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Mega-Plantations in Southeast Asia

Landscapes of Displacement

Miles Kenney-Lazar and Noboru Ishikawa

Abstract

This article reviews a wide body of literature on the emergence and expansion of agro-industrial, monoculture plantations across Southeast Asia through the lens of megaprojects. Following the characterization of megaprojects as displacement, we define mega-plantations as plantation development that rapidly and radically transforms landscapes in ways that displace and replace preexisting human and nonhuman communities. Mega-plantations require the application of large amounts of capital and political power and the transnational organization of labor, capital, and material. They emerged in Southeast Asia under European colonialism in the nineteenth century and have expanded again since the 1980s at an unprecedented scale and scope to feed global appetites for agro-industrial commodities such as palm oil and rubber. While they have been contested by customary land users, smallholders, civil society organizations, and even government regulators, their displacement and transformation of Southeast Asia's rural landscapes will likely endure for quite some time.

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Remaking Oceans Governance

Critical Perspectives on Marine Spatial Planning

Luke Fairbanks, Noëlle Boucquey, Lisa M. Campbell, and Sarah Wise

Abstract

Marine spatial planning (MSP) seeks to integrate traditionally disconnected oceans activities, management arrangements, and practices through a rational and comprehensive governance system. This article explores the emerging critical literature on MSP, focusing on key elements of MSP engaged by scholars: (1) planning discourse and narrative; (2) ocean economies and equity; (3) online ocean data and new digital ontologies; and (4) new and broad networks of ocean actors. The implications of these elements are then illustrated through a discussion of MSP in the United States. Critical scholars are beginning to go beyond applied or operational critiques of MSP projects to engage the underlying assumptions, practices, and relationships involved in planning. Interrogating MSP with interdisciplinary ideas drawn from critical social science disciplines, such as emerging applications of relational theory at sea, can provide insights into how MSP and other megaprojects both close and open new opportunities for social and environmental well-being.

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(Un)seen Seas

Technological Mediation, Oceanic Imaginaries, and Future Depths

Stephanie Ratté

Abstract

Remote technologies and digitally mediated representations now serve as a central mode of interaction with hard-to-reach sea spaces and places. This article reviews the literature on varied scholarly engagements with the sea and on the oceanic application of technologies—among them geographic information systems, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles—that allow people to envision and engage with deep and distant oceanic spaces. I focus on the extension of a digital and disembodied human presence in the oceans and the persistence of frontier fictions, in which the sea figures as a site of future-oriented possibilities. Finally, I ask what the emphasis on “seeing” through technological mediation means for how we imagine vast spaces, and consider how these elements of the oceanic imaginary can be productively complicated by drawing attention to the materiality of the oceans and the scalar politics of dynamic spaces.

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Unbuilt and Unfinished

The Temporalities of Infrastructure

Ashley Carse and David Kneas

Abstract

Infrastructures have proven to be useful focal points for understanding social phenomena. The projects of concern in this literature are often considered complete or, if not, their materialization is assumed to be imminent. However, many—if not most—of the engineered artifacts and systems classified as infrastructure exist in states aptly characterized as unbuilt or unfinished. Bringing together scholarship on unbuilt and unfinished infrastructures from anthropology, architecture, geography, history, and science and technology studies, this article examines the ways in which temporalities articulate as planners, builders, politicians, potential users, and opponents negotiate with a project and each another. We develop a typology of heuristics for analyzing the temporalities of the unbuilt and unfinished: shadow histories, present absences, suspended presents, nostalgic futures, and zombies. Each heuristic makes different temporal configurations visible, suggesting novel research questions and methodological approaches.

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The Urban Politics of Mega-Events

Grand Promises Meet Local Resistance

John Lauermann

Abstract

This article reviews recent scholarship on the urban politics of mega-events. Mega-events have long been promoted as drivers of urban development, based on their potential to generate beneficial legacies for host cities. Yet the mega-event industry is increasingly struggling to find cities willing to host. Political arguments that promote mega-events to host cities include narratives about mega-event legacy—the potential for events to generate long-term benefits—and mega-event leveraging—the idea that cities can strategically link event planning to other policy agendas. In contrast, the apparent decline in interest among potential host cities stems from two political shifts: skepticism toward the promises made by boosters, and the emergence of new kinds of protest movements. The article analyzes an example of largely successful opposition to mega-events, and evaluates parallels between the politics of mega-events and those of other urban megaprojects.

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What Makes a Megaproject?

A Review of Global Hydropower Assemblages

Grant M. Gutierrez, Sarah Kelly, Joshua J. Cousins, and Christopher Sneddon

Abstract

This article reviews how global hydropower assemblages catalyze socio-ecological change in the world's rivers. As a quintessential megaproject, massive dams and the hydropower they generate have long captivated the modernist development imaginary. Yet, despite growing recognition of the socio-ecological consequences of hydropower, it has recently assumed a central role in supporting renewable energy transitions. We highlight three trends in hydropower politics that characterize global hydropower assemblages: mega-dams as markers of nation-state development; river protection by territorial alliances and social movements opposed to hydropower; and transitions from spectacular, centralized hydropower installations to the propagation of small and large hydropower within climate mitigation schemes. We offer insights on how global hydropower assemblages force examination beyond traditional categories of “mega” through more holistic and grounded analyses of significance.

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Anthropocene Dynamics in the Prehistoric Pacific

Modeling Emergent Socioecological Outcomes of Environmental Change

Thomas P. Leppard

How will human societies evolve in the face of the massive changes humans themselves are driving in the earth systems? Currently, few data exist with which to address this question. I argue that archaeological datasets from islands provide useful models for understanding long-term socioecological responses to large-scale environmental change, by virtue of their longitudinal dimension and their relative insulation from broader biophysical systems. Reviewing how colonizing humans initiated biological and physical change in the insular Pacific, I show that varied adaptations to this dynamism caused diversification in social and subsistence systems. This diversification shows considerable path dependency related to the degree of heterogeneity/homogeneity in the distribution of food resources. This suggests that the extent to which the Anthropocene modifies agroeconomic land surfaces toward or away from patchiness will have profound sociopolitical implications.

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Giorgio Osti

The article aims to add a ludic perspective to those generally used for studying environmental issues in social sciences. To introduce in the debate a play/game metaphor enriches the interpretations of environmental crisis and provides a further motivation to action. The ludic perspective has a sociorelational background. That tradition of studies helps in constructing a set of categories that are then applied to environmental education (EE). The choice of such a topic is motivated by two factors: EE is an aspect generally practiced but mistreated in the main theorizations, and EE is exemplary of the potentialities of the playing games metaphor, which are the desire to create, the acceptance of slow changes, the protection of an experimental bubble, and irony toward environmental issues.

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The Relocation of Transcendence

Using Schutz to Conceptualize the Nature Experiences of Secular People

David Thurfjell, Cecilie Rubow, Atko Remmel, and Henrik Ohlsson

Denmark, Estonia, and Sweden are, if measured by certain sociological criteria, considered to be three of the world’s most secular countries. Nature—forests, pristine beaches, and the countryside—plays a specific role in the allegedly secular discourse of the mainstream populations of these nations. Not only is it almost without exception deemed as a positive asset worthy of protection, it is also thought of as holding certain existential qualities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, this article suggests that Alfred Schutz’s conceptualization of transcendence—further developed by Thomas Luckmann—can be used to describe the existential experiences in nature of contemporary secular people. The article results in a suggestion for an operational definition of transcendence.

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Research in the Dark

Explorations into the Societal Effects of Light and Darkness

Nona Schulte-Römer

Edensor, Tim. 2017. From Light to Dark: Daylight, Illumination, and Gloom. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Bille, Mikkel. 2019. Homely Atmospheres and Lighting Technologies in Denmark: Living with Light. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.