As always, we are excited to share news from around the POLLEN network. This month we are featuring the Center for Social Development Studies, the POLLEN node at the Faculty of Political Science in Chulalongkorn University. We also have CfPs, publications from our community, an invitation for a book review, vacancies, and more.
We also welcome contributions, conversations, or comments for the POLLEN blog! It’s a great way to share and get dialogue around your work. Feel free to check out our recent blog with Rogelio Luque-Lora’s review of “Convivial Conservation” with a response from the authors, Rob Fletcher and Bram Buscher – your comments are very welcome!. Also, please write to us at the above email address if you are interested in contributing to the blog.
Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of the many POLLEN nodes to help build connections across our community. This month we would like to introduce you to the Center for Social Development Studies at the Faculty of Political Science in Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Chulalongkorn University’s POLLEN node
The Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) was established in 1985 within the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. The CSDS produces interdisciplinary critical research on development policy and practice in Southeast Asia. Much of the research agenda relates to political ecology, including resource politics, regionalization, human rights and justice, the public sphere, the commons, and forced displacement and development. The CSDS supports young and mid-career researchers and public intellectuals via the Graduate Studies in International Development program, and by hosting research associates, interns, and fellowship programs. Since 2018, the CSDS has also hosted the Chulalongkorn University Center of Excellence on Resource Politics for Social Development. The CSDS regularly organizes public forums, conferences, and workshops for debating critical development issues, and co-organized and hosted the Political Ecology in Asia 2019 conference. Recently, the CSDS has initiated the Political Ecology in Asia dialogue series and Critical Nature policy analysis. The CSDS team includes Faculty members, graduate students, and research associates.
Carl Middleton is an Assistant Professor and Director of CSDS. His research interests orientate around the politics of the environment in Southeast Asia, focusing on the political ecology of water and energy, nature-society relations, social movements, and environmental justice. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeremy Allouche and Dipak Gyawali, is titled The Water–Food–Energy Nexus: Power, Politics and Justice (2019). Recent co-edited books are: Living with Floods in a Mobile Southeast Asia: A Political Ecology of Vulnerability, Migration and Environmental Change (2018; with Rebecca Elmhirst and Supang Chantavanich) and Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River (2019; with Vanessa Lamb).
Naruemon Thabchumpon is an Assistant Professor in Politics at the Faculty of Political Science, Deputy Director for Research Affairs at the Institute of Asian Studies, and Director of the Center of Excellence of the Asian Research Center for Migration, Chulalongkorn University. Her expertise is on comparative politics and democracy, cross-border migration, and human development. She received her MA and PhD from the School of Politics and International Studies of University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Her recent political ecology related research has been on “Living with and against Floods: Socio-Economic Adaptation of Communities in Bangkok and Thailand’s Central Plain” and on the economic and social impacts of Covid-19 focusing on people, planet and inclusive society.
Jakkrit Sangkhamanee is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science in Bangkok, Thailand. He earned a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University, with his dissertation focusing on the ontological entanglement in the construction of knowledge on water management in the Mekong region. His work focuses on STS, specifically hydrological engineering projects related to Thai state formation, environmental infrastructure, and environmental politics. His latest publication is “Bangkok Precipitated: Cloudbursts, Sentient Urbanity, and Emergent Atmospheres” in East Asian Science, Technology and Society (EASTS). Jakkrit also serves on the editorial board of Engaging Science, Technology, and Society.
Pongphisoot (Paul) Busbarat is Assistant Professor in International Relations at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. He holds a PhD in Political Science & IR from Australian National University and postgraduate degrees from Columbia University and Cambridge University. His research interests include great power competition in Southeast Asia, (especially the Mekong subregion), Thailand’s foreign policy, and norms and identity in IR. Currently, Paul is working on several research projects including the study of a normative construct influencing Thailand’s foreign policy choices between the United States and China, and a study of China’s regional leadership consolidation in the Mekong subregion. His most recent publication is ‘China and Mekong Regionalism: A Reappraisal of the Formation of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation’ in Asian Politics & Policy.
Jiraporn Laocharoenwong is a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Chulalongkorn University. In 2020, she obtained her PhD from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, entitled ‘Re-imagining the Refugee Camp: Sovereignty and Time-Space Formation Along the Thailand-Burma Borderland’. Her current research includes a project on ‘Governing the virus: Borders, Bio-power and Migrant Bodies in Thailand’, and one on animals crossing borders and the politics of commodities, pathogens and human-animal relations in the Southeast Asian Borderland with a grant from the National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO).
Chanatporn Limprapoowiwattana earned her PhD in Political Science 2020 from l’Université de Lausanne in Switzerland, with financial support from the Swiss Government. Her doctoral thesis was titled ‘Transnational Standardisation and the Global Production Network of Organic Rice: A Case Study of Thai Buddhist Connectivity.’ She is currently a post-doctoral researcher in CSDS researching on the urban political ecology and agri-food production networks of Bangkok City. This research seeks to understand how different practices of urban agriculture shape and reimagine the city. Overall, she is interested in exploring human-nature relationships and interactions in the context of political ecology and global food governance.
Orapan Pratomlek is the project coordinator for CSDS. She holds a MA in International-NGO Studies from the Faculty of Social Sciences, SungKongHoe University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Her interest and work focus on issues related to the environment, social development, human rights, and empowerment. Her recent projects with CSDS have included: water governance research and a fellowship program on the Salween River; flooding and displacement in Hat Yai City, Southern Thailand; water governance and access to water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar; and on community-based tourism in Thailand recovering from COVID.
Anisa Widyasari is currently leading the communications work for CSDS. She finished her LLM degree from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Aside from preparing the communications materials for all CSDS’ project, she is also directly contributing to CSDS’ research and providing legal perspective, mainly on the issues related to water diplomacy and transboundary water governance. Prior to joining CSDS, she worked as Advocacy Officer for Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), where she led in the legal analysis of policies affecting press freedom and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia.
Thianchai Surimas is a PhD student in International Development Studies and Doctoral Researcher at CSDS, Chulalongkorn University. His doctoral research examines hydropolitics in the Ing River, Northern Thailand. The research aims to reveal multiple ontologies of water and its ontological politics, and to understand tensions and cooperation between multiple ontologies of water among networks of human and non-human things that are involved in water-related conflicts. The research employs a hydrosocial perspective as an analytic approach. Thianchai’s research interests include environmental justice, environmental politics and policy, climate change, migration, livelihoods, development and socio-environmental change.
Sara K. Phillips is a Doctoral Researcher with the CSDS, where her work focuses on resource development decision-making, investigating how the law enables structural inequalities that lead to mining conflicts. At Chulalongkorn University, her doctoral research examines how actors utilize norms to shape the resource development lifecycle. Sara is a Visiting Lecturer with the Center for Global Law and Policy at Santa Clara University and a Doctoral Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute. She is a qualified attorney and holds a J.D. from Vermont Law School, an LL.M. from McGill University, and a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Ma. Josephine Therese Emily G. Teves is a third-year doctoral candidate in International Development Studies in the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. She is also a research fellow on the NUS-ARI Graduate Student and Online Training and Mentorship Programme on Human Rights and Peace Research for 2021. Her research examines the impacts of agrarian reform initiatives to Philippine Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs), including the impact of Japan ODA’s farm-to-market infrastructure provision in agricultural development, ARBs’ right to land, the skewed land distribution in the Philippines, and challenges of impact evaluation of infrastructure aspect in agrarian reform programs.
Thita Ornin has interests in sustainability, peace, and social and personal well-being. She has experience in research and program development and execution in various areas including sustainable consumption and production, sustainable agriculture and livelihoods, labour rights, and urban and rural livelihoods. Thita is currently a Program Officer for the Professional Development Program on Peace and Development Studies at the Rotary Peace Center, and a PhD Candidate in International Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University. Her PhD thesis is titled ‘Post-Development and Post-Growth through the Dynamics of Alternative Agriculture Movements in Thailand’, through which she aims to contribute to understanding alternatives that can be transformative of development studies.
Thanawat Bremard is a doctoral student from the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development based both in the Joint Research Unit “Water Management, Actors, Territories” in Montpellier, France and in the CSDS, Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand. With a background in socio-anthropology, he has been working on issues of water governance in Thailand since 2017, with a particular focus on the Bangkok Metropolitan Region for his thesis. His current research focuses on the politics of groundwater and subsidence governance, the spatialized decision-making around flood governance in eastern Bangkok and the institutional interplay around urban river governance.
Promoting POLLEN collaboration
Do you write with other members of POLLEN? To gain visibility for collaborations across our network, we invite you to consider adding something along these lines to your acknowledgments: “This paper represents collaborative work with colleagues in the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”
Luque-Lora, R. 2021, Convivial Conservation: book review and authors’ response, Political Ecology Network, 28 May, <https://politicalecologynetwork.org/ 2021/05/28/convivial-conservation-book-review-and-authors-response/>
Boafo, J. & Lyons, K., 2021, ‘The rhetoric and farmers’ lived realities of the green revolution in Africa: Case study of the Brong Ahafo region in Ghana’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, <https://doi-org/10.1177/00219096211019063>
Movik, S., Benjaminsen, T.A. & Richardson, T. 2021, ‘Making maps, making claims: the politics and practices of visualisation in environmental governance’, Landscape Research, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 143-151 <DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2021.1879034>
The 2020 Royal Anthropological Society conference will be held 25 to 29 October 2021 online with a theme of Anthropology and Conservation. A panel on “Market-Based Instruments for Conservation and Indigenous Peoples”, panel P063 is soliciting papers. All proposals must be made via the online form by 2 July 2021, and decisions will be conveyed to proposers by 16 July.
Papers should be approximately 15 minutes long, and proposals should consist of a title, a (very) short abstract of <300 characters, and an abstract of 250 words.
Journal of Posthumanism invites contributions to the second issue of the Journal of Posthumanism, an international peer-reviewed scholarly journal promoting innovative work to transverse the fields ranging from social sciences, humanities, and arts to medicine and STEM.
Submission Deadline: 2 August 2021
All submissions should follow the latest guidelines of APA style referencing. You are welcome to submit full-length papers (5000-6000 words), commentaries (1000-2000 words), book reviews, interviews, and artistic works.
Palgrave Handbook of Southern Green Criminology invites chapter proposals.
This handbook is the ultimate collection of essays reflecting the growth and diversity of Southern Green Criminology. Therefore, this call seeks to attract original thinkers from the Global South who are creators and carriers of Southern epistemologies. Additionally, this publication pursues ethnic, gender and geographical representativity.
If you are interested, please send an abstract of between 120 and 200 words as soon as possible to email@example.com. The latest submission deadline is 1st July 2021.
The complete first drafts are due March 20, 2022 and the total word length is between 7.000 and 8.000 words.
The book engages in a multi-scalar political ecological analysis of the climate crisis and seeks to articulate a geography of climate justice. It presents a layered analysis of the global and local politics of climate change, including case studies featuring India and Nepal.
The publisher offers a complimentary copy for review. Any interested reviewers could directly contact, Matt Shobbrook, Editorial Assistant: firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary copy of the book (print or digital).
4 PhD positions at Wageningen University: Living rivers and new water justice movements
Are you interested in understanding how different actors know, value, and strive to shape river systems in diverging ways? Do you want to learn specifically about approaches for enlivening rivers that are promoted by grassroots water justice movements? Then this could be the perfect PhD opportunity for you!
The University of Barcelona School of Economics is organizing a summer school on Ecological and Feminist Macroeconomics held during 12-16 July 2021.
If you are interested in pluralist economics and new economics, you can’t miss this course! Some of the best scholars from both ecological and feminist economics will introduce the topics and present their cutting-edge research.
Despite conservationists’ best efforts, global biological diversity continues to disappear at alarming rates. According to political ecologists Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher, this is, to a large extent, a consequence of mainstream conservation not addressing biodiversity declines in the right ways. The authors acknowledge that there is significant variation in mainstream approaches to conservation, but that two fundamental premises are dominant. Firstly, a stark dualism, both material and epistemological, between human and nonhuman nature. This dualism carries the normative implication that nature ought to be saved from humans – hence the historical focus on protected areas as the cornerstone of global conservation. The second premise of mainstream conservation is its embrace, ideological or pragmatic, of the capitalist development model. As the authors explain, the histories of capitalism and conservation are entwined, with conservation having emerged as a response to the increasing destruction wrought by capitalist development. In practical terms, conservationists often decide that it is more productive to partner with capitalist interests to generate the funds needed for their projects than to fight against the dominant political economy.
According to Büscher and Fletcher, the recognition that mainstream conservation is failing to save biodiversity has triggered the recent appearance of more radical approaches. As the authors explain in the opening paragraph of their book, the last decade has seen growing urgency and pressure on both the natural world and the conservation community, which has led many to conclude that gradual, stepwise improvements to mainstream conservation will not suffice to prevent worldwide ecological catastrophes. Taken together, the authors contend, these are good reasons to believe that a revolution in conservation is underway.
Büscher and Fletcher identify two major radical alternatives to mainstream conservation, the main features of which can be apprehended from how they position themselves with respect to its two fundamental premises. The first group, new conservationists, reject nature-culture dualism while showing enthusiasm for working within capitalist processes and logics. They endorse the view that in the Anthropocene pristine nature independent of human impacts no longer exists. Therefore, rather than try – and fail – to protect perceived wilderness areas from human activities, new conservationists argue that the natural world ought to be integrated into the capitalist economy. The hope is that once the (capitalist) value of nature is taken into consideration, humans and nature can develop in harmony.
The dehesas of the Iberian peninsula have developed through the action and coexistence of wildlife, livestock and humans. In them, any notion of stark dualism between humans and nature falls apart. Source: author’s own.
The second group, neoprotectionists, firmly oppose both these claims. According to the loudest voices within neoprotectionism, it is a gross exaggeration to think that because human activities are leaving a mark on planetary processes, all species and ecosystems are now dependent on human will. The only real way to save biodiversity is to have more numerous, larger and better-connected areas where nonhuman natures can continue to live in ways largely independent of human activities. The most radical neoprotectionists think that at least half of the Earth’s surface must be set aside for “inviolable” nature reserves. For the most part, neoprotectionists see the rising consumption trends and endless economic growth that characterise capitalism as key drivers of biodiversity loss.
A closer reading of the history of conservation ideas, however, calls into question the authors’ accounts of new conservation and neoprotectionism as recent, radical challenges to mainstream conservation. While new conservation presents itself as a novel approach fit for conservation in the Anthropocene, the ideas behind it are at least decades old. In a paper published in 1999, development scholar David Hulme and social anthropologist Marshall Murphree described the then-recent shift in African conservation toward approaches that were people-centred and promoted economic growth. Strikingly, they named this shift “new conservation”. Similarly, the fact that new conservation’s radical counterpart is effectively called new protectionism should also raise suspicions about its novelty. Conservation interventions that aim to protect pristine nature from human activities date back at least to the nineteenth century Romantic cult of wilderness.
To be sure, new conservation and neoprotectionism are not carbon copies of their respective predecessors. It is clear that the advent of the Anthropocene has given new conservation and neoprotectionism scalar dimensions not seen in the traditions from which they derive. In the case of new conservation, this is manifested in their call to embrace the global ubiquity of human influence on the rest of nature. In neoprotectionism, it is the scaling up of protected areas to set aside half of the planet’s surface for inviolable nature reserves that is novel. Yet these differences are operational rather than ideological. New conservation’s embrace of human influence stems from their pragmatic belief that protecting wild areas for their own sake has not worked. In the case of neoprotectionism, the values behind proposals to protect half of the planet are indistinct from twentieth century ecocentrism and deep ecology.
The similarities between new conservation and neoprotectionism and their respective predecessors are not exclusively theoretical. The ideologies promoted by new conservationists and neoprotectionists, far from rejecting mainstream conservation practices, actually align with many of them. For instance, decades-old community-based conservation and payments for ecosystem services both fit the new conservationist paradigm of promoting human wellbeing and integrating the natural world into the economy. Similarly, the fact that neoprotectionism has also been called “back-to-the-barriers” indicates that many of the practices they endorse have been deployed for a long time. If the ideological stances and the practices promoted by new conservation and neoprotectionism, which Büscher and Fletcher identify as new and radical, are in fact decades old, the authors’ claim that a revolution is brewing is compromised.
Perhaps most worryingly for their accounts of new conservation and neoprotectionism as radical challenges to mainstream conservation is the number of caveats the authors find in this very classification. Büscher and Fletcher successfully show why both new conservationists’ rejection of nature/culture dualism and neoprotectionists’ scepticism of the capitalist economy are shallow and unfounded. As the authors demonstrate, nature/culture dualism is inherent to capitalism, so by embracing the capitalist political economy, new conservationists fundamentally undermine their aim of overcoming dualism. With respect to neoprotectionism, Büscher and Fletcher convincingly argue that, although neoprotectionists are right to claim that integrating biodiversity into the global capitalist market will not save it, the protected areas they promote cannot be sustained indefinitely against capitalism’s inherent need to grow beyond its own frontiers. Moreover, in practice, the strict protected areas championed by neoprotectionism are often funded by processes that rely on capitalist exchanges, such as ecotourism and philanthropy. A more accurate conclusion of these critical analyses is that these supposedly radical approaches are merely episodic and rhetorical variations on a more broadly defined mainstream conservation.
The authors’ legitimate dissatisfaction with new conservation and neoprotectionism leads them to develop their own radical proposal, which they call “convivial conservation”. Convivial conservation seeks to be truly post-capitalist and offers a range of short- and long-term suggestions for moving beyond capitalist conservation. One example is the transition from traditional protected areas to so-called promoted areas. In and around these areas, people’s livelihoods would be based not on capitalist enterprises like ecotourism, but on activities including the sustainable use of natural resources and a “conservation basic income”, which would be funded through the state, promoted area entrance fees and crowd sourcing. On a broader scale, the recognition that the success of convivial conservation ultimately depends on the global dismantling of capitalism also requires conservationists to challenge hegemonic power through campaigning and other forms of political action.
The second pillar of convivial conservation is its rejection of human-nature dualism. According to the authors, nature and society must be viewed not as separate but rather as mutually related and co-constituted, a conclusion to which they arrive after reviewing a range of Anthropocene scholars, including Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing and Jason Moore. But while convivial conservation wholly rejects capitalism, its takedown of human-nature dualism is partial. Büscher and Fletcher argue that in seeking to bring other species and abiotic processes back into moral and political focus, more-than-human, animal, new materialist, and posthumanist theorists have “swung the pendulum much too far” and erased many meaningful and necessary distinctions between humans and other creatures. While urging us to accept and rejoice in the plurality of connections and similarities between humans and nonhumans, the authors wish to retain some form of human exceptionalism.
The reason for this is the realisation that without some form of human exceptionality, any attempt to establish healthier relations with nonhuman natures are bound to fail. There is little in the natural world that is inherently convivial (which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the quality of being lively and friendly”). Covid-19, malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and crop-raiding elephants are examples of the indifference of nonhuman natures to human wellbeing. Even seemingly harmonious natural states, such as the (perceived) balance of ecosystems, are the product of forces utterly indifferent to the lives of individual organisms (one such force is the killing of prey species by predators at rates that compensate for the production of offspring in far greater numbers than their habitats can sustain). As Lao Tzu may have put it, “heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs”.
For human beings to transcend this ruthlessness and voluntarily establish stable and reciprocal relations with the rest of the natural world, they must have the capacity to function as intentional political and moral agents. As far as we know, this ability is absent in all nonhuman species, at least in the measure that would be required for the major societal changes that this book promotes. Kate Soper has made a similar point:
Unless human beings are differentiated from other organic and inorganic forms of being, they can be made no more liable for the effects of their occupancy of the ecosystem than can any other species, and it would make no more sense to call upon them to desist from destroying nature than to call upon cats to stop killing birds.
Yet the only reason for accepting human exceptionalism that is provided throughout the book is that it is required for convivial ecological politics to emerge. This does not prove human exceptionalism to be true; it only proves that without it, the kind of conservation that the authors envision is an impossibility.
During summer months, drought and high temperatures in the Mediterranean habitats kill all non-woody vegetation and put animals at risk of starvation and dehydration. “Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs.” Source: author’s own.
Though it was published nearly two decades ago, John Gray’s Straw Dogs (which takes its title from the Lao Tzu quote above) can be read as a provocative antagonist to The Conservation Revolution. Like many of the posthumanist writers reviewed by Büscher and Fletcher, Gray seeks to present a less human-centred view of the world. The idea that humans are categorically distinct from other animals is, according to Gray, largely a Judeo-Christian invention, which humanist thinkers have unknowingly inherited despite their atheist credentials. Had Darwin published his work in Daoist China or the pre-Columbian Americas, the suggestion that animals are our evolutionary kin would not have caused the uproar it did in Christian Europe.
Straw Dogs is not oblivious to the troubling implications of erasing distinctions between humans and the rest of the natural world. On the contrary: it lays them bare. According to Gray, lacking the qualities that supposedly set us apart from other animals (most notably the capacity for free will and the volition to act morally) implies that we can expect the biosphere to treat us in much the same ways it treats other organisms: eventually, negative feedback processes, like diseases and shortages of natural resources, will push back against Homo sapiens. These are bleak prospects, so one serious challenge for convivial conservationists is to prove not just that human exceptionalism is necessary, but also that there are theoretical and empirical grounds for believing it to be true.
Work in other areas is also needed to show convivial conservation to be viable. There is no shortage of examples of human greed, folly, indifference and ecological devastation from both before the advent of global capitalism and in non-capitalist economies since. While the authors’ contention that capitalism is inherently unsustainable is in principle convincing, they and others now need to show that whatever might replace it will do better at reining in those ecologically undesirable human traits. Büscher and Fletcher have shown that conservationists’ aims of preserving nonhuman natures are unlikely to be met without a revolution in their approaches and partnerships. Now they and their sympathisers need to show that such a revolution is possible, and that its outcomes will be desirable.
Response by Rob Fletcher and Bram Buscher
We would like to thank Rogelio Luque-Lora for his thoughtful and sympathetic treatment of our book. He raises a number of important issues concerning our analysis of contemporary conservation debates and their implications for future practice that warrant discussion and engagement. We want to take this opportunity to respond to two of Luque-Lora’s assertions that we find most significant in the context of ongoing political ecology debates.
First, Luque-Lora argues that the two recent proposals for reforming conservation we single out– new conservation and neoprotectionism – are not really so novel and radical as depicted. In part this is a semantic question concerning how one chooses to define these particular qualities. This framing of positions were also meant as part of a broader heuristic model that through simplification helps to clarify the stakes and issues in current conservation debates. But our main aim in describing these provocative approaches in this way was not necessarily to claim that they were in fact novel and radical, but that they had both been characterized as such – that is, as calls to dramatically transform dominant conservation policy and practice – by their proponents. This common self-characterization – and the invitation it offered to question mainstream conservation approaches in even more transformative fashion – was what we sought to highlight. Given that they have led to major and very heated debates within the conservation community, it is clear that some of their proposals and arguments were also seen as radical challenges by many others. But through illustrating and analysing this in detail, we at the same time concluded that the two proposals were really not as novel and radical as proponents claimed. Besides demonstrating that both positions are indeed rooted in longstanding strains of thought emerging from mainstream conservation approaches, the more important point for us was that both continue to harbour deep-seated contradictions that cannot provide a productive way forward for conservation policy. This is why our analysis led to our suggested and preferred alternative of convivial conservation.
The second, and to our minds more intriguing issue thatLuque-Lora raises with our analysis concerns the question of human exceptionalism and its implications for the convivial approach we advocate. As Luque-Lora describes, we pull back from the sort of radical critique of the nature-culture dualism levelled by many other critical social scientists aiming to dismantle (nearly) all divides between humans and other entities. Instead, we reassert that some degree of differentiation between humans and others, as well as between nature and culture more broadly, is not just simple realism, but necessary to be able to wage an effective environmental politics. If this is not done, we argued, there is no way to single out humans’ impacts on the rest of the world as unique and hence uniquely problematic.
But we are not the only ones who assert the necessity of human exceptionalism in this way. While ecocentric critics often decry anthropocentrism in conservation policy, they nonetheless (and paradoxically) demand just this in asking that humans reflect on and change the way we interact with other species to become ecocentric in the manner demanded. No other species (short of outlier proposals such as to alter predators’ behavior through gene-editing; see e.g. Johannsen 2017) are asked to do (or likely considered capable of doing) the same. Hence this stance assumes a unique human capacity on which the politics advocated necessarily relies. In short: a conviction that humans possess the capacity to move beyond human exceptionalism is arguably the most exceptionally human capacity that distinguishes us from other animals.
Yet, as Luque-Lora argues, just because human exceptionalism may be necessary for effective conservation politics does not automatically make it reality. But we believe there is strong evidence to support its reality too. It is true and important that many qualities considered uniquely human by Western thinkers in the Cartesian tradition in the past – language use, sociality, self-consciousness, proactive planning, and so forth – have now been called into question by research that convincingly demonstrates their presence among other species (see e.g. De Waal 2016). Yet even if these qualities are not wholly unique to humans, we still believe that they are consequentially different in humans as compared to other animals (see Büscher, in press). Hence, whether human-nonhuman differences are of degree rather than of kind is in many ways a moot point with respect to ecological politics, since they remain significant in their consequences. One piece of rather straightforward if superficial evidence to substantiate this point is the fact that Luque-Lora is debating these issues with us and other people rather than with non-humans.
Less trite and more important for our convivial conservation proposal is the human capacity to exercise conviviality with respect to the rest of the world, on which Luque-Lora rightly asserts that our proposal depends. Interestingly, he questions whether this same capacity exists not only in humans but also more-than-humans. Drawing on Lao Tzu and John Gray, he contends that “nature” is widely characterized by a certain exercise of and indifference to cruelty and suffering. But this overlooks the fact that various nonhumans also exhibit a capacity for compassion and altruism (see e.g. Sussman & Cloninger 2011).
In her own meditations on the topic, Jane Goodall (2010) has asserted that what distinguishes humans from other animals, even close relatives like chimpanzees, is our uniquely intense capacity both to inflict violence and cruelty and to exercise compassion and kindness. This, Goodall argues, is evidenced by our waging of lethal warfare on a scale beyond any other known species and by the unprecedented ways in which we also care for our sick and injured. The takeaway point for us from this is that a hard-nosed, realistic conservation politics needs to acknowledge both of these uniquely intense human capacities, but especially to emphasise the possibility and need to cultivate the positive capacities in ourselves and others. Moreover, how our different capacities are expressed, we believe, is fundamentally shaped by the sociocultural, historical and political-economic structures in which we exist; hence our emphasis on the importance of attending to these structures in addition to a focus on immediate human-nonhuman interactions in order to foster the (democratic, equitable) conditions in which (commodified) competition (both intra- and interspecies) can be minimized and space for conviviality expanded.
We take the call to push this further very seriously, and deliberately ended our book by saying that we join all of those already working for transformative structural change with hope. Hope, clearly, is not enough to demonstrate that our proposal is better than what currently exists. But in the face of widespread ecosystemic breakdown, species extinctions and obscene inequalities, we do need this yet-again exceptional human quality to give it our best shot. We invite Luque-Lora and others to join us in this movement.
Büscher, B. (in press). The nonhuman turn: critical reflections on alienation, entanglement and nature under capitalism. Dialogues in Human Geography.
De Waal, F. (2016). Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? London: WW Norton & Company.
Goodall, J. (2010). Through a window: My thirty years with the chimpanzees of Gombe. London: HMH.
Johannsen, K. (2017). Animal rights and the problem of r-strategists. Ethical theory and moral practice, 20(2), 333-345.
Sussman, R. W., & Cloninger, C. R. (Eds.). (2011). Origins of altruism and cooperation. New York: Springer.
There are lots of updates to share this month, including an introduction to the POLLEN node at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, CfPs, publications from our community, opportunities to join workshops, teaching resources on political ecology, and much more.
We would like to hear from nodes who are keen to feature their work in the upcoming newsletters – please drop us a line at email@example.com if your group is interested. We also welcome contributions to the POLLEN blog – we had some great spontaneous offers over the last month and would like to keep these coming! Please write to us at the same email address if you are interested in contributing.
On a final note, we have noticed that some of our node contact details are bouncing – please keep us posted about any changes to your node contacts at the POLLEN email address above.
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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 we would like to introduce you to the Political Ecology Working Group of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s POLLEN node
The Political Ecology Working Group of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa brings together faculty, researchers, and graduate students from across the university for seminars and other events. A number of unique characteristics of the university contribute to the forms of inquiry into political ecology engaged by the group. Principal among these is the importance of issues relating to the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander experience, and to questions of sovereignty and the colonial pasts of Pacific places. The university’s engagement with Asia and its centrality within discussions of coastal and oceanic environments also contribute to the nature of conversations about political ecology taking place there, as does the importance of tourism to the state’s economy. Members of the group have been known to go surfing together.
Mary Mostafanezhad is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her work is broadly focused on development and socio-environmental change in Southeast Asia. Her current National Science Foundation-funded research examines the political ecology of seasonal air pollution in northern Thailand. She is the co-editor-in-chief of Tourism Geographies: An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment and a co-editor of the Critical Green Engagements Series of the University of Arizona Press.
Jonathan Padwe is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His research looks at the relationship between social and environmental change in the highlands of mainland Southeast Asia. This work is based on several years of fieldwork in Cambodia’s northeast highlands, along the border with Vietnam, as well as on archival research conducted at Cambodia’s National Archives and at the Archives Nationalesd’Outre-Mer, the French colonial archive in Aix-en-Provence.
Carolyn Stephenson is a professor in Political Science, where she teaches Global Environmental Politics, international relations, peace studies, and conflict resolution courses. She did her BA at Mount Holyoke College, MA, and PhD at Ohio State. She has written on the development of peace studies and environmental studies and on environment and women’s issues at the UN. A founder of the Environmental Studies Section of the International Studies Association in 1977 and was its chair in 1985-89. She serves as a mediator and taught conflict resolution as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Cyprus in 2002. She directs the Hawaii Model UN.
Olivia Meyer (she/her) is an incoming Geography and Environment PhD student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is currently completing her M.A. in Geography at the University of Kentucky. Her research centers on power and environmental discourses as they relate to plastic waste in Thailand. As such, she is particularly interested in feminist political ecologies, feminist and Marxist critiques of ‘expertise,’ environmental subjectivity, and critical Thai studies. She served as Conference Chair of the 10th Annual Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference and has master’s research and horticulture work experience in Bangkok, Thailand.
Jaimey Hamilton Faris is Associate Professor of Art History and Critical Theory and affiliate faculty in Pacific Islands Studies, International Cultural Studies, and Environmental Humanities at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa. Her research focuses on global infrastructures, ecologies, and creativities including Uncommon Goods: The Global Dimensions of the Readymade (2013); a special issue of Art Margins on Capitalist Realism (2015); a volume of experimental eco-criticism, The Almanac for the Beyond (2019); and the exhibition, Inundation: Art and Climate Change in the Pacific (2020). She is currently working on a book project about contemporary “water art” practices.
Michelle Harangody is a PhD candidate in the Geography and Environment department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her work engages with political ecology, STS, neoliberal conservation, and critical tourism studies through analyses of coral conservation and restoration. Her dissertation research, supported by the Fulbright US Student Program, examines the political ecology of coral restoration in Thailand at the conservation-tourism nexus. She received a B.A. and M.S. in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and an M.A. in Geography from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
Laura Williams is a PhD candidate in the Geography and Environment department at the University of HawaiʻiMānoa. She is interested in the relationship between shifting agrarian environments and processes of capital accumulation, urban development, alienation, and increasing rural inequality. Her dissertation is looking at these themes on the island of Kauaʻi through the analysis of alternative agriculture and its related activism. She has previously worked on university and community college sustainability programming, farming, and outdoor recreation projects. She received her MS in Geography and Environmental Resources from Southern Illinois University.
Foley Pfalzgraf is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Supported by a Fulbright-Hays award, her dissertation research interrogates the role of nature-based solutions, particularly carbon forest offsetting, in Vanuatu and the extent to which these programs are able to meaningfully provide climate justice. She draws inspiration from theories in Pacific studies, political ecology, and STS. Foley has experience working in community-based economic development in Hawaiʻi as well as at environmental nonprofits. She received her BA in International Studies from American University, an MSc in Nature, Society, and Environmental Governance from the University of Oxford, and an MA in Geography from the University of Hawaiʻi.
Aya H. Kimura is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai`i-Mānoa. Her research is broadly focused on agro-food issues, gender, and technoscience. Her books include Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima (Duke, recipient of the Rachel Carson Book Award from the Society for Social Studies of Science) and Hidden Hunger: Gender and Politics of Smarter Foods (Cornell, recipient of the Outstanding Scholarly Award from the Rural Sociological Society). She is currently conducting a project on agrobiodiversity and fermentation.
Brendan Flanagan is a PhD student in the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. His ongoing research project is focused on the politics of forest conservation in Southern Myanmar. He is interested in how different conceptions of the natural world run up against each other and the tensions that arise from those encounters. He is currently thinking about how particular places, understood as intersections of materials, knowledge, and skills, come to be central to people’s ethical and political engagements.
Ci Yan Sara Loh is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Her research broadly focuses on centering indigenous ecological knowledge in the spaces where disaster, development, and social justice collide in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia, where she is from. She has previously worked in social and environmental policy, community development, and heritage conservation in Malaysia. She received her MA in Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation from the University of Sussex and a BA in Music and Development from Smith College.
Leah Bremer is Research Faculty with the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization and the Water Resources Research Center. As a human-environment geographer by training, she views social and environmental challenges and solutions as critically linked and works on a variety of collaborative projects focused on sustainable and equitable water and environmental management in Hawaiʻi and Latin America. She is also cooperating faculty in UH Mānoa’s Departments of Geography and Environment, Natural Resources and Environmental Management, and the Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific, as well as a Research Associate at Fundación Cordillera Tropical, an NGO in Ecuador.
Promoting POLLEN collaboration
Do you write with other members of POLLEN?
To gain visibility for collaborations across our network, we invite you to consider adding something along these lines to your acknowledgments: “This paper represents collaborative work with colleagues in the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”
Adams, S., Farrelly, T., & Holland, J 2021. Non-formal Education for Sustainable Development: A Case Study of the ‘Children in the Wilderness’ Eco-Club Programme in the Zambezi Region. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 117-139,DOI:<10.1177/0973408220980871>
Al-Saidi, M., & Hussein, H 2021. ‘The Water-Energy-Food Nexus and COVID-19: Towards a Systematization of Impacts and Responses’, Science of the Total Environment, vol. 779, DOI:<10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146529>
Atkins, E., Follis, L.,Neimark, B. D. and Thomas, V 2021. ‘Uneven development, crypto-regionalism, and the (un-)tethering of nature in Quebec’, Geoforum, Vol. 122, pp. 63-73, DOI:<10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.12.019>
Barnaud, C., Fischer, A., Staddon, S., Blackstock, K., Moreau, C., Corbera, E., Hester, A., Mathevet, R., McKee, A., Reyes, J., Sirami, C., & Eastwood, A 2021. ‘Is Forest Regeneration Good for Biodiversity? Exploring the Social Dimensions of an Apparently Ecological Debate’, Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 120, pp. 63-72, DOI:<10.1016/j.envsci.2021.02.012>
Bluwstein, J., Asiyanbi, A.P., Dutta A., et al 2021.‘Commentary: Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future. Frontiers in Conservation Science. DOI:<10.3389/fcosc.2021.666910>
Büscher, B. & Fletcher, R. 2020. The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature beyond the Anthropocene. A review by Rogelio Luque-Lora. The Philosopher, pp. 94-99.<https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349145238_ Living_with_Nonhumans_A_review_of_The_Conservation_Revolution_Radical_ Ideas_for_Saving_Nature_Beyond_the_Anthropocene#fullTextFileContent>
Ece, M. 2021. ‘Creating property out of insecurity: territorialization and legitimation of REDD+ in Lindi, Tanzania’, The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law. DOI: <10.1080/07329113.2021.1900512>
Farrelly, T. A., Borrelle, S.B., & Fuller, S. 2021. The strengths and weaknesses of pacific islands plastic pollution policy frameworks. Sustainability. Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 1-42. DOI:<10.3390/su13031252>
Ferguson, C.E. 2021. A rising tide does not lift all boats: Intersectional analysis reveals inequitable impacts of the seafood trade in fishing communities. Frontiers in Marine Science, DOI: <10.3389/fmars.2021.625389>
Holm, Nick. 2020. Consider the (Feral) Cat: Ferality, Biopower, and the Ethics of Predation. Society & Animals, pp. 1-17, DOI: <10.1163/15685306-BJA10006>
Jakobsen, J & Westengen O.T 2021. The imperial maize assemblage: maize dialectics in Malawi and India. The Journal of Peasant Studies. pp. 1-25, DOI: <10.1080/03066150.2021.1890042>
Massarella, K., Nygren, A., Fletcher, R., Büscher, B., Kiwango, W.A., Komi, S., Krauss, J.E., Mabele, M.B., McInturff, A., Sandroni, L.T. and Alagona, P.S. 2021. ‘Transformation beyond conservation: how critical social science can contribute to a radical new agenda in biodiversity conservation’, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Vol. 49, pp.79-87. DOI:<10.1016/j.cosust.2021.03.005>
Mitchell, A., Farrelly, T., & Andrews, R. 2020. ‘We’re Hands-on People’: Decolonising Diabetes Treatment in an Aboriginal Community in Northern Territory, Australia. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology & Cultural Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 5-18.
Radhuber I. M. & Chávez León M. &Andreucci D., (2021) “Expansión extractivista, resistenciacomunitaria y ‘despojo político’ en Bolivia”, Journal of Political Ecology, Vol. 28, No. 1. pp. 205-223. DOI:<10.2458/jpe.2360>
Van der Hoeven, Sara. 2021. Guns and Conservation: Protecting Wildlife and Ensuring “Peace and Security” in Northern Kenya. Mambo! Vol. XVIII, no. 1. <https://mambo.hypotheses.org/3043>
Vela-Almeida, D., Torres, N. 2021. ‘Consultation in Ecuador: institutional fragility and participation in National Extractive Policy’, Latin American Perspectives, pp. 1-20. DOI: <10.1177/0094582X211008148>
Voskoboynik, D. M., & Andreucci, D 2021. “Greening extractivism: Environmental discourses and resource governance in the ‘Lithium Triangle’.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.DOI:<10.1177/25148486211006345>
Sustainable and Personal Urban Mobility-Pluridisciplinary Perspectives on Personal Mobility in the Urban Landscape
This highly interdisciplinary book will gather information on scholarly thinking, research projects, case studies, and other initiatives which may showcase how sustainability and urban mobility may be integrated. Encompassing aspects of general sustainability, but also legal aspects, ethical components, and sociological, health, and economic considerations on personal mobility in the shared urban landscape, the book will amass a comprehensive body of information and expertise, providing a unique contribution to the literature on the topic. As such, it will be a timely resource for policymakers, academia, universities, and the concerned citizen trying to make sense of the rapid changes in the urban environment and to foresee what the near future will bring.
Expressions of interest to contribute to the book, consisting of 500 words extended abstract introducing the topic, approach, and methodology, and providing the author(s) contact details, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline is 10th July 2021. Full papers are due by 10th October 2021. The chapters in final form should be between 4,000 – 7,000 words including references.
Special Issue on Promises of growth and sustainability in the bioeconomy of the Journal for Sustainable Consumption and Production
The aim of this Special Issue is to shed light on the nexus of sustainability, technology, and growth within the bioeconomy from multidisciplinary, critical, and constructive perspectives.
The deadline is 30th June 2021. Papers will be peer-reviewed and the aim is to have final papers accepted and sent to production by 30th November 2021, which should mean the special issue can be finalized by the end of the year/early 2022. All information you need as an author with this journal you can find here.
Decentering urban climate finance: Relational comparison in theory and practice
As a network of scholars researching urban finance and climate action from a variety of perspectives, this research expands such agenda theoretically and empirically. With this workshop series funded by the Urban Studies Foundation, the structured dialogue and relational comparison across places, practices, markets, and beyond will be fostered.
Participants selected will meet for two workshops in Durham (UK) in October 2021 and Zurich (Switzerland) in May 2022. The paired workshops and collective writing process will produce a special issue in an urban studies journal, focused on exploring and furthering these broadened geographies of climate finance. The workshops will also promote longer-term networking and collaboration opportunities for participants (e.g. cross-promotion of research through the UrbanCliFi network website; work toward larger research bids).
A two-day long, online conference on “The farmers’ protest, a pioneering field for social sciences” on the 14th and 15th of May 2021. This event will take place under the aegis of OP Jindal Global University (Haryana) and with the support of the Global Environmental Justice (GEJ) Group of University of East Anglia (UK).
The multidisciplinary online conference will make room for a wide range of approaches of a major social movement, including political science, sociology, anthropology, geography, history, law, and economy; presentation formats will include academic papers, field notes, work in progress, and talks by activists & journalists. It will gather established and renowned scholars from agrarian studies and other fields, as well as early-career researchers and PhD students from India, France, the UK, the US, and more…
The postdoctoral fellow will be a core team member of re-Engineered, an interdisciplinary group at Arizona State University that is working to build a social movement of engineering for environmental protection and social justice. See www.reengineered.org for more detail.
The postdoctoral fellow will build on the foundations of a project funded by the National Science Foundation and a number of other projects.
An AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award at the University of Hull The project is titled ‘Mahogany, Enslaved Africans, Miskito Indigenous People at Chiswick House, Kenwood, and Marble Hill London’ and will be supervised by Professor Joy Porter (University of Hull) and Dr.Esmé Whittaker (English Heritage).
The four-year PhD programme will explore the cultural significance and intercultural narratives surrounding mahogany in U.K. heritage environments. It will examine mahogany-related processes of exchange that link three English Heritage properties (Chiswick House, Kenwood and Marble Hill, London), Miskito-African American Indigenous environmental brokers, and enslaved Africans in the West Indies and Central America.
The Institute of Development Studies is looking for people to record short videos about what climate justice means to them, and why it’s important. If you can get involved, please email Sophie Robinson at email@example.com for more details and instructions. The videos will be shared via social media as part of the build-up to the COP26 climate conference.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
POLLEN 2022 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
PERC 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 Farrellyis 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 Taffelco-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.
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
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 (email@example.com) 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.
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.
¿Te gustaría conocer el funcionamiento de las clases, los objetivos y el temario?
El jueves 18 de febrero, a las 2 p.m. México, tendrás la oportunidad de hablar directamente con los profesores durante la videoconferencia de presentación del curso. En ella, los docents harán una introducción a la temática que se trabajará, presentando la metodología que será desarrollada y podrás resolver cualquier duda que tengas.
¿Cómo? ¡Ingresa aquí y reserva tu plaza para la sesión de presentación!
Si este día no te viene bien, no te preocupes. Apúntate y te enviaremos la grabación de la videoconferencia al día siguiente.
Online course “Socio-environmental Crisis in Latin America” (third edition)
Would you like to know the syllabus?
On Thursday, February 18, 2p.m. Central Standard Time (CTS), you will have the opportunity to hear the instructors talk about the course´s main goal, syllabus and evaluation requirements. They will answer any questions you might have. Hope to see you then!
How? Access here and reserve your spot for this event!
If this day doesn’t suit you, don’t worry! Sign up and the next day we will send you the recording.
The academic journal Iberoamérica Social is organizing the first edition of “Diálogos Iberoamericanos“, a virtual venue to learn about the work of researchers in social sciences. On this occasion, scholars from different countries will be speaking about socio-environmental conflicts in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Date: February 12, 2021.
Time: 14h Mexico / 17h Brazil / 21h Spain.
You can join and get more information about this event through Facebook and/or YouTube.
Presenter: Raul Olmedo (UNAM, Mex)
Discussant: Adriana P. Gómez Bonilla (UAM-Iztapalapa, Mex)
Socio-environmental conflicts in Latin America and the Caribbean: A regional analysis from a Political Ecology perspective, Marx José Gómez Liendo (IVIC, Ven).
Cerro de Pasco and the development paradox: Imagining a transition to post-extractivism for a territory dependant on extractivism, Flavio Vila Skrzypek (UCAL, Perú).
Effects of hydroelectric megaprojects on indigenous gastronomy. The case of the San Felipe Usila municipality, Oaxaca Mexico, Carolina Mejía Martínez (Mexico).
Social nature, social divides and social media: an insight into tourism development in Argentinean highlands, Yancen Diemberger (Univ. of Exeter, Eng).
The mass-media in the disputes about nature. A theoretical-methodological design for the study of socio-environmental conflict in digital newspaper sources, Maryhlda Victoria Rivero Corona (IVIC, Ven).
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.