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Natural Resources by Numbers

The Promise of “El uno por mil” in Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Oil Operations

Amelia Fiske

ABSTRACT

In 2013, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the end of the Yasuní-ITT initiative. The initiative had proposed to combat climate change by not exploiting oil reserves in one section of the Yasuní National Park. Anticipating outcry, Correa promised that operations would affect less than one thousandth of the park, or “menos del uno por mil.” This article examines the role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources. Numbers do a particular kind of labor to rationalize the shift contained in the Yasuní-ITT initiative that rhetoric alone does not. Metrics such as el uno por mil constitute and translate between diverse realms of value. Yet, contrary to the assumption that numbers are derived from strictly technical, expert processes, I show how such metrics are fundamental to translations between incalculable matters of nature, the future, and the “good” when deployed in contests over the effects of oil on life.

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Parks, Proxies, and People

Ideology, Epistemology, and the Measurement of Human Population Growth on Protected Area Edges

David M. Hoffman

ABSTRACT

There is an extensive literature about growing human populations on protected area (PA) edges and their contribution to biodiversity threats. This article reviews the conservation literature’s engagements with the question of human migration and population growth on PA edges by reviewing: (1) the normative basis of conservation biology; (2) the development of conservation science in response; (3) conservationist engagements with PAs, migration, and population growth; (4) the engagement with George Wittemyer and colleagues (2008); and (5) the landscape of analyses and debates regarding PAs and their relationship to migration. The review finds that a strong biocentric position of conservation biology is evident and discusses the impacts that this position has on research, conclusions, and policies intended to cope with this growing issue.

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Temperature and Capital

Measuring the Future with Quantified Heat

Scott W. Schwartz

ABSTRACT

The quantification of human environments has a history—a relatively short history. This article explores how the notion of quantifiable reality has become naturalized through the privileging of predictive utility as the primary goal of knowledge production. This theme is examined via the invention and application of temperature—how it was sociomaterially constructed and how it is globally restructuring social organization today. Temperature does not exist pervasively throughout all space and time. Physicists may affirm that fluctuations in relative heat are ubiquitous, but as a measurement of these fluctuations, temperature only emerges through arrangements of political and environmental observations. What phenomena do populations deem worthy of observation? How do populations manipulate materials to make such observations? By tracing the origins of thermometry and investigating modern efforts to reconstruct and model ulterior temperatures, I illustrate that temperatures, like other measurements, are cultural artifacts pliable to sociopolitical efforts of control and domination.

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Fleshing Out an Ecological Habitus: Field and Capitals of Radical Environmental Movements

Jeff Kirby

Abstract

This article relates the theoretical concept of ecological habitus to the specific context of radical environmental movements. I begin by examining how the term “ecological habitus” has been interpreted by sociologists to date and identify two evident tensions in relation to Bourdieu’s original notion of habitus. I then expand the concept of ecological habitus by considering field and capital(s) within radical environmental movements. I suggest that two broad streams of environmental concern, reformist environmentalism and ecologism, shape ecological habitus in different ways. I also advance that these same theoretical frameworks interact with organic and built habitats in particular ways that can in turn connect and shape ecological habitus to immediate landscape. Finally, I deal with the complexity of transferring ecological habitus (single field) to contemporary society (multiple fields) and propose an alternative term, green habitus, to describe an ecologically relevant habitus that occurs within contemporary society.

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Hunting for Nature’s Treasures or Learning from Nature?: The Narrative Ambivalence of the Ecotechnological Turn

Sanne van der Hout and Martin Drenthen

Abstract

Scientists need narrative structures, metaphors, and images to explain and legitimize research practices that are usually described in abstract and technical terms. Yet, sometimes they do not take proper account of the complexity and multilayered character of their narrative self-presentations. This also applies to the narratives of ecotechnology explored in this article: the treasure quest narrative used in the field of metagenomics, and the tutorial narrative proposed by the learning-from-nature movement biomimicry. Researchers from both fields tend to underestimate the general public’s understanding of the inherent ambivalence of the narratives suggested by them; the treasure quest and tutorial narratives build upon larger master narratives that can be found throughout our culture, for instance, in literature, art, and film. We will show how these genres reveal the moral ambivalence of both narratives, using two well-known movies as illustrations: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1940).

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Precarious Provisioning: Three Explorations of Food after Progress

Patrick McEvoy

Abstract

Studying the socio-ecological systems which produce food highlights the entangled nature of humans, other species and ecosystems near and far. The three texts discussed in this essay have this awareness in the foreground. Participants in the solidarity economy and artisan cheesemakers know this, and the three authors do as well, demonstrating an integration of ecological awareness in their research and the pursuit of new knowledge. Cristina Grasseni, Heather Paxson and Anna Tsing trace connections and describe flows of organisms, food, skills and ideas, from the microbial community on the surface of a maturing cheese to global trade networks shaping mushrooms, mushroom pickers and forests. Each demonstrates the tight synergies of human culture and more-than-human nature that shape ecosystems and produce food beyond increasingly fragile capitalist industrial food production systems.

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Who Is Feeling the Heat?: Vulnerabilities and Exposures to Heat Stress—Individual, Social, and Housing Explanations

Katharina Seebaß

Abstract

Ongoing climate change has led to an increase in extreme temperatures, which influence both the environment and human beings. However, not everyone is affected by heat stress to the same degree. This article analyzes who is affected by subjective heat stress. Individual and social indicators of vulnerability and exposure—mediated by conditions of housing and living environments—are considered simultaneously, from the sociological perspective of social inequality influences. Using local data from an empirical survey in Nuremberg, Germany, the article shows that age, individual health, and social contexts all explain variations in how people experience heat stress. It is further hypothesized and confirmed that heat exposure due to disadvantaged housing conditions or distance from green space increases the levels of subjective heat stress. When looking at differences in levels of subjective heat stress, the consideration of heat exposure due to social vulnerability and socioeconomic reasons offers some explanations.

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Why Not the City?: Urban Hawk Watching and the End of Nature

Christian Hunold

Abstract

This multispecies ethnography of red-tailed hawks and of the humans who observed and cared for them investigates everyday engagement with nature and culture in an urban setting. The proliferation of anthropogenic biomes and their attendant human-animal relations is one of the defining social-ecological features of our day. This transformation has caused many ecological disasters but has also created some opportunities, including for thinking more imaginatively about what it means to protect urban nature. Through their activities, interactions, and travels the hawks questioned where belongings are drawn, prompting humans to debate how the city does, can, and should include other animals. And by monitoring the hawks’ activities, the hawk watchers learned to imagine how things might be different if people acted as if the hawks had chosen to live in the city for reasons that made sense to them, if not necessarily to humans.

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Assembling Local Cyclone Knowledge in the Australian Tropics

Hannah Swee

Abstract

In Far North Queensland, a region in the northeast of Australia, cyclones are an annual risk. As a result of this frequency of cyclonic activity, different forms of cyclone knowledge exist ranging from disaster management information to local conceptualizations. For the people that inhabit this region, cyclones are a lived reality that are known in different, seemingly contradictory ways. Drawing on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Far North Queensland from 2012 to 2015, this article explores how local cyclone knowledge is assembled from a variety of heterogeneous factors that change and fluctuate through time, and are subject to an ongoing process of evaluation.