Geopolitical Ecologies of Violence and Resistance

Call for Proposals: POLLEN20

Call for participants
Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers: Benjamin Neimark b.neimark@lancaster.ac.uk & Patrick Bigger, Lancaster University, p.bigger@lancaster.ac.uk; Oliver Belcher, Durham University, oliver.belcher@durham.ac.uk; and Andrea Brock, University of Sussex, A.Brock@sussex.ac.uk

In early October 2019, hundreds of frontline fossil fuel protesters took direct action against hard coal infrastructure across Germany. Under the banner of #deCOALonize, they blockaded railways, ports and utility companies, demanding an end to ‘coal colonialism’ and an immediate phase-out of coal combustion. The state response was predictable: physical violence by police officers, harsh policing and holding protesters for days in custody following nonviolent action. Still making the rounds in the same media cycle was the story of drone strikes targeting the Aramco oil facility in Saudi Aribia, knocking out 50 percent the Saudi’s capacity and 5 percent of global supply. While we generally understand the casual links between fossil fuels and geopolitics, less studied are the direct and indirect geopolitical entanglements of fossil fuel violence – violence against those resisting them, and the inherent violence to humans and ecosystems.

In this session, we look to these events and others as a way to bring together scholars’ understandings of violence, resistance and critical geopolitics of, and through, nature. Beyond direct violence, we also include more entrenched/indirect forms, such as criminalisation, stigmatisation and framings as domestic extremist or eco-terrorism and allowing for looking at more bureaucratic forms of violence, and everyday policing (by non-police – e.g. welfare state, teachers).

We hope to expand on work in geopolitical ecology and other similar frameworks to explore new considerations of contemporary violence and resistance – the role of institutional, state and non-state actors in violent encounters over planetary futures. We also hope to open up our geographic focus of fossil fuels to violence surrounding different forms of energy lock-ins and carbon-based infrastructures and discourses, including alternative energy and financial schemes around carbon trading and exchange. We are also interested in new forms of resistance to fossil-fuelled institutional violence – from digital (e.g., guerrilla archiving, hacktivists) to grassroots student strikes– are now being used to contest against such violence. In doing this, we aim to grapple with the complex picture of what successful resistance might look like. How can diverse coalitions be formed between environmentalists and anti-imperialism activists? How are environmentalists confronting militarism? How are anti-war activists confronting climate change? What political formations can be forged to facilitate a climatically changed future that is just, liveable, and sustainable? How do we envision a world of less violence – environmental and imperial?

Papers in any form may address a broad number of topics related to geopolitical ecologies of violence and resistance, including but not limited to:  

  • Pipelines and pumps
  • Theoretical, empirical, and/or methodological interventions that critically (re)assess the nature-state relationship regarding violence
  • Frontline and back-end resistance, from ‘tree-huggers’ to eco-hacktivists
  • Resistance to eco-state restructuring under multiple ‘Green New Dealings’
  • Paramilitarities and ‘ramping up’ by non-states
  • Climate change adaptation/mitigation, statecraft, and security
  • New hegemonies of ‘green’ political-economic power
  • ‘Green’ developmentalism and violent dispossession
  • War/violence and biodiversity/resource conservation
  • Settler-colonial environmentalisms
  • Financing violence through MDBs or transnational banks
  • Links between ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ violence

Please send abstract of 250 words or less to Ben Neimark, b.neimark@lancaster.ac.uk by November 4th 2019.

CfP POLLEN20 – Irrigation issues in emerging economies

The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organisers

This session is being organized by Adnan Mirhanoglu (adnan.mirhanoglu@kuleuven.be) and Maarten Loopmans (Maarten.Loopmans@kuleuven.be). Please submit abstracts between 250 and 500 words and full contact details to both organizers by the 28 of October 2019.

Session description

In countries like China, India, Turkey, Brazil, Ethiopia, rapid social and economic changes are affecting the countryside. Rural-to-urban migration, agricultural modernization and the emergence of new economic sectors are all changing the demography and socio-economic relations in rural areas. Whereas new large scale irrigation projects create social, environmental and political tensions on their own (Madramootoo and Fyles, 2010; Boelens, Shah & Bruins, 2019), traditional irrigation systems are equally facing new challenges, as demands for water change, climate change is affecting availability, new water users appear on the scene, and political and infrastructural changes are demanding new forms of water governance (Gany, Sharma & Singh, 2019). In this session, we want to discuss and theorize the particular issues, conflicts and challenges related to irrigation water governance in emerging economies.

Irrigation systems have always been fraught with power imbalances and conflicts of interest, and poses particular theoretical challenges to theory-making (.e.g Ostrom & Gardner, 1993). Present-day socio-economic  transitions exacerbate these tensions, and presents us with new practical and theoretical dilemma’s (Playan, Sagardoy & Castillo, 2018; Ahlborg & Nightingale, 2018;) which we hope to discuss in this session. We invite both theoretical and empirical papers on irrigation governance and economic expansion in emerging economies. We are particularly keen on discussing multiscalar analyses linking interpersonal, water network and national/global political economy. The following topics (non-exhaustive) can be considered:

  • small and large scale irrigation infrastructures and water justice
  • head- and tail-ender conflicts under global market pressure
  • gendered and racialized politics of irrigation
  • infrastructural modernization and changing power relations
  • climate change, land use change and irrigation politics

References

Ahlborg, H. and A.J. Nightingale 2018. Theorizing power in political ecology: the where of power in resource governance projects. Journal of Political Ecology 25: 381-401.

Boelens, R., A. Shah & B. Bruins (2019) Contested knowledges: large dams and mega-hydraulic development, Water 11: 416-443.

Gany, A. H. A., Sharma, P., & Singh, S. (2019). Global Review of Institutional Reforms in the Irrigation Sector for Sustainable Agricultural Water Management, Including Water Users’ Associations. Irrigation and Drainage68(1), 84-97.

Harris, L. M. (2006). Irrigation, gender, and social geographies of the changing waterscapes of southeastern Anatolia. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space24(2), 187-213.

Madramootoo, C. A., & Fyles, H. (2010). Irrigation in the context of today’s global food crisis. Irrigation and Drainage: The journal of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage59(1), 40-52.

Ostrom, Elinor, Roy Gardner. (1993) “Coping with Assymetries in the Commons: Self-Governing Irrigation Systems Can Work”. Journal of Economic Perspectives – Vol 7, Number 4, pp.93-112.

Playán, E., Sagardoy, J., & Castillo, R. (2018). Irrigation governance in developing countries: Current problems and solutions. Water10(9), 1118.

Köpke, S., Withanachchi, S. S., Pathiranage, R., Withanachchi, C. R., & Ploeger, A. (2019). Social–ecological dynamics in irrigated agriculture in dry zone Sri Lanka: a political ecology. Sustainable Water Resources Management5(2), 629-637.

 

CfP POLLEN20 – Towards a political ecology of renewable energy

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
24-26 June 2020
Brighton, UK

Session organizers: Stephanie Borchardt, Boitumelo Malope, and Michela Marcatelli, Stellenbosch University

Session abstract

Calls for a rapid transition to renewable energy as a solution to climate change and ecological crisis are currently rampant and across the board, from the US Senate, where the Green New Deal is being debated, to the streets of many countries around the world, where the social movements Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future have been protesting. Most of the time, however, these calls fail to recognize how renewables are deeply embedded in a system of capital accumulation powered by fossil fuels and how they too contribute to its reproduction.

Recent years have also seen a resurgence of interest in engaging with renewable energy from a critical perspective, also within the field of political ecology (Lawrence 2014; McCarthy 2015; Avila 2017; Siamanta 2017; Dunlap 2018a, 2018b; Franquesa 2018; Hornborg, Cederlof and Roos 2019; McCarthy and Thatcher 2019; Siamanta 2019). This scholarship has focused on the processes of appropriation, dispossession, and displacement  ̶  but also resistance  ̶  that underpin the ‘green’ energy transition. For instance, McCarthy (2015) argues that such transition constitutes a ‘socio-ecological fix’ to capitalism’s inherent tendency to crisis, whereby new processes of commodification remake socio-natures for the purpose of sustaining further capital accumulation. In this sense, then, renewable energy is better understood through the lens of land and green grabbing. Furthermore, Dunlap (2018b) has coined the phrase ‘fossil fuel+’ to capture the dependency of utility-scale renewable energy on fossil fuels, especially for the production, installation, and maintenance of new, green energy infrastructure.

This session aims at taking stock of current research on renewables (wind, solar, and geothermal) in the Global North and the Global South with a view to rethink a political ecology of renewable energy. We therefore invite papers that address the following questions, among others:

  • Whose land is targeted for renewable energy production and who decides?
  • What are the socio-environmental consequences of such land-use change, especially in terms of rural labour and livelihoods?
  • How is renewable energy contested?
  • What is the role of the state in supporting the green energy transition, both materially and discursively? 
  • Who is investing in renewable energy and what is the role of financial capital?
  • How does renewable energy contribute to energy security and to reducing inequality in energy access?
  • How does the green energy transition intersect with historical processes of marginalization and dispossession?

If you would like to join this discussion, please send your paper abstract (max. 250 words) to mmarcatelli@sun.ac.za by October 27.

References

Avila, S. (2017) ‘Contesting energy transitions: Wind power and conflicts in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec’, Journal of Political Ecology 24(1): 992-1012.

Dunlap, A. (2018a) ‘Counterinsurgency for wind energy: The Bíi Hioxo wind park in Juchitán, Mexico’, The Journal of Peasant Studies 45(3): 630-652.

Dunlap, A. (2018b) ‘End the “green” delusions: Industrial-scale renewable energy is fossil fuel+’, Verso Blog, May 10, 2018. Available at: https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3797-end-the-green-delusions-industrial-scale-renewable-energy-is-fossil-fuel.

Franquesa, J. (2018) Power struggles: Dignity, value, and the renewable energy frontier in Spain. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hornborg, A., G. Cederlöf and A. Roos (2019) ‘Has Cuba exposed the myth of “free” solar power? Energy, space, and justice’, Environment and Planning E 2(4): 989-1008.

Lawrence, R. (2014) ‘Internal colonisation and indigenous resource sovereignty: Wind power developments on traditional Saami lands’, Environment and Planning D 32(6): 1036-1053.

McCarthy, J. (2015) ‘A socioecological fix to capitalist crisis and climate change? The possibilities and limits of renewable energy’, Environment and Planning A 47(12): 2485-2502.

McCarthy, J. and J. Thatcher (2019) ‘Visualizing new political ecologies: A critical data studies analysis of the World Bank’s renewable energy resource mapping initiative’, Geoforum 102: 242-254.

Siamanta, Z.C. (2017) ‘Building a green economy of low carbon: The Greek post-crisis experience of photovoltaics and financial “green grabbing”’, Journal of Political Ecology 24(1): 258-276.

Siamanta, Z.C. (2019) ‘Wind parks in post-crisis Greece: Neoliberalisation vis-à-vis green grabbing’, Environment and Planning E 2(2): 274-303.

Tropical Forest (Double) Standard – Dead on Arrival?

Kathleen McAfee

Professor of International Relations

San Francisco State University

kmcafee@sfsu.edu

September 25, 2019

On September 19, after a day of intense debate, the California Air Resources Board endorsed the contentious proposal for a Tropical Forest Standard (TFS) designed to allow California companies to offshore the consequences of their greenhouse-gas emissions to communities and ecosystems in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The resulting document may mean little in practice: the vote of 4 to 7 with one abstention was the narrowest vote in the memory of the Board. To persuade reluctant Board members, the Chairperson insisted that there is presently no intention of applying the Standard in California. Even those voting for the TFS expressed serious misgivings about it, and growing numbers of California legislators are skeptical of expanding offsetting options in the state’s climate policy.

The TFS debate was dramatic, with moving testimony against the TFS by indigenous representatives from Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, and Indonesia and a strong showing from environmental justice organizations, with the California Environmental Justice Alliance in the lead. These activists were supported by Friends of the Earth, Amazon Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, members of Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and 350.org among others, and by many academics who signed our scholars’ open letter, met with ARB members and legislators, and posted public comments.

The lead organizations promoting the TFS have been the Environmental Defense Fund and Earth Innovations Institute, along with emissions trading entrepreneurs, some indigenous and Latin American government officials, the oil industry lobby (Western States Petroleum Association), and others of the state’s biggest GHG emitters who are also the main users of offsets in California.

The TFS is a list of criteria that was meant to lay the groundwork for a Tropical Forest Sector Offset Protocol under which emitters of GHGs in California could buy offsets from rainforest regions. Under such a protocol, the ARB would allow the use of offset credits sold by national or subnational governments in developing countries that report reduced rates of deforestation if such claims of success are confirmed by technical consultants according to stipulations laid out in the TFS. Companies that buy the credits could then release more GHGs than they could otherwise legally emit under the state’s cap-and-trade system.

But the TFS may prove to be dead on arrival. It is doubtful that any jurisdiction in the global South can honestly comply with the TFS requirements in the present or near future, given their current rates of deforestation and the profitability of the forest-destroying agribusiness and mining that are the main direct drivers of tropical deforestation. It is nevertheless possible that some rainforest states may claim adherence with the TFS and request CA open its cap-and-trade system to their REDD+ credits, taking advantage of the TFS’s vague provisions for determining whether, when, and why deforestation has increased or decreased in their territories.

Similarly to other systems that have allowed trade in carbon credits, California law, restated in the TFS, requires that offsets be “real, additional, quantifiable, permanent, verifiable and enforceable”. The TFS would not be able to ensure that offset credits generated by states or provinces linked to California could meet these criteria, for reasons our researchers’ group has outlined in our submissions to the ARB.

Were a California offset protocol based on the TFS to be developed, it would need an administrative structure, procedures for monitoring implementation in the linked tropical jurisdictions, and a process for adjudication of the conflicts and grievances that would inevitably arise. No such structure exists, nor does the ARB have the mandate and capacity to develop one. But states or industry organizations might claim to be applying the California standard even apart from any formal protocol and oversight mechanism in California. In the likely event that any such offsetting schemes prove problematic, California’s claim to global climate leadership could be discredited.

Many of the TFS proponents argued that, with the Amazon on fire, “California must do something now” even if the TFS is imperfect. Those arguments obscured the fact that applying the TFS would mean doing something that allows emissions increases in exchange for reductions that might not last or might not work – instead of doing what is known to work.

We academics who have supported the “No-TFS Allies” agree with that coalition’s view that offsets are a false promise and a distraction from the real task of reducing our fossil-fuel production, importing, exporting, and consumption here in California and worldwide. 

Market-based finance of conservation is a losing strategy. Revenue from sale of offset credits – markets for which depend on cheap offset prices – cannot compete with the profits from soy, oil palm, beef, minerals, and other extractive industries that are subsidized and promoted by the same governments that seek TFS or REDD+ funding, ostensibly for forest conservation.

As action to reduce GHG emissions has become more urgent worldwide, the role of transnational trade in offset credits in global climate policy is increasingly being questioned. This is the case in California climate policy, too, where offsetting already contributes to the too-slow pace of emissions reductions, and as the environmental injustice consequences of offsetting in California have become more apparent.

Meanwhile in New York, the UN chief has reported that 77 countries so far have pledged to become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050. That’s not ‘zero carbon’, so it is a positive step but one likely to entail a lot more offsetting. As a research community, we will need to watch any proposed TFS programs carefully and share our results. We have plenty more work ahead.

Kathleen McAfee

Professor of International Relations

San Francisco State University

kmcafee@sfsu.edu

September 25, 2019

Environmental Justice MOOC starts 14 October

EJ MOOC publicity photo

This free 5 week online course is open to everyone around the world. Understand how climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation affect people, exploring justice in environment management.

Learn with the University of East Anglia’s Global Environmental Justice Group – an interdisciplinary mix of scholars interested in social justice and environmental change.

Hear from activists around the world, and share your own experiences with other learners from many different backgrounds. The teaching is available in Spanish as well as English.

Join now! www.futurelearn.com/courses/environmental-justice

For more information please contact gej.group@uea.ac.uk

POLLEN 20 – Calling all PhD students and early career researchers: please contribute ideas!

The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) 
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
24 – 26 June 2020
Brighton, UK
#POLLEN20

As part of the upcoming Third Biennial conference of the Political Ecology Network in Brighton from 24-26 June 2020, a working group made up of postgraduate researchers at the University of Sussex and Brighton University are organizing a special track for PhD and early career researchers within the conference.

The goal of this special track two-fold. First, we aim to  create a space within the conference organized for and by junior researchers and activists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds who are focused, working on or practicing any aspects of political ecology. Second, we aim to ‘unconference’ POLLEN 20 by introducing ‘productively disruptive’ dynamics for the benefit of all attendees and participants.

At this time, we invite proposals and ideas from PhD and early career researchers for both formal and not-so-formal conference activities. These can involve things like field trips, theatre and role plays, visual arts, masterclasses or dynamic interventions within and around the conference. If you have an idea that you would like to discuss in advance of submission, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Please submit any ideas and proposals of 300-500 words by the 14th October 2019  to pollen.phd@gmail.com. Please include a description of your ideas or proposed activities and how you think these will benefit postgraduate researchers and the broader POLLEN network.