Violence against land defenders

There is important new work on the violence against land defenders worth reading over the summer. Here is a recent article in Global Environmental Change and a write up in The Ecologist with some background to it.

It is not easy reading; nor should it be owing to the continued violence against land defenders, many of whom are Indigenous peoples. Of course, land defenders face challenges on a variety of fronts and this new book on Berta Cáceres does a very good job of positioning land struggles in a broader context. Here is the blurb from the publisher:

Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet


The first time Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres met the journalist Nina Lakhani, Cáceres said, ‘The army has an assassination list with my name at the top. I want to live, but in this country there is total impunity. When they want to kill me, they will do it.’ In 2015, Cáceres won the Goldman Prize, the world’s most prestigious environmental award, for leading a campaign to stop construction of an internationally funded hydroelectric dam on a river sacred to her Lenca people. Less than a year later she was dead.

Lakhani tracked Cáceres remarkable career, in which the defender doggedly pursued her work in the face of years of threats and while friends and colleagues in Honduras were exiled and killed defending basic rights. Lakhani herself endured intimidation and harassment as she investigated the murder. She was the only foreign journalist to attend the 2018 trial of Cáceres’s killers, where state security officials, employees of the dam company and hired hitmen were found guilty of murder. Many questions about who ordered and paid for the killing remain unanswered.

Drawing on more than a hundred interviews, confidential legal filings, and corporate documents unearthed after years of reporting in Honduras, Lakhani paints an intimate portrait of an extraordinary woman in a state beholden to corporate powers, organised crime, and the United States.


David Schlosberg: Climate Change, Non-humans, and Relational Impacts

Patchy Anthropocene: Special Issue from Current Anthropology

I’m sure my ‘copy-and-paste’ will have some issues below [or not! many of the links seem to be working properly], so the direct link to this interesting set of papers is here. The special issue in Current Anthropology is titled “Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications” and looks to be open-access so far as I can tell.


Free AccessPatchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications: Wenner-Gren Symposium Supplement 20

Danilyn Rutherford

pp. S183–S185

First Page | Full Text | PDF (1490 KB) | Permissions

Free AccessPatchy Anthropocene: Landscape Structure, Multispecies History, and the Retooling of Anthropology: An Introduction to Supplement 20

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Andrew S. Mathews, and Nils Bubandt

pp. S186–S197

Abstract | Full Text | PDF (1343 KB) | Permissions

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Landscape Structure: Reading Extinction and Toxicity
Free AccessLearning to Read the Great Chernobyl Acceleration: Literacy in the More-than-Human Landscapes

Kate Brown

pp. S198–S208

Abstract | Full Text | PDF (1958 KB) | Permissions

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Free AccessThe Tree Snail Manifesto

Michael G. Hadfield and Donna J. Haraway

pp. S209–S235

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Modular Simplification and Feral Proliferation: Inhabiting Nondesigned Effects
Free AccessCoffee Landscapes Shaping the Anthropocene: Forced Simplification on a Complex Agroecological Landscape

Ivette Perfecto, M. Estelí Jiménez-Soto, and John Vandermeer

pp. S236–S250

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Free AccessLivestock Revolution and Ghostly Apparitions: South China as a Sentinel Territory for Influenza Pandemics

Frédéric Keck

pp. S251–S259

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Free AccessCattle, Capital, Colonization: Tracking Creatures of the Anthropocene In and Out of Human Projects

Rosa E. Ficek

pp. S260–S271

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Systems and Their Limits: Thinking with Models
Free AccessAn Unexpected Politics of Population: Salmon Counting, Science, and Advocacy in the Columbia River Basin

Heather Anne Swanson

pp. S272–S285

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Free AccessBeing Affected by Sinking Deltas: Changing Landscapes, Resilience, and Complex Adaptive Systems in the Scientific Story of the Anthropocene

Atsuro Morita and Wakana Suzuki

pp. S286–S295

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Free AccessOn Models and Examples: Engineers and Bricoleurs in the Anthropocene

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

pp. S296–S308

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Radical Hope: On Not Giving Up
Free AccessPlants, Politics, and the Imagination over the Past 500 Years in the Indo-Malay Region

Michael R. Dove

pp. S309–S320

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Free AccessFilthy Flourishing: Para-Sites, Animal Infrastructure, and the Waste Frontier in Kampala

Jacob Doherty

pp. S321–S332

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Beyond Man/Change/Earth: Imagining Otherwise
Free AccessAt Play with the Giants: Between the Patchy Anthropocene and Romantic Geology

Naveeda Khan

pp. S333–S341

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Free AccessFarming Odd Kin in Patchy Anthropocenes

Yen-Ling Tsai

pp. S342–S353

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New Book: Andreas Malm’s, How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Latest from Andreas Malm moves from his initial work in history (Fossil Capital), to the polemical conceptual book (Progress of this Storm) to a call for civil disobedience.

From the Publisher’s website:

9781839760259Property will cost us the earth

The science on climate change has been clear for a very long time now. Yet despite decades of appeals, mass street protests, petition campaigns, and peaceful demonstrations, we are still facing a booming fossil fuel industry, rising seas, rising emission levels, and a rising temperature. With the stakes so high, why haven’t we moved beyond peaceful protest?

In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel extraction to stop–with our actions, with our bodies, and by defusing and destroying its tools. We need, in short, to start blowing up some oil pipelines.

Offering a counter-history of how mass popular change has occurred, from the democratic revolutions overthrowing dictators to the movement against apartheid and for women’s suffrage, Malm argues that the strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence has been the only route for revolutionary change. In a braided narrative that moves from the forests of Germany and the streets of London to the deserts of Iraq, Malm offers us an incisive discussion of the politics and ethics of pacifism and violence, democracy and social change, strategy and tactics, and a movement compelled by both the heart and the mind. Here is how we fight in a world on fire.

New Book: Simon Dalby’s Anthropocene Geopolitics

A great looking new title from Simon Dalby from the University of Ottawa Press.

Anthropocene Geopolitics: Globalization, Security, Sustainability

9780776628899_2We now find ourselves in a new geological age: the Anthropocene. The climate is changing and species are disappearing at a rate not seen since Earth’s major extinctions. The rapid, large-scale changes caused by fossil-fuel powered globalization increasingly threaten societies in new, unforeseen ways. But most security policies continue to be built on notions that look back- ward to a time when geopolitical threats derived mainly from the rivalries of states with fixed boundaries. Instead, Anthropocene Geopolitics shows that security policy must look forward to quickly shape a sustainable world no longer dependent on fossil fuels.

A future of long-term peace and geopolitical security depends on keeping the earth in conditions roughly similar to those we have known throughout history. Minimizing disruptions that would further put civilization at risk of extinction urgently requires policies that reflect new Anthropocene “planetary boundaries.”

This book is published in English.

Depuis la fin de la dernière période glaciaire, l’humanité a transformé sa niche écologique, modifié sa position dans l’écosystème, provoqué des changements climatiques radicaux et affecté la diversité des espèces aux quatre coins du monde, ce qui a entraîné l’apparition d’une nouvelle époque géologique, l’Anthropocène.

À l’échelle planétaire, les activités humaines exercent un impact direct sur les frontières qu’elles transforment durablement alors que ces mêmes frontières ont constitué le cadre naturel dans lequel l’humanité a pu prospérer durant les dix derniers millénaires. Les changements rapides qui affectent notre système terrestre remettent directement en cause les anciennes hypothèses qui considéraient des frontières stables comme le principal fondement de la souveraineté. Aujourd’hui, ces postulats périmés doivent impérativement être réévalués. Paradoxalement, la phase de mondialisation actuelle nécessite une redéfinition de la notion même de frontières stables. En effet, l’élargissement des droits de propriété et des champs de compétence pourrait en fait prévenir la mise en œuvre de mesures d’adaptation efficaces visant à répondre aux enjeux du changement climatique. Garantir la survie d’une économie fondée sur la consommation de combustibles fossiles demeure à ce jour une priorité politique comme le fait de devoir faire face aux catastrophes naturelles à l’échelle mondiale – ce qui rend les objectifs de durabilité d’autant plus difficiles à atteindre dans un environnement en pleine mutation où les rivalités politiques exacerbées façonnent la politique globale contemporaine.

L’entrée de la Terre dans une nouvelle époque géologique, l’Anthropocène (l’ère de l’homme), représente un formidable défi éthique, qu’il convient de relever en établissant une véritable politique de durabilité, et ce, au moment où l’humanité s’engage dans la dernière phase du processus de mondialisation. Dans un tel contexte, pour être réellement efficaces, les connaissances et les perspectives résultant des analyses académiques et des initiatives pratiques de toute nature devront être intégrées dans une vision globale.

Sheila Jasanoff ~ The Human Imprint: Nature, Time, and Law in the Anthropocene

Tim Ingold: What on Earth is the Ground?

Clara Han: Echoes of Death and the Life Story. Keynote at Urbanization, Gender, and the Global South

Katherine McKittrick: Living Just Enough for the City, Volume VI, Black Methodology

Settler Geology: Earth’s deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta

lined pit pkg 1 249

Contaminated soil from an in situ flow-to-surface event in northern Alberta

In my latest article, I examine 4 related events in which processes that superheat bitumen into a hot emulsion deep underground forced it to Earth’s surface…rather than having it stay put for long enough to be pumped out. I have a lot of data I gathered on the governance response, but this article targets just one part of it (the rest will be in a new book I’m writing on Alberta). Namely, what was the official ’cause’ of the bitumen flowing to the surface?

Here is the paper (free for 50 days from this link, and available from my publications page). If you have a subsription to Political Geography click here.

At first glance, the answer seems straightforward: the technology used to extract the bitumen was clearly the driving force. But things are more complicated than this for a variety of reasons. The most interesting part for the argument in this paper is how Earth’s deep history (i.e. geologic time) was used to explain causal relationships as ancient marine environments, glacial advances and retreats, and floods from the geologic record were used to explain causal relationships in the present. By looking closely at this case, we can see how geologic and human time are made commensurate with one another…that is, how they are put on the same scale of time.

Of course, these temporal scales are not brought together in just any old fashion. Instead, they are brought together in ways that fit with existing governance structures designed to extract value from land. That is, from the structures put in place through settler colonialism. As it happens, settler colonialism has a very peculiar, and quite flawed, idea of time underpinning it and which make it appear natural despite its violent effects on Indigenous peoples, lands, and relations. I have created the term ‘settler geology’ as a shorthand to refer to how this temporal framework is extended to make Earth’s deep history a natural fit with the cultural time of settler colonialism.

Those who follow debates around the Anthropocene will be familiar with a very prominent premise: that the scale of the Anthropocene is incommensurate with human time. Or, in other words, that the two not only operate on vastly different time scales but that, in addition, geologic time cannot be explained in terms of human time (or vice versa). This premise, and adjacent ideas of incommensurate aspects of the Anthropocene (like Tim Morton’s idea of hyperobjects like climate change that are too big to be candidates for experience) are the target of my latest article in Political Geography. In it, I show how geologic time is made commensurate with the governance of one of the planet’s largest fossil fuel extraction operations: the Alberta oil sands (or tar sands, if you are looking to battle it out over terminology).

Settler geology: Earth’s deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta


Alberta’s bitumen industry is frequently identified as a key site of environmental politics in the Anthropocene owing to the scale of its fossil fuel extraction operations. While popular images of surface mining activities often focus these discussions, approximately 80% of the bitumen reserves in the Canadian province lie too deep for surface mining and are extracted through in situ technologies, including processes that inject high-temperature, high-pressure steam to mobilize geologic formations of the tar-like fossil fuel. This article examines how in situ extraction was governed in response to four flow-to-surface (FTS) events in which bitumen unexpectedly migrated to Earth’s surface as the result of in situ operations. The governance response to these events is of particular interest because it counters the assertion that existing governance institutions operate on time scales that are incommensurate with those relevant to the Anthropocene. The Alberta case shows the opposite owing to how Earth’s deep history was used to provide temporal syntax for a geotechnical debate that ensued over what caused the FTS events. By detailing the controversy over what caused the FTS events, and the search for “enabling conditions” that would link causal explanations to the spatial distribution of the four bitumen seeps, Earth’s deep history was also made commensurate with the political geography of settler colonialism in Alberta. The article introduces and develops the notion of ‘settler geology’ in order to capture the naturalization of geologic forms of reasoning about Earth’s deep history, the geologic force of anthropogenic in situ operations, and the temporal framework of settler colonial governance in Alberta.