In A City on a Lake Matthew Vitz tracks the environmental and political history of Mexico City and explains its transformation from a forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity plagued by environmental problems and social inequality. Vitz shows how Mexico City's unequal urbanization and environmental decline stemmed from numerous scientific and social disputes over water policy, housing, forestry, and sanitary engineering. From the prerevolutionary efforts to create a hygienic city supportive of capitalist growth, through revolutionary demands for a more democratic distribution of resources, to the mid-twentieth-century emergence of a technocratic bureaucracy that served the interests of urban elites, Mexico City's environmental history helps us better understand how urban power has been exercised, reproduced, and challenged throughout Latin America.
Everyday Environmentalism develops a conversation between marxist theories of everyday life and recent work in urban political ecology, arguing for a philosophy of praxis in relation to the politics of urban environments. Grounding its theoretical debate in empirical studies of struggles to obtain water in the informal settlements of Durban, South Africa, as well as in the creative acts of insurgent art activists in London, Alex Loftus builds on the work of key marxist thinkers to redefine “environmental politics.”
A marxist philosophy of praxis—that world-changing ideas emerge from the acts of everyday people—undergirds the book. Our daily reality, writes Loftus, is woven out of the entanglements of social and natural relations, and as such a kind of environmental politics is automatically incorporated into our lives. Nevertheless, one effect of the public recognition of global environmental change, asserts Loftus, has been a resurgence of dualistic understandings of the world: for example, that nature is inflicting revenge on arrogant human societies.
This ambitious work reformulates—with the assistance of such philosophers as Lukács, Gramsci, Lefebvre, and others—a politics of the environment in which everyday subjectivity is at the heart of a revolutionary politics.
Political ecology and science studies have found fertile meeting ground in environmental studies. While the two distinct areas of inquiry approach the environment from different perspectives—one focusing on the politics of resource access and the other on the construction and perception of knowledge—their work is actually more closely aligned now than ever before.
Knowing Nature brings together political ecologists and science studies scholars to showcase the key points of encounter between the two fields and how this intellectual mingling creates a lively and more robust ecological framework for the study of environmental politics. The contributors all actively work at the interface between these two fields, and here they use empirical material to explore questions of theoretical and practical import for understanding the politics that surround nature-society relations, from wildlife management in the Yukon to soil fertility in Kenya. In addition, they examine how various environmental knowledge claims are generated, packaged, promoted, and accepted (or rejected) by the different actors involved in specific cases of environmental management, conservation, and development. Finally, they ask what is at stake in the struggles surrounding environmental knowledge, how such struggles shape conceptions of the environment, and whose interests are served in the process.
Mexico is one of the most ecologically diverse nations on the planet, with landscapes that range from rainforests to deserts and from small villages to the continent’s largest metropolis. Yet historians are only beginning to understand how people’s use of the land, extraction of its resources, and attempts to conserve it have shaped both the landscape and its inhabitants.
A Land Between Waters explores the relationship between the people and the environment in Mexico. It heralds the arrival of environmental history as a major area of study within the field of Mexican history. This volume brings together a dozen original works of environmental history by some of the foremost experts in Mexican environmental history from both the United States and Mexico.
The contributions collected in this seminal volume explore a wide array of topics, from the era of independence to the present day. Together they examine how humans have used, abused, and attended to nature in Mexico over more than two hundred years. Written in clear, accessible prose, A Land Between Waters showcases the breadth of Mexican environmental history in a way that defines the key topics in the field and suggests avenues for subsequent work. Most importantly, it assesses the impacts of environmental changes that Mexico has faced in the past with an eye to informing national debates about the challenges that the nation will face in the future.
In Landscapes of Power Dana E. Powell examines the rise and fall of the controversial Desert Rock Power Plant initiative in New Mexico to trace the political conflicts surrounding native sovereignty and contemporary energy development on Navajo (Diné) Nation land. Powell's historical and ethnographic account shows how the coal-fired power plant project's defeat provided the basis for redefining the legacies of colonialism, mineral extraction, and environmentalism. Examining the labor of activists, artists, politicians, elders, technicians, and others, Powell emphasizes the generative potential of Navajo resistance to articulate a vision of autonomy in the face of twenty-first-century colonial conditions. Ultimately, Powell situates local Navajo struggles over energy technology and infrastructure within broader sociocultural life, debates over global climate change, and tribal, federal, and global politics of extraction.
In this groundbreaking book, Katrina Schwartz examines the intersection of environmental politics, globalization, and national identity in a small East European country: modern-day Latvia. Based on extensive ethnographic research and lively discourse analysis, it explores that country’s post-Soviet responses to European assistance and political pressure in nature management, biodiversity conservation, and rural development. These responses were shaped by hotly contested notions of national identity articulated as contrasting visions of the “ideal” rural landscape.
The players in this story include Latvian farmers and other traditional rural dwellers, environmental advocates, and professionals with divided attitudes toward new European approaches to sustainable development. An entrenched set of forestry and land management practices, with roots in the Soviet and pre-Soviet eras, confront growing international pressures on a small country to conform to current (Western) notions of environmental responsibility—notions often perceived by Latvians to be at odds with local interests. While the case is that of Latvia, the dynamics Schwartz explores have wide applicability and speak powerfully to broader theoretical discussions about sustainable development, social constructions of nature, the sources of nationalism, and the impacts of globalization and regional integration on the traditional nation-state.
Creating institutions to meet the challenge of sustainability is arguably the most important task confronting society; it is also dauntingly complex. Ecological, economic, and social elements all play a role, but despite ongoing efforts, researchers have yet to succeed in integrating the various disciplines in a way that gives adequate representation to the insights of each.Panarchy, a term devised to describe evolving hierarchical systems with multiple interrelated elements, offers an important new framework for understanding and resolving this dilemma. Panarchy is the structure in which systems, including those of nature (e.g., forests) and of humans (e.g., capitalism), as well as combined human-natural systems (e.g., institutions that govern natural resource use such as the Forest Service), are interlinked in continual adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal. These transformational cycles take place at scales ranging from a drop of water to the biosphere, over periods from days to geologic epochs. By understanding these cycles and their scales, researchers can identify the points at which a system is capable of accepting positive change, and can use those leverage points to foster resilience and sustainability within the system.This volume brings together leading thinkers on the subject -- including Fikret Berkes, Buz Brock, Steve Carpenter, Carl Folke, Lance Gunderson, C.S. Holling, Don Ludwig, Karl-Goran Maler, Charles Perrings, Marten Scheffer, Brian Walker, and Frances Westley -- to develop and examine the concept of panarchy and to consider how it can be applied to human, natural, and human-natural systems. Throughout, contributors seek to identify adaptive approaches to management that recognize uncertainty and encourage innovation while fostering resilience.The book is a fundamental new development in a widely acclaimed line of inquiry. It represents the first step in integrating disciplinary knowledge for the adaptive management of human-natural systems across widely divergent scales, and offers an important base of knowledge from which institutions for adaptive management can be developed. It will be an invaluable source of ideas and understanding for students, researchers, and professionals involved with ecology, conservation biology, ecological economics, environmental policy, or related fields.
Environmental issues have become increasingly prominent in local struggles, national debates, and international policies. In response, scholars are paying more attention to conventional politics and to more broadly defined relations of power and difference in the interactions between human groups and their biophysical environments. Such issues are at the heart of the relatively new interdisciplinary field of political ecology, forged at the intersection of political economy and cultural ecology.
This volume provides a toolkit of vital concepts and a set of research models and analytic frameworks for researchers at all levels. The two opening chapters trace rich traditions of thought and practice that inform current approaches to political ecology. They point to the entangled relationship between humans, politics, economies, and environments at the dawn of the twenty-first century and address challenges that scholars face in navigating the blurring boundaries among relevant fields of enquiry. The twelve case studies that follow demonstrate ways that culture and politics serve to mediate human-environmental relationships in specific ecological and geographical contexts. Taken together, they describe uses of and conflicts over resources including land, water, soil, trees, biodiversity, money, knowledge, and information; they exemplify wide-ranging ecological settings including deserts, coasts, rainforests, high mountains, and modern cities; and they explore sites located around the world, from Canada to Tonga and cyberspace.
“System change not climate change!” This cry reverberated throughout the streets of Paris during 2015’s heated COP21 climate negotiations. It was as much a demand as it was an indictment of the failure of existing political institutions to respond adequately to our world’s ecological crisis. In an era of slow motion apocalypse, with 3,500 international environmental agreements to date, where did everything go wrong?
In this new and greatly expanded edition of his 1991 classic Political Ecology, Dimitri Roussopoulos delves into the history of environmentalism to explain the failure of the state management of the ecological crisis. He explores civil society’s various past responses and the prospects for channeling environmentalist aspirations into political alternatives, emphasizing the ideas of social ecology and the central role of democratic neighborhoods and cities in developing alternatives. Ecologists, Roussopoulos argues, aim further than simply protecting the environment—they call for new communities, new lifestyles, and a new way of doing politics.
This US edition also includes a new preface analyzing the implications of Trump’s presidency for climate politics and an extensive new conclusion analyzing the Paris Accord. Revised, expanded, and updated, Political Ecology is a classic that provides an essential, timely history of the environmental movement now when we need it most.
If medieval literary studies is, like so many fields, currently conditioned by an ecological turn that dislodges the human from its central place in materialist analysis, then why now focus on the law? Is not the law the most human, if not indeed the human, institution? In proposing that all life in medieval Britain, whether animal or vegetable, was subject to the same legal machine that enabled claims on land, are we not ignoring the ecocritical demand that we counteract human exceptionalism and reframe the past with inhuman eyes?
This volume, edited by Randy P. Schiff and Joseph Taylor, presents a diverse and stimulating group of interconnected essays that respond to these questions by infusing biopolitical material and theory into ecocentric studies of medieval life. The Politics of Ecology: Land, Life, and Law in Medieval Britain pursues the political power of sovereign law as it disciplines and manages various forms of natural life, and discloses the literary biopolitics played out in texts that work out the fraught interactions of life and law, in all its forms. Contributors to this volume explore such issues as legal networks and death, Arthurian bare life, Chaucerian medical biopolitics, the biopolitics of fur, ecologies of sainthood, arboreal political theology, conservation and political ecology, and geographical melancholy.
Bringing together both established and rising critical voices, The Politics of Ecology creates a place for cutting-edge medievalist ecocriticism focused on the intersections of land, life, and law in medieval English, French, and Latin literature.
Politics of Nature
Bruno Latour Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress JA75.8.L3813 2004 | Dewey Decimal 320.58
A major work by one of the more innovative thinkers of our time, Politics of Nature does nothing less than establish the conceptual context for political ecology--transplanting the terms of ecology into more fertile philosophical soil than its proponents have thus far envisioned. Bruno Latour announces his project dramatically: "Political ecology has nothing whatsoever to do with nature, this jumble of Greek philosophy, French Cartesianism and American parks." Nature, he asserts, far from being an obvious domain of reality, is a way of assembling political order without due process. Thus, his book proposes an end to the old dichotomy between nature and society--and the constitution, in its place, of a collective, a community incorporating humans and nonhumans and building on the experiences of the sciences as they are actually practiced.
In a critique of the distinction between fact and value, Latour suggests a redescription of the type of political philosophy implicated in such a "commonsense" division--which here reveals itself as distinctly uncommonsensical and in fact fatal to democracy and to a healthy development of the sciences. Moving beyond the modernist institutions of "mononaturalism" and "multiculturalism," Latour develops the idea of "multinaturalism," a complex collectivity determined not by outside experts claiming absolute reason but by "diplomats" who are flexible and open to experimentation.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: What Is to Be Done with Political Ecology?
1. Why Political Ecology Has to Let Go of Nature First, Get Out of the Cave Ecological Crisis or Crisis of Objectivity? The End of Nature The Pitfall of "Social Representations" of Nature The Fragile Aid of Comparative Anthropology What Successor for the Bicameral Collective?
2. How to Bring the Collective Together Difficulties in Convoking the Collective First Division: Learning to Be Circumspect with Spokespersons Second Division: Associations of Humans and Nonhumans Third Division between Humans and Nonhumans: Reality and Recalcitrance A More or Less Articulated Collective The Return to Civil Peace
3. A New Separation of Powers Some Disadvantages of the Concepts of Fact and Value The Power to Take into Account and the Power to Put in Order The Collective's Two Powers of Representation Verifying That the Essential Guarantees Have Been Maintained A New Exteriority
4. Skills for the Collective The Third Nature and the Quarrel between the Two "Eco" Sciences Contribution of the Professions to the Procedures of the Houses The Work of the Houses The Common Dwelling, the Oikos
5. Exploring Common Worlds Time's Two Arrows The Learning Curve The Third Power and the Question of the State The Exercise of Diplomacy War and Peace for the Sciences
Conclusion: What Is to Be Done? Political Ecology!
Summary of the Argument (for Readers in a Hurry...) Glossary Notes Bibliography Index
From the book: What is to be done with political ecology? Nothing. What is to be done? Political ecology! All those who have hoped that the politics of nature would bring about a renewal of public life have asked the first question, while noting the stagnation of the so-called "green" movements. They would like very much to know why so promising an endeavor has so often come to naught. Appearances notwithstanding, everyone is bound to answer the second question the same way. We have no choice: politics does not fall neatly on one side of a divide and nature on the other. From the time the term "politics" was invented, every type of politics has been defined by its relation to nature, whose every feature, property, and function depends on the polemical will to limit, reform, establish, short-circuit, or enlighten public life. As a result, we cannot choose whether to engage in it surreptitiously, by distinguishing between questions of nature and questions of politics, or explicitly, by treating those two sets of questions as a single issue that arises for all collectives. While the ecology movements tell us that nature is rapidly invading politics, we shall have to imagine - most often aligning ourselves with these movements but sometimes against them - what a politics finally freed from the sword of Damocles we call nature might be like.
Politics today is dominated by business news and the stock market. But those in support of green politics ask whether human profit should continue to be the bottom line of political deliberations or if it is time for the interests of the natural world to combine with or even displace the interests of business. In The Promise of Green Politics Douglas Torgerson offers a survey of different schools of ecological thought, discusses their implications for the larger political sphere, and advances a three-dimensional concept of politics that emphasizes ethics and discourse as well as strategy. Arguing that the environmental movement has the potential to contribute to contemporary developments in political theory and social action by changing discursive practices both at the grassroots level and along the corridors of power, Torgerson draws on the theories of Hannah Arendt and others to advocate a performative type of political debate that values multiple opinions and is not always oriented toward reaching a single conclusion. Torgerson argues that in a world stuck in administrative and scientific gridlock, the theatrical, comic aspects of green politics are as important as other, more goal-oriented, aspects. Gestures of the carnivalesque—such as protestors sleeping in hammocks slung from trees targeted for destruction or funeral processions held for dying rivers—could be the key to the creation of what Torgerson refers to as a “green public sphere,” one that promises a reconfiguration of the relationship between human creativity and the natural world. While offering a number of concrete policy suggestions, his focus remains on the complexity and heterogeneity of green thinking and on the transformative promise implicit in green politics. In creating new ways to speak about the environment, Torgerson argues, the green movement offers a creative way to reconsider many larger issues of political theory and action. The Promise of Green Politics will serve as a gateway to new thinking about green politics and the emerging possibilities of a diverse and vital green public sphere. As such, it will be valued by those interested in environmental and public policy, political theory, social activism, and the future of political action.
Reimagining Political Ecology
Aletta Biersack and James B. Greenberg, eds. Duke University Press, 2006 Library of Congress JA75.8.R43 2006 | Dewey Decimal 304.2
Reimagining Political Ecology is a state-of-the-art collection of ethnographies grounded in political ecology. When political ecology first emerged as a distinct field in the early 1970s, it was rooted in the neo-Marxism of world system theory. This collection showcases second-generation political ecology, which retains the Marxist interest in capitalism as a global structure but which is also heavily influenced by poststructuralism, feminism, practice theory, and cultural studies. As these essays illustrate, contemporary political ecology moves beyond binary thinking, focusing instead on the interchanges between nature and culture, the symbolic and the material, and the local and the global.
Aletta Biersack’s introduction takes stock of where political ecology has been, assesses the field’s strengths, and sets forth a bold research agenda for the future. Two essays offer wide-ranging critiques of modernist ecology, with its artificial dichotomy between nature and culture, faith in the scientific management of nature, and related tendency to dismiss local knowledge. The remaining eight essays are case studies of particular constructions and appropriations of nature and the complex politics that come into play regionally, nationally, and internationally when nature is brought within the human sphere. Written by some of the leading thinkers in environmental anthropology, these rich ethnographies are based in locales around the world: in Belize, Papua New Guinea, the Gulf of California, Iceland, Finland, the Peruvian Amazon, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Collectively, they demonstrate that political ecology speaks to concerns shared by geographers, sociologists, political scientists, historians, and anthropologists alike. And they model the kind of work that this volume identifies as the future of political ecology: place-based “ethnographies of nature” keenly attuned to the conjunctural effects of globalization.
Contributors. Eeva Berglund, Aletta Biersack, J. Peter Brosius, Michael R. Dove, James B. Greenberg, Søren Hvalkof, J. Stephen Lansing, Gísli Pálsson, Joel Robbins, Vernon L. Scarborough, John W. Schoenfelder, Richard Wilk
India’s sacred Ganga River is arguably one of the most iconic sites for worship, with a continuity of rituals for the living and the dead that span over two millennia. Along the river, from high in the Himalaya to the vast plains below, people gather daily to worship the Ganga through prayer and song. But large government-sponsored dams threaten to upend these practices.
In River Dialogues, Georgina Drew offers a detailed ethnographic engagement with the social movements contesting hydroelectric development on the Ganga. The book examines the complexity of the cultural politics that, on the one hand, succeeded in influencing an unprecedented reversal of government plans for three contested hydroelectric projects, and how, on the other hand, this decision sparked ripples of discontent after being paired with the declaration of a conservation zone where the projects were situated.
The book follows the work of women who were initially involved in efforts to stop the disputed projects. After looking to their discourses and actions, Drew argues for the use of a political ecology analysis that incorporates the everyday practice and everyday religious connections that animated the cultural politics of development. Drew offers a nuanced understanding of the struggles that communities enact to assert their ways of knowing and caring for resources that serves as an example for others critically engaging with the growing global advocacy of the “green economy” model for environmental stewardship.
In this rich study of the construction and reconstruction of a colonized landscape, Prudence M. Rice takes an implicit political ecology approach in exploring encounters of colonization in Moquegua, a small valley of southern Peru. Building on theories of spatiality, spatialization, and place, she examines how politically mediated human interaction transformed the physical landscape, the people who inhabited it, and the resources and goods produced in this poorly known area.
Space-Time Perspectives on Early Colonial Moquegua looks at the encounters between existing populations and newcomers from successive waves of colonization, from indigenous expansion states (Wari, Tiwanaku, and Inka) to the foreign Spaniards, and the way each group “re-spatialized” the landscape according to its own political and economic ends. Viewing these spatializations from political, economic, and religious perspectives, Rice considers both the ideological and material occurrences.
Concluding with a special focus on the multiple space-time considerations involved in Spanish-inspired ceramics from the region, Space-Time Perspectives on Early Colonial Moquegua integrates the local and rural with the global and urban in analyzing the events and processes of colonialism. It is a vital contribution to the literature of Andean studies and will appeal to students and scholars of archaeology, historical archaeology, history, ethnohistory, and globalization.
Winner, Best Social Sciences Book (Latin American Studies Association, Mexico Section)
What happens to indigenous people when their homelands are declared by well-intentioned outsiders to be precious environmental habitats? In this revelatory book, Molly Doane describes how a rain forest in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca was appropriated and redefined by environmentalists who initially wanted to conserve its biodiversity. Her case study approach shows that good intentions are not always enough to produce results that benefit both a habitat and its many different types of inhabitants.
Doane begins by showing how Chimalapas—translated as “shining rivers”—has been “produced” in various ways over time, from a worthless wasteland to a priceless asset. Focusing on a series of environmental projects that operated between 1990 and 2008, she reveals that environmentalists attempted to recast agrarian disputes—which actually stemmed from government-supported corporate incursions into community lands and from unequal land redistribution—as environmental problems.
Doane focuses in particular on the attempt throughout the 1990s to establish a “Campesino Ecological Reserve” in Chimalapas. Supported by major grants from the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), this effort to foster and merge agrarian and environmental interests was ultimately unsuccessful because it was seen as politically threatening by the state. By 2000, the Mexican government had convinced the WWF to redirect its conservation monies to the state government and its agencies.
The WWF eventually abandoned attempts to establish an “enclosure” nature reserve in the region or to gain community acceptance for conservation. Instead, working from a new market-based model of conservation, the WWF began paying cash to individuals for “environmental services” such as reforestation and environmental monitoring.