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Nature and Knowledge

Contemporary Ecologies of Value

Patrick Gallagher and Danielle DiNovelli-Lang

Current efforts to locate value in material nature arise from the contrary notion that there is no value in nature. The roots of this paradox are entangled with the birth of classical economics, which distinguished itself from what it deemed the superstitions of both its European past and the exotic elsewhere by claiming to have discovered that the wealth of nations lay not in land (as the physiocrats believed), nor in money (as the mercantilists thought), but in the productivity of human labor, which alone could make more of the “necessaries and conveniences of life” from a finite and basically inert natural substrate (Locke [1690] 1960). Once the productive capacity of the land was formally separated, or “disembedded,” from its particular natural qualities (Polanyi 1944), it became a puzzle to retroactively determine the value of the latter’s contribution to the overall means of production. The articles collected in the present volume each operate squarely in the context set by this classical riddle, which situates value, on the one hand, and nature, on the other, as the two absolutely necessary yet diametrically opposed elements of the modern political economy of “sustainability”.

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Introduction

Capitalism and the Environment

Paige West and Dan Brockington

Capitalism is the dominant global form of political economy. From business-as-usual resource extraction in the Global South to the full-scale takeover of the United Nations 2012 conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, Brazil by corporations advocating the so-called green economy, capitalism is also one of the two dominant modes of thinking about, experiencing, and apprehending the natural world. The other dominant mode is environmentalism. There are many varieties of environmentalism, but the dominant mode we refer to is “mainstream environmentalism.” It is represented by powerful nongovernmental organizations and is characterized by its closeness to power, and its comfort with that position. Th is form of environmentalism is a well-meaning, bolstered by science, view of the world that sees the past as a glorious unbroken landscape of biological diversity. It continuously works to separate people and nature, at the same time as its rhetoric and intent is to unite them. It achieves that separation physically, through protected areas; conceptually, by seeking to value nature and by converting it to decidedly concepts such as money; and ideologically, through massive media campaigns that focus on blaming individuals for global environmental destruction.

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Anna J. Wesselink, Wiebe E. Bijker, Huib J. de Vriend, and Maarten S. Krol

This article shows how Dutch technological culture has historically dealt with and developed around vulnerability with respect to flooding and indicates recent developments in attitude towards the flood threat. The flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina temporarily made the Dutch public worry about the flood defense infrastructure in the Netherlands, exemplified by the Delta Works. Could this happen in the Netherlands? After the flooding disaster of 1953, a system of large dams was built to offer safety from flooding with—in theory at least—protection levels that are much higher than in New Orleans. In the public's perception the protection offered is absolute. In practice not all flood defense structures are as secure as they are supposed to be, but their upgrading takes time and money. Katrina has served as a reminder of what is at stake: Can the Dutch afford to take another 10 years to restore the protection level of their flood defenses? Calls for pride in clever engineering are the latest in a continuing debate on the best way to continue life below sea level.

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Evert Van de Vliert

beyond climatic determinism, the climato-economic theory of culture ( Van de Vliert 2009 , 2013a , 2013b ) successfully proposes that available money should be taken into account as it can make life bearable even in places with freezing winters or

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John Sonnett

-based problems of water management: Egypt’s nationalism overrode concerns about possible impacts of the Aswan Dam, which now blocks vital silt from reaching the Lower Nile Valley; Saudi Arabia has unwisely invested its oil money into profligate use of water

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Susann Baez Ullberg

marks were always a reminder . . . Now we’re hoping to get the disaster benefit from the government for this [2003] flood. We could really use that money, you know (Fieldnotes, 28 May 2005). Between Paperwork and Plans After a while, Doña Elena turned to

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Zoe Bray and Christian Thauer

of China’s new emerging market society—without having a clear concept of what this may specifically mean. In the long run, her dream, so she said, is to return to her village, but with an entirely different economic and social status: with the money

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Joshua Mullenite

but by money, media, and manipulation. They boast that they represent the citizenry, but many citizens regard them as bogus” (10). In this case, it doesn't necessarily matter that the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement against the

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Fighting Invasive Infrastructures

Indigenous Relations against Pipelines

Anne Spice

infrastructures that sustain Indigenous life on Unist’ot’en yintah (territory), she told me this: So industry and government always talk about critical infrastructure, and their critical infrastructure is making money, and using destructive projects to make

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Automobility and Oil Vulnerability

Unfairness as Critical to Energy Transitions

Ana Horta

. (unidentified man, RTP1, 19 January 2006) It's almost scandalous that the gas companies are stuffing themselves with money and that the state is also stuffing itself with money while its boot is on our throat! … It's the whole Portuguese economy that is in the