Political Ecology Network

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Sustainable integration? Nexus thinking and the foreclosure of progressive eco-politics

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Joe Williams

The water-energy-food nexus has become a powerful framework for sustainable development that seeks to integrate the management of resource sectors for increased efficiency. However, its current mobilisation is fundamentally de-politicising, overlooking the contradictions and injustices of resource governance

Image 1 Irrigated fields in Jordan (Source: Manufactured Landscapes)

The water, energy and food sectors are, of course, deeply connected. Agriculture accounts for around 70% of total freshwater use globally. Huge amounts of energy is consumed in withdrawing, treating, transporting, using and disposing of water. The food production and supply chain uses about 30% of total global energy production. And the extraction of fossil fuels and production of electricity is highly water intensive.

The linkages between energy, water and food traverse every scale, from household practices to geopolitics. Yet, these complex interconnections have never been systematically quantified or managed. The notion of a WEF nexus, therefore, emerged from a…

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Trespass. An environmental history of modern migrations

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Marco Armiero

In a new book, Marco Armiero and Richard Tucker have edited together important contributions to the emerging field of the environmental history of modern migrations. Three main ‘styles’ of research delineate the contours of a timely research effort.

Histories in the Present Tense

We are in the midst of a massive migration crisis when Europe is transforming itself into an impenetrable fortress. The times when walls were falling and barbed wires removed seem so far away. Everywhere rich nations are trying to isolate themselves from the waves of desperate people fleeing from wars, poverty, persecutions, and disruptive environmental changes. “A wall will save us!” this is the easy mantra repeated by the professionals of fear, the gardeners of the new and pernicious hate plantations.

Xenophobia, racism, and nationalism are gaining terrain, breeding on a toxic narrative which redirects class conflicts towards the “outside”. According to this narrative…

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Toxic Bios: A guerrilla narrative project mapping contamination, illness and resistance

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Ilenia Iengo and Marco Armiero

By bringing to the fore the affective, bodily and narrative dimensions of environmental injustices, the project Toxic Bios aims to open new paths of collaborative research and grassroots activism focused on “guerrilla narratives” and counter-hegemonic storytelling


Toxic Bios is a Public Environmental Humanities project based at KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm. Building on Richard Newman’s definition of Toxic Autobiography, this project is informed by Stacy Alaimo’s work on transcorporeality and by research connecting the body and environmental justice, as, for instance, Gregg Mitman’s Breathing Space.

Newman (2012) defines Toxic Autobiographies as a literary genre in the US second-wave environmental writing, meaning a distinct product of marginalized groups denouncing the environmental injustice in which they feel trapped. Toxic autobiographies are a prototype of counter-history, which aim to sabotage mainstream toxic narratives particularly those which reproduce or silence injustice through counter-hegemonic storytelling. The toxic…

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Bolivia: the ever-expanding frontier of extractivism

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Marta Musić

The re-authorisation of a 300 km long highway cutting through the TIPNIS is part of an extractivist-development model that the MAS administration of Evo Morales has been pursuing since the beginning of its mandate, while paradoxically denouncing capitalism and its disastrous ecological consequences. Indigenous and environmental social movements are staging protests across the country, but wider domestic and international mobilization is urgently needed.

Photo 5 An activist protesting against the highway construction. (Source: The Guardian, 2017)

Two months ago, the Bolivian government of Evo Morales, leader of the party Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement towards Socialism, MAS), re-authorised the construction of a 300 km long highway that would cut through the protected Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) connecting the central department of Cochabamba with the northern department of Beni. This mega-project is part of the broader Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), a $69…

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Are there alternative trajectories of technological development? A political ecology perspective

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Vasilis Kostakis*

Alternative technological systems could develop through the confluence of digital commons, peer-to-peer relations and local manufacturing capacity – but we need the integration of a political ecology perspective to face and overcome the challenges this transition implies

Humans do not control modern technology: the technological system has colonized their imagination and it shapes their activities and relations. This statement reflects the thought of influential degrowth scholars, like Jacques Ellul and Ivan Illich.

Ellul believed that humans may control individual technologies, but not technology broadly conceived as the whole complex of methods and tools that advance efficiency. Instead, technology has taken a life of its own. Society should be in constant flux so that humans can shape it up to an important degree. Ellul was afraid that technology suppresses this flux, creating a uniform, static and paralytic system.

Building on Ellul, Illich and Ernst Friedrich Schumacher

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Confronting authoritarian populism: challenges for agrarian studies


Woman reaper, 1928 (K. Malevich, Russian Museum, St Petersburg)

Last week I was in Russia at the fascinating fifth BRICS Initiative in Critical Agrarian Studies conference. Throughout the event we heard about the emergence of particular styles of authoritarian populist regimes, including in the BRICS countries, but elsewhere too. Based on my remarks at the final plenary, I want to ask what the challenges are for agrarian studies in confronting authoritarian populism.

This is a theme that is at the core of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI), launched in May this year. The open access framing paper is available from the Journal of Peasant Studies, as is a brilliant contribution to the JPS Forum on this theme from Walden Bello.  The ERPI conference in March next year at ISS, the Hague now also has an open call for contributions (deadline, Nov 15). We have been somewhat…

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Why Amazonian forest peoples are ‘counter-mapping’ their ancestral lands

29122014-DSC_1968.jpg“The earth is our mother. We should look after and respect her. This territory is where the peccary passed. Under the authority of Karodaybi [the first Munduruku warrior] Mauricio Torres, Author provided

Author: James Fraser

In 1707, a Jesuit missionary from the Czech Republic named Samuel Fritz published one of the first detailed maps of the Amazon River. Fritz spent much of his life in the region and his map names and locates (often incorrectly) many of the Amazonian forest peoples he encountered. In this sense, his map helped tie them to certain places, and to particular colonially-defined identities.

While Fritz was mapping out the Amazon, other Europeans were hard at work in tropical forested countries across the globe, drawing up boundaries that ignored and criminalised forest peoples’ customary rights to live in their ancestral territories. Continue reading