Critical ecology demands an ongoing dialogue between social critique and environmental measurement

Authors: Suzanne Pierre, Critical Ecology Lab, Kunal Palawat*, Critical Ecology Lab
Topics: Environment, Global Change, Environmental Science
Keywords: critical ecology, equity, oppression, biophysical
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While critiques of the conduct, culture, and application of biophysical research aim to steer scientific fields towards equity and justice, we argue that these analyses are removed from the direct role of oppressive social systems in shaping the very patterns and processes that biophysical researchers study. We introduce critical ecology, a new area of environmental research providing a framework for integrating social critiques of science practices into a broader empirical analysis of human oppression as a global driver of environmental change. Critical ecology aims to allow social critiques of the environment and science to inform testable biophysical hypotheses. Through this work, we aim to establish a quantitative relationship between societal oppression/extraction and resultant biophysical changes at multiple scales. Critical ecology involves and transcends environmental justice, which has historically been an act of redress. Critical ecology is instead a treatment of oppression as a global ecological force as salient as, and materially related to, climate, geology, and biological processes.

As Audre Lorde said, "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house". In keeping with this wisdom, critical ecology also provides a space to activate the tension present in defining "scientific", using science tools to measure violence and harm, and employing ways of knowing that have been wielded in the interest white supremacy and neoliberal harm. In this paper, we introduce the Critical Ecology Lab, a nonprofit research container conducting critical ecological research and serving as a locus for reflexive critique and liberation by practitioners.

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