CfP POLLEN20 – Is time out of joint? The politics of time in and beyond the climate movement

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Anneleen Kenis, Maarten Loopmans​​​. Please send a short abstract (200-250 words) and/or proposal of theses by Monday the 18th of November at the latest. Email addresses: and

Please don’t hesitate contacting us if you would have any questions.

Session description

Time figures centrally in climate change discourses today, from the temporal scenarios for reducing emissions to the declaration of a climate emergency and the hourglass symbol of Extinction Rebellion. Conventional notions of linear progress, economic growth and steadfast technological innovation are questioned. Yet others argue we actually have to bet on the acceleration of such developments, hoping that in this process lie the germs of previously unthinkable forms of luxury communism (Bastani, 2019; Williams & Srnicek, 2013). In the meantime, Anthropocene thinkers confront us with the need to situate our actions in much broader, geological scales of time (Szerszynski, 2017; Yusoff, 2013).

Time is far from an innocent category but has become politically laden: from the risk that an emergency discourse would play in the hands of authoritarian climate solutions (Asayama, 2015; Szerszynski, Kearnes, Macnaghten, Owen, & Stilgoe, 2013), to the consternation that a focus on future generations threatens to overlook the people who are already living in the apocalypse here and now. As the Wretched of the Earth (2019) write in an open letter to Extinction Rebellion: “You may not realise that when you focus on the science you often look past the fire and us – you look past our histories of struggle, dignity, victory and resilience. A […] truth is that for many, the bleakness is not something of “the future””. In other words, time pressure or a focus on (Western, white, middle or upper class) future generations is not always helpful if we want to bring (post-)colonial, patriarchal, xenophobic, exploitative and elitist relations underlying the climate crisis to the fore.

The academic literature on time and climate politics is growing. Important critiques have been formulated on emergency discourses (Asayama, Bellamy, Geden, Pearce, & Hulme, 2019), the way it risks to play in the hands of advocates of geoengineering and antidemocratic solutions (Horton, 2015; Hulme, 2014; Markusson, Ginn, Singh Ghaleigh, & Scott, 2014; Yusoff, 2013), the problem of viewing geoengineering as an “emergency brake” (Malm, 2015) or as a way “to buy time” (Surprise, 2018), and the link with ecomodernism and imaginations of  mastery and control (Hamilton, 2013; Surprise, 2019). Furthermore, quite some work has dealt with future imaginaries (Levy & Spicer, 2013; Wright & Mann, 2013; Wright, Nyberg, De Cock, & Whiteman, 2013; Yusoff & Gabrys, 2011), the effects of Anthropocene thinking on our conceptualisations of time (Yusoff, 2013), and the issue of geological time versus historical or human time (Szerszynski, 2017). Still, there remains a striking imbalance between the omnipresence of time discourses in the movement on the one hand, and the more limited theoretical and empirical engagement with multiple meanings of time in climate change discourse on the other. Therefore, this call starts from the contention that time in and beyond the climate movement is in need of greater and more systematic scrutiny.

In order to do that, this panel reaches out to academics, activists, action researchers, scholar activists, and all other people dealing with the issue of time and climate change and aims to encourage a dialogue between those who are making and those who are analysing the discourse (being well aware that the distinction often cannot be clearly made). We particularly reach out to people working in and with the climate movement, but we also welcome analyses taking a more distant look at the issue, as well as purely theoretical contributions.

More specifically, the call welcomes abstracts dealing with, but not limited to, one of the following topics:

  • Discourses and imaginaries on time in the climate movement: from the focus on “future generations”, to the ticking clock and the hourglasses.
  • Movement building both before and beyond the date imagined as the ultimate deadline
  • Future imaginaries: from apocalyptic ‘end’ images (e.g. extinction) until revolutionary change, or imaginaries in terms of the engineering of the earth and atmosphere in the ‘good Anthropocene’.
  • The emergency discourse, its merits and risks.
  • Imaginaries of progress, acceleration, technologisation and robotization versus political understandings of resistance, refusal, crisis and decay.
  • The tensions between different timescales, e.g. geological time and historical time and how they interact, converge or dislocate each other.
  • Linearity versus non-linearity and threshold thinking both in climate science and in the climate movement (its emergence and retreat, ebb and flow, ….).
  • The link between conceptions of time and experiences of (loss of) hope, fear, anger, urgency, activist burnout….
  • Relations between concepts of time and imaginaries of masculinity, heteronormativity versus queer or femininity, xenophobic or racist versus decolonising discourses, exploitative narratives versus actions starting from solidarity and communing.
  • How particular conceptions of time feed into a homogenising discourse on climate change and its solutions. Whose future is imagined in the call to safe “our future”? Which future imaginaries and which conceptions of time do we need from a post-colonial, anti-racist, anti-classist, queer, or feminist perspective?

Please note that each presenter will be asked to present between 1 and 5 theses (using powerpoint, reading them out, through performance, audiotape …), during 5 to 10 minutes. These theses will form the basis of an open talk and discussion between the presenters. We hope this will allow us to fruitfully inspire each other in our understanding of time in relation to climate change. This also means you do not need a full paper. We might do a call for proper papers at a later stage, e.g. if we think the contributions would work well together in a special issue or edited book volume. Please note that you are free to give a creative interpretation to the presentation of your theses, but this is not a requirement, as you can also give a more traditional presentation.


Asayama, S. (2015). Catastrophism toward ‘opening up’ or ‘closing down’? Going beyond the apocalyptic future and geoengineering. Current Sociology, 63(1), 89-93. doi:10.1177/0011392114559849

Asayama, S., Bellamy, R., Geden, O., Pearce, W., & Hulme, M. (2019). Why setting a climate deadline is dangerous. Nature Climate Change, 9(8), 570-572. doi:10.1038/s41558-019-0543-4

Bastani, A. (2019). Fully Automated Luxury Communism. A Manifesto

London: Verso.

Hamilton, C. (2013). Earthmasters: Dawn of the age of climate engineering. Yale: Yale University Press.

Horton, J. B. (2015). The emergency framing of solar geoengineering: Time for a different approach. The Anthropocene Review, 2(2), 147-151. doi:10.1177/2053019615579922

Hulme, M. (2014). Can Science Fix Climate Change? A Case against Climate Engineering. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Levy, D. L., & Spicer, A. (2013). Contested imaginaries and the cultural political economy of climate change. Organization, 20(5), 659-678. doi:10.1177/1350508413489816

Malm, A. (2015). Socialism or barbeque? War communism or geoengineering: Some thoughts on choices in a time of emergency. In K. Borgnäs, T. Eskelinen, J. Perkiö, & R. Warlenius (Eds.), The politics of ecosocialism: Transforming welfare (pp. 180–194). London: Routledge.

Markusson, N., Ginn, F., Singh Ghaleigh, N., & Scott, V. (2014). ‘In case of emergency press here’: framing geoengineering as a response to dangerous climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(2), 281-290. doi:10.1002/wcc.263

Surprise, K. (2018). Preempting the Second Contradiction: Solar Geoengineering as Spatiotemporal Fix. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108(5), 1228-1244. doi:10.1080/24694452.2018.1426435

Surprise, K. (2019). Stratospheric imperialism: Liberalism, (eco)modernization, and ideologies of solar geoengineering research. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 0(0), 2514848619844771. doi:10.1177/2514848619844771

Szerszynski, B. (2017). The Anthropocene monument:On relating geological and human time. European Journal of Social Theory, 20(1), 111-131. doi:10.1177/1368431016666087

Szerszynski, B., Kearnes, M., Macnaghten, P., Owen, R., & Stilgoe, J. (2013). Why Solar Radiation Management Geoengineering and Democracy Won’t Mix. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 45(12), 2809-2816. doi:10.1068/a45649

Williams, A., & Srnicek, N. (2013). #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics.

WretchedoftheEarth. (2019). An open letter to Extinction Rebellion. Red Pepper.

Wright, C., & Mann, M. (2013). Future imaginings and the battle over climate science: an interview with Michael Mann. Organization, 20(5), 748-756. doi:10.1177/1350508413489818

Wright, C., Nyberg, D., De Cock, C., & Whiteman, G. (2013). Future imaginings: organizing in response to climate change. Organization, 20(5), 647-658. doi:10.1177/1350508413489821

Yusoff, K. (2013). Geologic Life: Prehistory, Climate, Futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31(5), 779-795. doi:10.1068/d11512

Yusoff, K., & Gabrys, J. (2011). Climate change and the imagination. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 2(4), 516-534. doi:10.1002/wcc.117