Frank Biermann – Earth system governance: world politics in the Anthropocene

Biermann_MIT_2014-coverFrank Biermann’s new book now out with MIT Press, two videos below by Frank:

Humans are no longer spectators who need to adapt to their natural environment. Our impact on the earth has caused changes that are outside the range of natural variability and are equivalent to such major geological disruptions as ice ages. Some scientists argue that we have entered a new epoch in planetary history: the Anthropocene. In such an era of planet-wide transformation, we need a new model for planet-wide environmental politics. In this book, Frank Biermann proposes “earth system” governance as just such a new paradigm.

Biermann offers both analytical and normative perspectives. He provides detailed analysis of global environmental politics in terms of five dimensions of effective governance: agency, particularly agency beyond that of state actors; architecture of governance, from local to global levels; accountability and legitimacy; equitable allocation of resources; and adaptiveness of governance systems. Biermann goes on to offer a wide range of policy proposals for future environmental governance and a revitalized United Nations, including the establishment of a World Environment Organization and a UN Sustainable Development Council, new mechanisms for strengthened representation of civil society and scientists in global decision making, innovative systems of qualified majority voting in multilateral negotiations, and novel institutions to protect those impacted by global change. Drawing on ten years of research, Biermann formulates earth system governance as an empirical reality and a political necessity.



Flashboys: Michael Lewis on ‘high’ finance & high-frequency trading

41rC-xFW03LMichael Lewis’ new book on how the market is rigged is making a lot of waves. Certainly worth the read. Here is a short video and the description of the book.

Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post-financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets. This they do by creating an exchange in which high-frequency trading—source of the most intractable problems—will have no advantage whatsoever.”




More dam controversy: France, B.C.

A protester has died after anti-dam protesters clashed with police in France. The Sivens dam project is quickly becoming a site for significant political action as political parties also line up against each other over the project.

The large Site C dam in northern British Columbia (Canada) also took a step forward recently when the environmental assessment for it was approved. It will likely stir protest and, almost certainly, legal action.


I’ve been kicked in the biosphere: Tim Morton on agrilogistics

Tim Morton (Rice University) has a new piece up entitled “I’ve been kicked in the biosphere.” As with a fair bit of Morton’s writing, it has his particular cadence, and is enjoyable to read.

What I found interesting in the piece is that Morton, like so many others – from the French philosophes to American naturalists – is returning to the “land question” and what to do with agriculture. Morton’s take is that there is a whole set of industrial and logistical programs in place that are built upon, and entwined with, agriculture. Or what he calls agrilogistics. I think, but am not positive, that Morton is the first of the new realists to look at the agricultural question. I don’t see a lot that is new on this front just yet, but will look forward to seeing how he develops this strain of thought in future works. I listened to some of his Wellek Lectures, where he talked a little about agrilogistics. I tend not to think of lectures as the sorts of things one should cite, since very often people follow something that occurs to them in the moment – as they think something through publicly – that they don’t pursue later. And since I think that is precisely what makes lectures fascinating, I’ll wait to see what more comes out in print from Morton with respect to his take on the land question.

Ontological ‘turns’ and colonialism

I’ve mentioned previously the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology and the growing literature around it, like this special issue from HAU. Last week, a PhD student from Aberdeen, Zoe Todd, wrote a post on her take on the ‘ontological turn’ as an indigenous scholar. In it, she considers the ‘ontological turn’ yet another way of applying colonial forms of domination to indigenous thought, practice, and forms of social and legal order. It is an interesting post and worth the read. It was circulated widely on social media over the weekend.

A number of the themes of the post are worth taking up, such as whether the ‘ontological turn’ is intrinsically related to colonialism such that considerations of difference within it displace and dispossess indigenous forms of thought. I think the folks in the UC Davis group working on indigenous cosmopolitics might have something to contribute on this front. We’re going to have a get together this morning to discuss some of these issues here in Halifax so I’ll try to write an update later this week.

Glen Coulthard: Red Skin, White Masks – Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

image_miniGlen Coulthard’s new book is now out. Here is a description, and a video of a talk Glen gave at the University of Victoria on Rage against Empire.

From the University of Minnesota Press website:

“Over the past forty years, recognition has become the dominant mode of negotiation and decolonization between the nation-state and Indigenous nations in North America. The term “recognition” shapes debates over Indigenous cultural distinctiveness, Indigenous rights to land and self-government, and Indigenous peoples’ right to benefit from the development of their lands and resources.

In a work of critically engaged political theory, Glen Sean Coulthard challenges recognition as a method of organizing difference and identity in liberal politics, questioning the assumption that contemporary difference and past histories of destructive colonialism between the state and Indigenous peoples can be reconciled through a process of acknowledgment. Beyond this, Coulthard examines an alternative politics—one that seeks to revalue, reconstruct, and redeploy Indigenous cultural practices based on self-recognition rather than on seeking appreciation from the very agents of colonialism.

Coulthard demonstrates how a “place-based” modification of Karl Marx’s theory of “primitive accumulation” throws light on Indigenous–state relations in settler-colonial contexts and how Frantz Fanon’s critique of colonial recognition shows that this relationship reproduces itself over time. This framework strengthens his exploration of the ways that the politics of recognition has come to serve the interests of settler-colonial power.

In addressing the core tenets of Indigenous resistance movements, like Red Power and Idle No More, Coulthard offers fresh insights into the politics of active decolonization.”


Rob Nixon: Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor

Aboriginal Title and Provincial Regulation: The Impact of Tsilhqot’in Nation v BC

A very interesting discussion of Canada’s Supreme Court decision this summer on aboriginal title.

Water ethics on a human-dominated planet: new paper published by Christiana Peppard and I

WIREs Water has published its latest issue, which includes an article by Christiana Peppard and I. The paper is free on the Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water (WIREs) website, or you can download the pdf by clicking here.

Here is the title and abstract:

Johan Rockström: Planetary Stewardship in the Anthropocene

A lecture from two years ago…