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Speaking Power to "Post-Truth": Critical Political Ecology and the New Authoritarianism



Given a history in political ecology of challenging hegemonic “scientific” narratives concerning environmental problems, the current political moment presents a potent conundrum: how to (continue to) critically engage with narratives of environmental change while confronting the “populist” promotion of “alternative facts.” We ask how political ecologists might situate themselves vis-à-vis the presently growing power of contemporary authoritarian forms, highlighting how the latter operates through sociopolitical domains and beyond-human natures. We argue for a clear and conscious strategy of speaking power to post-truth, to enable two things. The first is to come to terms with an internal paradox of addressing those seeking to obfuscate or deny environmental degradation and social injustice, while retaining political ecology’s own historical critique of the privileged role of Western science and expert knowledge in determining dominant forms of environmental governance. This involves understanding post-truth, and its twin pillars of alternative facts and fake news, as operating politically by those regimes looking to shore up power, rather than as embodying a coherent mode of ontological reasoning regarding the nature of reality. Second, we differentiate post-truth from analyses affirming diversity in both knowledge and reality (i.e., epistemology and ontology, respectively) regarding the drivers of environmental change. This enables a critical confrontation of contemporary authoritarianism and still allows for a relevant and accessible political ecology that engages with marginalized populations likely to suffer most from the proliferation of post-truth politics.
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Annals of the American Association of Geographers
ISSN: 2469-4452 (Print) 2469-4460 (Online) Journal homepage:
Speaking Power to “Post-Truth”: Critical Political
Ecology and the New Authoritarianism
Benjamin Neimark, John Childs, Andrea J. Nightingale, Connor Joseph
Cavanagh, Sian Sullivan, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Simon Batterbury, Stasja Koot
& Wendy Harcourt
To cite this article: Benjamin Neimark, John Childs, Andrea J. Nightingale, Connor Joseph
Cavanagh, Sian Sullivan, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Simon Batterbury, Stasja Koot & Wendy
Harcourt (2019) Speaking Power to “Post-Truth”: Critical Political Ecology and the New
Authoritarianism, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 109:2, 613-623, DOI:
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Published online: 06 Feb 2019.
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Speaking Power to Post-Truth: Critical Political
Ecology and the New Authoritarianism
Benjamin Neimark,
John Childs,
Andrea J. Nightingale,
Connor Joseph Cavanagh,
Sian Sullivan,
Tor A. Benjaminsen,
Simon Batterbury,
Stasja Koot,
Wendy Harcourt
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University
Department of Geography, University of Oslo
Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Research Centre for Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University
School of Geography, University of Melbourne
Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Development, Wageningen University
International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University
Given a history in political ecology of challenging hegemonic scientificnarratives concerning
environmental problems, the current political moment presents a potent conundrum: how to (continue to)
critically engage with narratives of environmental change while confronting the populistpromotion of
alternative facts.We ask how political ecologists might situate themselves vis-
a-vis the presently growing
power of contemporary authoritarian forms, highlighting how the latter operates through sociopolitical
domains and beyond-human natures. We argue for a clear and conscious strategy of speaking power to
post-truth, to enable two things. The first is to come to terms with an internal paradox of addressing those
seeking to obfuscate or deny environmental degradation and social injustice, while retaining political
ecologys own historical critique of the privileged role of Western science and expert knowledge in
determining dominant forms of environmental governance. This involves understanding post-truth, and its
twin pillars of alternative facts and fake news, as operating politically by those regimes looking to shore up
power, rather than as embodying a coherent mode of ontological reasoning regarding the nature of reality.
Second, we differentiate post-truth from analyses affirming diversity in both knowledge and reality (i.e.,
epistemology and ontology, respectively) regarding the drivers of environmental change. This enables a
critical confrontation of contemporary authoritarianism and still allows for a relevant and accessible political
ecology that engages with marginalized populations likely to suffer most from the proliferation of post-truth
politics. Key Words: authoritarianism, environmental policy, political ecology, post-truth, science.
Dada una historia en ecolog
ıtica que reta las narrativas hegem
onicas cient
ıficasen lo que concierne a
los problemas ambientales, el momento pol
ıtico actual pone de presente un enigma portentoso: c
(seguir) involucr
andose cr
ıticamente con narrativas del cambio ambiental al tiempo que se confronta la
on populistade los hechos alternativos. Nos preguntamos c
omo podr
ıan situarse los ec
ıticos en relaci
on con el creciente poder que registran las formas autoritarias contempor
aneas, destacando
Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 109(2) 2019, pp. 613623 #2019 by American Association of Geographers
Initial submission, December 2017; revised submission, May 2018; final acceptance, July 2018
Published by Taylor & Francis, LLC.
el modo como opera el segundo a trav
es de los dominios sociopol
ıticos y las naturalezas que est
an m
as all
de lo humano. Inquirimos por una estrategia clara y consciente del poder de la palabra ante la pos-verdad,
para habilitar dos cosas. La primera es llegar a un acuerdo con una paradoja interna de hablarle a quienes
buscan ofuscar o negar la degradaci
on ambiental y la injusticia social, en tanto se retiene la propia historia
ıtica de la ecolog
ıtica sobre el papel privilegiado de la ciencia occidental y el conocimiento experto
para determinar las formas dominantes de la gobernanza ambiental. Esto implica entender la pos-verdad y sus
pilares gemelos de hechos alternativos y noticias falsas, como si estuviesen siendo operados pol
ıticamente por
aquellos reg
ımenes que buscan respaldar el poder m
as que personificar un modo coherente de razonamiento
ogico en relaci
on con la naturaleza de la realidad. Segundo, diferenciamos la pos-verdad de los an
que afirman la diversidad tanto en conocimiento como en la realidad (i.e., epistemolog
ıa y ontolog
respectivamente) en relaci
on con los controladores del cambio ambiental. Esto permite una confrontaci
ıtica del autoritarismo contempor
aneo y deja campo todav
ıa para una ecolog
ıtica relevante y
accesible que se comprometa con las poblaciones marginales, m
as propensas a sufrir los efectos de la
on de pol
ıticas pos-verdad. Palabras clave: autoritarismo, ciencia, ecolog
ıa pol
ıtica, pol
ıtica ambiental,
Post-truth is the latest manifestation of a long,
troubled history in the relation between truth,
politics, and power. Indeed, it is hardly a reve-
lation that politicians selectively choose (or con-
struct) their facts to serve particular ends. Yet, the
current political moment has also managed to pro-
voke a heightened level of anxiety about the nature
of truth in science and politics that has emerged as
particularly disruptive (Dillon et al. 2019). This anx-
iety has ushered in new language with terms such as
alternative facts and fake news becoming part of an
everyday vocabulary.
For geographers, and in par-
ticular political ecologists, post-truth presents a
familiar yet intensified challenge. Post-truth pro-
vokes questions for scholars critical of scientific
institutions and their knowledge-making practices
that shape environmental policy, given that these
same institutions are now under attack from populist
authoritarian discourse and policies.
A paradox thereby emerges between working with,
while also problematizing, the production of know-
ledge associated with positivist scienceaparadox
that demands both reflection and action from critical
political ecologists and activists alike (Robbins 2015).
How can political ecologists mount an effective chal-
lenge against the propagation of alternative facts in
service of populist authoritarian agendas, while also
embracing multiple knowledges and realities associ-
ated with cultural and linguistic diversity (de la
Cadena 2010; Burman 2017)? How can we defend
this stance against charges that our dismay with post-
truth politics stems from an elite, liberal chagrin at
the fact that the wrong kinds of people are suddenly
claiming authority and having their say?(Mair 2017,
3). Finally, how can political ecologists, many of
whom have long insisted on the need to analyze the
politics of knowledge production within science, work
with science to show that the form of critical engage-
ment we advocate and practice is different from that
propounded by the authoritarian right?
Both political ecology and post-truth politics take
issue with certain hegemonic types of truth making.
It is political ecology, however, that concerns itself
with the epistemological violence effected through the
coloniality of reality that subjugates cultural, and espe-
cially indigenous, diversity in relation to ecological
knowledges and praxis (Burman 2017; Sullivan 2017).
Our main contribution in response to this is to affirm
the necessity of speaking power to post-truth
(Collingridge and Reeve 1986): by amplifying an
inclusive, effective, and publicly accessible political
ecology that both refracts populist (re)framings of
socioenvironmental concernsat times mobilizing
and allying with positivist science to do so (King
2010; Brannstrom and Vadjunec 2013)and organizes
to contest mechanisms of authoritarian power.
This strategy, first, situates political ecology as a
useful bridge to a diversity of approaches that probe
the co-constitutive relationship between environmen-
tal politics and scientific truth making (Jasanoff
2006). It recognizes and welcomes the conceptual
convergence between, for example, political ecology,
science and technology studies (STS), and anthropol-
ogy (Rocheleau 2008; Goldman, Nadasdy, and Turner
2011; Dillon et al. 2019). Combining perspectives
across these approaches means accepting that knowl-
edges do not necessarily become authoritative because
they more accurately portray the truth.Rather, they
614 Neimark et al.
become paradigmatic as the truth in part through
their generation and endorsement in politically
empowered networks as the best means of uncovering
the truth (cf. Kuhn 1970; Foucault 1980;Guthman
and Mansfield 2013). Foregrounding (once again)
these relationships between political power and truth
claims makes it possible to clarify mechanisms of
knowledge production and exclusion and thereby to
clarify possibilities for contestation (Hulme 2010).
Second, as well as having an established history of
critically analyzing environmental truth making, pol-
itical ecologists are experienced and motivated in
acting and collaborating beyond the academy, to
speak power to post-truth through new knowledge
coalitions and action. Coalitions beyond the acad-
emy are about creating an accessible political ecol-
ogy that can empower a politically engaged and
informed resistance to current post-truth narratives.
We argue that political ecology and cognate disci-
plines can combine with reflexive scientific know-
ledge production to offer collective responses within
this eco-political moment. This sort of critical polit-
ical ecology (Forsyth 2003) contributes to broader
public discourse and builds on recent attempts to
decolonize knowledge production inside and outside
the academy not by creating a geographic and aca-
demic silo, but rather to be united against a reduc-
tive and regressive post-truth debate.
In what follows, we provide a brief genealogy of
political ecology in relation to post-truth. We pro-
ceed by offering three interrelated areas for interven-
tion that, taken together, may articulate a political
ecology counternarrative to truth making while
remaining critical of authoritarian attacks on know-
ledge production. We insist throughout that it is
possible to retain our critical stance toward scientific
knowledge production through careful positioning of
it within the circuits of its own production. When
this same critical approach is applied to alternative
facts, we can show that these are not new ways of
knowing but rather new mechanisms of deploying
power within an erstwhile and reductive ontology
that colonizes other ways of knowing.
Political Ecology beyond Post-truth
Political ecology has long been concerned with
authoritarian forms of power and politics in relation
to environmental knowledges, policies, and infra-
structures, as well as to understandings of the
materiality of nature itself.
At its core, early polit-
ical ecology analyzed historically and spatially situ-
ated (and differentiated) powers to access and
control natural resources, originally seen through
class and later through other forms of social differ-
ence such as gender, ethnicity, age, and, sexuality.
Political ecology thereby brought into focus how
the environment is an arena of contested entitle-
ments, a theatre of which conflicts or claims over
property, assets, labor, and politics of recognition
play themselves out(Peluso and Watts 2001, 25;
Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter, and Wangari 1996). A
second related dimension of political ecology soon
emerged that involved a more poststructuralist
understanding of the politics of environmental
knowledge production and its material-discursive
interplay with environmental governance (Escobar
1995; Peet and Watts 1996; Stott and Sullivan
2000). Reflecting the influence of Foucault, a key
emphasis has been on the institutional and other
societal structures through which environments and
environmental truths are defined, known, and there-
fore controlled and managed (Peet and Watts 1996;
Robertson 2006; Burke and Heynen 2014).
A series of early empirical studies showed how
local ecological problems have origins in trans-scalar
political and economic contexts, rather than merely
the allegedly maladaptive behaviors of local land
users (Watts 1983; Blaikie and Brookfield 1987).
Environmental processes were presented by apolitical
(and Malthusian) ecological analyses as caused by
small-scale producers, while research in political
ecology demonstrated how these problems were
incorrectly explained, or largely exaggerated, thereby
challenging received wisdom on environmental deg-
radation (Fairhead and Leach 1996). An outcome of
these local(ized) studies was that there were different
ways of knowing and managing environments which
were frequently bypassed by mainstream environ-
mental policies. For Forsyth (2003; see also
Benjaminsen, Aune, and Sidib
e2010), this also
meant linking political economy and epistemologies
of environmental change to empirically challenge
dominating environmental policies.
Although certainly critical, such challenges to
dominant narratives and theories areas the expli-
citly antiauthoritarian The Open Society and its
Enemies (Popper 1971) observedsimply an integral
feature of good (social) scientific inquiry. A certain
degree of skepticism toward knowledge claims and
Speaking Power to Post-truth615
findings is part of conventional scientific practice.
As such, political ecologys relationship to environ-
mental science has over the years been complex.
Playing the trickster,political ecology both
engages and borrows methodology from mainstream
science regarding land use change, hazards, and
environmental health, only to undermine them,
demonstrating power-laden implications in any such
foundational account of human/environmental
relationships(Robbins 2015, 93).
Recently, political ecology has been shaped more
explicitly by postcolonial, subaltern, feminist, and
queer critiques, opening up new avenues to counter
universalizing dimensionsof knowledge production
associated with Western science and modernity (e.g.,
Nightingale 2006; Burman 2017;Sullivan2017).
Political ecologists have also found fertile ground in
debates emanating from assemblage theorists in actor
network theory (ANT) within STS, emphasizing how
environmental phenomena and governance are medi-
ated by technology and materiality (Bennett 2010)
and the roles of beyond-human actants in socio-
techno-natural assemblages (Castree and Braun 2001;
Kosek 2006; Goldman, Nadasdy, and Turner 2011).
Equipped with these new epistemological and
ontological tools, political ecology has the ability
both to distinguish itself vis-
a-vis power, especially
in its contemporary authoritarian forms and to push
similar work to explore how forms of power operate
through sociopolitical domains and nonhuman
natures. Therefore, in echoing contemporary calls to
scrutinize alternative facts, political ecologys atten-
tion to power-laden scientific claims is well equipped
to examine differing environmental representations
to expose the multiple ways in which power operates
to produce, maintain, and privilege particular
truthsabout the environment.
The openness and fluidity of poststructuralist
approaches to knowledge production, however, lend
themselves both to a seeming overcomplexification
of socioecological circumstances and to cooptation
by far right agendas. The latter have knowingly bor-
rowed tactics and strategies used by left-leaning acti-
vists and scholars to highlight the politics of
knowledge production, to push for the acceptance of
alternative facts and to relativize the views of scien-
tists and right-wing ideologues (Nagel 2017). Thus,
the awkward conceptual resemblance between alter-
native facts and academic debates about the politics
of knowledge production is not mere coincidence.
Yet, there are crucial distinctions to be drawn
between critical approaches of scientific practice and
the tactics now adopted by the alt-right. A critical
approach to the environmental sciences underscores
the ways in which power constitutes, moves within,
and reproduces sociomaterial relations to shape which
knowledges, social relations, and practices (and corre-
sponding ecologies) are hegemonic. For example,
although not always accomplished, many political
ecologists attempt to challenge dominant environ-
mental narratives and recognize multiple non-Western
knowledge perspectives to analyze the production of
uneven environmental outcomes for diverse individu-
als and populations (Burman 2017). Such groups and
individuals are stratified by differences and inequalities
ofinter aliaclass, ethnicity, and gender and are
commonly those most vulnerable to socioecological
shocks or stressors. Difference and inequality in turn
shapes and are shaped by environmental change proc-
esses themselves (Nightingale 2006). Moreover, by
observing everyday and mundane forms of authoritar-
ian power and governmental control, critical political
ecologists have sought to take account of how know-
ledge and governance of resources are actively resisted
and have been a focal point for empowerment of
marginalized groups through both individual and col-
lective agency (Li 2007;Wolford2010).
Future political engagement by political ecologists
and others therefore requires a sharpened focus on
knowledge production and who holds the power to
define truth (Gramsci 1971; Foucault 1980).
ontological politics probes the values, relations, and
practices through which some forms of knowledge
(epistemologies) come to be accepted as more true
than others. One way forward could be to carefully
distinguish between the ontological and epistemo-
logical politics of asserting that there are many ways
of knowing, measuring, and relating to or being in
differentworlds (ontology). If we accept the
notion of multiple ontologies (that what the world is
can be different across communities of knowing),
political ecologists have much to say about the socio-
material relations through which different ontologies
arise and are sustained. There is an accompanying
epistemological politics of asserting the truth about
how one ostensibly should know or live in a single
world. This latter stance largely rejects the notion of
multiple ontologies and rather probe how asserting a
single epistemology (how we can know the world) is
inextricably bound up in claims to authority.
616 Neimark et al.
One role for political ecologists is to illuminate
how the privileging of alternative facts exacerbates
tensions between different ontologies and thereby
claims space for competing knowledge claims. Some
take the position that feminist political ecologists'
engagement with power and privileged forms of envir-
onmental knowledge construction could help guide us
to navigate the paradox of post-truth politics, while
some others prefer seeing power through the lens of
structuralism and/or post-structuralism. Nevertheless,
we thereby advocate that political ecology, in all its
forms, be made more relevant, accessible, and engag-
ing to (newly) marginalized populations while we
work to bridge the binary of science and activism
closely with social movements toward new liberation
ecologies(Peet and Watts 1996) and alternative sus-
tainablilities (Cavanagh and Benjaminsen 2017).
Speaking Power to Post-truth
A constructive and critical political ecology, then,
is about meeting power with power, mobilizing not
only the discourses and social networks of critical
scholarship, which at times can be just as universal-
izing in their own right, but also publicly informed
elements, such as collective action and activism, or
what we define throughout as to speak power to
post-truth. Taken together, we argue that we can
effectively counter the purveyors of post-truth and
their inventive uses of environmental messages. This
requires not only exposing the workings of power in
the generation of alternative facts but also in consol-
idating an alternative edifice of knowledge produc-
tion, policies, institutions, and relationships that can
counter authoritarian politics with new social (and
socionatural) relations. This is not only about build-
ing a better, more nuanced version of science via
the practice of politicalecological research but also
about harnessing more-than-scientific resources in
ways that seek to change rather than merely describe
the world (Castree, Chatterton, and Heynen 2010).
We call for a sensitivity to the power of both
ontological and epistemological politics through
which environmental issues are defined and known,
and that thereby shape conflicts (Blaser 2013;
Escobar 2016). We put forward three pathways
expose, teach and learn, and engageto show what
an effective politicalecological critique in the post-
truth moment might look. Our aim is to inspire a
response that counters post-truth, to think about
how to engage with the public that form enduring
resistance networks to authoritarian power. We cau-
tion, however, that this should not be read as a sin-
gular prescriptive solution; rather, we advocate for
multiple emerging pathways to counter and resist the
onslaught of authoritarian post-truth narratives.
The power of political ecology is that it cuts
through post-truth to expose it. Political ecology is
not alone in this, as there have been many other
fruitful attempts to deconstruct science debates in
Political ecology, however, has been at the
forefront of calling out the role of powerful authori-
tarian states, individuals, and corporations who link
post-truth discourse to policy and take shortcuts
with democratic rights, especially with territorially
based and indigenous communities, but also with
global planetary health (Batterbury 2016).
Alternative factsare often central to such efforts.
This perhaps involves political ecologys role as the
trickster,both mimicking and calling out hege-
monic science and political discourse (Robbins
2015), but more its willing to use this science to
critically think about how truth claims emerge and
can be judged.
For example, the framing of climate change brings
powerful actors, institutions, and capital together in
shaping the political economy of oil (Bridge and Le
Billon 2017). This kind of culturally, historically,
and politically contextual analysis shows that alter-
native facts on climate change emerge from within
the same relations and logics that perpetuate current
capitalist projects, rather than existing as an alterna-
tive to a capitalist worldview. This needs to be dis-
tinguished from the kinds of alternative ontologies
that sit outside of capitalist structuring, such as those
that may be practiced by indigenous peoples
(Valdivia 2009; Sundberg 2010; Theriault 2017;
Anthias 2018). Exposing unsubstantiated alt. facts
will not suffice, though. The role of political ecolo-
gists is to expose power, profit making, and threats
to the environment and social justice (Martinez-
Alier et al. 2016; Nightingale 2017). This is
reflected in the work of environmental justice organ-
izations and other nongovernmental organizations,
like the EJOLT project (see
ject) and Accion Ecol
ogica in Quito, Ecuador, which
brave personal risks to expose environmental
Speaking Power to Post-truth617
injustices and make essential links between scholars
and environmental justice activist networks.
Power that coalesces through exposure is not singu-
lar but can take many forms. Examples include the
Environmental Justice Atlas, or the growing Political
Ecology Network initiative (see https://politicalecolo-, which links academic output to
social media and political journalism (see http://www. Another
way to expose is through collaborative attempts, such
as the ENTITLE writing collective, which main-
streams critical environmental scholarship through
less-known public and activist stories. It aims to link
policymakers, scientific researchers, and activists,
through engagement in movements and institutions
(see Meanwhile, the network
of academics and nonprofits working under the
Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI;
see are on the front lines
exposing authoritarianism threats to progressive U.S.
federal environmental and energy policy, and to the
scientific research infrastructuremeant to
investigate, inform, and enforce them(Dillon
et al. 2019).
These efforts are a small sampling of the initia-
tives taken by political ecologists to link across com-
munities of knowledge. A question that emerges in
these efforts is this: Whose voices are privileged and
whose are marginalized, even within collaborative
projects? It is arguably more important than ever, in
an era of post-truth, to use the counternarratives
and explanations generated by political ecology offer
much by way of evaluating environmental post-
truthsasserted in domains of populist authoritar-
ian politics.
Teach and Learn
Going beyond exposure, political ecology teaching
and learning can expand the impact of our critique of
alternative facts. Geographers are learning fast that
effective communication can challenge authoritar-
ianism through deliberately networking, publishing,
increased social media presence, and, moreover,
mobilizing this effectively to students and the
broader public. For example, political ecologists have
been at the forefront of recent attempts at
decolonizinghow ecology and the Anthropocene
(Schulz 2017) are delivered in the classroom and
approached by the institutions that structure them
(e.g., Fletcher 2017; Meek and Lloro-Bidart 2017;
Meyerhoff and Thompsett 2017; Osborne 2017).
These efforts serve to decenter some forms of science
as hegemonic ways of knowing, at the same time
providing students with the critical skills to place all
ways of knowing within the power relations that per-
petuate them.
Feminist political ecologists have been at the fore-
front of the coproduction of knowledge with people
outside academia and how values and facts that
drive outside involvement combine in everyday pol-
itics. Harcourt and colleagues, for example, have
overseen a movement to engage feminist political
ecology with grassroots organizations worldwide that
brought forward insights into how smaller scale,
localized resistances to hegemonic economic and
political relations can succeed (Harcourt and Nelson
2015). The recently formed WEGO (Well-being,
Ecology, Gender and Community) network will col-
lect together knowledge of local communitiesown
understandings of strategies to build resilient and
equitable futures. This work highlights the coproduc-
tion of knowledge to help community and network
activists better understand the institutional, eco-
nomic, and political contexts that serve to support or
inhibit their efforts. Scholars engaging in these practi-
ces also gain experiential and in-depth understanding
of alternative ontologies and visions for a better
world. These efforts have shown the importance of
scholarship in not only exposing but also learning
from community efforts at challenging hegemonic
relations of power.
Other efforts at coproduction of knowledge
through teaching and learning include the ENTITLE
collectives political ecology syllabus (see http://www. and also POLLENs online teach-
ing resources (
itical-ecology-syllabi/) that produces scholarship
through community building and stimulating dialogue
among diverse communities(Harcourt and Nelson
2015), albeit ones that are most likely to use Web-
based resources for learning. Political ecologists can
learn from recent decolonizing efforts that call for
new forms of epistemic disobedience”—political and
epistemological delinking of ones colonial past
(Mignolo 2011,4;HawthorneandMech
e2016). A
good example of this learning in practice through dis-
obedience is the historical problematizing of neo-
liberal or market conservation that has displaced local
practices and knowledges (e.g., Igoe, Sullivan, and
618 Neimark et al.
Brockington 2010). The key, however, is to not only
bring to light meaningful political ecology research
but to integrate this learning, both within the acad-
emy (Sundberg 2014) and through broader networks
of resistance (Dillon et al. 2019).
Some political ecologists have taken the notion of
learning to another level by trying to translate it dir-
ectly into policy arenas. For example, Ojha, Paudel,
and Dipak (2013) experimented with policy labs in
the forestry sector (earlier called Ban Chautari but
now used beyond the forestry sector to deal with cli-
mate and water issues) to generate critical thinking
about environmental governance questions for which
conventional expertise is inadequate. Policy labs
bring together political actors and sectoral specialists
(i.e., hydrologists, agricultural officers, and forestry
officers) to tackle environmental governance prob-
lems. Using Chatham House rules, policy labs are
designed to create safe spaces of ignorance, encour-
aging people to ask questions rather than providing
answers. A core concern is to show how different
sectors are linked together, the histories surrounding
how and why that is the case, and where their agen-
das are conflicting. This helps to place the issues at
stake within a wider contextual frame and can offer
opportunities for everyone involved to learn and
generate new critical ideas about action.
A renewed focus on rights infuses geographical
work, faced with threats that are existential and real
and geographicalfrom border policing to reneging
on international treaties and agreements (Sundberg
2010). Social scientists have a particular duty to call
out the broader publics’—from civil society groups
and individuals to those marginal or invisiblerights
to participation (Neimark and Vermeylen 2017). For
instance, the Political Ecology for Civil Society
open access publication by the ENTITLE group is an
excellent example of bridging the gap between activ-
ist groups and critical social science (ENTITLE
Fellows 2016). Also relevant is the Emancipatory
Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) work on authoritar-
ian populism that looks to provoke debate and
action among scholars, activists, practitioners, and
policymakers on how exclusionary politics are deep-
ening inequalities,through issues of growth, climate
disruptions, and social division and focused on gen-
erating alternatives to regressive, authoritarian
politics (Scoones et al. 2017). There are even more
overt political campaigns that require new alliances
and coalitions (de Vrieze 2017) around antifracking,
food sovereignty movements, and pollution cleanup
(Hudgins and Poole 2014; Cambell and Veteto
2015; DAlisa et al. 2017).
Yet, new opportunities beyond academia have also
opened up. These are particularly in settings less
examined by political ecologists but nonetheless at the
heart of current political dynamics around post-truth.
They include rural white working-class communities
who are generally (mis)represented as conservative,
xenophobic, and reactionary(Van Sant and
Bosworth 2017) but that many times also share expe-
riences of marginality and forms of local knowledge
with some of the subjects conventionally focused on
in political ecology studies (McCarthy 2002).
Although political ecology is effective in highlighting
political activism and social movements, if anything,
it has been historically less successful at delivering its
research results in ways that are easily mobilized to
diverse political coalitions. It is these diverse political
coalitions where we argue that political ecology
research if delivered to nonacademic settings can gain
traction in countering post-truth narratives.
Public outreach beyond academia is therefore
vital. Political ecologys Public Political Ecology Lab
(PPEL) is one important public outreach project (see It narrates the need for prac-
tical and political engagement through academic
work, providing training on research methods (par-
ticipatory action research) and pragmatic media and
communication skills to activist-minded students
and the wider public. It also provides an online
forum to make vital connections between commu-
nity organizations and graduate students for direct
impact. Similarly, the rapidly growing Political
Ecology Network is now reaching beyond Europe to
facilitate exchanges with a number of nodescon-
sisting of non-Western institutions, academics, and
civil society organizations. As Martinez-Alier et al.
(2014) showed, there is a reverse movementof
concepts and ideas coming from environmental just-
ice organizations to academic political ecology,
thereby, favor[ing] cooperation between activist and
academics because they do not compete for the same
turf(49). This demonstrates the potential for scien-
tists, political ecologists, and activists to form essen-
tial alliances to counter post-truth discourse and new
forms of authoritarianism.
Speaking Power to Post-truth619
If anything, political ecologists are responding to
contemporary authoritarianism, drawing attention not
only to injustice but also to social and political resist-
ance through collective action around the world. To
be effective, though, we need to move beyond just
illustrating obvious tensions that exist within our
own practice and praxis. We must question truth
based on empirically based natural and social science
through multiple perspectives, also explicitly amplify-
ing an inclusive, effective, and publicly accessible pol-
itical ecology that speaks power to post-truth.
Crucially, we must continue to explore links between
knowledge and authority, in our own scholarship and
in other very relevant cognate studies and also with
and as we evaluate knowledge claims emanating from
different communities globally.
If anything, our collective response to this post-
truth moment is to call out the dominant hegemonic
discourses that accompany alternative facts through
exposure of the links between power and knowledge
and through seeding new counterinitiatives. As
those on the political far right successfully adopt
poststructuralist ideas and techniques and methods
of grassroots activism to maintain authoritarianism,
political ecologists need once again to reappropriate
these methods of public engagement and civil
action. This is a long and difficult project and by no
means do we pose a single solution here. Yet, our
collective goal is to add tactics and analysis, making
our scholarship more relevant, accessible, and engag-
ing to populations most likely to suffer from the pro-
liferation of post-truth politics, notably around the
denial of climate change and its impacts.
This article represents work conducted as part of
the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN). We
thank Rob Fletcher and Bram B
uscher for help with
earlier drafts of this article. Special thanks to James
McCarthy, Jennifer Cassidento, and three anonym-
ous reviewers from the Annals of the American
Association of Geographers for suggestions.
Benjamin Neimark
John Childs
Sian Sullivan
Tor A. Benjaminsen
Stasja Koot
1. Since being used by the U.S. presidents special
counsel to defend demonstrably false statements by
the White House Press Office, the term alternative
facts has been invoked widely in the media to
question the relationship between science and truth.
Similarly, President Donald Trump makes personal
and repeated dismissals of major international media
and research outlets as fake news.
2. Although used somewhat interchangeably, we
recognize that hegemony and dominant forms of
science, and knowledge, are not necessarily always
the same (see Guha 1997).
3. Critical political ecology is an open-ended and
empirically based approach that combines
deconstruction with a realist belief in science as a
means to achieve a more accurate description and
understanding of environmental realities. This is not
the only attempt to do this. In fact, there is a long
history of previous work in critical realismto
integrate sociopolitical values with positivism (see
Bhaskar [1975] 1997) and also to some degree in
sustainability science (see Clark et al. 2016).
4. We do not provide a review of political ecology but
rather a snapshot of some examples of its breadth; for
fuller reviews, see Robbins (2011), Bryant (2015),
and Perreault et al. (2015).
5. Albeit a key theme in earlier political ecology, our
hope is that given the particular political climate of
post-truth, more studies today can reemphasize the
importance of the emergence of facts simultaneously
with values and structure.
6. From this perspective, truth making is more about
establishing an effective hegemony (understood as the
articulation of different interests around a common
cause) than trying to champion a particular
constellation of facts.
7. Although STS does include debates around positivist
science and many, particularly those geographers and
others adopting the language of assemblage, claim
that their frameworks do explain the entanglement of
facts simultaneously with values and structures, it is
critical political ecology that has been more willing
to adopt positivist science as a tool to counter
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BENJAMIN NEIMARK is Senior Lecturer of Human
Geography in the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster
University. Library Avenue, Lancaster University, Lancaster
LA1 4YQ, UK. E-mail:
research interests include the political ecology and political
economy of bio- and green economy interventions, uneven
development, and labor and global commodity chains in
Madagascar and Africa.
JOHN CHILDS is in the Lancaster Environment Centre,
Lancaster University, Library Avenue, Lancaster University,
Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. E-mail:
His research interests include the political ecology of
resource extraction in the Global South, particularly focused
on mining and its various forms, geographies, and effects.
Development in the Global South at the Swedish
University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and in 2019 will
move to the Department of Geography at the University of
Oslo. E-mail:
research interests include the naturesociety nexus; feminist
theorizations of emotion and subjectivity in relation to
development, transformation, collective action, and the
commons; political violence and climate change; and pub-
lic authority, collective action, and state formation.
Research Fellow in the Department of International
Environment and Development Studies (Noragric),
Norwegian University of Life Sciences, 1433 As, Norway.
E-mail: His research and pub-
lications explore the political ecology of conservation and
development interventions, with a focus on land and
resource tenure conflicts and the institutional evolution
of laws, regulations, and policies for governing both eco-
systems and rural populations.
SIAN SULLIVAN is Professor of Environment and
Culture at Bath Spa University, Newton Park, Bath BA2
9BN, UK, and Associate of Gobabeb Research and
Training Centre, Namibia. E-mail:
Her research interests include cultural landscapes, political
ecology, and the financialization of nature.
TOR A. BENJAMINSEN is a Professor in the
Department of International Environment and
Development Studies, Faculty of Landscape and Society,
Norwegian University of Life Sciences, 1432 As, Norway.
E-mail: He works on issues of environ-
mental change and conservation, pastoralism, land rights,
resistance, and justice in Mali and Tanzania, as well as in
Arctic Norway.
SIMON BATTERBURY is a Professor of Political
Ecology at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster
University, Library Avenue, Lancaster University, Lancaster
LA1 4YQ, UK. E-mail:
also Principal Fellow in the School of Geography at the
University of Melbourne. His research interests include the
political ecology of natural resources in West Africa
and Oceania.
STASJA KOOT is an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Sociology and Anthropology of
Development at Wageningen University, Wageningen,
6700 EW Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: His research interests are predomin-
antly in Southern Africa, including nature conservation,
tourism, wildlife crime, capitalism, indigenous people,
land, and philanthropy.
WENDY HARCOURT is Professor of Gender, Diversity
& Sustainable Development, Westerdijk Professor at the
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus
University, Rotterdam, ISS, 2518 AX The Hague, The
Netherlands. E-mail: Her research inter-
ests include feminist political ecology, feminist theory,
and postdevelopment.
Speaking Power to Post-truth623
... In this article we move forward political ecology analyses linking authoritarian populism with environmental governance and changes in neoliberal political economy globally (Bruff and Tansel 2019;McCarthy 2019;Arsel, Adaman, and Saad-Filho 2021;Menga 2022), and especially in Brazil (Acosta and Gudynas 2018;Pahnke 2018;Taddei, Bulamah, and Schavelzon 2020;Deutsch 2021;Saad-Filho and Boffo 2021). Significantly, rather than locating posttruth as purely discursive, within the domain of cultural politics, we view it as a necessarily spatial, territorializing project, allowing for the unmitigated expansion of resource extraction (Norgaard 2011;Neimark et al. 2019;Cesarino 2020;B€ uscher 2021;Rajão et al. 2022). ...
... It tells us less, though, about the policy agendas behind the electoral outcomes these manipulations enable; in effect the why and what of posttruth's mode of concealment. Environmental scholarship instead turned inward, reflecting on disciplinary knowledge hierarchies (Angermuller 2018), possibilities to regain democratic space without losing a critical stance on science (Neimark et al. 2019), or on improving science communication to mitigate misinformation (Iyengar and Massey 2019). ...
... Posttruth politics thus employs new obfuscatory strategies to authorize continued, unmitigated extractivism. The systematic denial and dismantling of the social legitimacy of scientific truth on environmental problems is imperative, as these strategies rely on creating confusion and false controversies to manipulate public opinion, whether relating to anti-indigenous "blood and soil" claims, climate change, or deforestation data (McCarthy 2019; Neimark et al. 2019;Cesarino 2020). Whereas the technocratic, neoliberal consensus resolved the extraction-conservation contradiction by rationalizing spaces for production and protection, posttruth politics blurs the existence of the contradiction altogether. ...
Full-text available
Recent scholarship links authoritarian populism to environmental governance and changing forms of neoliberalism, yet the central role of the contradiction between territory demarcated for (neo)extractivism and territory demarcated for conservation and protection is heavily understated. This article analyzes the rise of post-truth politics in Brazil as an effort to legitimate unmitigated extractive capitalist growth through a renewed obfuscation of this inherent ecological contradiction. We first demonstrate the concealment of the contradiction through Latin America’s “post-neoliberal” period, based in a neo-extractivist economic model. Following, we argue that post-truth politics represents a specific attempt to supersede the previous neoliberal consensus in the face of shrinking commodity returns. Designed to downplay, deny, and remove existing public environmental concerns, we view the post-truth of authoritarian populism as a necessarily spatial project, beyond accounts of cultural or institutional politics alone. The article thus furthers understandings of post-truth by centralizing its role in obscuring the extractivism–conservation contradiction in Brazil and beyond, and as such aligns with a critical effort to mobilize alternatives to the untenable reprimarization of Latin American societies.
... Additionally, political ecologists are taking sustained interest in the intersections of post-structuralist perspectives and 'post-truth' knowledge productions. In doing so, strong arguments are made for increased contestation of populist environmental knowledge proclamations promulgated to uphold vested interests (Neimark et al. 2019;Schmitt & Li 2019), as well as analysis of antagonistic engagement regarding environmental issues through social media (Büscher 2016;Matulis & Moyer 2018;Bichel & Hart 2023: 347-351). Drawing on these approaches, I argue that the transmutation of a broadly elite activity (international trophy hunting) into an activity seemingly under neocolonial attack is a text-book case of 'post-truth politics;' requiring, as political ecologists argue, the necessity of speaking power to post-truth (Neimark et al. 2019). ...
... In doing so, strong arguments are made for increased contestation of populist environmental knowledge proclamations promulgated to uphold vested interests (Neimark et al. 2019;Schmitt & Li 2019), as well as analysis of antagonistic engagement regarding environmental issues through social media (Büscher 2016;Matulis & Moyer 2018;Bichel & Hart 2023: 347-351). Drawing on these approaches, I argue that the transmutation of a broadly elite activity (international trophy hunting) into an activity seemingly under neocolonial attack is a text-book case of 'post-truth politics;' requiring, as political ecologists argue, the necessity of speaking power to post-truth (Neimark et al. 2019). ...
... As observed above, this transmutation of a broadly elite activity (international sport and trophy hunting) associated with anti-liberal and right-wing tendencies, into an activity seemingly under neocolonial attack, is a text-book case of 'post-truth politics' (Neimark et al. 2019). Applying the term 'neocolonial' to critics of the neocolonial character of trophy hunting masks the frequently neocolonial character of trophy-hunting businesses themselves, as well as the land grabbing central to trophy hunting expansion. ...
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In the post-Cold War neoliberal moment of the mid-1990s, Safari Club International's (SCI) nascent but now defunct 'African Chapter' published a Strategic Plan for Africa. Its aim was to secure the "greatest hunting grounds in the world" for access by SCI's hunting membership, the core of which is based in the United States. In advocating private sector-led trophy hunting under the umbrella of the SCI "market place", the plan supported an archetypal mode of 'green extractivism': killing indigenous African mammals and exporting body parts as hunting trophies was justified as 'green' by claiming this elite and arguably 'neocolonial' extraction of animals is essential for wildlife conservation. Already in 1996 SCI deflected scrutiny of this form of 'green extractivism' through promoting a view that any critique of this putative 'green hunting' should itself be dismissed as 'neocolonial.' This discursive twist remains evident in a moment in which trophy hunting is receiving renewed attention as countries such as the UK attempt to write trophy import bans into legislation. I engage with these politicized claims and counter-claims to foreground the lack of neutrality permeating trophy hunting discourse. I work with recent political ecology engagements with 'post-truth politics' to unpack SCI-supported advocacy for using accusations of 'neocolonialism' to counter critique of the neocolonial dimensions of trophy-hunting; showing how elite and greened extractivism through recreational access to land and African fauna is thereby consolidated. I draw on case material from Namibia – a country exhibiting stark inequalities of land and income distribution alongside a thriving trophy hunting industry – to explore how extracted 'green value' from 'conservation hunting' may shore up, rather than refract, neocolonial inequalities.
... Political ecology scholars have been at the forefront of studies of conservation ideals and practice (Büscher & Fletcher, 2020) and food justice (Cadieux & Slocum, 2015), but also on the decolonization of environmental science (David-Chavez, 2019; Neimark et al., 2019). Moreover, there are connections between political ecology and sustainability (e.g. ...
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This article contributes to political ecologies of education by connecting climate activism in Austria to questions of environmental justice and ecopedagogy. Based on a collaboration project between trainee teachers and secondary school students in Graz (Austria), the article analyses student group essays and photo reports dealing with ideas and solutions to combat the climate crisis and to enable socio-ecological transformation. Interviews with Fridays for Future (FFF) strike participants complete the analysis. I discuss propositions related to the concepts of activism, ecopedagogy, environmental and climate justice, and especially the principle of responsibility. I show that the school collaboration project and common participation in a climate strike contributed to civic engagement and research-based learning. Trainee teachers and school students exchanged ideas and co-created knowledge to fight against the climate crisis, and the collaboration opened a dialogue in a democratic classroom, arguably helping to develop participants' intrinsic motivation. While some of the ideas proposed are reformist or oppositional, for example to eat less meat, others are propositional, advocating for system change. A conclusion is that the climate movement is represented by a diversity of voices and opinions.
... The hegemonic position of western worldviews in environmental governance [48] has contributed to framings of nature that exclude different "ways of knowing and relating to nature" [3, p. 3]. As a result, the inclusion of reciprocal relations in NbS, which are crucial to ILK, are limited [49,50]. ...
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Over the last decade, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for water management have gained traction as triple-win options for climate action due to their ability to address social, economic, and environmental challenges. Recent developments in the literature of NbS have resulted in a body of work addressing questions about knowledge and justice. In line with these developments, this paper proposes the Knowledge and Epistemic Injustice in NbS for Water Framework (KEIN Framework) to identify the production of epistemic injustices in the design of NbS for water management. The KEIN framework draws on questions about knowledge and power raised by Avelino and five mechanisms that lead to epistemic injustice based on work by Fricker and Byskov. We apply the framework to examine a proposal presented to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) that included both NbS for water management and Indigenous People in South America. Rather than being an analysis of the project or the GCF per se, the goal of this analysis is to demonstrate the utility of the framework to analyze proposals during the design stage. We argue that proposals submitted to the GCF are reflective of a broadly held international environmental logic. We also identify indications that knowledge was organized and treated in a way that favored external actors at the expense of local actors. Our analysis also revealed prejudices against people’s epistemic capacities, with potential implications for how the generation of local knowledge is adopted on the ground. The framework illustrates how the design of NbS may minimally disrupt power relations due to the influential role of some actors in generating knowledge. This study contributes to the operationalization of epistemic justice in designing NbS. Through the application of the proposed framework, the study contributes to future work advancing the construction of epistemically just NbS.
... As the proponents of radical transformative approaches argue, if any step into the unknown is to be positive, it must be taken collectively, relationally, and on terms that are deeply conscious of and engaged with the logics of domination and systems of power they oppose (Janicka 2017; Kothari et al. 2019;Escobar 2020). In taking the full expanse of marginalized experiences as a critical starting point to conceiving of and pursuing change, they also resist risks of embracing 'posttruth' and reactionary standpoints which serve to mask, preserve or entrench hegemonic logics and structures of power and privilege (Neimark et al. 2019). ...
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In the face of ever escalating global socioecological crises, the necessity of radical systemic transformations has gained increasing political and academic traction over the last decade, among others in the context of 'green' and bio-based economies. We draw on the works of political philosophers Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe and Judith Butler to develop a typology of transformational dynamics. In this typology, the word transformation implies political agendas, processes and outcomes that involve the total structural reordering of a social field, which we juxtapose with 'inclusion', which implies cases in which pre-existing logics are further entrenched or extended. Drawing on the theoretical framework of hegemony, inclusions and transformations, we develop an analytical lens that focuses on the relations between hegemony and transformative dynamics. This analytical lens is developed and exemplified by discussing the transformative potentials of multiple socioecological and political agendas, including those associated with eco-modernism, Marxism, decoloniality, eco-feminism, degrowth and eco-anarchism. Depending on the transformative dynamics in relation to hegemony and the dominant political logics, we distinguish between hegemony-reinforcing, hegemony-replacing, and hegemony-transcending transformations. The provided lens and the typologies of transformations should be useful to those seeking to conceptualize, differentiate, analyse, and tactically strategize the realization of an array of socio-ecological agendas.
... In contrast, scholars focused on the political ecology of environmental governance have argued that a technical and "a-political" framing of externally defined development and conservation agendas (Ferguson 1994) overlooks structural inequalities and fails to address differing knowledge, needs and interests across scales and social groups (Few et al., 2017;Neimark et al., 2019;O'Brien, 2018). It also discounts the agency of a wider range of actors to bring about systemic change (O'Brien, 2018). ...
A confluence of concerns about tropical forest loss, global warming, and social inequality drive calls to transform land use governance. Yet there is widespread debate about what must be transformed, by whom, and how. The increasing equation of transformation with ambitious, quantitative global targets, such as “net zero emissions” or “zero deforestation” has gained widespread appeal as a means to inspire action and hold powerful actors to account. However presenting targets themselves as the end goals of transformation, obscures both the means of achieving them and the social and environmental values that legitimate them. The escalation of targets for land use, in particular, is disconnected from targeted geographies, lacks accountability to socially diverse knowledge and priorities, and is readily appropriated by powerful actors at multiple scales. This paper argues instead, for an equity‐based approach to transformation that reveals how unequal power distorts both the ends and the means of global governance. We illustrate this argument with five case‐study “vignettes” in Indonesia, Ghana, Peru, and Brazil that reveal how de‐contextualized, target‐based thinking has reinforced state and corporate control over resources at the expense of local access, while largely failing to deliver the promised environmental outcomes. We conclude that equity‐focused, case study research is critical not only to unpack the local consequences of pursuing global targets, but also to make visible alternative efforts to achieve deeper socio‐environmental transformations.
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Questões climáticas e da biodiversidade têm mobilizado um corpo científico e institucional de conhecimento ambiental. Ambos, o Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) e a Plataforma Intergovernamental sobre Biodiversidade e Serviços Ecossistêmicos (IPBES), embora venham reconhecendo a importância de diálogos interdisciplinares e abertos para a participação diversa - como em relação a gênero - foram desenhados como painéis neutros de experts. A configuração desses espaços dificulta a representatividade, inclusão e efetiva participação de diferentes interesses e visões nos espaços decisórios. Destacamos a importância de questionar essa neutralidade e discutir relações de poder que permeiam a questão ambiental e os campos das ciências, mediante perspectivas da Ciência, Tecnologia e Sociedade (CTS) e da Ecologia Política. O objetivo é avaliar a inclusão de gênero no âmbito dos painéis, analisando semelhanças e diferenças, a partir dos Estudos de Gênero-CTS e Ecologia Política Feminista (EPF). A participação de mulheres é analisada quantitativa e qualitativamente em relação à composição dos painéis, seu posicionamento nas estruturas hierárquicas e políticas específicas para equidade de gênero. Também são observadas as relações desiguais entre membras do Norte e Sul Global. Destacam-se limitações da participação e imposição de consensos, desvalorização e instrumentalização de saberes, e limitações do desenho dos painéis como ferramentas de tutela ou promoção da autonomia. Espera-se um avanço na identificação de sobreposições e complementaridades entre EPF e Estudo de Gênero em CTS, destacando que as perspectivas feministas viabilizam outros enquadramentos de problemas, que superem a visão essencialista do outro e reconhecendo possibilidades para além do determinismo tecnocientífico.
This paper draws on fieldwork in rural Ireland to argue that environmental data can reinforce knowledge systems that shield structural problems and blunt efforts to rethink the role of community engagement in environmental governance. It offers a cautionary reading of how data has been instrumentalised by the EU and Irish State by showing how data diffuses responsibility and depoliticises environmental activism in cycles of funding and data collection. Since the 2000 Water Framework Directive, water governance in the European Union has increasingly relied upon extensive scientific, evidence-based decision-making and community and stakeholder involvement. We explore how these changes shape efforts to document and remediate water pollution. We expand upon Shapiro et al.’s (2018)’s “data treadmill” to understand how data rescales responsibility for pollution and its effects. The “data treadmill” gives name to cycles of data and funding that propel logics and strategies of environmental governance. We show how the data treadmill operates by perpetuating a narrative that effective action requires more precise data and evidence and solves questions of responsibility through bespoke approaches to environmental pollution. The data treadmill constrains communities through prevailing logics that surround data and environmental governance: communities become tied into European funding programmes that require, on one hand, the expertise of various professionals and consultants, on the other, place-based knowledge and social relationships to deliver innovative responses to structural problems. We offer a critical analysis of current institutional and policy in the EU and Ireland to highlight perils and contradictions of data-centric environmental governance as practiced.
The surge of post-truth calls for a reassessment of psychoanalytic and ideology critique-approaches in the social sciences. Both traditions are dismissed by the principal antagonists in the post-truth debate, the “positivist” defenders of science and the “post-modern” critics of science. The antagonists share a predisposition towards anti-humanism, refusal to distinguish between the latent and the manifest, and adherence to descriptive methods. In order to substantiate these claims, the article investigates commonalities between B.F. Skinner and Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The article concludes that the allegedly “pseudo-scientific” or “metaphysical” concepts of Subject and Truth, pivotal to both psychoanalysis and ideology critique-approaches, need to be rehabilitated in response to the challenge of post-truth.
This paper considers the limits of adaptation as a concept in global environmental governance and advocacy by examining the climate change policy of the populist Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. By focusing on heterogenous state responses to the 2018–2019 El Niño drought, I demonstrate how the Duterte administration has worked to achieve a violent vision of climate adaptation through a jarring combination of practices: exhorting the devastating reality of climate change; denigrating multilateral mitigation efforts as colonial injustices; subverting indigenous peoples' land rights; and fostering the extrajudicial assassination of activists. Though Duterte's wider climate change policies are often viewed as a strategic distraction or the isolated product of an erratic populist, I argue that these recent responses to climate change in the Philippines, which fuse decolonial and nationalist sensibilities to confrontational forms of illiberalism, should be examined as part of the larger unfurling of illiberal adaptation politics across Philippine history and the Global South. These politics, and their considerable (though far from total) local resonance, challenge both universalist Western political rationalities and new directions in climate justice movement calling for ontological inclusivity. I highlight the need for a closer examination of the origins, practices and implications of violent adaptions.
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The Trump administration’s antienvironmental policies and its proclivity to dismiss evidence-based claims creates challenges for environmental politics in a warming world. This article offers the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) as a case study of one way to respond to this political moment. EDGI was started by a small group of Science and Technology Studies and environmental justice researchers and activists in the United States and Canada immediately after the November 2016 elections. Since then, EDGI has engaged in four primary activities: archiving Web pages and online scientific data from federal environmental agencies; monitoring changes to these agencies’ Web sites; interviewing career staff at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a means of tracking changes within those agencies; and analyzing shifts in environmental policy. Through these projects and practices, EDGI members developed the concept of environmental data justice. Environmental data justice is deeply informed by feminist approaches to the politics of knowledge, especially in relation to critical data and archival studies. In this article we establish the theoretical basis for environmental data justice and demonstrate how EDGI enacts this framework in practice. Key Words: critical data studies, environmental data justice, feminist science studies, the politics of knowledge, social practice.
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Political ecology is a powerful framework for analyzing the underlying causes of environmental change, yet underutilized for guiding an ethical response to the Anthropocene. In this article, I introduce Public Political Ecology as an approach for practicing engaged scholarship in this moment of ecological crisis. A political, ethical and educational project, public political ecology is influenced by Antonio Gramsci's work on the philosophy of praxis. It therefore operates from the understanding that ideas are a material force capable of transforming society in revolutionary ways, and through a community of praxis within which academics can play important roles by engaging more actively with broader publics. Innovations from public geographies such as participatory action research and mapping, service learning, and social media offer important methodologies and tools for this approach. Public political ecology, then, is a means by which political ecologists can serve as earth stewards and thus finally make good on the field's emancipatory claims. Keywords: Political ecology, engaged scholarship, earth stewardship, public geography, praxis
Wendy Harcourt is associate professor at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University. She was editor-in-chief of the journal Development from 1995 to 2012 and during that period published five books, including Women and Politics of Place with Arturo Escobar (Kumarian Press, 2005). Her monograph Body Politics in Development: Critical Debates in Gender and Development (Zed Books, 2009) received the 2010 Feminist and Women's Studies Association's Prize. She is currently completing three books on transnational feminism, embodiment and civic change, and gender and development, and is editor of the book series Gender, Development and Social Change. Ingrid L. Nelson is assistant professor in the Department of Geography and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Vermont. She completed her PhD in geography and a graduate certificate in women's and gender studies from the University of Oregon. Her research in Mozambique examines masculinities, class and gender dynamics in forest conservation; afforestation ‘land grabs’; and illegal timber trade contexts. She is currently preparing a monograph focused on the practices and rumours that make forest landscapes in Mozambique. Beyond academia, she contributed to the Women's Major Group submission for the ‘zero draft’ document, leading up to Rio+20.
Penelope Anthias’s Limits to Decolonization addresses one of the most important issues in contemporary indigenous politics: struggles for territory. Based on the experience of thirty-six Guaraní communities in the Bolivian Chaco, Anthias reveals how two decades of indigenous mapping and land titling have failed to reverse a historical trajectory of indigenous dispossession in the Bolivian lowlands. Through an ethnographic account of the “limits” the Guaraní have encountered over the course of their territorial claim—from state boundaries to landowner opposition to hydrocarbon development—Anthias raises critical questions about the role of maps and land titles in indigenous struggles for self-determination. Anthias argues that these unresolved territorial claims are shaping the contours of an era of “post-neoliberal” politics in Bolivia. Limits to Decolonization reveals the surprising ways in which indigenous peoples are reframing their territorial projects in the context of this hydrocarbon state and drawing on their experiences of the limits of state recognition. The tensions of Bolivia’s “process of change” are revealed, as Limits to Decolonization rethinks current debates on cultural rights, resource politics, and Latin American leftist states. In sum, Anthias reveals the creative and pragmatic ways in which indigenous peoples contest and work within the limits of postcolonial rule in pursuit of their own visions of territorial autonomy.
The International Handbook features chapters by leading scholars from around the world in a unique collection exploring the multi-disciplinary field of political ecology. This landmark volume canvasses key developments, topics, issues, debates and concepts showcasing how political ecologists today address pressing social and environmental concerns. Introductory chapters provide an overview of political ecology and the Handbook. Remaining chapters examine five broad themes: issues and approaches; governance and power; knowledge and discourse; method and scale; connections and transformations. Across diverse topics and perspectives, these chapters amount to a wide-ranging survey of current research, making the International Handbook an indispensable reference for scholars and students in political ecology.