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Storying Climate Knowledge: Notes on Experimental Political Ecology

Authors: Dylan Harris*, Clark University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Cultural Geography, Environmental Perception
Keywords: climate change, empire, energy, political ecology, just transitions
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Political ecology emphasizes critique, and, through critique, its ability to better understand nature-society relations. Recently, calls have been made from within the sub-discipline to move beyond critique, engaging nature-society relations more experimentally. Within these calls for more experimental approaches to political ecology research, there is a wide range of new methods and approaches that are being implemented. Given the abstract nature of climate change, and given storytelling’s capacity for helping people make sense of the world around them, research for this project combined both political ecology analysis and storytelling as an experimental method of collaborative climate knowledge production in regions, and with people, who are central to the changing climate. Research for this paper took place over fourteen months in both Appalachia and Alaska, climate-vulnerable regions with economies tied to fossil fuel industries and with culturally rich storytelling traditions. They are also key sites of climate skepticism. This paper provides an overview of how climate consciousness–people’s conceptualization of climate change as it has developed historically–manifests in these regions. Then, this paper will discuss the experimental storytelling workshops that were used as a means of creating new kinds of climate consciousness. Finally, this paper will reflect on the utility of these workshops as an approach to experimental political ecology research, providing insight into ways of discussing climate change differently in these regions. Importantly, this paper also provides lessons on how to do experimental political ecology research more broadly.

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