Conservation, culture, and consciousness: awakening to a re-imagined vision of nature co-existence

Cebuan Bliss, Radboud University

Conservation, culture, and consciousness: awakening to a re-imagined vision of nature co-existence

Do you have a personal ritual in nature? A place where you feel particularly connected and in awe of the intricacy of it all? Perhaps there is a special tree under which you seek solace, or a walk you take at sunrise just to hear the dawn chorus of birds. This is not unusual, as humans we have revered the natural world in our cultural and spiritual traditions throughout time. Nature is recognised as essential for our physical and psychological health (White et al., 2019). However, awareness of its necessity for our spiritual health has been lacking, especially outside of traditional contexts. But this is changing, and it is likely to benefit conservation too.

Conservation programmes historically relied on the ecological and natural sciences to achieve their desired outcomes, such as the recovery of a particular ecosystem or species, sometimes at the expense of certain displaced groups of humans and non-human entities. For example, the ‘fortress conservation’ model where parks are fenced off and local people excluded. The narrative in recent decades has become more inclusive of traditional beliefs and practices, understanding them as advantageous to conservation (Hill et al., 2020). This ontological turn requires more direct engagement with and explicit acknowledgement of indigenous knowledge (Todd, 2016). Nevertheless, more can be done to re-awaken a sacred awe for nature, not only in traditional settings, but also in modern cities and developed countries, where many have become disconnected from the natural world. Doing so may enhance conservation outcomes in a more ethical and equitable manner.

This so-called awakening of consciousness, encompassing new, re-imagined or personal spiritual practices is already occurring.  For example, growing numbers of people are embracing plant medicine (which includes the likes of ayahuasca and psilocybin-containing ‘magic’ mushrooms) to heal themselves and to connect to a higher spiritual dimension (Gandy et al., 2020). With the psychedelic decriminalisation movement gaining ground in the United States, this age of ‘awakening’ looks set to continue. Certain modern mindfulness techniques are also practiced for and within nature (Willard, 2020). People exploring such practices often develop a profound sense of connection with the natural world, which encourages them to protect and restore biodiversity within their own environ and beyond (Gandy, 2019).

Preparation for plant medicine ceremony, Netherlands, July 2019 (photo credit: James Calalang)

On fieldwork in the Netherlands, Kenya and South Africa, when asking different types of people who do not participate in traditional cultural practices whether they have a spiritual connection with nature, the answer was a resounding yes. Through such personal spiritual practices, people are becoming more conscious of their ecological footprint. Often these are individuals living in developed areas, whose consumption habits have a disproportional detrimental impact on biodiversity through the resources that have to be extracted from natural areas (often far from where they live), in order to produce the products they use (Wiedmann & Lenzen, 2018).

Consciousness calling

Concurrently, our understanding of consciousness – the ability to have subjective experiences – is evolving, and not just of our own. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness states that ‘humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness’, non-human animals also possess this ability (Low et al., 2012). This will have implications for what is considered ethical practice in biodiversity conservation. For example, there is increasing recognition of non-human sentience, such as enshrined in Article 13 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty (EU, 2012). There is also growing awareness of the sentience of cephalopods like octopus (Birch et al., 2021), and even plants are said to have their own form of intelligence (Calvo et al., 2019).

This recognition has paved the way for ideas such as compassionate conservation, in which the lives of animal individuals are valued in conservation, as well as species as a whole (Ramp & Bekoff, 2015), and multi-species justice, which sees non-humans as worthy subjects of justice (Treves et al., 2019). In practice, it is argued that ‘a comprehensive conservation ethic should promote an ethics-of-care together with the codification and enforcement of animal claims so as to provide explicit ethical guidance in our mixed-community’ (Santiago-Ávila & Lynn, 2020). Furthermore, some are calling for the recognition of animal agency in conservation, where interventions could even be co-designed with the animals themselves (Edelblutte et al., 2022; Hathaway, 2015). For example, choosing where to place wildlife road crossings based on the preferred routes of the animals living in the area (Greenfield, 2021). This would represent a radical departure from the conservation norm.

Lion in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, February 2022. Photo taken by the author.

Additionally, as more people begin to sense the inter-relationality of natural systems and beings, the important role of emotion in conservation is coming to the fore. It is argued that emotion is not detrimental to conservation (preserving our life-sustaining ‘Gaian mother’ is inherently emotive) and emotion can even be utilised to enhance conservation outcomes (Batavia et al., 2021). Such developments inevitably encourage the promotion of ethical and equitable principles in conservation.

Equitable beyond humans

In terms of making conservation more equitable, at least for the humans involved, strides have already been made. The Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) conceptual framework acknowledges different epistemological worldviews, including a spiritual dimension of ‘living-well in balance and harmony with mother earth’ (IPBES, n.d.).

Similarly, indigenous traditions and knowledge are recognised in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Post-2020 Framework, which is currently being finalised: ‘Recognition of intergenerational equity, including the transmission of knowledge, language and cultural values associated with biodiversity, especially by indigenous peoples and local communities’ (CBD, 2020).

In this wording, nevertheless, the spiritual dimension is omitted, and recognition of modern spiritual and cultural practices is missing. Therefore, at present, it seems that there is only tacit acknowledgement of more subjective worldviews. Lee et al. (2021) found in an analysis of leaders’ discourses at the CBD’s Conference of Parties (COP), that discourses which view nature as a spiritual entity were represented only marginally. Are we afraid to admit reverence for the scared in nature?

We needn’t be. Comprehending our relationality in this living system is prudent in order to secure ‘abundant futures’ for all (Collard et al., 2015). This could occur through a self-reflexive process of ‘worlding’; making plain and learning from the many ways we view the world, including in different spiritual dimensions (Inoue, 2018).

Poster at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, South Africa, April 2022. Photo taken by the author.

Some are pioneering this model of nature connectedness. For instance Londolozi, a private wildlife reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa, is reimagining conservation through ‘consciousness awakening’ and partnership with nature (Londolozi, 2022).

Transformative conservation

Building a more holistic model of conservation which acknowledges and promotes humans’ innate connection to the earth is possible and there is scope for scholars to fill this research void, explicitly acknowledging and engaging with indigenous ontologies in the process. In striving for objective conservation science, we have often been working against our innate biophilia, or love for the natural world. Recognising the value of new and re-imagined cultural and spiritual practices, in addition to traditional beliefs, has the prospect of transforming conservation. This would have implications from an ethical perspective, for example in how we manage so-called ‘invasive alien’ species or ‘surplus’ animals.

As greater numbers of people embrace the spiritual dimension of nature, it may be possible to make conservation not only more effective in terms of protecting and restoring biodiversity, but more ethical and equitable for humans and non-humans alike. A question we may wish to ask ourselves is what sort of relationship do we want with nature?


Batavia, C., Nelson, M. P., Bruskotter, J. T., Jones, M. S., Yanco, E., Ramp, D., . . . Wallach, A. D. (2021). Emotion as a source of moral understanding in conservation. Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.13689

Birch, J., Burn, C., Schnell, A., Browning, H., & Crump, A. (2021). Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans. Retrieved from

Calvo, P., Gagliano, M., Souza, G. M., & Trewavas, A. (2019). Plants are intelligent, here’s how. Annals of Botany, 125(1), 11-28. doi:10.1093/aob/mcz155 %J Annals of Botany


Collard, R.-C., Dempsey, J., & Sundberg, J. (2015). A Manifesto for Abundant Futures. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105(2), 322-330. doi:10.1080/00045608.2014.973007

Edelblutte, É., Krithivasan, R., & Hayek, M. N. (2022). Animal agency in wildlife conservation and management. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.13853

Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,  (2012).

Gandy, S. (2019). From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics and Nature Connection | Sam Gandy | TEDxOxford.

Gandy, S., Forstmann, M., Carhart-Harris, R., Timmermann, C., Luke, D., & Watts, R. (2020). The potential synergistic effects between psychedelic administration and nature contact for the improvement of mental health. Health psychology open, 7(2), 2055102920978123. doi:10.1177/2055102920978123

Greenfield, P. (2021, 29 December). Animal crossings: the ecoducts helping wildlife navigate busy roads across the world. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Hathaway, M. (2015). Wild elephants as actors in the Anthropocene. In T. H. A. Research (Ed.), Animals in the Anthropocene (Vol. 4, pp. 221-242): Sydney University Press.

Hill, R., Adem, C. i. d., Alangui, W. V., Molnár, Z., Aumeeruddy-Thomas, Y., Bridgewater, P., . . . Xue, D. (2020). Working with Indigenous, local and scientific knowledge in assessments of nature and nature’s linkages with people. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 43, 8-20. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2019.12.006

Inoue, C. (2018). Worlding the study of global environmental politics in the anthropocene: Indigenous voices from the Amazon. Global Environmental Politics, 18(4), 25-42. doi:10.1162/glep_a_00479

IPBES. (n.d.). Conceptual Framework. Retrieved from

Lee, S. H., Kang, Y. H., & Dai, R. (2021). Toward a More Expansive Discourse in a Changing World: An Analysis of Political Leaders’ Speeches on Biodiversity. Sustainability, 13(5), 2899. doi:10.3390/su13052899

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Ramp, D., & Bekoff, M. (2015). Compassion as a Practical and Evolved Ethic for Conservation. BioScience, 65(3), 323-327. doi:10.1093/biosci/biu223

Santiago-Ávila, F. J., & Lynn, W. S. (2020). Bridging compassion and justice in conservation ethics. Biological Conservation, 248, 108648. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108648

Todd, Z. (2016). An Indigenous Feminist’s Take On The Ontological Turn: ‘Ontology’ Is Just Another Word For Colonialism. 29(1), 4-22. doi:

Treves, A., Santiago-Ávila, F. J., & Lynn, W. S. (2019). Just preservation. Biological Conservation, 229, 134-141. doi:

White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., . . . Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 7730. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3

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International Conference of the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies (ZtG) at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Nature-Society Relations and the Global Environmental Crisis –
Thinking on Climate Change and Sustainability from the Fields of Intersectional Theory and Transdisciplinary Gender Studies

From Thursday, 4th May to Saturday, 6th May 2023
at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Senate Hall)

Human-made climate change has been a subject for science and politics for decades – and is more and more becoming one for the law. Society’s relations to the natural world have changed so much since the start of industrialization that global survival and life on Earth are being called into question. As early as the 1970s, the report for the Club of Rome highlighted the “limits of growth” for humankind. Almost from the outset of such research, the organization of the capitalist economy was identified as driving the ecological crisis. Sociological analyses identified the process of societal modernization as being fundamental to the collapse of our environment. Feminist positions understand the gendered hierarchies underlying the relationship between humans and the more-than-human world as being both the basic cause and the concrete expression of the global environmental crisis. These hierarchies extend to climate policy and law. At the same time, feminist perspectives offer visions of how this relationship can be rethought.

Political processes at various scales, from global to local, have been attempting to politicize and regulate the environmental crisis for more than 30 years. From the 1992 Earth Summit, which established the international and legally binding United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to the Fridays for Future movement and the recent wave of climate litigation, there have been numerous efforts to recognize climate change as not only a scientific phenomenon, but also as a societal conflict that must be negotiated and regulated politically. There are many proposals for a solution, ranging from legal regulation according to the “polluter pays” principle and demands for sustainable development through to overthrowing the capitalist economy. In this context, decolonial perspectives are becoming increasingly important, since they highlight the global historical links between colonialism and climate change and their contemporary continuities, in order to demand global social and environmental justice. Seemingly neutral legal, political, and scientific tools and discourses are shaped by cultural assumptions and narratives, and these in turn shape questions around what is deemed worthy of protection and of course what is (and is not) deemed ‘nature’ and ‘natural.’

The conference “Nature-Society Relations and the Global Environmental Crisis – Thinking on Climate Change and Sustainability from the Fields of Intersectional Theory and Transdisciplinary Gender Studies”approaches the topic from sociological, legal, geographical, economic, political, and cultural studies perspectives. Here, theoretical analyses of the hierarchical relationship between humans and the more-than-human world and the potent gender order inscribed in it are complemented by empirical studies on sociological, legal, economic and political aspects of specific entanglements of human and non-human agency.

Topics and Perspectives

The production of knowledge in relation to climate change is still strongly influenced by the natural sciences. Accordingly, notions of political and legal regulation assume that better insight is all that is required to convert this knowledge into creative power.

·       What counts as legitimate knowledge and which scientific systems shape this knowledge?

·       Who is included in the production of knowledge? Who is excluded from it? What forms of knowledge are suppressed?

·       Does the production and reception of knowledge (for example, in court proceedings) itself contribute to the problem of implementation? 

·       How can we deal with the complexity of the entangled layers of knowledge, power, and human and non-human agency in the governance of sustainability?

The translation of knowledge into action has long proved difficult in the field of environmental research. This can be justified by the complexity of societies’ relations with nature. 

·       Nonetheless, are there identifiable barriers to stagnation in environmental policy?

·       What significance does symbolic masculinity have for such policy?

·       Which legal norms imply gendered hierarchies?

·       What potential does the law hold for acting against climate change? How can we assess new approaches such as rights of nature and legal subjectivity for animals, forests, and bodies of water? What notions of nature and gender do these entities encounter in legal discourse?

·       What other images and narratives of the future – for example, from feminist science fiction or queer utopias – are necessary?

·       How are literature and art able to capture the global environmental and biodiversity crisis?

At the same time, manifold forms of protest, resistance, and legal action have always been part of environmental policy and politics. The scope of each of these forms of action varies and is shaped by societal discourse and power relations.

·      How can we break away from knowledge structures in practice? What forms of action hold promise, which actors engage in them and in what way, and what are their chances of success, and what successes have already been achieved? 

·       What challenges does the crisis in society-nature relations pose for transferring knowledge into practice?

·       Which narrative, visual and performative strategies do activists, filmmakers, writers and artists pursue to bring global environmental change to the attention of the public?

In extreme cases, interactions between humans and the more-than-human world elude political control, as the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown. Looking towards the future, the question of such interactions becomes more acute.

·       What forms of anticipatory political regulation are conceivable and required?

·       Which economic, social and legal provisions are urgent, considering the current crisis of nature-society relations?

·       What exactly needs to change (for example, in the law) so that interactions between humans and the more-than-human world receive greater recognition, and is such change possible? Are there areas that are particularly suited to these adaptations?

We invite contributions from all fields of study, in particular those that take intersectional approaches and investigate the complexities of nature-society relations and the global environmental crisis. We welcome abstracts for papers of 20 minutes length. Abstracts should not exceed 400 words. Please also include a short biography (50-100 words) with your submission.

Please submit your abstract and short bio by August 29th, 2022 in English or German to:

Confirmed speakers: Seema Arora-Jonsson (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Sumudu Atapattu (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Stephania Barca (University of Coimbra), Barbara Holland-Cunz (Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen), Martin Hultman (Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg), Hyo Jeong Kim (Ewha Womans University, Seoul), Sherilyn McGregor (The University of Manchester), Karen Morrow (Swansea University), Astrida Neimanis (The University of British Columbia), Kainyu Njer (Tesifa Initiatives and Shakti Rising)

The organizing team

Christine Bauhardt, Suse Brettin, Meike Brückner, Gabriele Jähnert, Sandra Jasper, Petra Sußner, Ida Westphal

Special Issue Call – Mitigation Deterrence and Carbon Removal in the Age of Net Zero

This is a call for papers that examine how the focus on net zero and carbon removal in current climate governance changes the dynamics of mitigation deterrence and climate delay (Carton et al., 2020). It invites contributions that in one way or another engage with empirical examples where (the promise of) carbon removal results in mitigation deterrence and delay.

In recent years, the climate conversation has moved towards an entirely new framing and discourse: Countries, municipalities, and various private actors have adopted the framing of ‘net zero’ as the new master narrative of global climate governance. The net zero narrative promises to balance out any remaining emissions with removals at some point in the near or medium-term future, and as of June 2022, 90% of country targets include net zero pledges[1].

In keeping with the rapid growth of the net zero conversation, a number of concerns are being raised about what such pledges actually mean, and what is or is not encapsulated in them (Fankhauser et al., 2022). A growing number of reports and analyses by scholars, NGOs and climate think tanks find that net zero pledges differ immensely in terms of their scope, transparency and implied climate ambition. Some pledges, e.g. by major oil and gas companies, amount to little more than greenwashing, while those of some other actors depict a clearer commitment to scaling up emission reductions (Day et al., 2022; Li et al., 2022; Oxfam, 2021).

A central question in the net zero debate concerns the question of climate delay. More specifically, whether or not the implied fungibility between removals and reductions (and residual emissions) presupposed by the ‘net’, and the enormous ambiguity and flexibility that such fungibility allows, is creating a new dynamic of climate delay, what scholars in recent years have called mitigation deterrence (McLaren et al., 2021). This literature has asked the question of whether the introduction of net climate targets, and the increasing focus on removals in policy and corporate discourse, create a distraction from the need to dramatically accelerate emission reductions.

The question of mitigation deterrence has lately stirred considerable academic debate. A common argument against mitigation deterrence is simply that we have to do both emissions reductions and carbon removal (Jebari et al., 2021), while others claim that this argument over-estimates how rationally managed society is and underestimates the influence of societal inertia and organised interests (Markusson et al., 2018). So far, much of the mitigation deterrence debate has taken place at a fairly abstract, theoretical, conceptual level. Few studies, however, have engaged with the empirical dimensions of mitigation deterrence in relation to carbon removal and net zero in practice.

Carbon removal is so far mostly a future promise, an imaginary of what climate governance might look like multiple decades from now. However, now we are seeing the development of actual carbon removal projects, carbon removal start-ups are popping up everywhere, and policy on removal is being developed in for example the European Union and the US (Schenuit et al., 2021). Significant amounts of funding are pouring into this field, including from wealthy philanthropists and large tech companies[2]. This creates an environment where it now becomes possible, much more than before, to engage with the empirics of mitigation deterrence for particular cases, across different geographies and temporalities. Doing so would enable the debate to move forward and ground some of the theoretical claims that have been made in the literature, and illustrate the need for policy makers to engage with the risks involved.

This special issue seeks to examine how carbon removal and the focus on net zero in current climate governance influence the dynamics of mitigation deterrence and climate delay. We invite papers that engage with this emerging empirical domain, focusing, but not exclusively, on:

  • How national and corporate net-zero pledges and carbon removal plans are translated into concrete policies and plans, including considerations of whether these remain future imaginaries or translate into concrete projects and actions on the ground;
  • How some places and ways of life – and associated emissions – are reimagined and/or transformed, while others are not because of carbon removal projects (Shue, 2019, Hickel 2022);
  • How carbon removal pilots and start-ups are funded and what networks of support they build on;
  • How different public or private actors mobilize carbon removal promises and narratives to legitimize existing carbon-intensive practices (Megura and Gunderson, 2022);
  • How graphs, numbers and science more broadly are mobilised by public entities, corporate players and other actors to promote carbon removal projects, and, potentially, distract attention from emissions reductions;
  • How certain continued activities and associated emissions are justified discursively as necessary, desirable and not possible to abate, and thereby conjure a need for (future) carbon removal;
  • How different actors call for, question or resist specificemissions reductions and carbon removal efforts and how they are discursively positioned to support specific transformations towards net zero/net negative (Gough and Mander, 2019);
  • How mitigation deterrence risks are perceived, and what attempts to counteract mitigation deterrence claims are undertaken in policy and/or projects;
  • How mitigation deterrence risks can be minimised or pre-empted;


Our timeline for the special issue looks like this:

  • August 1st – Send out the call
  • Mid-Sept – Abstract submission
  • Oct 1st – Confirmation to authors
  • Xmas – Draft papers submitted to special issue editors
  • Jan 31st – Feedback to authors
  • March 1st – Paper submission to journal
  • End of 2023 – Special issue published.

We are in conversation with journals about a suitable home for the special issue. Potential journals that we have thought to contact include: Global Sustainability, World Development, Environment and Planning E and Geoforum.

Please submit abstracts to us at by Thursday September 15th.

Best wishes,

Nils Markusson, Holly Buck, Wim Carton, Kate Dooley, Jens Friis Lund, Inge-Merete Hougaard and Camila Moreno.


Carton, W., A. Asiyanbi, S. Beck, et al. (2020) ‘Negative emissions and the long history of carbon removal’. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change.

Day, T., S. Mooldijk, S. Smit, et al. (2022) ‘Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022’.

Fankhauser, S., S.M. Smith, M. Allen, et al. (2022) ‘The meaning of net zero and how to get it right’. Nature Climate Change.

Gough, C. and S. Mander (2019) ‘Beyond Social Acceptability: Applying Lessons from CCS Social Science to Support Deployment of BECCS’. Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports 6(4). Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports: 116–23.

Hickel, J., & Slameršak, A. (2022). Existing climate mitigation scenarios perpetuate colonial inequalities. Lancet Planet Health, 6, e628-31.

Jebari, J., O.O. Táíwò, T.M. Andrews, et al. (2021) ‘From moral hazard to risk-response feedback’. Climate Risk Management 33.

Li, M., G. Trencher and J. Asuka (2022) ‘The clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell: A mismatch between discourse, actions and investments’. PLoS ONE 17(2 February).

Markusson, N., D. McLaren and D. Tyfield (2018) ‘Towards a cultural political economy of mitigation deterrence by negative emissions technologies (NETs)’. Global Sustainability.

McLaren, D., Willis, R., Szerszynski, B., et al. (2021) ‘Attractions of delay: Using deliberative engagement to investigate the political and strategic impacts of greenhouse gas removal technologies’. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Megura, M. and R. Gunderson (2022) ‘Better poison is the cure? Critically examining fossil fuel companies, climate change framing, and corporate sustainability reports’. Energy Research and Social Science 85.

Oxfam (2021) ‘Tightening the net: Net zero climate targets – implications for land and food equity’.

Schenuit, F., R. Colvin, M. Fridahl, et al. (2021) ‘Carbon Dioxide Removal Policy in the Making: Assessing Developments in 9 OECD Cases’. Frontiers in Climate 3(March): 1–22.

Shue, H. (2019) ‘Subsistence protection and mitigation ambition: Necessities, economic and climatic’. British Journal of Politics and International Relations.



Call for paper: Frontiers in Sustainability

How to Achieve a Planetary Health Diet Through System and Paradigm Change?

About this Research Topic

The call for a transformation toward planetary health diets (such as the one suggested by the EAT-Lancet Commission in 2019) is getting louder and more urgent. Such diets take into account not only human health, but also the ecological sustainability of global food systems and the natural systems that enable human societies to flourish. More recently the 2022 IPCC AR6 Working Group III report also acknowledged this point. The report suggests a shift towards more plant-based diets for high meat-consuming population groups, as these diets are considered by many to be essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation, for restoring damaged ecosystems, and for alleviating the sixth mass extinction of species.

Food-related consumer practices, consumer behaviours and characteristics (gender, class, etc.) have been the focus of significant and high-quality social science research. However, sustainability transformation in food systems is largely a political and power-related question. This Research Topic draws attention to prioritising questions of power in this context. How can we identify and influence drivers – beyond individual practices – to generate system and paradigm level change? The incumbent actors (e.g. various industries) and structures (e.g. those related to subsidies) strongly resist transformational change. For example, even when industry actors seemingly accept change, they prefer to align it with their own short-term business interests and existing technology infrastructures (e.g. monocultures) or invest in technical fixes that might help mitigate impact but not on the scale that is urgently required. The transformation is also a question of change agents at various levels and in various societal spheres including citizens and civil society organisations attempting to gain power or empowering themselves through ideas and action. Specifically, purposive change in food systems is also about discursive power, as well as about cultivating and establishing new values, norms, and paradigms, associated with the deeper, stronger leverage points for societal change. Last, but not least, it is a question of a transformation in food systems governance.

The overall goal of this Research Topic is to shed light on the above issues and challenges related to achieving planetary health diets on both a regional as well as global scale. We encourage papers focusing critically on the following topics:

• Challenging the power of the incumbent global food industry, and in particular of dominant meat industry actors
• Overcoming structural and infrastructural barriers in food system transformation
• Empowerment of various societal actors attempting radical change
• Breaking the cycle of inertia between governments, industry, and citizens, whereby inaction / low priority feeds itself
• Tackling the psychological barriers to the acceptance of the necessity of transformational food system change
• A just transition in food systems, considering the global South and the global North, as well as the indigenous peoples of these lands
• Global animal agribusiness vs. small-scale animal agriculture
• Discursive power, values, norms, worldviews, and paradigms either resisting or enabling change
• New policy tools for regulating food production and consumption, especially within governance, using principles of strong sustainability
• New business models for food industry actors, e.g. not-for-profit businesses
• The position of indigenous worldviews, land rights and politics in achieving planetary health diets
• Assessing the EAT-Lancet 2019 report on a planetary health diet and the discussion this landmark publication has generated
• Systemic transformation vs. responsibilization of “consumers”
• Analysis of the concept of “diet” regarding how it is leveraged in the context of food system transformation, and to what ends
• Historical, philosophical, societal, and cultural aspects of the idea of a diet for “planetary health”

This Research Topic welcomes original research papers, perspectives, theoretical and methodological papers, policy position papers, case studies, and reviews.

We look for abstracts between 250-300 words.

Keywords: food systems governance, planetary health diet, values, paradigms, sustainable food systems, strong sustainability, power, empowerment, just transition, plant-based diet, inertia

Abstract Submission Deadline 23 September 2022

Manuscript Submission Deadline 13 January 2023

More information:

Workshop ‘Social Ecology meets Political Ecology’

We will host a workshop at the Frankfurt node at ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research on the above topic. In 3 sessions we will explore the topics ‘Researching social-ecological conflicts – Bringing non-human entities into the analysis’ and ‘Synergy or contrast? When political ecology theoretical claims meet practical transdisciplinary challenges in social-ecological research projects’.

The workshop takes place on June 28 14:00-17:30 CET and June 29 14:00-18:00 CET. Participants can register online under the following links:

Topic 1: Researching social-ecological conflicts – Bringing non-human entities into the analysis (Day 1 and 2)

Research on environmental conflicts analyses mainly conflicts between social actors such as conflicts about resource distribution and access. These analyses generally treat nature as an object of contestations or stressor in human-nature interactions. Few authors from different research fields already started to incorporate non-human entities in the analysis asking for their active role and effects in environmental conflicts. As non-human entities, we understand for example animals, plants, soil, rivers, geomorphological formations and things. Incorporating non-humans as agents in the analysis enables to show the entanglements of social actors and non-human entities, which is key for opening up new understandings of the emergence, development and (non-)solution of environmental conflicts. These interrelations can have the form of a network, assemblage, interactions or interdependencies. The interrelations between society and nature are the research topic of Social Ecology and therefore we propose the new term of social-ecological conflicts, whose analysis treats social actors and non-human entities in an integrated way in the conflict analysis. This may involve integration of multiple ways of researching non-hu-mans, ranging from inter- and transdisciplinary approaches combining socio-empirical research methods and natural science methods applied to non-human conflict parties. We want to take stock of the different approaches to non-humans in environmental conflicts to discuss a defini-tion of social-ecological conflicts, the role and effect of non-human entities in conflicts and suit-able methods for the analysis of non-human entities as agents in social-ecological processes. We furthermore seek to explore the potential of social-ecological conflict analysis for conflict trans-formation.

Topic 2: Synergy or contrast? When political ecology theoretical claims meet practical transdisciplinary challenges in social-ecological research projects (Day 2)

Addressing crises in societal relations to nature involves co-creation of knowledge among multiple disciplines and practitioners. Research in transdisciplinary mode involves collaboration with key stakeholders from problem framing to deriving conclusions. At the same time, crises in societal relations to nature are tied to power imbalances, for instance in shaping discourse on ‘sustainability problems’. Addressing these in a transdisciplinary setting involves a series of practical questions, starting from the distribution of funding among the research and practice partners involved in a transdisciplinary research project, especially when conducted in North-South collaborations. Political ecology offers an enriching conceptual framework for systematically illuminating power asymmetries and uneven distributions of environmental change causes and impacts. While critical analyses provide key insights on how power relations reproduce crises in societal relations to nature, solution-oriented conclusions are rarely drawn. Here linking a political ecology lens with those of applied research and of practitioners appears promising. Transdisciplinary research implies the ambition of developing specific solutions towards sustainable and just development by bringing together multiple forms of knowledge. However, a tension evolves around normativity. Researchers are themselves embedded in a web of power relations, and often witness sensitive situations. They thus have to constantly reflect on being both, analytical observers and participants in social transformation processes. Against this backdrop, the panel seeks to take stock of challenges evolving around seeming contradictions, e.g. when working with actors who are subject to criticism, and the thereby arising double roles of actors involved (research subject, partner, analytical observer, participant in transformation) within applied research processes. We furthermore seek to explore the ethics of linking political ecology and transdisciplinary research approaches, methodologically and theoretically. In short, the panel aims to elaborate synergies and contradictions of political ecology approaches in relation to transdisciplinary social-ecological research.

Open call for contributions to an edited volume “Grounding China’s Belt and Road Initiative: The uneven effects of the New Silk Road on place, socionatures and livelihoods from the South, North and beyond”


– Elia Apostolopoulou, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, University of Cambridge; ICTA – Autonomous University of Barcelona

– Han Cheng, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

– Jonathan Silver, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

– Alan Wiig, Urban Planning and Community Development, University of Massachusetts Boston

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), announced in 2013 by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, is the single largest infrastructure project since the Marshall Plan with a scope and scale that has no precedent in modern history. It is estimated to cost up to US$8 trillion, involve 130 countries and an impressive number of corporate and state actors, and impact more than 65% of the world’s population. The BRI brings about novel
combinations of large-scale infrastructure and industrial projects i with major investments in the built environment: from railways, airports, ports, industrial parks, optical fiber networks, and special economic zones (SEZs), to smart cities, greenfield investments, real estate and commercial projects. China has already addressed a significant part of the global infrastructure gapii creating hopes that the BRI may create essential life-supporting infrastructures and services contributing to poverty reductioniii.

However, place-based communities across the globe are increasingly contesting the loss of livelihoods and housing due to the intensification of land grabbing, displacement, and dispossession processes, driving concerns that a new stage of BRI-driven socio-spatial and socio-environmental transformation is emerging which unevenly rescripts political ecologies across multiple scales from the urban to rural and

Emerging grounded research has offered important insights that point to the unequal geographies of BRI projects and the way places, natures and communities are profoundly affected. This includes empirical reflections on: land speculation and the uneven and gendered vulnerabilities for marginalized groups (e.g. women, migrant laborers) living and working in places where BRI projects are materialisedv ; the exclusion of vulnerable populations from mitigation programmes of infrastructure constructionvi; processes of accumulation, dispossession, and exploitation related to
the privatization of strategic infrastructurevii; the intensification of labour precarity, worsening of working conditions, and violation of worker’s rights; the creation of logistical spacesviii, infrastructural hubs, industrial zones, manufacturing areas and commercial projects that alter the geographies of everyday lives by, for instance, turning cities into industrial enclaves and BRI transit corridors. Despite the importance of these analyses for unraveling emerging inequalities, political ecology and critical geographical analyses focused on a comprehensive analysis of the links between BRI-driven transformation and inequality, including how the latter is differentiated along lines of class, gender and race, and an exploration of how different injustices are linked, are still missing from the literature. Further, the critical examination of the BRI’s trans-continental impact itself pushes scholars of political ecology to think across and between these emergent geographies.

In this volume, we invite interventions that offer grounded, real-world analyses of the effects of BRI projects on places, socionatures and livelihoods following political ecology and geographical approaches and drawing on grounded case studies from any location. Potential contributions may focus on, but are not limited to, the following topics:
 Theorizations of the ways BRI-driven transformation reconfigures patterns of inequality that build on and advance (urban) political ecology debates.
 Theoretical and empirical investigation of the links between different forms of inequality (social, economic, environmental, spatial).
 Analysis of the (uneven) ways BRI-driven transformation impacts on places, socionatures, and urban livelihoods.
 How already occurring policies of gentrification, urban regeneration, and city beautification interact with BRI projects.
 The material impacts of BRI projects to socio-natural metabolisms and the geographies of everyday life.
 How local contestation and social conflicts are co-producing Silk Road urbanizations on the ground and how people’s place-based struggles influence the outcomes of BRI projects.
 Methodologies of depicting spatial transformation (e.g. countermapping, storytelling, performance and arts, visualization techniques) and its
effects on places, livelihoods and the geographies of everyday life.
 Postcolonial, feminist, Indigenous and antiracist approaches to analyses of BRI-driven transformation.
 Countermapping practices, community and grassroots activism.
 Comparative methodologies, including relational analysis and countertopographies, from South, North and beyond.
 How the BRI articulates with urban/rural development, contested landscapes, and animal geographies in domestic China, especially the borderland regions.

We are particularly interested to receive chapters that draw on case studies from Africa and Latin America as well as Europe.

If you are interested in contributing to the edited volume, please send a chapter title and an abstract (max. 250 words) to Elia Apostolopoulou (, Han Cheng ( and Alan Wiig ( by June 15, 2022.

i Blanchard, J-M.F., Flint, C. (2017) The geopolitics of China’s maritime Silk Road initiative. Geopolitics 22, 223-245.
ii Chen, X. (2018) Globalisation redux: Can China’s inside-out strategy catalyze economic development and integration across its Asian borderlands and beyond? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 11(1), 35-58.
iii Liu, W., Dunford, M. (2016) Inclusive globalization: Unpacking China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Area Development and Policy 1, 323–340; Chen, X. (2018) Globalisation redux: can China’s inside-out strategy catalyze economic development and integration across its Asian borderlands and beyond? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 11(1), 35-58.
iv Apostolopoulou, E. (2021) Tracing the links between infrastructure-led development, urban transformation and inequality in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Antipode 53, 831-858.
v Murton, G., Lord, A. (2020) Trans-Himalayan power corridors: Infrastructural politics and China’s belt and road initiative in Nepal. Political Geography 77, 102100; Beazley, R., Lassoie, J. P. (2017) Himalayan mobilities: An exploration of the impact of expanding rural road networks on social and ecological systems in the Nepalese Himalaya. Springer, New York.
vi Dwyer, M.B. (2020) “They will not automatically benefit”: The politics of infrastructure development in Laos’s Northern Economic Corridor. Political Geography 78, 102118.
vii Neilson, B. (2019) Precarious in Piraeus: on the making of labour insecurity in a port concession. Globalizations 16, 559-574.
viii Gambino, E. (2019) The Georgian logistics revolution: questioning seamlessness across the New Silk Road. Work Organisation, Labour & Globalisation 13(1), 190-206.

Call for application: Weekend course in commons

By the Institute of Commoning

The Institute for Commoning, (InCommons) will be running a taster course in commons and commoning in the south of England from 24th-26th June.

The course is a taster for a programme of study for any adult learner who wants to explore the commons as an alternative and challenge to markets, the capitalist state and colonisation.

Course fee: free of charge, although participants will have to cover their own transport costs to get to the venue, which is on the South Downs just outside Brighton. Twenty (20) places are available for this taster course.

The background of the course is explained below and if you are interested in finding out more, please visit the website here, or fill in an application here. The closing date for applications is midnight UK time on Friday 27th May.


Our planet is getting hotter, people are going hungry in every country in the world, the oceans  are filling with plastics, species are disappearing and war is tearing lives apart. Governments,  corporations, think tankers and “opinion-formers” keep offering us the same old solutions,  packaged up in slightly different ways: “solutions” that keep them in power and in profit.  

It doesn’t have to be like this. People are rediscovering and creating new ways of working  together and remaking the world in ways that challenge the status quo and share power. People  are coming together in different ways to create and sustain commons. In practice, commoning  can be as various as indigenous peoples protecting and sustaining their territories, hackers  creating and curating free software, or the collectives that maintain maker spaces, bike co-ops,  neighbourhood health clinics…  


The Institute for Commoning has brought together world-leading scholars, international activists,  expert organisers and dedicated commoners with the aim of offering a programme of study for  any adult learner who wants to explore the commons as an alternative and challenge to markets,  the capitalist state and colonisation. This programme will be rigorous, exciting and roughly  equivalent to a Masters degree. 

In June 2022, we will be running a weekend residential taster course for anyone who wants to learn  more. 


Our programme’s name – Masters in Commons Administration (MCA) – signals its countering of  the ubiquitous and infamous Masters in Business Administration. We reject the MBA’s privileging  of self-interest, competition, and extraction. Instead we focus on collectivity, sustainability and  care. 

The MCA will provide a space, tools and intellectual resources that will enable learners to reflect on  their own practice and experiences, to learn from those of others, and to explore approaches they  may not have previously considered. Although we expect that learners’ experience of the MCA  will inform their subsequent practices – in organising, in activism, at work and so on – the aim of the MCA is broader and richer. It offers students the opportunity to discover and explore the myriad ways, throughout history and pre-history in which human beings have lived, loved, struggled, interacted with each other and with their environments.  

We are offering the MCA outside of the university system. There are great teachers and researchers  in many universities, but the system operates to hinder good pedagogy and scholarship, rarely  to enable it. (Never mind the exorbitant fees it extracts from students.) Modern formal education  appears to be doing its best to extract all the joy, discovery and creativity from learning. These  elements are ignored or even actively suppressed in the interests of meeting the needs of capital  and of producing good workers. We have had enough of this. We think that learning makes life  worth living and can equip people to be curious, to challenge, to take on the power structures that  are ruining so many lives and to simply enjoy exploring ideas, skills and experiences that make  their lives richer. That’s what study should be about and that’s what we intend to offer. 

Teaching will take place in English, through online lectures, workshops, training sessions and  discussion groups as well as, when it is safe and appropriate to do so, residential workshops of  2–5 days each. The MCA will be structured in modules, covering a range of topics, and drawing on  disciplines including, but not limited to: anthropology; critical race theory; ecology; gender studies;  history; organisation studies; political ecology; political economy; science and technology studies;  queer theory. It will make extensive use of case studies. Students will be invited to respond to the  materials and discussions they are offered in writing, speech, video, visual art or another format  appropriate to the theme. Students will also take on their own self-directed research and/or action.  The programme will be part-time and will typically take two years to complete. It will culminate  with an extended project, the student-scholar’s Masterpiece. 


The taster course will be UK-based and residential. It will run from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th  June 2022, in a site on the South Downs just outside Brighton. (The Institute for Commoning has  no site of its own and the residential courses will be offered in a range of venues that we hope will  be conducive to shared learning). There will be 20 places and it will be free of charge, although we  will be asking participants to cover their own travel costs to get to the venue if they are able.  There will be an introductory session online in mid-May, held in the evening UK time, where  potential participants can find out more and ask any questions they might have. If we have more  applicants than we have space for, we will run a selection process, which will involve potential  participants sending us an email, voicemail or video application.  

If you are interested in finding out more and coming along, please send an email to, or fill in the application form which you can find at or send a message via our website at  


The Rent Relation and Struggles over Distribution in the 21st Century

May 25 2022 8-10:30am EST / 1-3:30pm GMT / 2-4:30pm SAST / 5:30pm-8:00pm IST

School Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester

Zoom Registration Link: Seminar on Rent

Manuel Aalbers (KU Leuven) 

Callum Ward (London School of Economics)

Preeti Sampat (Ambedkar University Delhi)

Kai Bosworth (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Alex Loftus (King’s College London) 

Erik Swyngedouw (University of Manchester) 

Rent shapes the millennial geography of struggles over land and its more than human affordances. Rent emerges as an attribute of private property entitlements that are pivotal to capital. Appropriated in the moment of distribution, rent is nevertheless fundamental to coordinating the flows of value through the moments of production, circulation and consumption. Assetization of land and its affordances enables the appropriation of rent through wide-ranging investments in real estate, infrastructure, agriculture and extractive industry, in turn impacting access to housing, livelihoods, food security and multispecies life. State agencies across the world are instrumental to facilitating these investments through direct consolidation of land, or through enabling legal frameworks. How do we understand the growing role of rent in millennial capitalist accumulation? Is there a fundamental contradiction between the moment of production and the moment of distribution that the rent relation engenders and must contain for ongoing accumulation? Are rentier appropriations new, or how are they specific to this historical conjuncture of accumulation? How do they unleash speculative spirals, financial crises, ghost cities and failed infrastructure projects across variegated contexts? What is their role in reinforcing inequalities (or enabling contingent solidarities) along race, caste, class, gender, ethnicity and other power differences? What lessons do contemporary struggles against dispossession, over land, housing, livelihoods, food security and multi-species life hold, for understanding the geography of rent? This seminar addresses some preliminary questions around the millennial geography of rent and accumulation. 

CALL FOR ASSOCIATE EDITORS – African Geographical Review

Cover image for African Geographical Review


  1. Associate Editor—Human Geography
  2. Associate Editor—Physical Geography
  3. Associate Editor—Geospatial

Background to the Journal

The African Geographical Review (AGR) is a leading international peer reviewed journal for geographical scholarship relating to Africa. It publishes the highest quality research in all fields of geography, including human, nature – society, physical and the techniques. The journal publishes several types of articles, including research manuscripts, commentaries, methodological notes, field notes, featured reflections, and book reviews.

The overall aims of the AGR are to enhance the standing of geography of and in Africa, to promote better representation of African scholarship, and to facilitate lively academic conversations regarding the African continent. 

We are proud to highlight that significant number of AGR submissions come from African scholars working globally and Institutions on the African continent.

  1. ROLE

The Associate Editors will work with the Chief Editor on all aspects of the African Geographical Review, a refereed journal published by Taylor & Francis, on behalf of the African Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. The Associate Editors shall serve a 3-year term, and if interested and available, be re-appointed for a second 3-year term (for a maximum of 6-years). Associate Editors would have the opportunity to apply to become Chief Editor during their first or second term.

S/he must work hard to support the growth of the AGR which provides an excellent outlet for the publication of geographical material relating to Africa; enhancing the standing of African geography, and promoting a better representation of African scholarship. Additionally, s/he must commit themselves to ensuring that the journal maintains its reputation of publishing the best material on African geography scholarship. The Associate Editors work dutifully with the Chief Editor in the selection, editing, and publishing of all journal content.


The Editors report to the President of the ASG and regularly update the president on the status of the journal. Taylor & Francis is currently publishing the journal 4 times a year and will remain responsible for the marketing aspects of the journal. The Chief Editor and the Associate Editors will work with the publishers and the Editorial Board to ensure successful production of the AGR.  In particular, the editors will supply Taylor & Francis with manuscripts in a timely manner and work with the ASG Chair to ensure that ASG journal subscribers have timely access to the journal.

  1.   DUTIES
  2. Work in partnership with the Chief Editor, the AGR publishers, the ASG Chair, and the AGR Editorial Board, to define the overall strategic direction for the journal.
  3. Actively solicit manuscripts for journal issues.
  4. Maintain regular communication with the Editorial Board and attend an annual meeting of the Editorial Board to discuss journal review policies and procedures and the general direction of the journal.
  5. Conduct initial screening of all manuscripts and forward those that meet Journal criteria to selected reviewers.
  6. Work with authors to revise manuscripts based on reviewers’ comments and the editors’ recommendations for improvement (e.g., clarity, development of ideas, scholarly accuracy, overall quality, and compliance with publication guidelines). 
  7. Serve along with the Chief Editor as the primary liaison to authors.
  8. Return rejected manuscripts to authors with constructive formal letters.
  9. Coordinate journal production with the Chief Editor to ensure a regular production schedule.
  10. Together with the journal publishers and the Chief Editor, participate in journal promotion and development activities including sponsorships and other appropriate advertising.
  11. Perform other tasks as assigned by the Chief Editor.

The Associate Editors of the Journal must possess the following attributes:

  • Excellent communication (oral, written, and editing) skills
  • Be an active member of the AAG (ASG membership is an added advantage)
  • Be a scholar in good academic standing
  • Have excellent interpersonal skills
  • Have creative ideas and approaches to expand the journals reach and diversity


To apply for this position, please submit:

  • a letter of interest that details your qualifications for the position, the specific position (Human, Physical, or Geospatial) and a visionary statement as the future editor of the journal (2-page max).
  • a current curriculum vitae (5-page max)

The completed application should be received by Friday April 8th, 2022. Please submit electronic copies of your application to the Co-chairs of the Search Committee, Dr. Ben Neimark ( and Dr. Godwin Arku (

Arrangements will be made to interview candidates virtually in April/May, 2022. Please contact Dr Ben Neimark if you have any questions.

New Masters (MA) in Political Ecology – Lancaster University

•The only one of its kind in the UK: dedicated to understanding how the environment and politics intersect with issues of power and justice

•You will work with and learn from one of the largest political ecology research groups in the UK

•You will directly engage with both academic and non-academic practitioners of political ecology, including environmental activists and film-makers

•You will take your learning into the ‘real world’ through innovative teaching sessions that move outside the classroom •

Brief Descriptoin:

Interested in challenging the status quo of the environment and its politics?

Come and join us at Lancaster for our recently launched MA in Political Ecology!

We are the only programme of its type in the UK, offering the conceptual tools and practical skills to ask the difficult questions of human-environment relations and drive transformative action. You will be immersed in one of the UK’s largest and dynamic political ecology research groups, which draws upon diverse and interdisciplinary perspectives. These address and analyse critiques, debates and actions related to environmental concerns over local to global scales. Key themes include the politics of resource extraction, water, climate politics and the green economy. We offer novel approaches to our teaching, engaging our students in creative classes that provide tools to understand a complex planet and the challenges of our living with it.  

For more information, please see: or contact John Childs at