New book from Jamie Lorimer: The Probiotic Planet: Using Life to Manage Life

A great new book from Jamie Lorimer out soon from University of Minnesota Press. From the publisher’s website:image_cover_medium

Most of us are familiar with probiotics added to milk or yogurt to improve gastrointestinal health. In fact, the term refers to any intervention in which life is used to manage life—from the microscopic, like consuming fermented food to improve gut health, to macro approaches such as biological pest control and natural flood management. In this ambitious and original work, Jamie Lorimer offers a sweeping overview of diverse probiotic approaches and an insightful critique of their promise and limitations.

During our current epoch—the Anthropocene—human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment, leading to the loss of ecological abundance, diversity, and functionality. Lorimer describes cases in which scientists and managers are working with biological processes to improve human, environmental, and even planetary health, pursuing strategies that stand in contrast to the “antibiotic approach”: Big Pharma, extreme hygiene, and industrial agriculture. The Probiotic Planet focuses on two forms of “rewilding” occurring on vastly different scales. The first is the use of keystone species like wolves and beavers as part of landscape restoration. The second is the introduction of hookworms into human hosts to treat autoimmune disorders. In both cases, the goal is to improve environmental health, whether the environment being managed is planetary or human. Lorimer argues that, all too often, such interventions are viewed in isolation, and he calls for a rethinking of artificial barriers between science and policy. He also describes the stark and unequal geographies of the use of probiotic approaches and examines why these patterns exist.

The author’s preface provides a thoughtful discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the probiotic approach. Informed by deep engagement with microbiology, immunology, ecology, and conservation biology as well as food, agriculture, and waste management, The Probiotic Planet offers nothing less than a new paradigm for collaboration between the policy realm and the natural sciences.

New (free!) book on Blue Ethics: Ethical Perspectives on Sustainable, Fair Water Resources Use and Management

This open access book, available in French or English, is pitched at the intersection of policy and ethics. A description below and a link to the site to download it for free is here.

Blue Ethics: Ethical Perspectives on Sustainable, Fair Water Resources Use and Management

From the website: “For many policy makers, urban managers, water experts, technicians or activists, ethical perspectives in water management are not important or do not bring any added value. A debate seems to be locked between those stressing mainly the right of access to water for all and those who cannot go beyond economic realism. The sustainable use of a resource that becomes under growing pressure, in terms of extraction, allocation and recycling looks as a technical issue, not to say a technocratic one. This collective book claims the opposite. The many issues faced by the access to water as well as the sustainable use of the resource rely on open negotiations, settling conflicts, tariffs structure while expanding delivery and managing fairly water’ scarcity. In all these processes, ethical values do matter.”

Michael Sandel on the Tyranny of Merit: What becomes of the common good? (his new book)

Nice interview with Michael Sandel on his new book out this week (or soon, depending where you are).

Arendt in the Anthropocene, our new paper on Being Earthbound

I’m happy to say that a new paper I co-wrote with Oliver Belcher is now out and open-access with Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

The article starts by paying attention to how Hannah Arendt foregrounded her provocative work in The Human Condition with the claim that humans are earth-bound creatures. This idea is not one that is just a one-off but rather, we argue, a helpful way to make sense of different aspects of her work in that book…which is obviously a quite wide-ranging piece of scholarship but one in which Arendt keeps returning to issues that arise when humans start acting into nature and not merely upon it. Here is the abstract, and the pdf is on my publications page or at the link above:


Hannah Arendt developed a twofold account of ‘being earthbound’ directly relevant to Anthropocene debates regarding the political. For Arendt, both senses of ‘being earthbound’ arose as humans began to act into nature, not merely upon it. The first sense is oriented to a political ontology of process, which arose as human actions – political, technological, scientific – nullified modernist conceits separating humans from nature. The second sense is one of earth alienation, which is referenced specifically to a scientific praxis coincident with advances in science and technology that alienates common sense experiences in politics. Though not unqualified, these two senses of being earthbound anchor our argument that Arendt offered prescient resources for understanding the political in the Anthropocene at the intersection of science, capital and world. The article ends by contrasting Arendt’s account of being earthbound with Bruno Latour’s recent interventions on the politics of Gaia.