This volume of Environment and Society aims to set forth a theoretical and discursive interruption of the dominant, mainstream environmental justice movement by reframing issues of climate change and environmental degradation through an anticolonial lens. Specifically, the writers for this volume are invested in positioning environmental justice within historical, social, political, and economic contexts and larger structures of power that foreground the relationships among settler colonialism, nature, and planetary devastation.
Indigenous Resurgence, Decolonization, and Movements for Environmental Justice
A Postmortem of the Climate Change Negotiations
Tim Cadman, Klaus Radunsky, Andrea Simonelli and Tek Maraseni
This article tracks the intergovernmental negotiations aimed at combatting human-induced greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from COP21 and the creation of the Paris Agreement in 2015 to COP24 in Katowice, Poland in 2018. These conferences are explored in detail, focusing on the Paris Rulebook negotiations around how to implement market- and nonmarket-based approaches to mitigating climate change, as set out in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, and the tensions regarding the inclusion of negotiating text safeguarding human rights. A concluding section comments on the collapse of Article 6 discussions and the implications for climate justice and social quality for the Paris Agreement going forward.
Peter Del Tredici
Urban habitats are characterized by high levels of disturbance, impervious paving, and heat retention. These factors, acting in concert, alter soil, water, and air conditions in ways that promote the growth of stress-tolerant, early-successional vegetation on abandoned or unmaintained land. In most urban areas, a cosmopolitan array of spontaneous plants provide important ecological services that, in light of projected climate change impacts, are likely to become more significant in the future. Learning how to manage spontaneous urban vegetation to increase its ecological and social values may be a more sustainable strategy than attempting to restore historical ecosystems that flourished before the city existed.
Questions of Evidence and Agency
This introduction reviews the articles collected in this special section, articles that explore different visions of the environment and how they engender particular ways of seeing evidence of climatic and environmental change. A key aspect of such distinctive understandings seems to be the attribution of agency within conceptions of the environment that in each case are entangled with humans. Notions of anthropogenic and non-equilibrial environments are explored in several of the articles collected here, along with ongoing debates surrounding the concept of the Anthropocene. An awareness of climate change has brought new urgency to the project of grasping our entangled environments in the diversity of their human understandings.
Autopsy of an Ambition
The French carbon tax was to become in 2010 the centerpiece of the country's new climate change mitigation strategy. After a heated public debate, the Constitutional Council, France's higher constitutional law body, censored the executive's proposal, which in turn, in the aftermath of a severe electoral defeat, announced the indefinite postponement of the carbon tax. This article tries to make sense of this important sequence in French contemporary public life by reviewing its different facets: environmental economics, political economy, constitutional law, and finally politics.
In this essay I review my own involvement in climate science, and attempt to draw some useful lessons. I start with a critique of the theory of post-normal science (PNS). This is derived from the experience of the effective criticisms of PNS that were made on the blogosphere. I proceed to a critique of climate science itself, which might be described as the attempt to solve a post-normal problem by "normal science" methods. Since quality, in a variety of aspects, became crucial in the Climategate debates, I analyze that concept in the fraught context of a politicized, contested science. Such sciences have the seeds of tragedy for those who innocently engage with them believing that their task is simply to speak truth to power. Finally, out of my personal history I suggest that we keep in mind the personal investment of anyone holding a contested view, and respect their struggles to maintain integrity when their core beliefs are under attack. This motivates the fostering of non-violence in debates on policy science issues.
Theoretical Discussion and Policy Implications
The article discusses approaches to welfare under no-growth conditions and against the background of the growing significance of climate change as a socio-ecological issue. While most governments and scholars favor “green deal” solutions for tackling the climate crisis, a growing number of discussants are casting doubt on economic growth as the answer to it and have provided empirical evidence that the prospects for globally decoupling economic growth and carbon emissions are very low indeed. These doubts are supported by recent contributions on happiness, well-being and alternative measures of measuring prosperity, which indicate that individual and social welfare is by no means equivalent to GDP growth. If the requirements of prosperity and welfare go well beyond material sustenance, then approaches that aim to conceptualize welfare under the circumstances of a “stable state economy” become more relevant. A qualitatively different environmental and welfare policy governance network would need to integrate the redistribution of carbon emissions, work, time, income and wealth. Since social policies will be necessary to address the emerging inequalities and conflicts, this article considers the roles that the various “no-growth” approaches dedicate to social policy and welfare instruments.
Paul Robert Gilbert
This article draws on ethnographic work carried out in London and Dhaka as part of a multisited project exploring the production of investment opportunities for (predominantly British) companies in Bangladesh. Focusing on the ready-made garments (RMG) sector in the run-up to, and in the wake of, the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, I trace aid-funded attempts to improve Bangladesh’s investment climate and engagements with these initiatives by brokers seeking to “rebrand” Bangladesh as an investment destination and by RMG factory-owning businesspeople based in Dhaka. Writing against the “postcritical turn,” I suggest that responding to the explicit recognition by business elites of their own complicity in the exploitation of garment workers provides an entry point for a critical account of private sector development that enhances, not curtails, ethnographic understanding.
Toru Terada, Makoto Yokohari, Jay Bolthouse and Nobuhiko Tanaka
Urban and peri-urban satoyama woodlands have become focal points of restoration throughout Japan. Prior to the abrupt shift to fossil fuels in the 1950-60s, villages coppiced these woods to produce a sustainable supply of wood fuel, a process that also sustained a dynamic woodland structure rich in biodiversity. Currently, amidst a “satoyama renaissance,” thousands of volunteer groups are restoring management to abandoned woods. Yet while volunteers are the main drivers of the satoyama renaissance, volunteer management tends to be limited in spatial extent and focused on the “parkification” of woodlands. Through a case study of four satoyama restoration scenarios we found that reintroduction of coppicing for wood fuel—“refueling”—can play a role in addressing climate change through fossil fuel substitution. We suggest that this literal refueling of satoyama restoration could, in a more metaphorical sense, help to refuel restoration efforts by strengthening both restoration practice and the authenticity of restoration experiences.
Making Relations Matter
This article takes scientific ‘raw data’ as its ethnographic object in order to investigate the co-implication of nature and culture in scientific knowledge practices. The article traces out some of the activities that are involved in producing numerical climate data from the Brazilian Amazon. Although science and technology studies (STS) makes a strong case for associating relationality with certainty, the article argues that a particular form of data, ‘raw data’, complicates this association. It further argues that scientific data is not simply composed out of relations, but is a relation itself. The article ends with a brief reflection on the possible repercussions of shifting from thinking of science as producing multiple natures and cultures to thinking of it as producing the potential for relations.