The Birth of Territory in 34 minutes

Stuart Elden introduces his new book, very interesting.

Progressive Geographies

12 The Birth of TerritoryAt the book launch for The Birth of Territory yesterday I introduced the book in just over thirty minutes. The audio recording is available here.

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Young scholar? Have something to say about water cooperation?

Here is your chance!

For the full details of the essay competition below click here.

2013 Emerging Scholars Award

The annual GWF Emerging Scholars Award is an opportunity for early-career scholars and practitioners working in water-related fields to publish a short article presenting their research, projects, or opinions to a global audience. The top three articles, as judged by a panel of leading water experts, will be awarded a monetary prize. The ten finalists will be given the opportunity to publish their work on the site.

Applications are currently open for the 2013 Award and will close at midnight (GMT) on 18 November 2013. Details regarding submissions can be found on this page. The Award is run each year and entries of all of 2012 Award finalists can be found here.

The 2013 Emerging Scholars Award

The GWF is pleased to partner with the UN International Year of Water Cooperation 2013 in presenting this year’s theme: ‘Water Cooperation’. This broad theme encompasses many aspects of water governance, including transboundary governance, development, economic approaches to resolving water disputes, solving water security issues, among many others. Participants are not required to formally establish the link of the chosen topic to ‘Water Cooperation’ and a broad conception of the theme will be used in the judging process.

Participants are required to:

  • Submit an 800-1,000 word article relevant to the theme ‘Water Cooperation’.
  • Be a PhD recipient or PhD candidate under 36 years of age on the date of submission.

The top 10 finalists will be offered the opportunity to publish on the Global Water Forum site and in the GWF Discussion Paper Series during December 2013. High-quality entries which are not selected as finalists may also be offered the opportunity to publish their articles at a later date.

First prize is US$500; second prize is US$300; and third prize is US$200.

Tim DeChristopher On Civil Disobedience

An interesting conversation with Tim DeChristopher on civil disobedience, respect, authority and his spiritual path as an environmentalist.

synthetic zerø

“Tim DeChristopher is a climate justice activist and co-founder of the nonprofit Peaceful Uprising. In 2008, Tim committed an act of nonviolent civil disobedience when he disrupted a government oil and gas lease auction in an attempt to protect fragile lands in southern Utah from long-term damage. After being imprisoned for 21 months, he was released in April 2013 and is now on a three-year probation. The recently released documentary film, Bidder 70, tells DeChristopher’s courageous story.”

Been reading dear old Thoreau again and he,  like me, wasn’t a pacifist or a religionist, but I think that he would have shared my admiration for folks like these, and my particular hero these days US congressman and pacifist-preacher/saint John Lewis, whatever their inspirations we desperately need allies like this if we are going to resist crony-capitalists and other gangsters so let’s give them a hand where we can, ok?

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Decentering the human in human geography

I have not had a chance to watch this whole lecture yet, but it looks intriguing. I’m spending the week in San Diego at the Society for Social Studies of Science conference – so look forward to meeting up with anybody else who may happen to be here.

Tim Mitchell on McJihad: US-Taliban talks on pipelines pre-9/11

Government problems: water-energy-mining-spying

Well, quite a week in Albertan and Canadian resource policy.

Last week, a judge issued a verdict against Alberta’s regulatory decision to exclude Pembina, an environmental NGO, from hearings on oil sands projects. And it wasn’t just a decision, it was a scathing indictment, which you can download here (PDF). Among the judge’s comments was that it was  “difficult to envision a more direct apprehension of bias” than the regulator’s decision to exclude Pembina.

Alberta also released a new consultation policy for development of resources affecting First Nations. It has been characterized as misguided. And that is not good timing, since the federal government sent an armada of ministers to B.C. recently to create some momentum for a pipeline through First Nations territory on that side of the two province deal that would pipe bitumen to Kitimat. It could be that the federal government and First Nations are headed for conflict.

On the other side of the country there is the on-going standoff over fracking in New Brunswick. A judge issued an injunction against a Mi’kmaq barricade yesterday, and the province’s premier is planning negotiations. The embarrassing issue for the New Brunswick government is that the chair of their Energy Institute was recently exposed as a fraud. So the credibility of the government is in serious doubt.

Also yesterday, Brazil called Canada out on its spying program that targeted Brazil’s mining and energy ministry. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds since, according to reports, there are more documents on Canada’s intelligence gathering that may be released as well.

Is water H2O? My review now available at Water History

I mentioned earlier this summer the book Is water H2O? My review of the book is now available at Water History.

The book is excellent and I recommend it. The main drawback is the price – so request that your library purchase it and then get it that way. The strengths of the book are numerous as it offers a close reading of the works of Priestly and Lavoisier, to name just two of the late 17th and early 18th century scientists it considers. In addition, the book does quite a bit of philosophical work. My review tries to give a better overview of both the history and philosophy that the book covers – I’m not sure if it is open access or not.

Urbanization in the Anthropocene

Inequality, democracy & overwhelming speed

I attended an interesting roundtable last night on inequality versus democracy. It will be aired live on NPR today, I think at 11am and 7pm – but I’m not sure of all the local variations. Best to check here, on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” program description. There you can also see who did the talking:

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal Party Candidate for Canadian Parliament, journalist and author of “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.” (@CaFreeland)

Martin Gilens, professor of Politics at Princeton University and author of “Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.”

Alex Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.


If you have been following the discussion about the rise of inequality in wealth distribution you will be familiar with some of the main themes of the talk. If not, there is also a helpful introduction at the outset that links the rise in inequality to the decline in democratic responsiveness to the public. Either way, pretty informative.

One thing I had wished to hear, but did not, was a bit about how the complexity and speed of financial trading now goes beyond what we can even respond to. There is a very interesting article on this topic that came out a few weeks ago, and a good summary of it here. And if you want to see what I mean, watch the clip below. It is from a mere 10 seconds of trading for Blackberry stocks. I copied the description in below too, just because otherwise it is pretty hard to understand.

“October 2, 2013 – Blackberry rallies from $7.60 to $8.00. Watch the deluge of quotes from Nasdaq (pink at 12 o’clock) overwhelm the system when the price ticks to the next level. Quote rates approach 40,000 per second on a 25 millisecond basis.”

The state is not neutral

quecharterIn Canada, a recent proposal by the Quebec government to implement a “Charter of Values” has generated considerable controversy. The basic premise of the charter is that the state should be neutral and, as such, officers of the state should not be adorned with anything that would betray their specific beliefs.

If you put a big “X” over the image to the right, you get the idea.

Now, there are several reasons why this is problematic, and political philosopher and Quebecker Charles Taylor recently gave a good interview on why this is. You can view it here on CBC.

Now, whether or not this new legislation goes through, it begs the question of whether the state is neutral and whether this is even a goal that can be stated in neutral terms. That is, neutrality itself may very well be the outcome of a particular political point of view.

Taylor starts out by making a nice point, that requiring people to stop wearing outward symbols of faith immediately makes a judgment about faith being something that one holds in their inner person. Which is very much okay for some faiths (i.e. Christianity) but not so for others where certain practices are necessary for belief.

Strangely, to me, not much discussion has arisen about whether the goal of state neutrality is even worth pursuing. It is certainly a long-standing part of the rhetorical and philosophical armament of political liberalism. There, the idea is that our policies, and methods for reaching them, should not intrinsically favor the beliefs of any particular group. In Habermas’ book, Between Naturalism and Religion, he suggests such a view is “post-metaphysical.”

For my part, I would like to see the broader conversation get going in Canada. To do so, we would first need to acknowledge that, because the goal of state neutrality requires conformance to practices that leave our beliefs at home, this is already making a substantive judgment about beliefs, and how and why they matter. We would need to acknowledge that the state is not neutral.