between the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University and the Bio-Economy Chair at the University of Cape Town. Applications for participation in Farming for Justice closes on 11 April 2021 – see criteria for ECR applicants here. And visit https://farming4justice.net/ 

Talk: UCD Environmental Humanities, a research group at  University College Dublin, hosts regular online talks that all are welcome to attend. Forthcoming events include Charis Olszok on jinn and oil in Arabic fiction, Martín Arboleda on planning, popular power and critical social theory, and Nicole Seymour on ecologies of glitter. The sign-up links can be found on website: https://ucdenvhums.wixsite.com/my-site.  
Please send any questions to Hannah Boast, hannah.boast@ucd.ie

Vacancies and courses 

Academic position 

Assistant Professor in Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change at the College of Social & Applied Human Sciences in the University of Guelph.

PhD position 

PhD studentship/Graduate Teaching Assistant (PGTA) position in Human Geography : The School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol has a Postgraduate  Teaching Assistant position in Human Geography to fill for 2021/22 entry, with an anticipated start date of 01 September 2021. More info is in the link herewith: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/program/graduate-teaching-assistant-gta-scholarship/?p5254 
Deadline is on 29 April 2021.

Other News Items 

Introducing COLLAB 

Interdisciplinary Games was founded by Silja Klepp and Johanna Barnbeck in order to develop games that systematically support research between different fields and disciplines. COLLAB is the first in a series of games to improve methods and communication in these settings. It is a board game that creates a better understanding of and curiosity about other disciplines. It does this by encouraging a playful reflection on the scientific approaches, professional cultures, and structures of the other players’ disciplines. More info is here: www.interdisciplinarygames.net

POLLEN February Updates

Dear POLLEN Members and Friends,

Greetings from your new Secretariat hosts at the Australian National University! It’s exciting to take on this role from Jens Friis Lund and colleagues at the University of Copenhagen, who have done a fantastic job coordinating POLLEN over the last year.

We have had a busy month picking up POLLEN’s twitter feed, and learning the inner workings of POLLEN’s website, node register, and of course this monthly newsletter. We would welcome your feedback and suggestions at any time – write to us at politicalecologynetwork@gmail.com

There are lots of updates to share this month, including preliminary information on POLLEN 2022, CfPs, publications from our community and more. We are also introducing the Massey University POLLEN Node. Enjoy the read!

Best wishes, 

POLLEN Secretariat
Sango Mahanty | Sarah Milne | Ratchada Arpornsilp and colleagues at the ANU POLLEN node

Our host for POLLEN 2022, the POLLEN node at University of KwaZulu-Natal, has just launched the conference website where you can find preliminary information – check it out:  https://pollen2022.com/
We will learn more about this dynamic node in our next newsletter!

Getting to know your fellow POLLEN members

Every monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of the many POLLEN nodes. We hope this will help build better connections across our community. This month: Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre in New Zealand.

Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre
Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre’s (PERC) growing membership reflects the interdisciplinarity of political ecology. PERC began as a collaboration between the School of People Environment and Planning and the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University. Their work involves collaborations across the following disciplines: social anthropology, media studies, ecology, geography, sociology, English, zoology, development studies, creative writing, politics, education, chemistry, environmental management, and engineering.
PERC provides a site of collaboration and networking for national and international researchers with a shared interest in social and environmental justice, inequities, decolonisation, and resource politics.  Since its establishment in 2016, it has organised four conferences, three of which have been free, online, international, open-access and nearly carbon neutral.  These conferences are still available to the public on this website.  PERC also drafts submissions and letters to government, presents seminars and webinars, produces books, and (pre-COVID), hosts international scholars.  Their second book Plastic Legacies: Politics, Persistence, and Politics will be in published in June 2021

Its members
Dr Trisia Farrelly is Co-Director of PERC. Her work contributes to building capacity in NZ and the large ocean, small island developing states (LOSIDS) of Oceania to strengthen plastic pollution science, public engagement, and ultimately, effective policy frameworks. Trisia’s current work focusses on plastic pollution as waste colonialism in Oceania.  
Dr Sy Taffel co-directs PERC and researches political ecologies of digital media, technological solutionism and the social, cultural and political impacts of digital technologies. Sy is the author of Digital Media Ecologies (Bloomsbury 2019),and along with Nicholas Holm he co-edited the anthology Ecological Entanglements in the Anthropocene. He also makes documentary/activist films, including for environmental groups such as the Environment Network Manawatu and Carrying Our Future.
Nicholas Holm is a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies. His research mainly explores the political role of popular culture and entertainment media, but he also has a long running interest in the political status of overlooked and derided forms of nonhuman life and environmental interaction. His most recent work in this area is an article on feral cats forthcoming in a special issue of Society and Animals. Nick directed the 2018 conference “Feral.”
Professor Glenn Banks Leads the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University. His research mainly focuses on the socio-economic and cultural dimensions of large-scale, private sector investment in the extractive industries in Papua New Guinea. This research is framed by theoretical concerns with development, local agency and empowerment. Glenn’s current collaborative work critically examines private sector claims of corporate social responsibility in the tourism and resource extraction sectors, based on case studies in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. This research connects with applied contracted research and consultancy for institutional and private sector actors in the region’s extractive sector.
Sita Venkateswar is Programme Coordinator and Associate Professor in the Social Anthropology programme at Massey University.  She is also Associate Director of the New Zealand India Research Institute. Her current research interests include agroecological, regenerative and multispecies approaches to farming and food futures. She applies intersectional and decolonizing research methodologies within contemporary contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand and South Asia.
Alice Beban is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Massey University. She researches land rights, agricultural production, and gender concerns to understand people’s changing relationships with land and water from a feminist political ecology perspective. Recent projects include research on ‘land grabs’ and redistributive land reform in Cambodia, cross-border migration of smallholder farmers in the Mekong Delta, gendered agrarian transformation and the right to food, and mapping cultural change in dam-affected communities along the Mekong river. Her new book, “Unwritten Rule” (Cornell, 2021) examines land politics as a lens through which to understand democracy in Cambodia. 
Ingrid Horrocks is a creative writer and literary scholar based on Massey’s Wellington campus. She writes about the long history of the politics of mobility and place and is interested in ways in which we can rec-conceptualise the ecological imagination. Her latest nonfiction book, Where We Swim, is a blend of memoir, travel, and ecological imaginings, both local and global. Ingrid’s other publications include two poetry collections, a book on women wanderers published by Cambridge UP, and the co-edited collection, Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand.
Jonathon Hannon is the coordinator of the Zero Waste Academy, based at Massey University. This role involves teaching, research supervision, industry / community consultation and advisory on campus and city sustainability. Jonathon is currently undertaking a PhD evaluating municipal zero waste methodologies. Jonathon’s most recent publication is: 
Laura Jean McKay is the author of the Animals in That Country (Scribe, 2020), winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature; and Holiday in Cambodia (Black Inc. 2013). She is a lecturer in creative writing at Massey University, with a PhD from the University of Melbourne focusing on literary animal studies. Her research focuses on interspecies communication, ecofiction, extinction and decolonising literatures. Laura is the ‘animal expert’ presenter on ABC Listen’s Animal Sound Safari.
Tom Doig is an environmental journalist and creative writing and media studies scholar, based at Massey’s Manawatū campus. His research areas include: disaster studies; literary journalism studies; and the social implications of the climate crisis. He is the author of Hazelwood (Penguin, 2020), The Coal Face (Penguin, winner of the 2015 Oral History Victoria Education Innovation Award) and Mörön to Mörön: Two men, two bikes, one Mongolian misadventure (Allen & Unwin, 2013).
Philip Steer is an Associate Professor of English. Philip researches literary responses to the environmental violence of settler colonialism. He is Primary Investigator of the Marsden project “Settler Literature and Environmental Change in Colonial New Zealand and Australia” (2020-2022), and co-edited Ecological Form: System and Aesthetics in the Age of Empire (Fordham University Press). Philip co-organised  Rapua te Kura Huna: Opening Our Environmental Archives, a workshop of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue around archives of environmental knowledge from the period of colonisation (February 2021).

Promoting POLLEN collaboration

Do you write with other members of POLLEN? In attempts to promote collaboration across the POLLEN nodes, please consider putting the following statement in the acknowledgements of your paper: ‘This article represents work conducted as part of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).’ 

When you do, please let us know about it so we can tweet it out on @PolEcoNet and get it in the next newsletter!

The POLLEN Advisory Collective

The POLLEN Assembly at POLLEN20 decided to establish a POLLEN Advisory Collective consisting of people who have engaged with the network in various respects. The purpose of the collective is to function as POLLEN’s institutional memory and as a go-to resource for the POLLEN secretariat and network nodes for advice, guidance, to share experience and other forms of support. Look here for more information about the collective and its current membership.

Benjaminsen, Tor and Svarstad, Hanne (2021) Political Ecology: a critical engagement with global environmental issues. Palgrave. https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030560355

Cederlöf, Gustav (2021) Out of Steam: Energy, Materiality, and Political Ecology. Progress in Human Geography 45(1): 70–87.

Christiansen, J. (2021). Fixing fictions through blended finance: The entrepreneurial ensemble and risk interpretation in the Blue Economy. Geoforum 120, 93-102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2021.01.013

Hewitson, Lee John and Sullivan, Sian (2021) Producing elephant commodities for ‘conservation hunting’ in Namibian communal-area conservancies. Journal of Political Ecology. https://journals.librarypublishing.arizona.edu/jpe/article/id/2279/

Köpke, Sören (2021) Contested Conservation, Ethnopolitics, and the State: The Case of Wilpattu Forest Complex, Sri Lanka. Conservation and Society 2021;19:57-67. DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_19_113

Oguz, Zeynep (2021) Cavernous politics: Geopower, territory and the Kurdish question in Turkey. Political Geography. Vol 85: March. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0962629820303942?via%3Dihub

Roy, Brototi (2021). A Report of the Third Biennial POLLEN (Political Ecology Network) Conference, 2020. Ecology, Economy and Society – the INSEE Journal. https://doi.org/10.37773/ees.v4i1.358

Verweijen, Judith and Dunlap, Alexander. (2021) The evolving techniques of social engineering, land control and managing protest against extractivism: Introducing political (re)actions ‘from above’. Political Geography 83:1-9. https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1cWYM3Qu6uX%7EbK

Political Geography: Virtual forum on Environmental limits, Scarcity and Degrowth: https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/political-geography/special-issue/10SV5DM3NW5

Working papers, blogs and media

Acharya, Amitangshu and Sanyal, Sudipto (2021) Where there’s muck there’s brass: making money from sewage in Kolkata. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/1843/2021/01/13/where-theres-muck-theres-brass-making-money-from-sewage-in-kolkata
Dunlap, Alexander and Brock, Andrea. (2021) When the Wolf Guards the Sheep: Green Extractivism in Germany and Mexico. Working Paper 21, University of Sussex, Centre for Global Political Economy (CGPE). https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=when-the-wolf-guards-the-sheep-dunlap-and-brock.pdf&site=359

Dunlap A and Glederloos P. (2021a) An Interview with Peter Gelderloos, Part I: Anarchism and Environmental Struggle. Terra Nullius: Repossessing the existent, Available at: https://www.sum.uio.no/forskning/blogg/terra-nullius/alexander-dunlap/an-interview-with-peter-gelderloos-part-i-anarchism.html.

Dunlap A and Glederloos P. (2021b) An Interview with Peter Gelderloos, Part II: From Colonial Trauma to Ecological Resurgence. Terra Nullius: Repossessing the existent, Available at: https://www.sum.uio.no/forskning/blogg/terra-nullius/alexander-dunlap/an-interview-with-peter-gelderloos-part-ii.html.

Kolinjivadi, Vijay (2021) It is time to end extractive tourism. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/2/18/it-is-time-to-end-extractive-tourism

MARIPOLDATA Team (2020) Key findings from our study of the marine biodiversity field and why our data matters for the new BBNJ treaty.

Tessnow-von Wysocki, I. (2021) Speech is silver – Science is gold: The Voice of Science within UN negotiations for the Ocean.

CfPs, Conferences, Talks
CfP: Annual Political Science Workshops of the Low Countries (https://politicologenetmaal.eu): Challenging Anthropocentrism in Political Science: Gender, Race, Intersectionality and the More-than-Human. See this link for further details on this CfP: https://politicologenetmaal.eu/workshop-list/#workshop2 – Instructions for submitting abstracts are on the website, due 31 March 2021

CfP: Rupture and the reimagining of nature-society. Submissions welcome for this exciting panel at the joint Institute of Australian Geographers and New Zealand Geographical Society conference – please send these by 5 April 2021. For further details, see #27 at this link – there are lots of other interesting panels as well, and you can find details for this July conference here.

CfP: Central Asian Journal of Water Research special issue on ‘30 Years of Farm Restructuring and Water Management Reforms in Central Asia.’ Further details here: https://water-ca.org/news/cfp-special-issue-30-years-of-reforms, due June 15, 2021.
Teaching Convivial Conservation: Rebecca Witter (witterrc@appstate.edu) is keen to hear from POLLEN members who would like to convene a virtual conversation about Teaching Convivial Conservation. A conversation like this might be a way to generate ideas, to share resources, and to develop more energy and capacity around conviviality in conservation – both for those who are already teaching this approach and for those who might like to start. Please contact Rebecca if you are interested!

Is a local or global food system more sustainable? How big should a farm be? Debates about the future of food have become more polarised than ever – and little attention is paid to why people hold genuinely different beliefs. The Feed podcast, presented by TABLE, aims to fill this gap by exploring the evidence, worldviews, and values that people bring to global food system debates.

Folks with an marine interest might like to check out this monthly seminar series: MARIPOLDATA Ocean Seminar Series

Vacancies and courses

Please check the links for details and closing dates.

PhD positions (2-5 are at the Helmholtz-Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity):

  1. PhD position at Ruhr University Bochum on the A political ecology approach in evaluating the development agenda: The cases of Ghana and Kenya.  Details here:  http://adapted-eu.org/open-esr-positions/esr-6-10/esr-6  
  2. PhD position in “Benthic Geopolitics” : https://recruitingapp-5442.de.umantis.com/Vacancies/781/Description/2 
  3. Phd position in “Biodiversity, Scale, and Difference in Marine Space” within the Marine Governance Group Marine Governance Group  https://recruitingapp-5442.de.umantis.com/Vacancies/778/Description/2
  4. PhD position in “Dynamic ocean governance: Rethinking space, time and movement in managing marine environments” https://uol.de/stellen?stelle=67863
  5. PhD position in “Emotional governance: The place of feelings in marine management” https://uol.de/stellen?stelle=67864
  6. PhD position in Political Ecology of Natural Climate Solutions at the Department of Food and Resource Economics Univeristy of Copenhagen: https://jobportal.ku.dk/alle-opslag/?show=153559

Academic positions:

  1. Research Scientist Position: “Follow the enforcement: Spatialising understandings of monitoring, reporting and sanctioning at sea” (m/f/d) within the Marine Governance Group at Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research https://recruitingapp-5442.de.umantis.com/Vacancies/770/Description/2
  2. Research Scientist Position: “Maritime motorways, global ship routeing and the governance of marine biodiversity” (m/f/d) within the Marine Governance Group Marine Governance Group at Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research https://recruitingapp-5442.de.umantis.com/Vacancies/769/Description/2
  3. Three faculty positions at National University of Singapore in Social/Cultural Geographies addressing contemporary crises of sustainability in Asia (two positions at Assistant Professor level on the tenure-track and one at Associate or Full Professor level with tenure): Assistant Professor positions (tenure-track): see here.
    Tenured Associate/Full Professor (with tenure): see here.
  4. The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of
    Freiburg, Germany has two 2-year Junior Fellowships within the  “Young Academy for Sustainability Research”, details here:

200 NGOs and experts warn against UN plan to protect 30 percent of the planet by 2030

Contributed by Jonathan Mazower, Survival International

The One Planet Summit for biodiversity in Paris last month confirmed the agenda of many governments, and the conservation industry, to push ahead with a plan to place at least 30 percent of the Earth’s surface under conservation status by 2030.

Organized by France in cooperation with the UN and the World Bank, the summit launched the “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People,” to drive progress towards the “30×30” target. 

But two hundred NGOs and experts have now signed a warning that the drive to increase global protected areas such as national parks could ruin the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and do nothing to preserve biodiversity.

In a letter to the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the NGOs warn that as many as 300 million people could be dispossessed unless there are much stronger protections for the rights of indigenous peoples and other land-dependent communities.

Later this year, the Conference of Parties to the CBD is set to agree on the new 30×30 plan. It would double the current protected land area over the coming decade.

Many indigenous representatives, such as Archana Soreng of the Kharia tribe and Pranab Doley of the Mising people, have been campaigning against the 30% target. 

Together with Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal peoples, they’ve declared that it will constitute the biggest land grab in world history and reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty. Survival’s campaign calls the plan the #BigGreenLie.

In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.

This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding.

Around the world, indigenous peoples are increasingly denouncing the conservation industry as a “source of threats and a source of violation of indigenous rights,” and repeatedly speak out against threats to evict them in the name of conservation.