Amazing triple set of resources on Indigenous waters: from Standing Rock to Australia (book + 2 special issues)

There are three recent (and really good) resources that have come out on Indigenous waters in the past several weeks: a book and two special issues, each below and many open access.

Standing With Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement (University of Minnesota Press)

From the Publisher Website:

image_miniIt is prophecy. A Black Snake will spread itself across the land, bringing destruction while uniting Indigenous nations. The Dakota Access Pipeline is the Black Snake, crossing the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The oil pipeline united communities along its path—from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois—and galvanized a twenty-first-century Indigenous resistance movement marching under the banner Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life! Standing Rock youth issued a call, and millions around the world and thousands of Water Protectors from more than three hundred Native nations answered. Amid the movement to protect the land and the water that millions depend on for life, the Oceti Sakowin (the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people) reunited. A nation was reborn with renewed power to protect the environment and support Indigenous grassroots education and organizing. This book assembles the multitude of voices of writers, thinkers, artists, and activists from that movement.

Through poetry and prose, essays, photography, interviews, and polemical interventions, the contributors, including leaders of the Standing Rock movement, reflect on Indigenous history and politics and on the movement’s significance. Their work challenges our understanding of colonial history not simply as “lessons learned” but as essential guideposts for current and future activism.

Transformative Water Relations: Indigenous Interventions in Global Political Economies

This is a special, open-access issue in the journal Global Environmental Politics [click here if the direct links below are off]. It is edited by Kate Neville and Glen Coulthard and includes pieces from many scholars that are part of the Decolonizing Water project.

There are six articles, here are the titles/authors.

Kate J. Neville and Glen Coulthard
Including Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Environmental Assessments: Restructuring the Process, Rachel Arsenault, Carrie Bourassa, Sibyl Diver, Deborah McGregor, and Aaron Witham

Indigenous water management

This is a special issue in the Australasian Journal of Environmental Managment  and it is edited by Sue Jackson and Bradley Moggridge (Not all of it is open access but the lead article is…at least it was when I posted this).

Indigenous water management, Sue Jackson & Bradley Moggridge
Indigenous nation building for environmental futures: Murrundi flows through Ngarrindjeri country, Steve Hemming, Daryle Rigney, Simone Bignall, Shaun Berg & Grant Rigney

Andrea Ballestero’s new book! A future history of water

Ballestero.jpgIf, like me, you’ve been waiting for this title, it will be out next month. Details below on Andrea Ballestero’s fascinating research:

From Duke University Press here:

Based on fieldwork among state officials, NGOs, politicians, and activists in Costa Rica and Brazil, A Future History of Water traces the unspectacular work necessary to make water access a human right and a human right something different from a commodity. Andrea Ballestero shows how these ephemeral distinctions are made through four technolegal devices—formula, index, list and pact. She argues that what is at stake in these devices is not the making of a distinct future but what counts as the future in the first place. A Future History of Water is an ethnographically rich and conceptually charged journey into ant-filled water meters, fantastical water taxonomies, promises captured on slips of paper, and statistical maneuvers that dissolve the human of human rights. Ultimately, Ballestero demonstrates what happens when instead of trying to fix its meaning, we make water’s changing form the precondition of our analyses.


“Andrea Ballestero masterfully brings analytic complexity to wide-ranging fields while simultaneously showing us that these fields are not as separate as they first seem. If this sounds like ethnographic magic, that’s because it is: the magic of a most creative method carefully and brilliantly pursued to provide awareness of scholarly habits of thought, in the process, offering alter-inspiration.” — Marisol de la Cadena, author of Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds

“Andrea Ballestero is one of the most eloquent environmental ethnographers of her generation and one of the most important ethnographers of scientific practice that I have ever encountered. Her writing is beautiful, her theoretical and analytic ability are stunning, and the connections that she makes between her empirical evidence and larger conversations in the social sciences are breathtaking. While there are other anthropologists who write about the kinds of techniques that Ballestero dissects, historicizes, and theorizes, nobody does it while always grounding them in social relations and social reproduction.” — Paige West, author of Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea

New Book from Ingrid Stefanovic – The Wonder of Water: Lived Experience, Policy, and Practice

This is a great looking new title edited by Ingrid Stefanovic here with the University of Toronto Press.

SP005904Facing droughts, floods, and water security challenges, society is increasingly forced to develop new policies and practices to cope with the impacts of climate change. From taken-for-granted values and perceptions to embodied, existential modes of engaging our world, human perspectives impact decision-making and behavior.

The Wonder of Water explores how human experience – from embodied cultural paradigms to value systems and personal biases – impact decisions around water. In many ways, the volume expands on the growing field of water ethics to include questions around environmental aesthetics, psychology, and ontology. And yet this book is not simply for philosophers. On the contrary, a specific aim is to explore how more informed philosophical dialogue will lead to more insightful public policies and practices.

Case studies describe specific architectural and planning decisions, fisheries policies, urban ecological restorations and more. The overarching phenomenological perspective, however, means that these discussions emerge within a sensibility toward the foundational significance of human embodiment, culture, language, worldviews, and, ultimately, moral attunement to place.

Great new book from Karine Gagné: Caring for Glaciers: Land, Animals, and Humanity in the Himalayas

This is a great looking new title from Karine Gagné at the University of Guelph.

Available here from University of Washington Press, where the blurb below is also from.

GAGASGRegional geopolitical processes have turned the Himalayan region of Ladakh, in northwest India, into a strategic border area with an increasing military presence that has decentered the traditional agropastoralist economy. This in turn has led to social fragmentation, the growing isolation of elders, and ethical dilemmas for those who strive to maintain traditional subsistence activities. Simultaneously, climate change is causing glaciers – a vital source of life in the region – to recede, which elders perceive as the consequence of a broken bond with the natural environment and the deities that inhabit the landscape.

Caring for Glaciers looks at the causes and consequences of ongoing social and cultural change in peoples’ relationship with the natural environment. It illuminates how relations of reciprocity – learned through everyday life and work in the mountains with the animals, glaciers, and deities that form Ladakh’s sacred geography – shape and nurture an ethics of care. Integrating contemporary studies of affect, landscape, and multispecies anthropology, Caring for Glaciers contributes to the anthropology of ethics by examining the moral order that develops through the embodied experience of life and work in the Himalayas.

Karine Gagné is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Guelph.

“The idea of morality serves as an axis for Gagné to bring together climate change, geopolitical tensions within and between nations, and the dilemmas of Indigenous peoples faced with the forces of nationalism and globalization.”
-Benjamin Orlove, anthropologist and professor of international and public affairs, Columbia University

“A timely and important foregrounding of the complex assemblage of human environmental relationships in the Himalayas.”
-Mona Bhan, coauthor of Climate without Nature: A Critical Anthropology of the Anthropocene

“Karine Gagné offers a perceptive and ethnographically rich monograph to the growing field of borderlands studies in high Asia and boosts our awareness of the Human-Nature bond on these margins.”
-Jean Michaud, coauthor of Frontier Livelihoods: Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands


New Book – Our history is the future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance

Nick Estes has been writing about Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock in powerful ways, so his new book coming in just over one month’s time is one I look forward to reading (also a co-edited book here!)

Here is the book description from Verso (available elsewhere too, I believe with Penguin/Random House in Canada):

How two centuries of Indigenous resistance created the movement proclaiming “Water is life”




In 2016, a small protest encampment at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, initially established to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, grew to be the largest Indigenous protest movement in the twenty-first century. Water Protectors knew this battle for native sovereignty had already been fought many times before, and that, even after the encampment was gone, their anticolonial struggle would continue. In Our History Is the Future, Nick Estes traces traditions of Indigenous resistance that led to the #NoDAPL movement. Our History Is the Future is at once a work of history, a manifesto, and an intergenerational story of resistance.

New book on Water Justice

9781107179080This looks like quite a nice collection from Cambridge University Press.

Water Justice

Edited by Rutgerd Boelens, Tom Perreault, and Jeroen Vos

Book description

Water justice is becoming an ever-more pressing issue in times of increasing water-based inequalities and discrimination. Megacities, mining, forestry, industry and agribusiness claim an increasingly large share of available surface and groundwater reserves. Water grabbing and pollution generate poverty and endanger ecosystems’ sustainability. Beyond large, visible injustices, the book also unfolds the many ‘hidden’ water world injustices, subtly masked as ‘rational’, ‘equitable’ and ‘democratic’. It features critical conceptual approaches, including analysis of environmental, social, cultural and legal issues surrounding the distribution and management of water. Illustrated with case studies of historic and contemporary water injustices and contestations around the world, the book lays new ground for challenging current water governance forms and unequal power structures. It also provides inspiration for building alternative water realities. With contributions from renowned scholars, this is an indispensable book for students, researchers and policymakers interested in water governance, environmental policy and law, and political geography.


Advance praise:’This is a major book on the political ecology of water conflicts by the top experts in the field. It defines a new field of study, ‘water justice’. It’s a great addition to the study of local and global movements against environmental injustice with a focus on water-grabbing and unequal access to water for irrigation, mining, urban sanitation, and hydroelectricity.’

Joan Martinez-Alier – Emeritus Professor of Economics and Economic History, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Advance praise’Boelens, Perreault and Vos have assembled a genuinely impressive set of authors to tackle the nature, meaning, and drivers of water injustices across the world, and to explore the possibilities of water justice. While the picture is far from rosy, the book provides rich theoretical and empirical perspectives through which to understand the inequities surrounding the control and use of water and to imagine alternative futures. This text will be a point of reference for many years to come.’

Anthony Bebbington – Australian Laureate Fellow, University of Melbourne, and Milton P. and Alice C. Higgins Professor of Environment and Society, Clark University, Massachusetts

Advance praise:’This timely and engaging volume by some of the world’s foremost scholars on water constitutes a loud sound of alarm. Not only that, it shows why liberal and neoliberal water rationalities … won’t work. Proposed instead is a sophisticated approach to the question of water as nature, and of its relation to justice, from which emerges a powerful framework for alternative hydrosocialities. By reminding us that what is at stake … is people’s very right to exist, Water Justice enables us to imagine and construct other paths for fair and wise water policies.’

Arturo Escobar – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Advance praise:’It would be difficult to overstate the global significance of water injustice, which continues to be a major obstacle preventing millions of human beings from enjoying a dignified life. Water Justice addresses key aspects of this complex problem, bringing together a unique international team of scholars. This is not only a timely collection, but also one that provides access to rich theoretical arguments and empirical examples that allow an in-depth treatment of the topic. The book is a welcome contribution for academics, students, and practitioners, and will attract a wider readership among those concerned with the future of civilized human life.’

José Esteban Castro – Newcastle University

Advance praise:”Water justice!’ is the rallying cry of this book. It explores in a readable, illuminating and comprehensive way the multiple dimensions of water injustice and the diverse struggles to change these.’

Cristóbal Kay – International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

My new book on Global Water Governance with Nathanial Matthews

Global environmental challenges 2017Very pleased to announce my new book, co-authored with Nathanial Matthews, is now out with Palgrave Macmillan. A description of the book is below (or here) and the publisher’s website is here. I was delighted by the endorsement from Carl Folke, as one of the key things the book strives for is to get at the core issues in a concise and clear manner.

Global Challenges in Water Governance: Environments, Economies, Societies

“A beautiful synthesis of the emergence of water governance, its significance in human affairs, and the challenges it entails on a human dominated planet. Short, comprehensive, and easy to read. I can highly recommend it.” ~ Carl Folke, Science Director and Co-Founder of Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden

This book presents a historically situated explanation of the rise of global water governance and the contemporary challenges that global water governance seeks to address. It is particularly concerned with connecting what are often technical issues in water management with the social and political structures that affect how technical and scientific advice affects decisions. Schmidt and Matthews are careful to avoid the pitfalls of setting up opposing binaries, such as ‘nature versus culture’ or ‘private versus public’, thereby allowing readers to understand how contests over water governance have been shaped over time and why they will continue to be so.

Co-written by an academic and a practitioner, Global Challenges in Water Governance combines the dual concerns for both analytical clarity and practical applicability in a way that is particularly valuable both for educators, researchers, decision-makers, and newcomers to the complexities of water use decisions.

New paper in special issue on Helen Ingram’s legacy in water, politics, and governance

Very happy to have a new article out in the Journal of the Southwest and in a special double issue honouring the work of Helen Ingram. Full table of contents is here for the double issue, which includes pieces by Peter Gleick, Henry Vaux Jr., Marcela Brugnach, and others, and which Margaret Wilder skillfully edited and introduces.

My contribution begins with an event in Alberta, when Dr. Ingram was asked to join a special panel on monitoring the oil sands, and then resigned when the terms of reference stymied some of her basic commitments, such as to equity and engaging with Indigenous peoples. Entitled, Water Policy in Alberta: Settler-colonialism, community, and capital, I trace out how water policy has been structured in Alberta in ways that produce inequality and how it has evolved to put newer, glossier ideas (like water governance) into similarly inequitable structures. It is available to download by clicking here (or from my the ‘publications’ link above).

The River is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community – Elizabeth Hoover

This title isn’t out until November, but it’s never too soon to pre-order.

From the University of Minnesota Press website:

image_cover_mediumMohawk midwife Katsi Cook lives in Akwesasne, an indigenous community in upstate New York that is downwind and downstream from three Superfund sites. For years she witnessed elevated rates of miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer in her town, ultimately drawing connections between environmental contamination and these maladies. When she brought her findings to environmental health researchers, Cook sparked the United States’ first large-scale community-based participatory research project.

In The River Is in Us, author Elizabeth Hoover takes us deep into this remarkable community that has partnered with scientists and developed grassroots programs to fight the contamination of its lands and reclaim its health and culture. Through in-depth research into archives, newspapers, and public meetings, as well as numerous interviews with community members and scientists, Hoover shows the exact efforts taken by Akwesasne’s massive research project and the grassroots efforts to preserve the Native culture and lands. She also documents how contaminants have altered tribal life, including changes to the Mohawk fishing culture and the rise of diabetes in Akwesasne.

Featuring community members such as farmers, health-care providers, area leaders, and environmental specialists, while rigorously evaluating the efficacy of tribal efforts to preserve its culture and protect its health, The River Is in Us offers important lessons for improving environmental health research and health care, plus detailed insights into the struggles and methods of indigenous groups. This moving, uplifting book is an essential read for anyone interested in Native Americans, social justice, and the pollutants contaminating our food, water, and bodies.

America’s water whiplash

This was originally published on the NYU Press Blog From the Square.

Jerry Brown must sometimes wonder why he isn’t called the water governor. In the 1970s he presided over a severe drought in California. Forty years later, he was governor again. The water? Gone once more. Both droughts eventually subsided—although subsided doesn’t capture the events of this past spring when intense rains pushed America’s tallest dam into code red.

The Oroville Dam towers 770 feet (225 meters) above where the water in its reservoir would like to rest. Even this colossal structure, however, proved no match for the new normal in which climate change can deliver water with a fire hose. As rain fell and water rose, the dam’s spillway was opened to relieve the reservoir. Soon, however, the scouring water eroded a large sinkhole in the concrete waterslide. As the sinkhole began to erode uphill towards the reservoir it forced a choice: close the spillway and let the waters keep rising or keep it open and hope erosion stops short of undermining the dam itself.

The spillway was shut, and engineers, politicians, and the 200,000 people evacuated downstream watched and listened nervously as the water bulged against earthen and concrete bulwarks. As the water breached the reservoir’s capacity the first drops began to trickle over the erstwhile engineering marvel. Then the torrent came. Water mixed with rocks and debris to overwhelm downstream waterways and wash away critical aquatic habitat. The only relief came by chance when the rains stopped before erosion from the overtopped dam ate into its foundations.

The Oroville Dam episode lies somewhere between bellwether and dodged bullet. On one hand, there is a flock of failing infrastructure potentially set to follow it. On the other, this acute crisis must be seen in the context of a now chronic mismatch between the ideas used to manage water and the environmental triggers being pulled by human pressure on the planet’s water. There are no small stakes in the matter. The price tag to repair Oroville Dam hovers near $275 million; but the cost of continuing to manage water under assumptions of climatic stability will almost certainly not stop there. It is a hydrological harbinger; globally, climate change will put trillions of dollars of global assets at risk in addition to altering the conditions affecting earthly life.

Contemporary water problems, however, aren’t the latest episode in epics of water and nature. They also don’t fit standard explanations that plot events like those at Oroville Dam on a bell curve modeled on normal variability. Something more troubling, and more demanding of explanation, is afoot.

What is fundamentally amiss is that the model used to deal with water’s chance events has been called out not only because it is inadequate to the challenge of climate change, but because it also had (and continWaterues to have) a role in creating the problems it seeks to solve. Historically, water management in America was based on a peculiar cultural myth in which dams like Oroville were not just good for society but demanded by evolution itself—they were good, on this account, for the planet. Ironically, this myth is now being called out by water itself.

Water treats truth and fiction alike: relentlessly. In an age when climate change sends torrential rains on good ideas and bad, and likewise withholds waters with equally impersonal disdain, many claim our current situation is so novel that we should wipe the slate clean—start anew with a full view of humanity as a planet shaping force. Surely we need new ideas, but they are going to play out on a landscape built by those previous. The Oroville Dam cannot be abandoned as it stands. Yet it is not sufficient to merely patch the problems when water’s erosive force is set to undermine the foundations of both material and myth.

Jeremy J. Schmidt is Assistant Professor of Geography at Durham University and the author of Water: Abundance, Scarcity, and Security in the Age of Humanity (NYU Press, 2017).