Emerging geopolitics and environmental interventions in the Anthropocene

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme:
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Polar Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Mia Bennett
Chairs: Mia Bennett

Call for Submissions

In the summer of 2019, fires raged across the Amazon rainforest and Arctic sea ice melted to a level that tied it with the second-lowest minimum extent in recorded history. Environmental crises in both their short-lived variants and more slow-motion forms, such as climate change, seem to be occurring with greater frequency and intensity in the Anthropocene, the era in which humans have become a “geological force” impacting the planet (Chakrabarty, 2009). On the one hand, the proliferation of such disasters may engender passive responses, with people feeling reluctant or powerless to act. On the other hand, these crises can also elicit more deliberate reactions in which actors – be they the state, corporations, or individuals – seek to mitigate or altogether cease environmental destruction.

The types of interventions that have been proposed to “save the Earth” range from geo-engineering to invading a sovereign state. To wit, in a recent op-ed in The Guardian, Lawrence Douglas, a law professor at Amherst College, calls for environmental intervention in cases of “environmental vandalism,” arguing, “All the reasons that support the project of humanitarian intervention apply with equal, if not greater force, in the case of the environment” (Douglas, 2019). Support for intervening, however, risks effectively condoning neocolonialism – especially when such support comes from actors in the Global North, which generally bear more responsibility for anthropogenic climate change than the places in the Global South where interventions may be directed. While Douglas goes so far as to hypothetically support the use of military force to protect the environment, there are also subtler instances of states attempting to transform areas into “spaces of exception” as a result of climatic or environmental crises in order to justify intervention, as in the Arctic (Dittmer, Moisio, Ingram, & Dodds, 2011). Such declarations of a “state of emergency” are problematic, for they can occlude democratic debate on the best way forward and make hopeful futures seem out of reach (Honig, 2009).

Environmental disasters, then, and particularly climate change, present more than just threats to national security or challenges to the status quo of the world order. In the Anthropocene, dramatic alterations to the Earth’s ecosystems may in fact force reconsideration of the basic assumptions of territorial sovereignty (Dalby, 2014). The multitude of potential reactions to environmental crises suggests that there may be a new kind of “political geology” emerging, one in which the strata of the Earth’s environment are as important, if not more so, than territorial subdivisions (Clark, 2013; Melo Zurita, George Munro, & Houston, 2018).

The aim of this session is thus to reckon with the geopolitics that are materializing in the Anthropocene from the local to the planetary scale, along with new forms of contestations and interventions that they may spark. Both empirical and more theoretical, conceptually-driven papers are invited. Papers may address any of the following (non-exhaustive) topics:

• Environmental intervention
• The politics of emergency
• The politics of climate change
• The politics of geo-engineering
• Climate change, securitization and conflict
• Environmental neocolonialism
• Geopolitics in the Anthropocene
• Sovereignty in the Anthropocene
• Governance in a state of emergency
• Sovereignty and spaces of exception
• Climate and international law
• Spaces of global and local climate decision-making

References
Chakrabarty, D. (2009). The climate of history: Four theses. Critical Inquiry, 35(2), 197–222.
Clark, N. (2013). Geoengineering and geologic politics. Environment and Planning A, 45(12), 2825–2832.
Dalby, S. (2014). Rethinking geopolitics: Climate security in the Anthropocene. Global Policy, 5(1), 1–9.
Dittmer, J., Moisio, S., Ingram, A., & Dodds, K. (2011). Have you heard the one about the disappearing ice? Recasting Arctic geopolitics. Political Geography, 30(4), 202–214.
Douglas, L. (2019, August 31). Do the Brazil Amazon fires justify environmental interventionism? The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/31/brazil-amazon-fires-justify-environmental-interventionism
Honig, B. (2009). Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Melo Zurita, M. de L., George Munro, P., & Houston, D. (2018). Un-earthing the subterranean Anthropocene. Area, 50(3), 298–305.


Description

In the summer of 2019, fires raged across the Amazon rainforest and Arctic sea ice melted to a level that tied it with the second-lowest minimum extent in recorded history. Environmental crises in both their short-lived variants and more slow-motion forms, such as climate change, seem to be occurring with greater frequency and intensity in the Anthropocene, the era in which humans have become a “geological force” impacting the planet (Chakrabarty, 2009). On the one hand, the proliferation of such disasters may engender passive responses, with people feeling reluctant or powerless to act. On the other hand, these crises can also elicit more deliberate reactions in which actors – be they the state, corporations, or individuals – seek to mitigate or altogether cease environmental destruction.

The types of interventions that have been proposed to “save the Earth” range from geo-engineering to invading a sovereign state. To wit, in a recent op-ed in The Guardian, Lawrence Douglas, a law professor at Amherst College, calls for environmental intervention in cases of “environmental vandalism,” arguing, “All the reasons that support the project of humanitarian intervention apply with equal, if not greater force, in the case of the environment” (Douglas, 2019). Support for intervening, however, risks effectively condoning neocolonialism – especially when such support comes from actors in the Global North, which generally bear more responsibility for anthropogenic climate change than the places in the Global South where interventions may be directed. While Douglas goes so far as to hypothetically support the use of military force to protect the environment, there are also subtler instances of states attempting to transform areas into “spaces of exception” as a result of climatic or environmental crises in order to justify intervention, as in the Arctic (Dittmer, Moisio, Ingram, & Dodds, 2011). Such declarations of a “state of emergency” are problematic, for they can occlude democratic debate on the best way forward and make hopeful futures seem out of reach (Honig, 2009).

Environmental disasters, then, and particularly climate change, present more than just threats to national security or challenges to the status quo of the world order. In the Anthropocene, dramatic alterations to the Earth’s ecosystems may in fact force reconsideration of the basic assumptions of territorial sovereignty (Dalby, 2014). The multitude of potential reactions to environmental crises suggests that there may be a new kind of “political geology” emerging, one in which the strata of the Earth’s environment are as important, if not more so, than territorial subdivisions (Clark, 2013; Melo Zurita, George Munro, & Houston, 2018).

The aim of this session is thus to reckon with the geopolitics that are materializing in the Anthropocene from the local to the planetary scale, along with new forms of contestations and interventions that they may spark. Both empirical and more theoretical, conceptually-driven papers are invited. Papers may address any of the following (non-exhaustive) topics:

• Environmental intervention
• The politics of emergency
• The politics of climate change
• The politics of geo-engineering
• Climate change, securitization and conflict
• Environmental neocolonialism
• Geopolitics in the Anthropocene
• Sovereignty in the Anthropocene
• Governance in a state of emergency
• Sovereignty and spaces of exception
• Climate and international law
• Spaces of global and local climate decision-making

References
Chakrabarty, D. (2009). The climate of history: Four theses. Critical Inquiry, 35(2), 197–222.
Clark, N. (2013). Geoengineering and geologic politics. Environment and Planning A, 45(12), 2825–2832.
Dalby, S. (2014). Rethinking geopolitics: Climate security in the Anthropocene. Global Policy, 5(1), 1–9.
Dittmer, J., Moisio, S., Ingram, A., & Dodds, K. (2011). Have you heard the one about the disappearing ice? Recasting Arctic geopolitics. Political Geography, 30(4), 202–214.
Douglas, L. (2019, August 31). Do the Brazil Amazon fires justify environmental interventionism? The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/31/brazil-amazon-fires-justify-environmental-interventionism
Honig, B. (2009). Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Melo Zurita, M. de L., George Munro, P., & Houston, D. (2018). Un-earthing the subterranean Anthropocene. Area, 50(3), 298–305.


Agenda

Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Sebastien Chailleux*, E2S UPPA, Regis Briday, E2S UPPA, Xavier Arnauld de Sartre, E2S UPPA, The French politics about Carbon Capture and Storage: the failed governance of geo-engineering 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Elizabeth Bennett*, , Seasteading, Contested Sovereignties, and Oceanic Materialities in French Polynesia 15 12:00 AM

To access contact information login