CfP POLLEN20 – Comparative perspective(s) on ontological conflicts in extractivism, conservation and development

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

Session organizers

Riccarda Flemmer (GIGA Hamburg), Jonas Hein (University of Kiel).

We invite contributions on cases from the Global South and North. If you are interested to join our panel, please send us your abstract (max 250 words) including the title of the paper and your affiliation until 15 November 2019.

Submit to rflemmer@gmx.de and hein@geographie.uni-kiel.de.

Session description

Ontological conflicts are defined as ‘conflicts involving different assumptions about “what exists”’ (Blaser 2013). Accordingly, ontological politics can be understood as struggles over the meaning and existence of different worlds. This kind of politics is especially virulent in conflicts over the extraction of natural resources (e.g. hydrocarbons, fisheries, forest products), over large-scale development projects (e.g. coastal reclamation projects, hydropower) and in the context of protected area implementation superimposing with indigenous people’s territories or peasant community lands. For political ecology, this is a major concern, because these projects are embedded into often unjust and asymmetric (post)colonial power relations.

In the context of participatory decision-making and inclusive planning exercises ontological conflicts become visible. At least in theory actors guiding these processes are forced to bring together western ideas of human-nature relationships and more holistic views which do not make this distinction and focus on spiritual meaning, collective identities and living beings (de la Cadena 2015; Escobar 2015). Participatory decision making and planning were established in international and national legal frameworks as a means to mediate between top-down imposed development projects promoted by the state and the interests of local populations. Most prominent are prior consultation processes and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for indigenous peoples or participatory land-use planning.

The aim of this panel is to make ontological politics visible and show how ontological conflicts are dealt with. Thereby, the panel will compare different empirical cases as well as methodological and conceptual approaches. We will bring together experiences from different world regions in order to bring them in comparative perspective and enable the identification of lessons learned.

 

The poacher-as-terrorist; the ‘benefit’ of seeing nature conservation as a security issue

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Author: Bente Meindertsma for Vice Versa

The perception of environmental problems as security issues gave rise to a powerful, but false idea that poaching is financing terrorist organizations like Al-Shabaab. The poacher-as-terrorist is extremely beneficial to conservation NGO’s, as it gives them access to the large budget that is available for security initiatives. However, their militarized approach is marginalizing local communities and is failing to protect wildlife on the long term. Read more

Why resource extraction and nature conservation lead to increasing conflict and violence

Author: Bente Meindertsma for Vice Versa

We seem to have entered a new phase in the relation between violence and environment. Increasing violence against wildlife and communities living in protected areas and conflicts over access to natural resources have led scientists in the field of political ecology to discuss the causes and impacts of these dynamics at the PE-3C conference in Wageningen.

2015 was the deadliest year ever for environmental activists, according to a recent report by human rights NGO Global Witness. 185 people were killed, an increase of 59% compared to the previous year. The report shows how deeply environmental issues are intertwined with political struggle, conflict and the uneven distribution of power. The scientific field of political ecology focusses on just that, by studying how different interests, forms of power and politics influence and frame our relationship to environmental issues and access to natural resources. At the recent Political Ecology conference in Wageningen (PE-3C), more than 350 scientists and activists came together to discuss the political ecologies of conflict, capitalism and contestation. Read more