On fostering a planetary view of the global environment

Author Bios: 

Keri Friedman:

Hi everyone! I am a graduating senior from the CNRE’s Natural Resources Conservation and Recreation Management program. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey as a Hokie this fall as a graduate student in the Science, Technology, and Society program. My research interests largely fall in line with the premises of this course, and I hope to explore environmental issues at their nexus with sociopolitics, particularly within the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am originally from Oceanside, New York (Go Islanders!), but have found my true home right here in the NRV. Outside of classes, you can usually find me sipping on green tea,watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with my dogs, Atlas (a boxer mix) and Molly (a beagle mix), or playing guitar on my porch. 

Kel Drake: I am a junior, majoring in Environmental Policy and Planning and minoring in Spanish; I am also the Treasurer of SPIA Student Society, the undergraduate student society for students majoring in EPP or SSC. I am interested in global sustainability and development and the sociological perspective of climate change adaptation. I am originally from Ft. Lauderdale, FL; however, my current home is in Wilmington, NC. My interest in global sustainability and development was sparked by my time in the U.S. Navy and my own personal travel, including to El Salvador, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and more. I am unsure of what my future holds but I aim to continue my research into sociological adaptation to climate change and continue traveling.

Evan Lautato: Hey! I am a graduating senior and double majoring in Political Science with a focus in legal studies and History. I plan on going to law school in Manhattan, hoping for St. John’s Law School. I am also from Long Island, New York, but grew up spending a lot of time in the city so I love the Rangers. I spend my free time with friends and producing music. I can play 10 different instruments and have been playing since I was 4. I am also super interested in sports and hope to make a career as a contact lawyer for a New York sports team. This class had me have a new understanding of environmental politics and legislation and could also see myself entering the environmental law field within the government to help continue the United States environmental plan through the Paris Climate Change agreement. 

Blog Post: 

Luke, Chapter 15: “Reflections from a Damaged Planet: Adorno as Accompaniment to Environmentalism in the Anthropocene” 

Luke’s final chapter criticizes the mindset of mitigation over minimization. As a refresher: minimization is a proactive approach to do as little damage as possible to whatever component of “the environment” may be harmed by the proposed activities. Mitigation, however, is a reactive approach to solving problems. The proposed activities include all the potential harm to the environment, but the solutions come after the damage has already been done. While minimizing harm is the ideal way to protect and preserve the environment, it can cut deeply into the profit margins of those seeking to extract natural resources in a destructive manner. Oftentimes, minimization requires extra research and development, as well as extensive engineering to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative, or it completely rules out the activity altogether. For example, the process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is detrimental to the environment at every step of the process. It tears up the landscape, injects chemicals into the ground, uses millions of gallons of water, contaminates drinking water, and poses a significant risk of  oil spills, natural gas leaks (mostly methane), and even explosions. Finding a way to extract gas without the laundry list of negative impacts is nearly impossible, and the development of such technologies would be extremely expensive. For extraction corporations, shifting towards renewable energy is simply not an option. Rather than attempt to invest in the future wellbeing of the planet, corporations rely on mitigation because it saves them money in development costs and makes them more money because they can extract as much as possible while doing as much harm as necessary to line their pockets. It is cheaper to invest in carbon offsets and habitat restoration once the damage has already been done than it is to prevent the damage altogether. 

Unfortunately for the rest of us, mitigation efforts are often far less effective than preventative measures, and we are left to bear the brunt of the environmental consequences from the activities of just a few large corporations. All the while, those same corporations sponsor initiatives that promote personal sustainability (like using a reusable straw in your Dunkin iced coffee) and shame typical household waste when they are the ones responsible for the overwhelming majority of the damage. It is easier for them to blame everyone else than to hold themselves accountable for the destruction they leave in their wake. One article from The Guardian (written in 2010, but still relevant) claims that the top 3,000 corporations would have to pay a third of their profit margins just to compensate for the 2.2 trillion dollars in environmental damage, largely comprised of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Understanding a planetary view of the environment means taking into account these types of interrelationships: corporations, the natural environment, the built environment, and the average people. Luke’s critique lies in the fact that mitigation is driven by capitalism and profit margins, not the long term wellbeing of the planet. Mitigation gives capitalists an excuse to exploit the landscape as much as they want to as long as they can greenwash themselves enough to make it seem like they really care about the harm they are directly causing-all while our tax dollars end up being spent to remedy their destruction. Mitigation will never be enough to heal the damage that has already been done, nor will it prevent future damage from being done. Minimization is the only true answer to the gordian knot of sustainability, yet corporations would rather slice through it like Alexander the Great and his sword with mitigation to save themselves some time and money in the short term. If they continue on this path, there will be nothing left to save. 

Stubberfield, “Chapter 5: The Greater Sage-grouse in the Global Environment: An Evaluation of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange”

Congruently, Chapter 5 of Stubberfield’s paper explores these dynamics in a particular case study on the Sage-grouse of Wyoming. While the case study is local, it holds global implications; he argues that the Environmental Defense Fund’s efforts to promote the conservation of the greater sage-grouse habitat has been perverted, both within the foundation and outside, and does more harm than good. As lackeys to the capitalistic entities that caused the sage-grouse to become endangered in the first place, EDFs idea of conservation allows for purchase of “habitat mitigation credits” and essentially gives these entities license to destroy the natural habitat of the sage-grouse and, in compensation, construct new suitable habitat. It is important to note that the habitat in which the greater sage-grouse resides, sagebrush, can take up to 50 years to grow properly and the species has no way of knowing that their current residence is subject to industrial development and if there is a suitable replacement habitat.

 These credits invariably tie conservation efforts to the offending industrial capitalism in a way that has global implications and inherently counterproductive. The commodification of these environments in the name of conservation effectively commodifies the subject of these conservation efforts. The global implications of this method of conservation sets a dangerous precedent and allows for industrial capitalists to insert themselves into conservation, mitigation, and adaptation efforts without actually contributing to these efforts. Industrial capitalists, driven by profit, will provide little to nothing to true environmentalist movements and agendas; therefore, EDF functioning as a lackey to such capitalistic agendas does little to help the conservation of the Greater sage-grouse and acting as a sellout to industry does more harm than good. As Luke addressed in the previous reading, mitigation efforts are inherently less effective than prevention efforts; therefore, it follows, that these efforts are not only counterproductive, but ignore the most effective option of conservation.

Stubberfield’s dissertation examines how conservation infrastructure can be used by the government to instrumentalize all kinds of production within a region such as commodities, space, subjectivities, and indirectly the production of species. It explores the production of eco-systems and how they meet the economic interests of the governing body with no regards to the environment, while also taking full control of the production of plants and animals within the region. It discusses how the sage-grouse in Wyoming shows how environmental liberalism through its instrumentalization by local, state, and federal conservation creates a fixed market for the production of the habitat. How it is guided by strategies of governance. How the government can drastically alter the environment without the approval of people (and non-humans) within the community for profit while claiming to be conservation efforts, are actually just economic efforts with no care for the environmental implications of their actions. Stubberfield argues that the production of habitat mitigation credits, “displays the power of capital to change and expand within a landscape through economic incentives by linking industrial capital to the production of territory and representations of habitat grounded in technoscientific construction, and management of milieux” (Stubberfield p.179). Environmental governance gives those with the most money and power to completely alter an environmental landscape with no repercussions under the guise of a nonprofit organization. Through geo-engineering the government has allowed for resource extraction enterprises to completely alter the Wyoming sage-grouse, for economic gains and economic gains only.

The Impact of Globalization on the Individual

Emily Whisenant: I’m a Junior Political Science major, with minors in Spanish and Environmental Policy and Planning. I will be graduating in December and hope to work within the realm of environmental politics; more specifically with environmental justice efforts. If I don’t secure a job right after graduation, then I plan to travel throughout Latin America for a while, cultivating my Spanish and volunteering with environmental organizations. 

Christen Cook: I am a senior majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Wetland Science. I like adventuring outdoors and hope to find a career that will allow me to work outside possibly in wetlands. After graduation I plan on finding a job that will provide experience in my field outside of the classroom. 

Michael Wheeler: Michael Wheeler is a senior majoring in Construction Engineering and Management (CEM). He was born in Blacksburg and lived the rest of his pre-undergraduate life 20 minutes down the road in Radford, Virginia. It may seem that Michael is not geographically diverse, which is not completely untrue. Through the years he has seen different areas in the United States through traveling but will always happily return to Southwest Virginia. Michael has been intrigued through this class because of the knowledge that has been obtained about environmental issues throughout the years, which goes hand-in-hand with construction because of the effects that industry has on the environment.

Death, Karen Litfin, “Chapter 16: Localism”

In Litfin’s chapter of Critical Environmental Politics, the movement of localism is described in detail with its connection to our modern world. In short, localism calls for the “relocalization of life,” in our individual ways of existing (156). Karen Litfin argues that recent globalization has spurred the movement of localism, where individuals think and act locally when it comes to their consumption habits. Just to give a few examples, localists go to a farmers market that they can walk or bike to, they support farm-to-table restaurants in their communities, and they recycle instead of throwing away all their trash. “All things being equal, a local economy will have low energy requirements and therefore be ecologically friendlier,” is the motto for the localism movement (157). When individuals act locally, whether that be by supporting the local economy with the purchase of a handcrafted vase at a small business downtown or riding the public bus to and from work, localism claims that we can have a significant impact on the environment. Localism promotes sustainability and going green at an individual level. It promotes this idea that we can stop rising temperatures and reverse climate change if we just buy our organic spinach from a local farmer instead of buying it at Kroger. Litfin argues that the slogan of ‘think globally, act locally’ has prompted people in the last quarter century to make changes that promote sustainability at an individual level if they really want to make a difference when it comes to saving the Earth (160). This expression has made us feel responsible for our changing climate, which is great that individuals feel the need to be more environmentally conscious, but at the same time we know that corporate capitalism overwhelmingly contributes to the pollution of the Earth. These individual environmentally conscious decisions are a product of green consumerism, circling us back to Week 4 of the course with Ecocritique (Luke, 1997). 

Litfin asserts that “local producers are not necessarily any more deserving or trustworthy than peasants or factory workers overseas,” (161). Our choices to eat produce grown in the county we live in don’t automatically make us more sustainable. A lot of the time we don’t know if our locally grown vegetables are any more sustainably produced than the organic ones we get at the grocery store. Now I’m not saying that farmers all over the world can’t be transparent about if they use pesticides and harmful chemicals or not on their crops, but just because we support our local farmers and businesses doesn’t make us better people for not buying pineapple imported from Costa Rica. Agriculturalists work hard all across the globe and they contribute to our global markets that we as consumers still demand. Even if you do consider yourself to be a localist, you’re probably still buying clothes that were made at a factory in China, eating fruits only grown in tropical regions of the world, or ordering products from Amazon so that you can get it conveniently and in two days. 

Though localists tend to buy their produce in season and from a local vendor, such as at a farmers market, what makes those local farmers reliable in their practices? How do we really know where the peppers we are buying come from and if they were ethically produced? The answer is that we really don’t know. We don’t know how much a farmer is paying their workers and under what conditions. A lot of us don’t even know where the location of that farm is. I know that I haven’t driven out to Floyd just to see where my peppers are grown after I’ve purchased them at the Blacksburg Farmers Market. It’s equally as important to consider how local any farmer is if they’re operating machinery that was produced thousands of miles away or in a different country. On another note, simply because a local farmer grows vegetables on their own land does not mean that they don’t purchase imported seeds to start growing and maintain their crops. 

A lot of the products that you consume on a daily basis are produced overseas, too. For example, Litfin mentions our smartphones and the hypocrisy of only thinking about means of sustainability on a local level (161). Ethics come into play, and not simply concerning our environmental impacts. For example, globalization has allowed us to constantly have access to Colombian coffee that we can drink before we go about our days, but at what social and 

environmental cost? Coffee producers are being directly impacted by our changing climate and need more money to take precautions for the survival of their business. Are we willing to pay a little more for our imported coffee so that a Colombian farmer can run their family business, or do we just want to pay our local barista an extra fifty cents to substitute cashew milk in our latte, because we think that cutting back on our dairy consumption is the best way to save the planet? 

This video explains the implications of our global coffee consumption in our changing climate, especially in developing countries, where coffee producers have an uncertain future ahead when it comes to their livelihoods. 

Luke, “The System of Sustainable Degradation”

In this article Timothy Luke discusses sustainable degradation and how it is masked by the term sustainable development.  Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of today without compromising future generations” (99). He states that sustainable development is “neither sustainable nor development” (99). Development means there is raw materials used and waste produced, which leads to degradation of the environment. In the system of sustainable development, ecological degradation still exists but at a slower rate.

Luke provides three strategies for how sustainable degradation is implemented in capitalism, they are ecomangeralism,ecojudicalism, and ecocommercialism. Ecomangeralism refers to legislation, activism and other things that address natural resource management, and capitalists use these sources of environmental awareness and display it positively. They use the situation to their advantage and see it as an opportunity for success in the market, instead of seeing as a roadblock in their business. Sustainable degradation is worked into policies and activism in an attempt to mesh economic and sustainable success. One method is putting a monetary value on ecosystem services, for example economists look at a plot of land that is forested and determine what is the value of it and what use will maximize profit? Should we use the trees for timber or should we leave the forest for recreational purposes? etc. managing the environment is all on how it is valued. This creates a bigger issue than environmental degradation alone. It allows for capitalists to keep developing and growing while making it look like they are doing good, when in reality not much has changed. People are fooled by this strategy because they think corporations are doing all that they can but they are actually doing the bare minimum. They are managing the environment to their benefit.

When a company tries to use less resources in their production, that is seen as positive because they are being environmentally conscious and recognize that we need to be more sustainable, the consumer will appreciate their efforts and purchase their product. It is merely a strategy to be more successful in a time where people want to be more sustainable. This is a form of sustainable yield that is more sustainable than before. Luke argues that this strategy will not improve degradation but magnify it.  With the smoke and mirrors that producers put up, there are some benefits and positive reactions to this. Minimizing environmental degradation of ecosystem services, waste, and over production and consumption is a better thing to do then not. Overall the issue is not being handled properly. The root of the problem is corporations still have the same goals that don’t include being  truly sustainable. This is because of the grow-or-die mentality inherent in capitalist development implying that “sustainability” is cast in terms of linear and continual growth regardless of resource use. There is little if any incentive for capitalists to change course and actually stop degradation. 

The second strategy that Luke discusses is ecojudicialism to consider environmental issues, but the goal is ultimately the same. Policies are created the same as industries create their products, strive to be more sustainable but the objective is the same. One example is Cap and Trade, it is a market for air quality, where pollution is still permitted but at a “sustainable” rate. The idea is to conduct as business as usual with the same goals but pollute less. There are many flaws in the system and the issue of air pollution isn’t really being dealt with. It is just a way for capitalists to say they are doing something about it but in reality, they aren’t doing much if anything to address the problem. This negates the idea of sustainability, nonrenewable energy like fossil fuels are still being used at a rate that isn’t sustainable. They are called nonrenewable for a reason: we consume them at a rate that is faster than they can be renewed. Cap and Trade is just cover for corporations to keep polluting so they can keep making money. Ecojuridicalism also stacks the deck in favor of the wealthiest polluters as court fees, lawyers, lobbyists, expert testimony and other forms of legal representation are prohibitively expensive for any who would use ecojuridicalism as a conduit of environmental change. Yet again we see how corporate environmentalism uses money for shaping “the environment” to their advantage through non-democratic means that increases the scope of technocratic rule against the rule of the demos. 

“The Story of Cap and Trade” is a little dated but provides a good background of cap and trade and the issues with it. It operates as business as usual instead of addressing the real problem. It also looks at flaws and how businesses can cheat the system, which leads to more pollution not less.

The last strategy Luke discusses is ecocommercialism, which is the root of two previous strategies.  Slight changes are made to reach them more “sustainably”, meaning they are still degrading but just at a slower pace. Ecocommercialsim is the front that is put up by corporations, and governments to positively advertise their degradation. Entrepreneurs support these efforts by funding them, which comes back to the incentive here is money not saving the planet. Investing in something that isn’t going to grow and develop is not a smart business move. An example is the corona virus vaccine, it could have been developed before the pandemic but there was no incentive, entrepreneurs and businesses didn’t see the value in it, but now they do. Just like Covid-19 it will be too late by the time the value in a clean environment is relizaed. 

Luke provides insight into corporations and how they are using ecocommercialism and incorporating it into ecomanergilism, ecojudicialism and ecoentrepreneurism. Consider this when you walk into a store and see a product that is being advertised as sustainable, you might want to investigate it to see if they actually are or if they are just trying to fool you into thinking they are. Also think about this when you see environmental legislation and consider what the goal is, are they really trying to address the climate crises or do they want to expand their capital under the banner of sustainability? In the end money makes the world go round, even if it won’t exist anymore.

Stubberfield, “Chapter 4: Localized Instruments: Epistemic Networks and the

Environmental-Industrial Complex”:

In this chapter the author generally dives into the environmental-industrial complex and the technocrat’s involvement with the evolution of technology, specifically analyzing the connections in Wyoming through the Wyoming Conservation Exchange (WCE). The Wyoming landscape was affected through the tactical insertion of technocrats that were focused on manipulating the environment and withdrawing the fossil fuels and trona in Southwestern Wyoming. Sage-grouse is also a big topic in the area given the population of these birds were decreasing and in relation to this event there are many working groups that work towards utilizing the machinery and policies to benefit the corporate rule, specifically the Southwestern Wyoming Local Sage-grouse Working Group (SWLWG). Wanda Burget and Julie Lutz were figures that spread awareness and pushed an environmentalism approach. The author refers to these figures because of the windows of insight into the networks of environmental degradation that have been occurring under an illusion that hides the economically rational, but ecologically unsound intentions that these technocrats – as extensions of the corporations they represent – have in mind. Both figures were involved with an environmental organization and they focus on the mining industry and conservation initiatives in Wyoming. The author points out that trona and the soda ash that follows the decomposition of trona will become more desirable as global urbanization increases. Trona (soda ash) is used greatly in buildings to soften the water in the building systems – in general trona is good for manipulating the chemical makeup in water. Tesla also used soda ash in their technology because of how much soda ash is used to make lithium from brine. Lithium batteries play a large role in Tesla’s batteries.

The author summarizes the chapter into four main points: how technocratic power is formed through the technocrats and their evolution alongside the technology involved; how technocratic power is correlated with environmental organizations and why technocrats are menaces to the environment and the living species part of society involving machinery operations and the GRSG assemblage; how Julie Lutz is a peer of Burget and is in the Southwestern Wyoming Local Sage-grouse Working Group (SWLWG); and exposing the politics behind LWGs (Wyoming Local Sage-grouse Working Groups), and how the SWLWG translated biopower from the GRSG assemblage into geopower that benefits the natural soda ash industry in terms of the paleotechnic complex. 

It is important to understand that Stubberfield, following Luke, sees and understands corporations as machines for producing and capturing capital and organizing labor. Touching on the first point, technocrats have a key role in the machinery and the materials that are needed for these machines along with holding a position of power that they can use to improve their area of work. These positions are referred to as “managers” in the author’s eyes, and don’t benefit any other focus other than supervising the machines. This “labor” is important in the production ensembles because of the continuous flow of capital and the human relationships between the technology and monetary exchange. This results in an aimless constant production of commodities and daily work from the humans involved. Technocrats sum up what these “workers” are and show extensions in the machinery involved which means they are well versed on how these machines work as well as the relationships that are needed to form a commodity flow. Therefore, technocrats are a perfect example of machine-human coevolution.

“What is a technocracy?” is a very good explanation of technocrats and how technocrats improve their focus of work. On the contrary, there are many other negative impacts this has on humans and the environment. This video touches on how the Greek economy was in a massive debt and experts brainstorming the idea of bringing technocracy into Greece to improve their economy. This example relates to the point of this chapter being how technocrats are utilized in society, but in most situations these technocrats are economically motivated to ignore the locality and the specifics of humans and their environment and focus on corporate needs. The video points out how in the early 1900’s, technocracies were prevalent to create an economical improvement which was especially needed in the great depression era. The video summarizes why technocracy’s are not as prevalent today, but the point of this video is to show the upbringing of technocrats. 

            The author begins to speak on the power elite and what it is while focusing on this “power elite” idea on the environmental issue of soda ash and hydrocarbon production. This production affects many different parts of the environment in Wyoming, which include the Greater Sage-grouse, the landscape in Wyoming, and those who inhabit this area. The environment in Wyoming where soda ash and fossil fuels are prevalent, are all negatively affected by “power elites” and technocrats.  As a result, this gives an “excuse” for power to become prevalent in the landscape of Wyoming which technocrats from transnational organizations are rewriting to protect their extractive and ecologically destructive enterprises under the false banner of sage-grouse protection. 

The WCE utilizes the power of the landowners and the industry to oversee the landscape and living subjects of Wyoming and have the ability to manipulate the environment. Wanda Burget gives insight of the vast mining network that exists in the Green River Basin in Southwest Wyoming. Global trading of natural soda ash exists in Southwest Wyoming (a majority of soda ash comes from this area), and this area is where local sage-grouse working groups are tasked with monitoring the population of these birds. In conclusion, Technocrats and those in power in the organizations (for example, the local groups) are able to create policies and enact machinery in the areas for the benefit of corporate rule. The focus by these power holders is for the non-living machinery, not the environment and a majority of the living species population. Other methods and social organizations are not brainstormed by these technocrats in “private sectors” because doing so would be working themselves out of a job. Yet again, we see the insertion of technocrats as extensions of corporate machines that allow those machines to write the rules for how we and other non-humans live and reproduce our patterns of life well beyond any notion of popular sovereignty or democratic decision-making. Our common world, even at the local level as the chapter shows, is being taken, written and ruled by actors with interests far removed from any particular locale. In the final analysis, the means through which “sustainable, local development,” is practiced in Wyoming is little more than a front for the largest polluters to write environmental policy in their continuing favor at the expense of an indigenous and unique avian found only on the North American continent and an icon of the West.

Materiality, Sustainability, and the Dark Enlightenment

By: Julianna Rodrigues, Keyonna Washington, and Larissa Delarue

Stubberfield, “Chapter 3: Fictitious Materiality: An Examination of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange”

Chapter three is written in three sections and begins by explaining how the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has laid the framework for conservation exchange (a new market-based instrument) and how it works regarding the Wyoming Core Area Protection strategy. What is explored in this chapter is how the Wyoming Conservation Exchange (WCE) plays a role in being an instrument used for neoliberal environmentalism and promotes commodity flows. Dr. Stubberfield, in this chapter, works to explain why he believes that the WCE “does not produce any real commodities, but instead circulates fictitious commodities” (Stubberfield, 2019). 

Dr. Stubberfield begins the first section regarding environmentality- specifically through how instruments hold power as they work through normalizing themselves in populations, and how we regard them in the scope of their domination. The role of instruments in our society is to share information through various conduits in populations. They also share the role of rewriting the context of how we see and interact with knowledge but also dictate the production and circulation of commodities. Techononature plays a role by using these instruments to redefine how “the real, the natural and the true” is viewed which leads to the topic of security (Stubberfield, 2019). Essentially, since instruments and the way they are used and normalized in societies are highly interconnected and can be manipulated, they are also exposed to “environmentalized security strategies” to police what is able to be presented as information (Stubberfield, 2019). Security within this manner is related to maintaining commodity circulation, policing of information or elements that could be regarded as dangerous, and continuous promotion of political economies.

Dr. Stubberfield states that regarding neoliberal environmentalism, EDF should provide “an examination of their proposed solutions to environmental problems through their instruments” (Stubberfield, 2019). EDF has been a part of several programs that has promoted new instruments of conservation and advertised for them to lead to the creation of new markets that regard the loss of biodiversity and promote conservation projects. However, as you read through the chapter, what becomes apparent is how they have worked within their own terms. This can firstly be seen through EDF working with the Department of Defense at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas in the 2000’s, in a conservation effort that utilized tactical instruments and militancy to try and accomplish their goals. While it should be noted that the original intention was to aid the Golden-cheeked Warbler, the economic benefits gained, and steps taken to continue them, outweighed the conservation aspect and destroyed much of the habitat of the Golden-cheeked warbler. In fact, the species is still endangered to this day, however this collaboration was vital in supporting EDF’s future projects. The collaboration showed that landowners could ‘be a part of conservation offsetting,’ while also benefiting economically. Dr. Stubberfield also briefly touches on the Recovery Credit System and how it provided a way to allocate resources among private landowners and put the responsibility of taking care of the warbler under individual landowners by financial incentivization. 

The second section starts with how the WCE came out of a collaboration between several groups, and how its purpose is to try to create opportunities to “conserve and restore ecosystem services across Wyoming” (Stubberfield, 2019). By having people such as Eric Peterson who link the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) and the Greater Sage-grouse (GRSG) to the WCE, what becomes apparent is how easy it is to connect the Federal biopower to local milieu and the impacts they could potentially have on any location. With people such as Peterson being able to be a bridge between several agencies, the way a project can be handled becomes easier, as they are able to manage the decisions of the buyers/sellers, work between the local, state, and federal initiatives, and most importantly, working with those who hold the most power economically between the projects.  It’s important to note that within Wyoming, there have been conservation districts that were formed to combine the different goals from different agencies, however by collaborating with the GRSG, a shift occurs (much like with the Warbler) where conservation is not the focus, but rather using commodified land “represented as an exchange-value determined at auction that can then be accumulated by debtors as capital” (Stubberfield, 2019).  Habitat credits, produced by the WCE, are also another aspect to be aware of as they play a large role in this chapter as Dr. Stubberfield argues that they are fictitious commodities that support extractive infrastructure. 

For people like Peterson to have so much control over the usage of land that is supposed to be used for conservation efforts, something called habitat credits that can be bought and sold for different projects. Habitat credits are scored by judging properties against the Habitat Quantification Tool (HQT) (created by the EDF) by measuring the quality of habitat a landowner has created in comparison to the needs of a targeted species, and then scoring it based on the “perceived use-value to GRSG by the acre” (Stubberfield, 2019). The score that they received is then categorized into a project type, enhancement, restoration, add stewardship and is then sold based on its perceived value, the WCE uses habitat credits as instruments of labor through the commodification of property.  The WCE furthers this by auctioning the credits to debit projectors “occurring proximally to the credit project (though no real measure of proximity has been specified)” (Stubberfield, 2019). He argues that the functional acre created by habitat credits are a fictitious commodity as it only works within projects like the Golden-Cheeked Warbler project, or GRSG conservation in which economics and capital gain are the primary motivators. 

In the final section, Dr. Stubberfield refers to Chapter 2 in which he talked about the 2015 USFWS decision to delist the Greater Sage-grouse (GRSG). As CCAAs are “agreements between USFWS and private landowners that allow for incidental take protection of species in the event that it is listed under the ESA,” and the decision to de-list GRSG was made, he explained how federal management authorities benefited from working with CCAAs as they could create regulatory certainty in which landowners are protected in the case a species becomes endangered and federal management also benefits from being able to set practices for the landowners to follow (Stubberfield, 2019).

An important point to take away however is how Karl Polanyi argues that, “land, labor, and currency are not real commodities but belong to a class of fictitious commodities” (Stubberfield, 2019). This was stated in the first section where Dr. Stubberfield stated his intention to explore the way in which the WCE circulates fictitious commodities. The commodity being traded and circulated within the WCE is a fictitious commodity. When discussing fictitious commodities, one must understand that they are produced and circulate within incomplete markets that rely on state intervention. An example of a fictitious commodity is the functional acre.

Functional acres work through systems that are incomplete as they rely on state intervention for the circulation of money to occur because debts to the species are calculated through instrumental metrics that are supported and designed for the purposes of constructing a sage-grouse credit market through state and federal intervention such as the Wyoming CAP. This is an example of purposeful market creation and what is known as pump priming in an attempt to solidify a market through the implementation and support of a new technology – the conservation exchange. It is also regarded as fictitious as it requires private landowners to create land that can be sold off and might not actually have any real benefit to GRSG as sagebrush can take 50 years to mature to a usable habitat qualities for the species. This means that companies and extractive industry are able to carry on destroying sage-grouse habitat through promissory notes entered into a database concerning GRSG habitat that might not exist yet. This systemic loophole means that while individual birds lose their homes to oil, gas, coal and trona extraction, the state and its partners can pretend that they are helping the species by reserving land for future populations that haven’t existed and haven’t necessarily chosen the spaces reserved for them. This endangers the rangewide population of GRSG through adjusting how states, agencies and actors “see” the sagebrush steppe through their calculational metrics that may refer to nothing “on the ground.” In the last analysis, it is apparent that within the “balance” of ecology and economy concerning the Greater Sage-grouse, that it is economic concerns sedimented through instruments such as the WCE that is the governing rationality for GRSG conservation and that the WCE is just another attempt at turning the Greater Sage-grouse and representations of her habitat into crisis commodities in step with neoliberal environmentalism that places its faith in “markets” to solve environmental problems. The WCE appears to be another way of ignoring and pushing the GRSG problem around the map to allow for continued destruction of her habitat for fossil fuel extraction through the phenomenon of the commodity fetish. In the end, the WCE seems to be just another way of circulating representations and images without any real material form behind them – it simulates habitat, in other words, to allow for the continued operation of the Wyoming extractive economy responsible for killing the bird and creating the problem in the first place. The WCE, then, is another example of ‘sustainability’ discourse and its marriage to corporate fueled economic extractivism as a fundamental dynamic within neoliberal environmentality propagated by the Environmental Defense Fund and their partners.

Luke, “Corporate Social Responsibility: An Uneasy Merger of Sustainability and Development.”

Within this short article, Timothy Luke analyzes corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs as they developed within the United States towards the end of the 20th century. CSR programs within businesses adopted the concept of sustainable development and utilized the concept for their own political and economic motives. Such programs prioritize growth and development over sustainability, which then sets the standard for many businesses to promote sustainability but fail to truly do so. There is no concrete definition of sustainability; however, the concept focuses on keeping a balance between the natural resources a nation requires without depleting the supply entirely. CSR programs and the companies that have acquired them have however put on a facade in order to maintain power and economic gain as they present an image of sustainability and environmental protection to the consumer. As the ecology movement advanced towards accepting greater responsibility in preserving the environment, emerging sustainability policies also marginalized underdeveloped and impoverished states. Sustainability is connected to development in that those “underdeveloped” places who are not able to put sustainability into play, and will not be able to develop properly. In this instance they are left out of the conversation of sustainability, so they are unable to advance past their underdeveloped status and affluent countries benefit and prosper. 

CSR programs ultimately benefited from such marginalization, while advocates of sustainability remained skeptical of “sustainability as clean lean corporate green living” (Luke, 2013). In most cases, CSR programs practice what Luke termed as weak sustainability, which defines society as being capable of retaining its ability to acquire more man-made capital such as the functional acre and the Greater Sage-grouse habitat mitigation credit. Those who support weak sustainability hold the assumption that nature and its resources are everlasting. On the other hand, there exists the notion of strong sustainability which opposes weak sustainability in its belief that man-made capital cannot be an alternative to natural capital. Strong sustainability promotes the preservation of natural capital in order to safeguard society as a whole. CSR programs have a perceived responsibility to sustainable development, which pertain to a business’s goals towards engaging with the outside community and upholding environmental standards. Nevertheless, weak sustainability is present within such programs, leading to sustainability goals often being neglected and economic growth and modernization being prioritized as in the Wyoming CAP. 

Sustainability is a vague concept that many individuals have attempted to tackle and has now transferred over into the wider business world where CSR programs are able to hide behind the positive message their sustainable practice suggests. The influential philosopher John Stuart Mill presented his stationary state economy model that implied that if human society were to reach the utmost limit of economic growth, sustainability practices would be necessary. Herman Daly on the other hand opted for a steady-state economy in which he warned against the continuous expansion of industrial society due to the devastating impact it would have on Earth’s natural environment. In today’s modern society however, we are at risk of losing our supply of natural capital entirely as a result of the production of man-made capital.

In attempting to protect the Earth’s natural capital, the implementation of CSR programs within many businesses has occurred. Sustainability practices that have previously been utilized range from convincing consumers to adopt a “green” lifestyle to concentrating on development aimed towards obtaining profit through supposedly environmentally-friendly methods – such as habitat credit production and carbon offsetting. These tactics that try to use growth as a means to alleviate their problems prove to be futile considering the extent to how quickly we are advancing compared to how little we have left. Now, when it comes to merging sustainability and development, what might appear to be a situation in which everyone wins, the environment in most cases gets the short end of the stick while big business profits as we see in the example of GRSG in Wyoming. CSR programs claim that their number one priority is sustainable development focusing on, “people, planet, profit” (Luke, 2013). However, it is necessary to question their motives because more often than not, profit is above everything, including our planet.

This video dives into the CSR programs that BMW implements in South Africa in order to give back to the community. These CSR programs concentrate on three main areas: Local Community Upliftment, HIV and AIDS prevention & mitigation, and Education. By pouring resources into this community, BMW is able to bring awareness to the environment in South Africa and supposedly create sustainable conditions.

Luke, Chapter 14: “The Dark Enlightenment and the Anthropocene: Readings from the Book of Third Nature as Political Theology”

Timothy Luke in this chapter directs his attention towards what he termed the Dark Enlightenment. This is a movement led by neo-reactionaries (NRx) who oppose democratic values and society due to their fear of the government attacking the wealthiest members of society through the imposition of taxes. One NRx thinker, Curtis Yarvin, better known as Mencius Moldbug, developed one theory in which the state, or what he called “the Cathedral,” cannot be abolished, and therefore must be “cleansed” through neo-cameralism (Luke, 2019). For Moldbug, neo-cameralism meant that, “a state is a business which owns a country” and therefore, the U.S. is nothing but a corporation (Luke, 2019). NRx thinkers perceive the state to be a business, therefore it should be run like one and serve its consumers, or citizens, efficiently and effectively. 

Accelerationism is a significant concept when considering the Dark Enlightenment in that it calls for the utter and complete collapse of modern, capitalist society. For accelerationists, the successful demise of capitalism is needed in order to rebuild a more efficient society. Their tactics might include purposefully “accelerating” environmental collapse as a political project to spur anger and resentment toward the U.S. government. Their goal is to stoke civil unrest through accelerating environmental degradation beyond the point that any one government or agency can address it. This would be a systemic failure calling into question the regime which helped produce it and, in their minds, this would exacerbate existing inequalities to the point of social upheaval creating a social wreckage to be rewritten into a neo-cameralist – or corporatist – system of governance.

The term “unablogger” is also introduced and is used to describe individuals within the Dark Enlightenment who conduct “disinformation wars” with the goal of attacking capitalist society and providing what they consider better alternatives. Unabloggers take to social media without any limitations to what they say and continuously critique and criticize modern-day society in an elitist tone. On these media platforms, accelerationists often downplay the severity of the consequences that would follow the collapse of capitalism, including the environmental repercussions. The foundation of NRx thought emerges from what one would call cyber spatial networks. Much of the world’s money circulates within and throughout these technological and data-driven machines, signaling our move into the book of third nature in which human interaction is dependent on the cyber-world. The Dark Enlightenment has led the way past first and second nature and into third nature, which is considered the accelerated movement into a modernity focused on technological advancement. Throughout each shift from one nature into the next, we have had to adapt to the changing environment around us, illustrating the co-constructive nature of human-beings and their environment. Accelerationists require current society to change quite rapidly and whatever stands in their way, including the government and other institutions, will be targeted. Dark Enlightenment thinkers want change through advancing or “accelerating” the social and political collapse through cyber networks that are becoming increasingly prominent within society.

As we experience this shift into a new era of modernity in which cyber space and technology has taken an influential role in society, proponents of the Dark Enlightenment seek integration of nature and culture, “at which a population becomes indistinguishable from its technology” (Luke, 2019). The Dark Enlightenment in a way does advocate the movement towards trans-humanism due to their goal of merging together humans with the technology they have created. Accelerationist and NRx thinkers envision a new society that has been reprogrammed entirely following the demise of capitalism. What they consider to be the path towards restoring society can be broken down into three simple and hard steps: become worthy, accept power, rule (Luke, 2019). Whether or not accelerationism and neo-reactionaries are successful in accomplishing their goal of terminating our current capitalistic society, the rapid advancement of the technological sphere and its impact on humanity cannot be ignored. 

Here we have Mencius Moldbug discussing what is perceived by many as an extremist view towards how the international system of states and governments should essentially be entirely dismantled. Moldbug introduces the acronym ‘RAGE’ which stands for ‘retire all government employees.’ Moldbug criticizes democracy and instead calls for the establishment of dictatorships because states are run like corporations and corporations have CEOs. While Moldbug’s perspective does appear to be quite extreme, he offers an interesting look into how the world might progress and evolve.

Keyonna Washington: I am a Senior majoring in Criminology, Sociology, and Political Science. After graduation I plan to travel for a year and then attend law school. While in law school, I plan to focus on criminal law and hope to obtain a job once I finish school.

Julianna Rodrigues: I am a Junior majoring in International Studies and International Public Policy and minoring in Spanish. After next year, I hope to work within the non-profit sphere, and in the future move to Europe and pursue a career within the United Nations. 


Larissa Delarue: Hey everyone, I am a Junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Theatre Arts. I am from Woburn, Massachusetts but have lived overseas my whole life. After graduation, I hope to move to Japan to work under the JET program and teach English for a year or two, afterwards I hope to get a job in the State Department as a Public Affairs Officer.

Commodity Development and Global Environmental Zoning

Amanda Runnels: I am a senior majoring in Natural Resources Conservation and after graduation in May I will be going to UVA to get my Masters in Elementary Education. I plan to teach during the school year and work in Outdoor Recreation in the Summers. 

Ryan Groene: I am a senior Political Science major, and after graduation I hope to work in the public service sector.

Luke Chapter 7 “Marcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology” (Ryan Groene)

In Luke, Chapter 7: “Marcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology”, Luke discusses Marcuse, as Luke describes as a ‘radical ecologist’ whose work was overlooked for years. In most of his work, Marcuse claims that Nature serves as ‘man’s inorganic body’, and he often humanizes Nature to emphasize the importance of respecting the environment’s integrity and order. In Chapter 7, Luke analyzes Marcuse work through the means of society and discusses the negative impact that social institutions have had on Nature, “The radical transformation of nature becomes an integral part of the radical transformations of society.” Breaking down his work, we first see the perspective of “Subjectivity and Productivity” where Marcuse discusses freedoms and the relation to human needs. He states that human needs are preconditioned, and the freedoms that we have are a result from our needs. Humans have “True Needs” and “False Needs,” where “True Needs” are your basic food, shelter, clothing, etc. and “False Needs” are what stems from social interest that result in societal misery and injustice. We then take these ideas and can understand that societies “False Needs” is what truly exploits Nature and creates ecological disaster because of our material existence that allows for, what we see as, a ‘comfortable living’. “Everyday material existence can be quite tolerable, rewarding, and comfortable because it requires deep, long-run, ecological disaster to sustain its shallow, short-run institutional reproduction. False needs become that cause of and excuse for continuing such environmental destruction as everyday life merely vindicates “the freedom to choose”. 

Furthermore, Marcuse also discusses technology and science, and essentially sees these as instruments of society used in a way to create domination, power, and control over Nature and man. “Humanity’s increasing control over the environments of Nature through technological means necessarily results in a greatly increased ability to dominate human nature.” A “New Science”, or a new foundation of the instrument, and a “New Sensibility,” or understanding of these instruments, linked not to domination, but to liberation, can result in a ‘reconstruction of reality’ that would allow for humanity and Nature to become one.

After reading this chapter, it immediately made me think of these “False Needs” that Marcuse discusses. We live in a throw-away society that has a materialistic way of life, we pollute the air everyday when we drive to work, we use paper cups at the water fountain, plastic straws, all sorts of pointless things that simply make our lives ‘more comfortable’. Something that has stuck with me is this video of Oprah visiting a family in India:

We all live in homes (even apartments or dorms at school) ten times bigger than this. We use up so much land and space for comfort, not realizing the environmental impact that we have made. The need for comfort for many is increasing everyday, as our technology is constantly developing, making more people comfortable at the expense of someone else, as many feel they ‘need’ that new iPhone, ‘need’ that new iPad, etc. and it becomes a never ending cycle that will only dig the hole deeper. 

Stubberfield, Chapter 2: Building the Laboratory: Instrumentalizing the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming (Amanda/Ryan)

Dr. Stubberfield begins Chapter 2 by introducing the background for how institutions were used in the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of Wyoming in response to the Greater Sage-grouse problem. When the Greater Sage-grouse populations began to decline, it served as a threat to the economy of Wyoming. This chapter discusses the processes that occurred for so-called the protection of the Greater Sage-grouse through the Wyoming Core Area Protection strategy (CAP) which was ultimately a political move to look like a good thing. In 2010 it was suggested for the Greater Sage-grouse population to be added to the Endangered Species list because the population is only 56% of what it was before the expansion of the Western United States and Canada. Despite the population being heavily affected by habitat fragmentation and loss due to human activity, it remained a low priority for the Endangered Species List to the USFWS and was deemed a “candidate species.” 

Although the USFWS did not provide any regulatory control for helping the species, it started a conservation effort with management and regulatory plans to protect the habitat and research the species behavior and living conditions.The CAP rezoned Wyoming’s land according to the GRSG populations by deterritorialization and reterritorialization based on species specific areas. The CAP showed how social environments were used for biopolitics and ultimately how the Endangered Species Act was used by governments as a vessel for other purposes. 

The CAP created relationships within public and private industries with government and non-governmental parties working together. Following this, zones were split between private and public managerial authorities, and new zoning conditions were then placed. These zoning conditions depended on the biological needs of the populations within the area. This new form of managing and controlling created new loopholes to appear as though the species in these areas were being protected, when in fact far more disruptions to the natural habitats were happening within the zones. The instability that this created allowed for an unjust and dangerous expansion where guidelines and rules were taken advantage of for capitalistic purposes. 

Luke, Chapter 11:  “On the Road to Marrakesh: A Politics of Mitigation or Mystification for Global Climate Change?” (Amanda Runnels)

Luke, Chapter 11: “On the Road to Marrakesh: A Politics of Mitigation or Mystification for Global Climate Change?” starts off by discussing the overall opinion that the details of climate change negotiation often lack attention from the public because it is not as captivating as an inauguration in the United States or the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Many countries have made pledges to reduce carbon emissions and do their part to lower the world climate by 2050, however there are still many climate change doubters, “clean coal” advocates and industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels. All of these reasons show that the Paris Agreement will be highly contested and difficult to meet its goals. 

Climate change is not something that we can turn a blind eye to. It is important to ensure that all localities are educated and made aware of the problems and negative effects that climate change causes. It is difficult to ignore the melting of all the ice in the Arctic Ocean, the droughts that are occurring in areas that were once very wet regions, sea level rise happening in coastal areas, and the loss of biodiversity that is occurring in nearly every biome on Earth. The ability for countries to make plans to alter these negative impacts of humans on Earth is becoming more and more urgent and important to life on Earth. 

The UN-backed Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was first held in April 1992 and was responsible for the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The negotiations that followed the Earth Summit began playing upon the idea of “common but differentiated responsibility” for countries trying to mitigate climate change. This meant that larger and richer countries were held to high standards of making large cuts to carbon emissions and greatly reducing their impact on climate change, but smaller, less developed countries demanded that they remain able to pollute as much as they desired to attain economic growth. The Kigali Agreement to limit HFC use exemplified this discrepancy between developed and developing countries by directing countries such as the United States, Japan and the European Union to start removing HFC use in 2019. 

Alternatively, it was expected that developing countries would wait to begin until 2024 and the negotiators reasoned that with the large countries acting first, the smaller countries would follow quickly in their footsteps. There are pros and cons to the differentiated policies among countries. Instead of using a one size fits all approach to mitigating climate change, different countries have the ability to develop plans that mesh well with their cultures and ways of life of their country. Oppositely, many of the larger regions are somewhat stuck in their energy-intensive growth such as China in order to achieve economic growth. With this, it is highly likely that their strategies will be slow, make less of an impact, and be mostly unmonitored. 

All of these factors have shown that the targets of the Paris Agreement for only a 2°C increase in temperature will be reached sooner than the original goal of 2100. Continuing business as usual, as many countries have shown that they will continue to do, can lead us to raise the climate temperature 4.5°C. Knowing that prediction, even countries that have put together weak plans for mitigation strategies are better prepared than countries without plans at all.

Group Blog Post: Devin Welsh, Lilly Church, Merrill Wheeler

Global Environmental Issues: Dr. Stubberfield

4/8/21

Hybridity: in Death, Alan P. Rudy and Damian White (Devin Welsh)

The authors in this reading draw attention to the discursivity applied to the idea of ‘society vs nature.’  Historically and as a result of The Enlightenment, nature and society have been viewed as two different entities completely separate from one another.  This has been detrimental to human understanding of how the world works, and how humans influence it directly.  This idea that society is somehow separate from the world it inhabits is absurd, and more importantly dangerous.  When the two are divided then it leads people to think their actions in one entity will not, and even cannot, have an impact on the other.  This is evident within the capitalist economic structure; ignore the negative effects you wish did not exist. We see this with a willing ignorance of the subaltern or poor populations across the globe who both suffer from capitalism’s effects while also being forced to take part in it, as they are the cheap labor capitalism is built on. The authors bring us to the idea that nature is itself a construction of humanity.  ‘True’ nature by definition has not existed for a very long time, as now everything on earth has been touched in one way or another by humanity.  What we think of as nature in current times is an artificial recreation of what humans arbitrarily designate as nature.

Rudy and White in their chapter in Critical Environmental Politics introduce us to Bruno Latour, a French sociologist who used the term ‘hybridity’ to better understand the concept of ‘modernity’. Hybridity is combining different fields of study usually believed to be distinct from one another, to better understand how they influence each other.  In this sense, it is applied to combining society and nature into a hybrid to better understand how they are directly related.  Latour posits the idea that humanity does not understand its role in directing ‘society’, or lack thereof, and how that role directly influences ‘nature’.  Society is a set of norms that are hard to turn against in an effort to see change, yet nature is actually extremely malleable and susceptible to human decision making.  He claims that modernity today is built on the idea that we cannot change our politics, in the same manner that we manipulate ecosystems and our environments. Essentially humanity is locked into a social system that it thinks it cannot change, although we have altered ecologies around us.  It is an almost intentional contradiction that does not allow a restructuring of the current societal hierarchy, most likely because elites are happy with the way it is, while also maintaining their power over much of society.  He calls us to see the connections between cause and effect across multiple fields of inquiry.  Hybrids have been historically viewed in a negative light, as illegitimate combinations that should not have happened, such as unwanted animal or plant half-breeds.  But hybrids have a key role to play in the future, not as half-breed plants or animals, but by combining fields of knowledge.  The hybridity of society and nature, long previously thought to be distinct from one another, will be vital to bettering humanity’s impacts on the world it inhabits.

Donna Haraway is the next scholar introduced to us.  Her arguments are along the same lines as Latour, but she adds in other specific social elements often left out of the equation.  Her focus on hybridity is constantly laid in front of the backdrop of ‘socialist feminism.’  An interesting point she makes is how ‘modernity’ is built off social conceptions birthed in colonialism and its conception of ‘the other’.  This dualism is evident today in nearly every societal situation, where one’s situation is inherently separate from the conditions that may have caused it.  The authors point to several of her works and how they draw from multiple fields to offer a better context of social situations, while I was most interested in her article titled, ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s’.  In this work she lays out a fictional scenario where cyborgs have taken the place of humans as a hyperbolic example of modernity, where humans and technology are inexorably intertwined. In this work she details the decisions facing female cyborgs in a world where technology is inherently masculine, and how the world shapes individual decision making.  Essentially, she is calling attention to the role physical situations influence decision making, and not just trying to understand decision making in a vacuum. We see how technology is used widely across the Global North as a solution to current physical situations, such as carbon capture to combat climate change, or gene-editing to combat disease. These new technologies are widely accepted because they are seen as a solution, without much contemplation on how they could influence things further down the road, it seems the era of cyborgs is already here. 

We as humans must look harder at the connections between cause and effect, and how one situation can and does affect another.  There needs to be a hybridity of nature and society as well as a hybridity across the fields of academia.  Researchers and scholars must do a better job of working together across the scientific and social fields to create a better understanding of how humans shape the planet.  We need to take accountability for our actions, unlike capitalist elites who just close their eyes and hope the negative externalities of their decisions just disappear in a magic cloud of carbon emissions.

Bio: My name is Devin Welsh, and I am a senior in my final semester here at Virginia Tech.  I am studying International Relations while pursuing a minor in German.  I love watching soccer and I really hope Paris Saint-Germain beats Bayern Munich in their first champions league matchup this week.  Bayern fans feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but I think it’s PSG’s year to win it all.

An excellent little presentation on public lands, waters, environment and social behavior.

“On the Politics of the Anthropocene” Luke, Chapter 10 (Lilly Church)

Proponents of the Anthropocene are social warriors calling for change and trying to get nation-states to “do something”, while other groups such as scientists depoliticize and refuse to work together. The goal to depoliticize means they want to move away governments making and enforcing decisions about the environment that have political-motivated biases. This removes “the environment” as a space for democratic politics and political solutions by sequestering decisions about it to “experts” that can be under the employ of global commercial organizations and governments, such as the U.S., that have a vested economic interest in continuing business-as-usual and others with more altruistic motivations advocating for environmental protection through top-down, non-democratic decision-making. This means that “the environment” under this way of thinking, can be designed and administered by technocrats beyond the reach of democratic politics and their decisions have the potential to have global effects. A dividing question between these groups is if the products of humans are actually significant on a geological timescale, and if so, what should the response be? Many people who have studied this want the Anthropocene to be a warning and a call to action, but there have been warnings about this for over 150 years, even as far back as 1864. An important question for critics to be asking is if new concepts and terminology around the Anthropocene are actually helpful to pinpointing a problem and clearly stating how to fix them. 

Arcology is a concept coined by Paolo Soleri to describe a (theorized) compact living structure that combines natural and unnatural elements to support a family in a sustainable way. Arcology is not actually practiced anywhere, but it does provide insight into how to create more sustainable cities. As human shelters and cities arise, agriculture spreads, and arcologies are formed. Agriculture and habitat are the two indicators of human existence, and without them, we cannot exist. Obviously, food and shelter are two out of three of the absolutely crucial factors for humans to survive. When we look from a technonatural view, technology is essential to this architectural design because of the materials needed to keep such a network running.

Soleri’s claim is that shelter is the most imposing feature of humans, and the suburban home is the most consuming and wasteful shelters we can create. Only a few people actually benefit from the amount of space that humans take up, while the by-products are destructive for local, regional, and global systems. Soleri’s claim is that the only solution to saving the environment stems from the city, because the city and the environment are connected in terms of habitat. The only way to move forward is to recenter the attention on arcologies and fix the way we consider and improve them.

Soleri’s Arcology was tried nearly 50 years ago in the Arizona desert. Its name is Arcosanti and Soleri was trying to design a city seated at the intersection of ecology and architecture.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ideas as to when the Anthropocene actually began, and it again ties into the process of depoliticalization. Crutzen pins the start of the Anthropocene on the invention of the steam engine in 1780, while other anthropologists, paleobotanists, and stratigraphers argue that there are multiple stages of the Anthropocene. And still others from fields like conservation biology and physical geography want to put their own claims and characteristics on the Anthropocene, which can only be because of the political power that comes from control of the narrative over the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is politicized through “expert” scientific claims gaining power by condemning environmental crises. Earth system science (ESS) is a relatively new study for analyzing changes in the Anthropocene by multiple organizations trying to discover new ways of surviving it. ESS creates discourse of sustainable development for the purpose of policy creation. Yet with this discourse, there is little conclusion of what to do because that decision is left to policy-makers. This allows for aesthetically pleasing debates, resumes, and research without actual positive impacts on our consistently degrading environment. 

Luke makes the statement, “As long as scientific experts peer at these turbulent currents of planetary transformation through the taxonomies and terms of Victorian science, the arcologies of the earth will continue to destructively omnipolitanize the planet-state, but in strong accord with peer-reviewed Anthropocenarios from ESS labs and their panels of expert authority.” To elaborate on this quote, Luke is saying that people who study the evolution of Earth through the ESS framework are foolishly defending the science through a 19th century lens. This inevitably leads to destroying the Earth by politicizing it and using poorly researched and backed up Anthropocene critiques by other ESS supporters to defend it. Unfortunately, there is not yet an answer as to who is in control of the response going forward. The media normalizes trends of human damage to the environment by examining it only as a fascinating trend of our society. ESS demonstrates how we must impose ourselves on the future in order to move forward in remaking the world. Bu there is hope in that the Anthropocene addresses the multifaceted evolution of the world and does not assume that world solely exists for humans.

Bio: Lilly Church is a senior majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) with a minor in Theater Arts. She was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and only left so she could spend her college years in Blacksburg. She has never left the country, leaving her entirely uncultured. For this, she would like to thank COVID-19, which cancelled her study abroad. Lilly is taking this class in order to have a better understanding of the critical environmental issues which are so engrained in all three of her major’s key subjects. 

Chapter 1: Instruments, Assemblages and Environmentality: Toward the Technonatural (Merrill Wheeler)

    In this chapter the author explores the use of instruments in assemblages, specifically relating to the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming, that leads to a bigger commentary on technonature. Though a study of instruments that are part of bigger capital machines, we can see a bigger pattern of an expansion of technonature. These instruments are described as causing the production of artifacts. Specifically, the animal and plant life of Wyoming is being subjected to strategies of environmentality that is only concerned with the production of commodities. The author sees technonature having historical power because it is now seen as a natural feature of the environment that’s being made and affecting the plant and animal life through social activity, thus showing the growing expansion of technonature through these instruments that are functions of machinic assemblages and further link human and non-human populations. 

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 Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: The Technonatural Condition: Synthetic and Organic Imbrications of the Machine

    Machinic assemblages use instruments with organic components to further industrial activity leading to a concern of a hybrid of infrastructure between human and non-human economies. There has been an evolution of both humanity and non-humananity through tehonology, as they develop together there are human-non-human assemblages that create the production commodities in technonaturalism. This can be seen through technoatural lifeforms, topographies, environments that were previously autarkic but are now part of the technonaturalization system. Technonature as concerned by the author is simply the continuance of civilization through means of technological infrastructure and commodity production. When we add organic components to this equation through geo-engineering, we are headed to a what the author calls a “megamachinic consciousness.” We can’t escape geotechnic hybridity because it is deeply ingrained in the creation of our civilization. Things like the carbon cycle have been commodified, by the instrumentalization of previously autarkic organic things through, for example, the global production and trade of carbon credits or offsets. Instrumentalization means that organic systems have been used as tools and instruments to further the advancement of some agency. 

More Power to the Machine: Strategic Control of Synthetic Flows

     Synthetic assemblages employ the formation of technonature and environmentality – environmentality being the materialization of the organic and synthesized – further cementing technonatural history in the material and the concept of human-non-human history. The author describes this as a Megamachine: “Megamachine is a planetary life support system for one formulation of culture that rules over and dominates global flows of energy, humanity, and infrastructure.” This is key to understanding that technonature is humanity’s movement away from the autarik and can be seen in organic assemblages assimilated to the Megamachine.  The Megamachine is a tool to move away from harsh economies of nature and into harsh economies of the Machine because we are ruled by artifice inside the most “advanced” industrial economies as a matter of social material reproduction. Technonature is then an artifact of the Megamachine because it is a manufacturing of synthetic assemblages that display their global connections thus revealing more how the human experience is manipulated technocratic management. 

Technonature and Environmentality: State-of-the-Art as Art of the State

     To maintain the power of the Megamachine hybridization and synthetic environments, technocrats designed and utilize enviornmentalities. As stated, “Environmentality, for my purposes, is a socio-techno-environmental process that organizes the relationships of living, and non-living through the production of knowledge/power regimes such that they create administrable environs.” It is explained through an analysis of Michel Foucault’s ideas of governmentality which is referenced as the ‘conduct of conduct’. At its core it connects to the idea of environmentality that government and non governmental actors can and will turn environmental crises into commodities and profits. This creates a biopolitical regime that instrumentalized ‘nature’ and humanity within synthetic assemblages for the Megamachine.  The people who create and profit from the Megamachine should be free but really not because the deployment of environmentalists leaves us all in a geotechnical hybridity of infrastructures that we can not separate from our civilization. Therefore, based on the logics of capitalist modernity, the tools used for social reproduction and the imperatives of continual capital development within organizations, even the CEO of any given commercial organization is ruled by and administers artifice itself.  

From Instruments to Technonature: A Conclusion 

     As reviewed in this chapter the there are major problems with using the ‘conduct of conduct’ market as to talk about conservation discourse. The market is the governing discourse for the environment, as seen through the production technonature. According to specific operationalizations of governmentality, Technonaturialization works to separate organic things from their autarkic nature and create synthetic assemblages that exhibits the movements of, and creation of capital through an instantiation of governmentality. Instruments of technonature turn ‘the organic’ such as found reserves of oil into artifacts for a greater scheme of environmentally, or the commodification of humanity and nature. Technonature is a result of instruments and instrumentalization of ‘nature’. This can specifically be seen in an example of the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming showing this cycle of technonature, explained in later chapters. 

Merrill Wheeler: I am a senior who is set to graduate in May 2021 from Virginia Tech. I am a double major is PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) and Psychology. I am from Mclean Virginia and love to take advantage of all the great parks located on the Potomac River. 

Editor’s Note: Technonaturalization is directly inspired by the Starcraft series. I was able to get a handle on the idea of instruments dominating space and recreating life in the image of capital and technology by thinking of how technological frontiers might be formed and advance. I used “the Creep” necessary for infrastructural advancement of the Zerg army from the aforementioned series to help conceptualize the advance of The Megamachine through the instrumentalization of life and territory. The video below displays how “the creep” is formed and extends through Starcraft‘s virtual environments. As I said at the start of class, inspiration can come from anywhere. For those of you familiar with the Starcraft lore, the Zerg Army is a technonatural army run-amok displaying the fragility of technological systems and the inherent risks of technonaturalization.

The Greater Sage-grouse Conservation-Resource Complex

Jae Ju: Hi everyone, my name is Jae and I am a Communication Science and Social Inquiry Major with a minor in Political Science. I am from Northern Virginia (Ashburn.) I am currently in my last semester here at Virginia Tech. Though I have enjoyed my time here I can’t wait to see what graduation and post-college is going to be like. My hobbies include video games, watching golf, playing golf, and looking at golf equipment. I also enjoy watching well-made films and also love to spend my free time catching up on sleep – ‘cause let’s be honest, you can always use sleep throughout the day

Mel Hillelsohn: Hey guys! My name is Mel and I am a Junior double majoring in Political Science and Sociology under the Women’s and Gender Studies option. I’m also from Northern Virginia in Herndon and I’m looking at continuing my education after I graduate next spring! I am really into plants and have been hand propagating plant clippings for years to help my wallet and I hand paint pots because I love painting as well as many other art forms! I did photography for four years specializing in nature photography and worked on a farm for a year and helped them make a compost system!

Camden Carpenter: Hello! My name is Camden and I am a Senior majoring in Smart and Sustainable Cities with a minor in Real Estate. I’m one of the very few Virginia Tech students from Virginia Beach, and I try to embody Carpe Diem in all that I do. I hope to pursue my passion for real estate development in graduate school this fall, so fingers crossed! Most of my time is spent at the beach, searching for the perfect matcha latte, or experimenting with short-term hobbies like bullet journaling. 

Luke, Chapter 3: “The Dreams of Deep Ecology”, goes in-depth on what Deep Ecology is and the science and the philosophy behind it. The chapter starts off with exploring the current situation of our society and how we got to the point where we are. The chapter explains deep ecology as “ The foundations of deep ecology are the basic intuitions and experiences of ourselves and nature which compromise ecological consciousness.” (Luke, 2019, pg. 873 ). I think that when people think of our society, we tend to separate humans from non-humans. But in reality, don’t we all live in the same environment? What is the point in separating species if we all live at the same place? This introduces the idea of biocentrism. Biocentrism argues that “all things in the biosphere have an equal right to live and blossom and to reach their own individual forms of unfolding and self-realization” (Luke, 2019, pg.896). We need to keep in mind that everyone in the biosphere has its own purpose on earth. If we as a society can’t integrate every form of species in the biosphere, it leads to “creative destruction”. This is because when we only focus on one part of the ecological spectrum, we are completely putting off the “others”. An example of this is, if there was a government movement that aimed to conserve the water resources here in the United States, yes, this movement would benefit the animals and the ecosystem, however, who does this hurt? It would hurt the water industry. By limiting the resources that they have access to, it is hurting the water and mineral sectors of the economy. 

The picture above shows the integration that we need to be implementing. There shouldn’t be tiers of species like the picture on the left. By being able to integrate all living species together, we can think of every species as a whole family instead of having multiple families living under the same roof. By doing so, we eliminate the “other” when it comes to making important decisions regarding the environment.  

Today, modern technology and industrial production create “creative destruction”. Following World War II, America entered this phase in society called the Industrial Revolution. During this revolution, we as a society rapidly innovated and this was the time in our history in which the idea of capitalism was really engraved into our society. With all these innovations, we were forgetting the destruction that comes with these innovations. “In the years following WWII, smog, man-made radioactive elements, DDT, detergents and synthetic plastics (Luke, 2019)” were some of examples in what we would call a “creative destruction.” These are the “bad things” in which we tend to forget about when it comes to manufacturing something. As a society, we only see the positives in which this new invention can improve the lives of our society, but we never see the other side of it. For example, let’s observe landfills. Landfills were designed so that we can accumulate all of our waste into one area. From a broader perspective, this is a good idea because all of our waste is in one location, but what is the downside? The downside is that the trash will keep on accumulating unless we do something about it. What is this “it” though? If we burn the trash, it benefits the human society because we can make more trash whenever we want, but when we burn trash, we release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. So we have to ask ourselves, is this all worth doing? 

These are the 8 principles of deep ecology elaborated by Arne Naess and George Sessions. They are considered to be the prominent exponents of deep ecology. 

  1. the well-being of human and nonhuman life on earth has intrinsic values, separate from human uses or purposes;
  2. the diverse richness of all life-forms contributes to realizing these intrinsic values;
  3. humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity of life except to satisfy vital needs;
  4. the flourishing of human life and culture is compatible with a substantial decrease in human populations—indeed, the flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease;
    1. Luke disagrees with this point because he points out the fact that nobody has the decision to decrease human population nor do they have the means to. In developing countries, more human life promotes the life and prosperity of that developing nation. 
  5. human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive and worsening;
  6. policies must be changed to transform economic, ideological, and technological structures into a situation much different from the present;
  7. human satisfaction must shift to appreciating the quality of life (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to higher material standards of living;
  8. those who subscribe to these points have an obligation, directly or indirectly, to try to implement the necessary changes.

Preface: The Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: A Technonatural Study

The preface of the dissertation shares the environmental political aspect of working with Greater sage-grouse in Wyoming. What is Greater Sage-grouse?, Take a look above. At first, the creature looks like a cross-over between a peacock and a chicken. The problem is, these days the Greater Sage-grouse are being forced out of their habitat. The preface to The Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: A Technonatural Study explores how certain industries have been pushing these animals out of their habitat, and it also explores how animal conservation programs are being critically explored. The ultimate question that the author asks in order to dive deeper into this is “whose environment is the Environmental Defense Fund defending?” And he answers this question in four different chapters. The first chapter part identifies the author’s theoretical and methodological terms and commitments. The second chapter being the examination of Greater Sage-grouse across the state of Wyoming. The third chapter analyzes the development in market-based conservation instruments (MBIs) by the Wyoming Conservation Exchange , and lastly, the fourth part shows the industrial partners that helped with administering and implementing the resources. 

Introduction: The Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: A Technonatural Study 

The introduction questions the environment that the Environmental Defense Fund is truly defending. The Nature Conservancy invited the Environmental Defense Fund to form the Wyoming Conservation Exchange – a market-based conservation instrument tailored to trading in habitat mitigation credits (Stubberfield, 2019, abstract).

Wyoming’s declining sage-grouse population has been negatively impacted by urban development, mining, agricultural use, and recent oil and gas extraction (Stubberfield, 2019, 7). 

The Wyoming Core Area Protection (CAP) was created to avoid losing nearly a quarter of the state’s total surface area to sage-grouse conservation. It limited or entirely prevented development that would disturb the species’ habitat. However, CAP was created with loopholes to allow for continued industrial development and resource extraction. The state’s true motive was to proceed with gas and coal extraction, rather than conserving the sage-grouse and its home. The natural gas boom has led Wyoming to become more invested in increasing and expanding capital. Excessive fossil fuel extraction has led to the state’s domination of the sage-grouse’s habitat, which causes habitat fragmentation and destruction. 

It is integral to understand the environment that the Environmental Defense Fund truly protects. Stubberfield compares the environment of the now-endangered sage-grouse to the environment. He introduces technonaturalization which defines new combinations of material and energy as they display the instrumentalization, and technologization of the planet in attempts to address perceived environmental problems (Stubberfield, 2019, 20-21). In the case of the sage-grouse, Stubberfield defines the indirect relationship between natural gas and the birds’ habitat in Wyoming. Fossil fuel extraction could halt and encourage the conservation of the bird, or fossil fuel extraction could continue and result in habitat fragmentation. 

Therefore, the sage-grouse is being transformed into a political instrument as the state’s conservation efforts are disguised as green governmentality while the state’s primary focus is actually economic gain through fossil fuel extraction. Stubberfield ends the chapter by introducing an ecocritique of the negative influences conservation attempts have had on the sage-grouse habitat. 

 Its relevance to the issue lies in addressing the changing relationships between land, people, and capital and how they have transitioned the efforts of conservation from legitimate habitat preservation to capital-driven fossil fuel extraction. 

Death Chapter 19: Resource Violence

Watts and Peluso start chapter 19 on the premise that most natural resources have become entrenched in political discourse with the control and access to these resources being an important part of governance. Case studies include Indonesia’s forests which have been privy to insurrections and violence over access to land, resources, and territory which allows us to ultimately see how our concept of the environment and nature is transformed into resources that have a value. This relates directly to the Luke reading as we see that there is no single identifiable form of the environment, but it becomes a part of our lives in new ways as we conceptualize possibilities of use for our surroundings that change as we develop over time.

The Indonesian forests are historically intertwined with violence as insurgencies have been staged from the forested territories which helped form the idea of national forests as a political component of the Indonesian nation-state (Watts 2014, 184). Through this conceptualization of the forest in law came the formation of distinct governing agencies such as the Department of Forestry in which control was centralized by the military and elites to allow for the benefit from profitable resources and corporations (Watts 2014, 185). The Basic Forestry Act and New Forestry Law both saw major forestry concessions to corporations that attempted to stimulate economic growth, but substantially marginalized forest-based communities (Watts 2014, 185-186). Through the creation of these laws and instating bureaucratic organizations to oversee the management of land and natural resources, we see how the authors illustrate how states identify features of their environment and create regulatory agencies to oversee the dissemination of these resources to positively bolsters the nation.

In the late 1960s through the 1980s, there was a major push by national and international institutions for the forest development of Indonesia, allowing international investment to bolster the parastatal forest service. The Indonesian government referred to the dual nature of the military of repression and development, and with the increased entrepreneurial efforts the forest guards were armed and militarized to protect what became the dominant site of tropical timber trade and teak product production (Watts 2014, 186). As the tropical forest coverage is the third most extensive in the world, it is not surprising that the forest products industry generates almost 7% of the Indonesian GDP (Watts 2014, 186). The perception of security continues to vary as the economic environment has dramatically changed and private militias with political ties to the state are hired by companies with ventures in the Indonesian forests to preserve their efforts. Specifically, colonial military forces evaluated a high value on teak as an extremely desirable ship-building material that seemingly justifies the dispossession and deployment of people left landless living in Java for extraction purposes (Watts 2014, 187). Although the military is organizationally representing the state in these cases, the sites they guard are often illegally accessed and utilized for the extortion and criminal acquisition of resources. While the land between Malaysia and Indonesia was divided up and allocated amongst those that retire after military service, all military branches were considered responsible for financing more than 60% of their operating budgets (Watts 2014, 188).

Nigeria has been characterized by a violent democracy and the Niger Delta oil fields have been a nexus of insurgency and crime. From the mid-1950s to the 1970s oil transformed Nigeria into a petrostate in which there exists a shadow economy that profits as 55 million barrels of oil are stolen each year and greater than 80% of oil revenues go to the richest 1% of the population (Watts 2014, 189). Over the last decade GDP per capita and life expectancy have both fallen as the number of those living in poverty with little to no income has grown to 90 million (Watts 2014, 189). Communities across the delta were promised compensation and benefits for loss of land, and although companies did make alliances with members of local chieftaincy systems, ultimately oil resource wealth was not invested in infrastructure which is an omission of secular national development (Watts 2014, 189). The oil resource complex is constructed through two forms of logic. The first is the state’s acquisition of oil rents with laws and rules regarding monopolies which creates the foundation for the assertion of differential claims due to all citizens and the centralizing power of oil (Watts 2014, 190). The second logic observes the centralizing effect of revenue allocation in which the ethnically diverse 36 states making up the federal system receive 26.72%  of revenue for governance, but the federal government receives 52.68% (Watts 2014, 190). These disproportionate allocations have facilitated the rise of violent insurrection groups as communities contend for oil bunkering territories. 

Ultimately, Watts and Peluso discern that the resource complex addresses how resources are made into objects of regulation and how they are governed under specific political circumstances is shaped by the centralization and neo-liberalization of states as well as the security complex associated with these resources. The authors use these case studies as they are extremely relevant to their discussion of natural resources with the observation of resource scarcity and the violence and security concerns with dependence on raw materials. This is similar to the case of the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming as we see the extraction of natural resources becoming a critical element of economic life force that is subject to regulation as the government ensures self interests. In these cases where conflict is often observable, it is considered that a combination of state failures and poor economic performance creates conditions conducive to violence and poor governance. In a case of economic reliance on wealth accumulated from the export and sale of natural resources as the primary industry, the need to tax is no longer relevant so loose political constraints create a dysfunctional economic order. Le Billon understands the various degrees of vulnerability, risk, and opportunity are conducive to the development of the resource curse, resource wars, and resource conflicts through either a coup d’etat, secession, mass rebellion, or warlordism (Watts 2014, 193).

Week 3-14/20 Readings

Darier – Discourses of the Environment – Nature Writing as Self-Technology; Sylvia Bowerbank

The main idea of this writing is how people change themselves through the, “…greening of oneself…” and how these changes affect our society (Macy, 1991). Bowerbank writes about how popular “nature writing” has become in North America over the past three decades. This nature writing acts as a form of meditation for participants and allows the writer to reflect. More and more people are writing about their experiences in nature and how it is shaping them. The encounters are becoming more and more documented. These personal changes are described in the quote, “…the subject undertaking self-transformation in the name of nature is the same self-improving…” (Chaloupka and Cawley, 1993). Bowerbank then discusses the ideas of if this change promotes positive change for our environment. 

Moving forward, Bowerbank tells the story of Thomashow. This man was pro-environment, however, after a vacation on an island in Maine, he threw two bags of diapers into the ocean because he had no other way to dispose of them on the island. He then regretted the decision and has tried to better himself. He confessed this action in hopes of self-reformation and continues to try and inspire others to do better.

Bowerbank then talks about all the effects of the increase in personal writing about nature. To me, she describes this “nature writing” as a form of meditation/therapy for the writer, allowing them to reflect on themselves and attend to their flaws. This self reflection drives more people to care for the environment and its protection.

The next topic is the idea of a “nature retreat”. This is the act of leaving society for  a period of time to get some fresh air. People find themselves retreating to the isolation of nature to reset. I personally do this; it really helps me prioritize and think. It reminds me of the story, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, where a young man leaves New York City for the country and lives off the land in a tree for about a year. The main character, Sam, desired to leave the busy city and the tiny apartment packed with his various siblings and parents. He was too closed in. He retreated and reset. Funnily enough, he was a great nature writer as well, drawing his observations, collecting recipes, and journaling his daily events. The book is actually written in the style of a nature journal. I encourage you to read the book to see how it ends. 

Bowerbank also talks about different authors idea’s of the dangers of becoming too immersed in nature. If this happens, and the subject loses sight of modernity, they can not contribute to the protection of nature and are lost in a different age. They are ignorant of the legitimate and pressing problems for nature posed by modernization. By this, I mean, people become lost in nature and lose sight of expansion. Cities are getting larger and reservations are getting smaller. The last administration was the first to decrease the size of a National Monument (Bears Ears). Modernization, or the expansion of humanity, poses threats to these lands. The more people that become “Sam”, then the less there are to oppose the expansion of humans into the raw natural world.

For a further look into nature journaling please watch the following:

Work Cited:

Sylvia Bowerbank. “Nature Writing as Self-Technology.” Darier, E. (1999). Discourses of the environment. Oxford: B. Blackwell.

Thomas Leffel: Hello, I am a junior in Natural Resource Conservation and I plan on going into the Army when I graduate. I am from the Eastern Shore of Virginia (near Virginia Beach, but very rural) and found my love of the outdoors growing up there. My hobbies include: surfing, kayaking, fishing, rappelling, backpacking, working out, and other outdoor activities. I plan on teaching myself how to sail this summer. My favorite thing about Tech is the 3.2 for 32 and tailgating at Center Street before football games.

Luke — “A Harsh and Hostile Land: Edward Abbey’s Politics and the Great American Desert”

Edward Abbey was a fierce environmentalist who has led many to join various environmental causes and groups in the United States. While some see him as an environmental anarchist, others see him as a pioneer of eco-activism. In chapter 8 of Anthropocene Alerts, Luke looks at Abbey’s views and how they have changed Americans’ subjectivity and pursuit of political change. 

Luke compared Abbey with Henri Lefebvre, a French philosopher. In doing this, Luke is able to compare the two’s perspectives of spatality. They both “recognize that spatiality should not be left to be discovered, preserved, or safeguarded as if it could be seen as a preexistent externality always unknown or untrammeled apart from human action.” Spatiality has many meanings, which Abbey uses to his advantage when he examines how spatial constructs modernize the American Southwest. It must be recovered in order to focus on the environment and get away from the technological simulation of the future that urbanism and planning falls under. 

In his writings, Abbey contrasts the disastrous urban advancements with the rural wilderness of the desert. However, his works focus more on exploration of the desert than encouragement to live primitively. He aims to confront the desert. Lefebvre writes about how cities initiate “strong normative agendas through everyday spatial codes”. Urban planners and officials design cities to support actions that they direct as meeting standards and ethics of their choosing.  Abbey warns of this destructive urban revolution and how it is necessary to prevent it from expanding to the American Southwest. 

Abbey’s anarchist nature has energized many to partake in small actions, such as monkeywrenching, that cause other, more significant reactions from authorities of various levels. His followers were at one point known as “eco-terrorists” due to their destruction. Parks now develop training programs for its rangers to learn about riot control and terrorist strikes in addition to their traditional roles. Some attribute the increase in preparation for a diverse range of events to what Abbey “caused”, while others staunchly defend him. However, one cannot argue against the fact that there has been no one since Abbey who has been quite so passionately about the American West.

Luke does not argue against the ability of novels to have political influence; however, he does mention that Abbey is not that different from countless anti-industrial critics that were around before him. Writing is a technology that Abbey uses to recount his experiences with the environment, but not necessarily for the reason of inspiring followers. One of the most fascinating aspects of the chapter is that Abbey states that desert southwesterners and techno-industrial culture are what is wrong with America. He views nature as the only bright spot in an otherwise negative, corrupted system. But without regulation, can nature be preserved and therefore appreciated as he so wants it to be?

The additions of Ann Ronald’s analysis of Edward Abbey provide an captivating look at Abbey and his ability to write of the desert and urbanization in such polarizing, conflicting ways, with the beauty of nature coming out on top. She writes about how Abbey creates a world meant to expose conflicting values but seems to miss that he writes less of an affectionate letter to the desert and more of a veiled attack towards tragic wrongdoings in other places that are ravaging the Southwest and the rest of the world. He has issues with urbanity, but not necessarily the urban. Building spaces that become “tourist traps” take away from the beauty and unconformity of nature. So many people flock to see the Grand Canyon that it impacts the environment in many ways, including waste and air pollution. However, people who simply enjoy nature and want to experience the desert all share a common goal and lack of desire to impact nature.

Luke also describes Abbey’s personal views on his own works. Though categorized by librarians as “nature works,” Abbey argued that they are more about his own personal history than the environment. Rather than a “naturalist,” he considered himself to be a displaced wanderer and anarchist. Abbey did not set out to be a nature writer, but rather a fiction writer or novelist. Luke concludes by saying that “Those first affected by Abbey, but then driven further out into nature to become today’s “nature writers,” still attempt to fill his shoes as authors. Unfortunately, they are all too often “the naturalists” that Abbey was not, and they never rise to the level of astute political observation that he could not avoid.” No one yet has been able to write about America’s deserts as passionately as Abbey. He negatively appraises the modern industrial society and the Southwest, but argues them in a more artful way. The chapter finishes with Luke stating that Abbey was ultimately protesting how America’s spatiality turned into unsatisfactory economic and political order that requires “monkeywrenching” to allow it to be more unrestrained and open for “those who endure its corruptions.”

Luke, Timothy. “A Harsh and Hostile Land: Edward Abbey’s Politics and the Great

American Desert” Anthropocene Alerts: Critical Theory of the Contemporary as Ecocritique, Candor, NY, Telos Press Publishing, 2019, pp. 159-183.

Trish Grace – I am a sophomore double majoring in Geography and Smart and Sustainable Cities with a minor in Environmental Policy and Planning. After graduation, I hope to join the Peace Corps for a few years before becoming an urban planner with a focus in sustainability and the environment.

Death – Posthumanism; Stephen Hobden

Most of us grow up being told humans as a species are special. Whether it’s our parents, teachers, television, or movies, all these sources of information contain a linked message: humanity is “above” nature. Even those with good intentions, such as Francis Ford Coppola during the making of Apocalypse Now, can allow these anthropocentric ideas to slip in. It is frequently reiterated throughout the movie that humanity is no different from animals, but in the final scene, a certain major character is repeatedly compared to an animal because the Vietnam War has caused them to lose their mind. The lack of rationality is equated with “nature.” But, one may question, is this anthropocentrism really a bad thing? At least in regards to the development of environmentalities, this is an unequivocal yes. The centralization of human interest above those of “nature” fundamentally ignores the fact that humans are a part of nature, and thus, the environmentalities that are generated are insufficient, whether it be governments who have non-human interests at heart or not. The government’s strategies for managing the environment must take into account the complex web of interactions between humans and non-humans, rather than elevating human systems. It is only in this way that both humans & non-humans can thrive.

So, how can we remove the shackles of anthropocentrism? According to Stephen Hobden, it is through posthumanism. Now, this conception of posthumanism is not what we might think of when we first hear the term. In common parlance, it usually refers to technology “improving” humanity, whether it be AI or cybernetics. However, these are more trans-humanist approaches, and the posthumanist approach Hobden discusses is that of removing the accepted separation between human systems and nature.

This new understanding comes from complexity theory, which is rooted in trying to develop an understanding of non-linear systems within the world. It is in some ways closely related to chaos theory.

A classic example of chaos theory is the double pendulum, showing how minute differences in initial conditions lead to vast differences in outcome. Complexity theory looks at these relationships out in the world.

Complexity theory looks at relationships that cannot be reduced down to a single interaction between properties. Just because two things interact a certain way does not mean that altering one of them will change the interaction in a predictable way. Furthermore, complex systems often contain feedback loops. Whereas most systems we think of contain negative feedback loops to reach an equilibrium, Hobden explains how the environment and its interrelated systems often contain positive feedback loops, meaning a change one way will then exacerbate that change into the future (i.e. runaway climate change). Humanity, which is commonly thought to be distinct from these systems because of our “special nature.” But, in fact, human life is filled with these complex systems, and that has only been intensified by modernity, which has caused technological innovations to become essential to human life. Even under the belief that humans are superior and rational, these technologies mean that human systems are no longer inherently rational nor linear. However, Hobden asserts there is more to these systems than just being “complex.” They evolve, and are thus adaptive. Systems influence each other, and thus, it creates an environment of systems that all reflect back on each other as they change.

Hobden discusses 3 critical thinkers within this complex systems theory. Edgar Morin asserts that our political decision-making is rooted in the simplifications of these complex systems, which is unable to account for the uncertainty they generate, and coping strategies, rather than controlling strategies, would lead to more effective governance. Giorgio Agamben expands upon this by discussing the systems’ connections to anthropocentrism with the “anthropological machine.” This machine is the establishment of the human/non-human binary by governments, and in doing so, necessarily excludes non-humans. Donna Haraway discusses clearly how “humanity” is constructed to suit society’s needs, and thus, the idea of a separation between “non-human” and “human” is facile at best.

The purpose of the posthuman approach is to reiterate how non-human systems are naturally embedded in human systems. It thereby lessens the perceived “greatness” of humanity. This understanding is not an attempt to show the futility of human endeavors, but instead is an attempt to elucidate a new principle of precaution to approach human systems. To explore the environment, we have to consider the interrelations between human systems, non-human systems, and systems between them, to develop an environment of systems. “[providing] a framework for re-considering the human position within non-human nature.” (Hobden, 182). The “environment” (i.e. non-human systems) are influenced by, and influence humanity collectively, and thus, humanity is not separate from non-humans, but is instead an integral element of their existence, just as they are in ours.

“Ultimately, it is impossible to study events in isolation as everything is in some way interconnected.” (Hobden, 179).

Works Cited:

Hobden, Stephn. “Posthumanism.” Critical Environmental Politics. Edited by Carl Death. New York: Routledge Press, 2013.

Mitchell Davenport – I am a sophomore with a double major in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics (PPE), and Political Science, with a minor in Urban Affairs & Planning. My plan after graduation is to go to law school although I’m not sure which field of law I would like to pursue. My eventual goal is to help develop sustainable cities and environmentally-focused urbanization throughout the world.

Green Governmentality, Technology, and The Economy of Food

Green governmentality is a concept developed following the Cold War. In a consumerist world, countries were scrambling to take as much natural resources and control as many markets as possible. But in order to keep up with the depletion of natural resources and seeing how severe environmental issues could turn a state into a failed one, the international system developed the idea of sustainable development and economic growth going hand in hand. Technology is at the core of nation-building and the construction of new communities, but in Death, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Chapter 27: Technology,” we see how it has to adapt to new sustainable development and economic growth concepts in order to make sure technology improves society, instead of creating a system of overconsumption. In Darier, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Environmentality as Green Governmentality,” Luke follows Foucault and his ideas in explaining how green governmentality came to be and Luke, Chapter 9: “Hashing It Over: Green Governmentality and the Political Economy of Food” gives examples of how even our diet heavily affects the environment around us.

Manasha: Darier, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Environmentality as Green Governmentality”

In Chapter 7 of Discourses of the Environment, Timothy W. Luke follows Michel Foucault to analyze ecology in the modern state and green governmentality. For more information on what governmentality is, this is a great video describing it: 

Luke says in the Post-Cold War era, US politicians say earth is balanced and there is a need to develop the world economy through new technologies, dominating more markets, and exploiting national assets. During this time, more environmental issues and sustainable development are coming to the forefront when it comes to advancing technology and creating new jobs. Seeing the status of “failed state” of Rwanda and other nations and putting the blame partially on the environmental issues associated with their economic growth, American superpowers were quick to put ecological conservation at the top of their policy agenda. The more the environment  was seen as a human security issue, the more it became the state’s job to manage the issues that came with it. Geo-economics and reach for economic growth is a zero sum game and countries need more material wealth in a show of power. But Clinton said people cannot separate common good for the US from common good for the rest of the world and appointed the United States as the world’s leading agency for environmental protection. He said it’s the U.S.’s job to spread democracy and freedom because democracy and freedom is what is best for governments and the people. As a global leader, it then became the job of the United States to promote the new common good of environmentally conscious policies to other countries. There is a greater effort made to connect ecological responsibility with economic growth and Al Gore establishes the Global Marshall Plan (129-131). In a bid to turn Americans away from being biosphere abusers and dysfunctional deviants, this plan calls for environmentally centered growth and brings the state back in to help monitor that initiative. It outlined how there needed to be strategic goals in order to bring forth longlasting economic and ecological progress. Japan was a great example of environmentally centered economic growth. Japan created a sustainable development program in the 1990s that actually allowed them a cost advantage in some of their production over American products (125). So not only would Al Gore’s plan allow for sustainable development, but also it would maintain national competitiveness with other countries like Japan. On an international level, nature and humanity were declared as being one and the same by the Brundtland Commission, and therefore, environment and development could not be separated. New international bodies like the World Commission on Environment and Development were created to intervene on these matters and monitor sustainable development around the world. A government’s main job is to ensure productivity and survive the capitalistic world by becoming environmental protection agencies. Thus, green governmentality comes in. There must be producers, laws, and codes that guide this environmentally conscious development or “enviro-discipline.” So in order to make sure the human population is to survive, the survivalist state must regulate the use of the environment to do so (134). However, over time governmentality moved its focus from governing of the people to governing of the people through  the environment. Luke writes “In practice, Global

Marshall Planners in Washington could use ecological criteria to impose their sustainable development of economic growth at home as they also force an ecological steady state upon others abroad” (147). The practice of green governmentality pushes the governance of people through the “disguise” of sustainable development abroad as well. 

Camryn: Death, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Chapter 27: Technology”

Within Chapter 27 of Critical Environmental Politics, Timothy W. Luke, as well as other key thinkers like Michel Foucault and John Law, evaluates the current and future role technology plays in the development of systems and societies and how this will affect environmental politics. This chapter begins by asserting that ‘technology’, whether you define it as a series of actions or a collection of human reasoning, must be a central concern for environmental politics. The natural lifeworld, or nature overall, is controlled by the “objectivity or instrumentally rational systems- or technology” that focus on continuing to develop and evolve their own system instead of the planet (267).  ‘Technology’ has been seen as the enemy to ecology, though cradle-to-cradle designers and social ecologists assert technology does not per se threaten nature, but factors such as how it is used, who it is used by, and on what scale can determine the level of threat a technology is to nature. Foucault (2003) suggests that to gain ‘know-how’, or expertise, about technology is to also gain ‘command, control, and communicate-how’ and can therefore dictate how the technology is used. This creates a connection between technology and governmentality because with each new technology there are rules created to maintain control over its uses and misuses, which later become solidified by the economies and societies it is used within (268).

The issue is not technology, but the excessive human use of technologies and systems that lead to environmental degradation. Systems grow that allow for people to take positions of power that lead to overproduction and profit-seeking actions. Excessive economic growth and a society based around material goods and commodities has led to technology being overused as well as environmental damage, “The growth of technology ꟷ to the extent in which it endangers human populations and natural ecologies for the improvement of world capitalist markets ꟷ is the reason why environmentalists are concerned that when the modernization process is complete, nature is gone for good” (269). Society is not intending to harm the environment with new technologies being created, but there are unintended consequences when those technologies are applied to the large-scale environment of the entire world. In the last two hundred years, the population has grown significantly, and with that society and its processes have had to grow, now to an extent that is even further than what is needed because of the global commodity-based society. The population has grown past the point of what is needed and has used technology to create its own environment that has systems and processes just like any other traditional environment. As new technologies are experimented on that could have groundbreaking effects on current systems and processes, it is done with the knowledge that these technologies could, and often do, have ‘normal accidents’, or consequences that are merely accepted as a risk once they happen. The chapter uses nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl (1986), to represent this issue: it is known that experimenting with nuclear technology could have disastrous effects for humans and the environment, but they continue anyway in the hopes that the benefits outweigh the potential costs or disastrous situations (270). These potential disastrous consequences have been normalized on the basis of growth and ‘modernity,” and its easier to accept them because they have the potential to make lives easier (270). To change this and our society of commodities, both producers and consumers need to work to make more sustainable products and practices. The idea of “built-in obsolescence” of “rapid circulation” should be changed so that products are more durable and of higher quality, and consumers should move away from that same rapid purchasing of products.

 One difficulty with changing the system is that it is controlled by bureaucrats. Bureaucracy controls and manages consumption through systems of “industrial products, manufacturing processes, and transnational production are systems for conducting conduct by administering anxiety, power, and want” (271). The bureaucracy creates the systems that then lead to degradation and destruction and puts people positions of power or lack thereof to keep the system of consumption in place and keep their overall mechanisms of power in place. “Technology is governance, and so, too, does it bring its own security and insecurity, power and vulnerability, risk and benefit” (272). With the issues that come with technology, Luke concludes this chapter by emphasizing that while issues arise from the deep integration and commodification of technology, the future of environmental politics and growth lies in the ‘latest technologies’ (276).

Neebal:Luke, Chapter 9: “Hashing It Over: Green Governmentality and the Political Economy of Food”

Timothy Luke is notorious for his knowledge and research regarding the interaction between states, societies, and their surrounding environments. Luke offers a deep analysis regarding political and economic conflicts starting back over nearly fifty years ago and focuses on the idea of “green governmentality.” By itself, governmentality is how the government controls the conduct of its populace. However, green governmentality is the process of how issues regarding the environment are addressed, discussed, and resolved through government involvement.

Luke states that this chapter serves as a “prelude to more elaborate critiques of today’s growing economic inequalities and their close ties to the industrial food system and its ecology.” Ecological degradation has been important in green governmentality since 1962, when Rachel Carson discovered various traces of DDT contamination in most of North America’s food chains. DDT is a pollutant that is found in soil that can be very toxic to some living organisms. Although it may be okay for some people to consume, it still caused quite the stir. As a result, groups of activists and agriculture enthusiasts decided to focus on economic and social inequalities by using food. By using food as the main objective to show the effect on economic and ecological equalities, it showed how important it was to redirect the production, distribution, and consumption of food. This form of green governmentality was shown as a way to impose the U.S Government’s environmental practices.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension, a program that practices green governmentality while counteracts massive technological systems, such as industrial agriculture, had revealed the idea to reinforce and multiply the actions towards protecting the environment. Henrico County has had issues regarding high infant mortality, poor nutrition, and family stress in one small district of the entire county. As a result, Henrico County had released a statement encouraging people to grow their own fruits and vegetables for the sake of providing nutritious food and physical activity. In 2008, the county had established two acres of land dedicated to fruit and vegetables. Seven families were told to maintain it and grow their own food. This program was called “Gardens Growing Families.” This program that started from two acres had evolved to twenty-seven plots that required twenty families to maintain, just within a few years, “77% of gardeners indicated that they saved money by growing their own fruits and vegetables in 2010. And 94% of the gardeners said their family diet improved as a result of the vegetables or fruit grown in their garden.” (187) The willingness to waste money on less fresh and healthy food had decreased drastically. But it also established a message, “Eating is an ecological act, and a political act too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it” (188). By creating a striving, eco-friendly system to introduce cheap and healthy fruits and vegetables to the public, the VCE met its object by countering the purpose of industrial agriculture. 

On a more personal note, both Manasha and I are from Henrico County so we’ve seen how different districts can be in our home county. In low-income districts, there’s a fast-food chain nearly a minute walk from one another. Due to low prices, it’s much cheaper to buy food from a chain than there is to buy fresh produce from a grocery store. And the food from these chains are mostly not environmentally friendly. Meals such as burgers use an absurd amount of water, which results in habitat loss and pollution in the environment. So establishing acres for families to grow their own fruit and vegetables is definitely the move in order to save money and offer proper nutrition.

Thanks to Luke’s research we’ve been able to create a more concrete correlation between food and the environment, allowing clearer and more progressive laws to be established. And because of this, every government action, rule, or law that’s been established in the name of green governmentality will be able to be improved.

Manasha Bhetwal is a Senior majoring in International Relations and International Public Policy. She is from Henrico County, VA and the reason she is taking this class is because she is interested in learning more about how our environment affects us in the context of global human security.  

Neebal Aridi is a Junior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Arabic. He is from Henrico County, VA and is taking this class because he has always been environmentally cautious but wanted to understand more about how politics and the environment interact. It’s been a goal of his to get into international politics but recently has decided to double major in Real Estate. So he’ll be around for another year!

Camryn Cappel is a Senior majoring in Environmental Policy and Planning. She is from Ocean City, NJ and plans to go into policy analysis and development in the nonprofit sector after graduation. The reason she is taking this class is because she wants to broaden her understanding of the economic, political, and societal factors that affect how we view and interact with the environment, and what needs to change in order to improve conditions instead of exacerbate them.

What is Environmentality?

An environmentality is a strategy of environmental governance, but government is not the only contributor to environmentality. Corporations, communities, political and social movements, and more can show an environmentality. An environmentality positive or negative. An example of a negative environmentality is oil companies hiding the truth about recycling plastics. In the 1970s, people were becoming concerned about plastic pollution. Big oil companies like Exxon and BP started recycling campaigns in order to keep selling plastics. It is easier and cheaper to make new plastics out of oil rather than recycled plastics, so selling plastics keeps oil companies in business. These companies have known for years that most plastics cannot be recycled and that plastics are ending up in the ocean or in landfills. This misinformation campaign led to environmental ramifications while people don’t feel bad about buying plastic because they think it is being recycled. These companies are utilizing a governing strategy in relation to the environment in a negative way. You can listen to the full story here. 

So, does environmentality really begin with you?

Luke: The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change & Society: “Environmentality”

Environmentality is used by Luke to understand the reasons for climate change and GHG, but also applies to governmentality. The relation between these two concepts is how the sustainable use of government can be utilized with these focuses from environmentality. As Foucault explains governmentality, the population that the government rules is aware of what it wants and needs but is ignorant to what is done by the government (2). With the concept of environmentality being applied to this governmentality, the power switches over to what needs to be done and how it can be accomplished. Luke addresses the “social adaptations” to climate issues and the environmental effects to governance (3). Environmentality can be expressed in policies and laws created such as the Clean Air Act. This act enforces air emissions by applying research of pollutants and how they affect the governing body and population. This is one of the many forms of environmentality in action, many others are research that affect us, as humans, everyday. Luke uses this concept to point out the “figure” of the user and results each user has on Earth, but also how “green experts” solve and manage the needs of the users by taking a greener approach (3). Environmentalities are strategies of management through the environment. 

In a broader aspect, environmentally faces a main challenge of climate change. Climate change is a challenge for governments, so governments need to recognize climate change with environmentalities. Branching off from this, greenhouse gases, pollutants, and other environmental effects on society are what environmentality addresses. Climate models are an ongoing form of change created by technology that can be used in many other fields such as chemistry, biology, ecosystems, and more (4). A quote by Foucault helps understand the use of climate models and how they are useful in environmentality: “one can see the formations of power/knowledge ‘which shows how man in his being, can be concerned with the things he knows, and know the things that, in positivity, determine his mode of being’ (Foucault 1994: 354).” Analyzing this quote further, the power man has from knowledge is what brings conclusion to the matter. Therefore, with environmentality operations, man is driven to the knowledge and understanding by what is known, which therefore determines how a situation will be addressed. These forms of climate models and knowledge create power. 

Breaking this down analytically, data and models are used within environmentalities. This concept is used in climate conferences and meetings to break down what is known and how it can be addressed. Another quote explains the reason for environmentality in operation: “environmentality seeks to reconfigure the endemic form.” This “endemic form” is the pollution caused that is affecting everyday life. Society is being underwritten by fossil fuels and the products derived from fossil fuels. Drinking from a reusable plastic water bottle or wearing clothes made out of nylon or polyester just further fuels the oil industry. Our everyday lives are filled with fossil fuels because they are native to social and political organization. When environmentality is used in concept, the broader reasoning is to solve this “endemic” that we and corporations have created (5). This is a counter-environmentality to corporate fossil fuel environmentality. We as analysts can identify environmentality by statistics from ecological footprints based on consumption of goods and services (7). As climate change branches off into more specific environmental factors, analysts choose an area to focus on and use these technological advances to their advantage. Informational and technical advances further inform the management of “the environment,” running from local to global scales. 

The environmentality operations are made up of complex systems that analysts layout to create a step by step approach to the environmental factor being proposed. We want to be able to identify these to better understand the complex systems the environment makes up but also relating to the government and everyday needs. This concept teaches how the government can be selfish but incorporates environmental ideas to better the earth and humans, but Luke argues that “bettering” is incidental to increasing power through environmental construction. It questions today’s infrastructure and applies how climate change plays a role in life. It also uses ‘sustainable development’ which will continue to be used in the years to come (12). Sustainable development is used to trick people into thinking that the fossil fuel industry is “sustainable.” This is seen in the recycling of plastic where as fossil fuel companies have tricked people into believing that recycling is helping make our world more “ecofriendly” or “sustainable.”

Discourses of the Environment by Darrier

Chapter 5: Ecological Modernization and Environmental Risk

         Chapter 5, Ecological Modernization and Environmental Risk of “Discourses of the Environment by Darier,” has the primary goal, as stated by Rutherford, “to understand the connection between ecological problems and the broader processes of societal modernization and the ways in which the social relations with nature are influenced by the link between power and knowledge in modern society” (95). Rutherford further explains his systems of environment by stating, “Given that systems can respond only in accordance with their own particular structures or codes, ecological risks can be perceived by society only as exclusively internal phenomena. Physical and biological ‘objective facts’ have no social effect (resonance) unless they are the subject of communication.” (Rutherford 108).  

This chapter of the book focuses on contemporary social relations to nature. Historically, there has been a dramatic increase in labor and society taking more control over the environment. For example, Foucalt had a description of biopower or anatomo-politics of the human body, which states that power begins to emerge as the human body being the center of governmental concern.  “Modernity, in other words, is characterized by the regulative capacity to ‘intervene like total institutions in the life context of every single individual in order to make him a conforming member of society through discipline and control, manipulation and drilling” (98). As industrialization and manufacturing boomed, the idea of the environment was not taken into consideration, and for years people had no care for protecting our source of life. Philosophers and scholars all over the world argued for either the environment or industrialization. There is evidence of people being worried about the environmental impacts of industrialization, such as the smog in London in the 1890s and how it made the aesthetics of London worse. However, this smog was then sold to nature lovers as making sunsets more beautiful.

  Industrialization continued, and eventually led to modernization, which has to do with the introduction of large-scale technologies. This led to the displacement of local economies and their incorporation into “national economies.”  In the 1960s-1980s, the American public started to notice that their economic activity was negatively impacting the environment. This ranged from wildlife and water quality, to the quality of human life. This realization caused new sciences to be incorporated with governing economies related to the health of human and non-human populations. There were then specific regulatory practices that introduced ecological modernization which means that non-human populations are seen as objects of governance, or as things that can be controlled through the new science of ecology. Moreover, ecological modernization is about the use of ecology to guide the production of a new social space. This space includes non-human, who are now subject to this new realization. “These ‘institutional transformations’ are seen as resulting in significant changes both in investment patterns and production techniques (particularly in manufacturing and energy production) and in the relationship between the state, industrial interests and environmental groups” (109). 

Overall, with an increase in wanting to make changes regarding society and the environment, the l980s allowed for this combination to take place and there has been much more regulation through “the environment.” Because of modernity and its dependence on relational-instrumental reason, and scientific knowledge, there can be a self-destructive social relation to “Nature” as it is incorporated into industrial social organization. Industrial social organization is reliant on extracting materials to continue the circulation of commodities through its social environments and these environments are underwritten by a continued extraction of “the natural.” This means that we live in hybrid worlds composed of “the Natural” and “the Social” through environmentality as a governing strategy concerned with how human and non-human populations relate to one another. It is, in principle, possible then that a system dependent on depleting “Nature” because it holds it distinct from “Society” is eroding its own foundation and may self-destruct if it continues its extractive practices because “the social” rests on the bedrock of “the natural.” Therefore, we cannot hold “the Natural” as a distinct sphere from “the Social” as they are unified in the governing locus of environmentality in operation.

Luke – “Searching for Alternatives: Postmodern Populism and Ecology”

In chapter 6, Luke starts by discussing the Populist Movement of the 1890s. There was a radical transition in the US from buying from small-town, local tradespeople to buying mass manufactured goods. The Second Industrial Revolution caused growth in the supply of goods because of mass marketing and mass production through Fordism. This caused small businesses to go out of commission and those workers would have to work for the monopolies that were mass producing. This shift caused American workers to revolt against the new system. Taylorism and Fordism colonized the American work week which prior to these ideas, people worked four days a week and relaxed the other three. However, instead of control over work rules and company time, and with monopolies taking over the artisan – small-town workers – people were losing their freedom to independently produce. Mass marketing and producing was displacing local economies. “The artisan economy was not perfect, but in many ways it was more humane, democratic, and accessible than the corporate order for maximizing choice and productivity” (Luke 119). Ecological modernization refers to our role in the environment as we modernize. We must make sure our new forms of practice, and how we take from the earth, does not devastate our environment. Luke believes that this can be done by passing legislation, as well as generating more social awareness when it comes to our impact individually on the environment. 

The populist movement began, the wealth gap started to increase, and work conditions started to change. As a result of the growth of manufacturing, we are now a consumer-driven country, but we cannot all consume the same amount as those living in the Los Angeles suburbs. Luke says that if everyone in China consumed the same as Los Angeles suburban people did, “the world would choke on smog” (121). If everyone lived lavishly, basically, our planet would die. Since this is the case, there will always be inequality or else everyone must lower their standards of living and live more modestly, but it is not likely for this to happen. Consumer capitalism has been extremely destructive to the environment as well as the working class. 

This section of the book reminded me of the movie Parasite in that in capitalistic and manufacturer driven countries, the poor stay poor, and the rich get richer. The rich are the real parasites in the movie, just as in this section of the book, corporations are parasites. This scene encapsulates the drastic inequalities the characters in the movie face, and we even got a meme of the scene. The rich people are planning a lavish party for their son while the poor just had their house flooded with sewage water and are living in a gymnasium. The rich are not doing any of their own work for the party and are making the impoverished, sewage covered people do the work.

Postmodern populism is more about how Americans can do better than we have been for at least a hundred years…you know… “Make America Great Again.”

Postmodern populism has changed a bit from the original populist movement, as the idea is now connected to industrial democracy, which Luke says is a myth, and keeping the myth of industrial democracy alive would result in the ransacking of the biosphere (Luke 131). Luke describes populism in the 1880s-1930s as, “a wide range of people still directly tied to their land and their craft. Individual producership tied families and communities to the environment in ways unlike those in today’s welfare state economies” (120). The populist dream is basically impossible because everything, including nature, is a megamachine. This would make it seem that Trump’s supporters are somewhat in favor of populism while Trump himself is not really a populist according to Luke’s definition. 

While populists today may be caught in the system, they still have the same roots as the populists in the 1890s. Postmodern populism was born from industrialism, but it is not necessarily for industrialism. “As in the 1890s, postmodern populists in the 1990s are about finding alternatives to serve more people more fairly and more locally” (Luke 134). Both postmodern and 1890s populism have the idea to give power back to workers, with 1890s populism being more focused on independent producership and postmodern populist focused on “undoing” the society of bureaucratically controlled consumption. President Trump and his supporters have claimed that they are the working people of America who are against large corporations controlling their lives, but Trump gave tax breaks to corporations. Even so, many of his supporters really are working people who do want to be treated fairly and give power to local economies. Trump really did win votes from American workers. The 1890s idea of independent producership could help protect biodiversity, but they must be ecologically informed, as ecologically informed independent producers can undo the last century of consumerism problems we face today. 

Luke also discusses the issues with federalism. When thinking about federalism, it is common to think about Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, and the Federalist Papers. However, federalism in the 1890s, during the populist movement, was far different than what had been imagined by the authors of the Federalist Papers. Federalism in the 1890s was working with and against corporate capitalism to construct an industrial democracy that Americanizes immigrants, disciplines workers to accept the commercialization of products, and uses political disempowerment. Moreover, federalism since the 1970s has made it so we local economies are not really local economies but are actually producing for the global economy. This is an issue because the GDP and the GNP that we seem to pay a great deal of attention to only increase the power of mass consumption.  Luke suggests that we move away from conversations about society and focus on community. In Luke’s eyes, it should be so that our local economies drive our communities rather than the global economy driving our society.

So, what else can be done? Well, basically, we need to combine urban and rural communities into “rurban” communities and ecoethnics should emerge in populist communities. Rurbanism is the idea that we bring the art, commerce, society, and letters from “urban” places, into balance with  the craft, culture, customs, and community from “rural” places (Luke 138). Ecotechnics is important to the populist movement because it has the ability to take power away from corporations by using simple, easy to use, easy to fix technology. Luke states, “ecoethnics would produce goods to satisfy needs on a materially comfortable level – habitat-centered shelters, biome-based nutrition, environmentally suitable apparel, renewable resource use and durable artifacts” (137). It is also important that labor is centered around utility, quality, and management is democratic. Rurbanized living and ecoethnics would create a world where workers have fair and humane working conditions, and also a world were ecosystems and the biosphere are protected. 

Helen Salko:

  • I’m a Sophomore majoring in Water: Resources, Policy, and Management and minoring in Green Engineering and Cinema. Water Quality is my main interest in how it relates to society and water access in communities. Currently I am working as an Undergraduate CEE Research Lab Assistant for a PhD student in Mark Edward’s Lab at Virginia Tech. In the future I see myself working globally and locally to insure safe drinking water in areas affected by water contamination. 

Bailey Atkinson

  • I am a Sophomore triple majoring in: Humanities For Public Service, Political Science, and Religion and Culture. After graduation I plan on working for Child Protective Service for a few years prior to law school. I hope to work and attend a law school in California because of the wide selection of law schools. My biggest goal in life is to help other people, and with that being said my field of interest will be either environmental law or Family law.

Noor Hunt:

-I am a Sophomore double majoring in: Political Science and Religion and Culture. During my time in undergrad I plan to study abroad. After undergrad I plan to go to law school. After law school, I would like to practice law for a bit and then either become a judge or move into politics. 

Sydney Schake:

  • I am a Junior majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Environmental Policy and Planning. After I graduate, I plan on moving to some place far away, such as South Korea, New Zealand, or Australia and do research in environmental science. After that, I plan on going to Law School back in the US and then focus on fighting environmental injustice and environmental racism.

Technology, Conservation, and Other Ways to Spell Exploitation

An integral function of transnational corporations is the acquisition, expansion and exploitation of capital. In relation to the natural environment, many organizations advertise themselves as ‘environmental’ or ‘eco-friendly.’ However, their main aim is to find ways to attain wealth and ownership through supposedly ‘environmental’ practices. The following passages explore the ways in which environmental organizations exploit the natural environment for economic gain. In Darier’s Discourses of the Environment, Isabelle Lanthier and Lawrence Olivier examine the historical precedents of scientific environmentalism, as well as the social conditions that led to the popularity of mutual interest and cooperation for the benefit of the environment. James Igoe, in Carl Death’s Critical Environmental Politics, investigates the methods that transnational corporations utilize to increase profits and ownership of capital under the guise of conservation and environmental awareness. In Chapter Seven of Anthropocene Alerts, Timothy Luke explores critiques towards society’s reliance on technology in the manifesto of Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Furthermore, they will explain the ways in which such organizations present their economic motives to the public in such a way that avoids any attention that might challenge their acquisition and ownership of the natural environment.

Sam: Lanthier and Olivier “The Construction of Environmental Awareness’”

In “The Construction of Environmental ‘Awareness’,” Lanthier and Olivier argue that the explanation for environmental awareness as a product of exploitation with consequences for life needs to be altered.  They aim to identify the conditions in which “environmental awareness” and the scientific thought of “environmentalism” became possible.  For these conditions to exist, they find that a system of societal values had to first be present (65).   Using an “archeo-genealogical” approach, Lanthier and Olivier connect the development of medical discourse to the formation of these values that made individuals more concerned over the health of the environment (65).  Namely, medicine’s shift to the “lifestyle” as a part of health made the human a subject in their environment.  This change in ideas resulted in the current environmental awareness brought to the forefront in political and public discourse.   

The authors first point to the study of cosmology as an origin of this environmental discourse.  The field was the first to “call for the reintroduction of humans within nature as full-fledged members,” (65).  In viewing the world this way, cosmology gave each aspect of the environment equal weight of importance.  These values served to decrease human concepts of self-superiority and domination over their environments.  

Rather, more modern concepts portray the environment as an equal that humanity is obligated to respect (66).  Many prior concepts of the environment —Descartes’s view for instance— saw the external world as mechanistic and defined systematically by sets of laws. The environment then, “is without movement, deprived of everything: life or soul” (67).  In order to promote human welfare, Descartes contends that humanity must know these laws in order to exploit them to their advantage. 

Environmental discourse began to take root when environmental disasters illustrated the possible negative consequence of this environmental manipulation (67).  This discourse gained global attention in the early 20th century, events and developments like the World Wars and the atomic bomb illuminated the human and environmental destruction that scientific advancement could leave in its wake (68).  This destruction would lead to the “militant environmentalist movement” with the goal of eliminating the “death culture” of environmental domination (69).   The new concept of environmentalism is not a separate entity from science, but it is a part of science that asks other fields to look at their work more holistically, taking into account its macro ramifications for environmental systems both in the present and future (70).  

The shift in perspective to environmental awareness also came about as a result of the end of Colonialism.  An increased emphasis on forming contracts that protect human rights also brought about agreements to treat nature with rights rather than an “object of appropriation” (70).  Another historical condition that Lanthier and Olivier identify that advanced this shift was genetic research.  This development made it possible to quantify the effects of environmental conditions on human health and the health of other organisms (71).  Medical science’s value on bettering the quality of life encourages an ethical and responsible relationship with the environment. Medicine’s construct of humans being responsible for their health also necessarily changes the perception of the environment (72).

This responsibility for our health arose from medicine’s new notion of the “lifestyle”.  Lifestyle refers to the change in behavior so that the individual is, “acting according to one’s values” (75).  The term makes medical discourse itself more holistic in that it looks at a multitude of factors to analyze health.  This holistic approach balances the need for good internal factors of health, as well as a healthy environment.  In this respect, the needs of humans and nature are no longer viewed as opposing one another (76).  Instead, mutual cooperation and respect for the environment become intertwined with our other ethical values.  Further, the individual’s place in medical discourse as having agency over their lifestyle makes one turn attention to the external parts of their environment.  This change in thinking forces society to look inward and examine how they relate to that environment.  Medical discourse, then, served to open up more public and political discourse on responsible human interaction with the environment.

Nick: Igoe, in Death, ed. “Chapter 7: Conservation”

In Chapter Seven of Critical Environmental Politics, James Igoe explores Western notions of ‘conservation,’ and how such notions are often subtle attempts to expand ownership, commodification, and economic control over the natural environment. Although Western conservationist organizations often advertise themselves as ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘environmental,’ they typically prioritize the establishment of productive economic relations between the transnational corporate economy and the local natural environments they exploit before establishing alternative ways of ownership and replenishment of nature that benefit the Earth. Furthermore, neoliberal conservation, which consists of privatized, exploitative ventures disguised as ‘eco-friendly’ initiatives, often disables diverse conservation techniques practiced by indigenous populations that offer unique perspectives to contemporary environmental problems. Neoliberal conservation was one result of free-market economic policies of the late twentieth century that prioritized privatization, efficient business models, and capital ownership. As a result, some organizations began to secure ownership of the natural environment in the name of ‘conservation,’ so long as the business entities can make profitable margins off of such conservation efforts. 

Comics Kingdom - Eco Tourism in the Arctic Cartoons - 2012-11-15

Since the second half of the 20th century, conservation politics has seen the expansion of neoliberal conservation, which seeks to utilize the natural environment as a means to earn profit and expand economic influence through commodification. Neoliberal conservation groups like The Conservation Fund and Conservation International view the environment as a stock reserve of potential capital that is to be commodified and sold; However, many efforts by such organizations consist of the privatization, commodification, and “exclusive enjoyment,” of nature (Igoe, 63). Consider NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, which often seek contracts with governments and corporations for supposedly environment-friendly business ventures like hydroelectric dams in Laos or oil pipelines in Chad and Cameroon (Igoe 67). Even if such entities do not literally construct material products with the nature they control, they may utilize the spectacle of nature to raise funds or manufacture consent for their exploitative natural ventures, despite the possibility of tremendous harm to local or regional environs or contribution to global pollution. Neoliberal conservationists fail to bring about truly beneficial environmental change because they exist within a capitalist economy that prioritizes making profit over the welfare of nature; such organizations will not pursue initiatives that will not bring about economic growth. Therefore, many tactics that exist outside of the Western capitalist perspective of ‘conservation’ that could have a greater, more beneficial impact on the natural environment fail to be considered.

The consolidation of power to a few ultra-rich conservation groups has led to the lack of diverse conservatory practices. Often, when neoliberal conservationists venture to foreign lands, they disregard the conservation practices of the indigenous people of that land. In the 21st century, conservation politics saw an increasing amount of conflict between indigenous groups and capitalist conservationist groups about the efficacy of neoliberal conservation practices, as well as the divestment away from traditional conservatory practices by indigenous people. Western notions of conservation typically fail to acknowledge or utilize non-Western practices, which has resulted in an adverse effect on Earth, both locally and globally.

Although neoliberal conservation organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund or the Wildlife Conservation Society facilitate most of the world’s conservationist activities, they will fail to disrupt the primary polluters of the natural environment because they exist within the same economic framework as them. Therefore, any alternatives to the harmful modes of economic production would be harming the economic wellbeing of those neoliberal conservationist groups. Furthermore, such techniques disable the diversity of conservatory practices on a large scale. The Earth’s natural environment will continue to deteriorate unless a de-commodified, democratized critique of environmental politics gains popularity.

James: Luke, Chapter 7: “Re-Reading the Unabomber Manifesto”

In the reading “Chapter 7: Re-Reading the Unabomber Manifesto,” Ted Kaczynski had been arrested for a string of sixteen bombings from 1978 to 1995 that wounded 23 and killed 3. In the series of the bombings, Kaczynski was thought of as a “rational and serious man, deeply committed to his cause, who has given a great deal of time to his expression of it.” (142). However, he had claimed he was sorely depleted of his self-esteem, with painful feelings of emptiness, unworthiness, despair and desolation, which made the relations between his life, his reputed manifesto and the cultural context that emerged from the bombing significant (142). The violent nature of the Unabomber tried to explain how the “workings of the industrial system” have “destabilized society, made life unfulfilling, subjected human beings to indignities, led to widespread psychological suffering and inflicted severe damage on the natural world, which is an indication of the constraint categorical imperatives of technology have on true freedom (143). The Unabomber concedes that the manifesto is not comprehensive: it examines “only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial system”, which explains why his belief that technology increases life expectancy and everyday ease as it decreases life enjoyment and freedom parallels Herbert Marcuse’s reading of technology (144).  

Capital, research and technology in market-mediated choices, with an allegedly emancipatory technology can result in rational, totalitarian order without capitalist liberal-democratic regimes being imposed on ill-minded individuals (144). Technology is being examined as a force itself; it follows its own logical interpretations rather than desire for human needs, but if technology were to fail, a social collapse would be in the making and that’s why Unabomber hints that Technology is the true “environment” of modern man. The Unabomber believed that the social machine had certain flaws that limited individuals of their true freedom and what repercussions had come with it. The “freedom to choose,” as celebrated in advertising, is merely “an element of a social machine and has only a certain set of prescribed and delimited freedoms; freedoms that are designed to serve the needs of the social machine more than those of the individual” (157). The Unabomber states that “the effort needed to satisfy biological needs does not occur AUTONOMOUSLY, but by functioning as parts of an immense social machine.” (145).

Unabomber embeds his critique by labeling two kinds of technology: “small-scale technology” and “organization-dependent technology.”(148). Small-scale technologies can thrive in small-scale communities without outside assistance, but organization-dependent technologies are thought of to be an approach in creating a social system. This thought supported by his conjecture that “modern INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS OF INDIVIDUALS have far less power than primitive man ever did, “ because “the vast power of ‘modern man’ over nature is exercised not by individuals or small groups but by large organizations (149). For individuals to wield the true power of technology would require “a license for everything and with the license comes rules and regulations,” meaning that individuals would only possess “the technological powers with which the system chooses to provide him.”(149). 

Radical interpretations of nature are no less artificial and no more certain than the positive ideologies of technology that the Unabomber opposes (151). Luke explains that he conventionalizes a series of fashionable ecocentric assumptions about nature and transforms them into timeless truths conjoined into the roots of “deep ecology.”  The Unabomber draws his certitudes for a new social order constrained materially by this prime directive: nature’s attributes make it necessary to destroy Technology so that small groups of autonomous individuals can coexist with it in ways that do not devastate nature and thereby let it take care of itself (152). The Unabomber’s ideal technologies that he believes to be more successful are small-scale technologies. The Unabomber explains that the colonization of everyday life by industrial society is becoming virtually irresistible and irreversible as New Class symbolic analysts rob , assimilating them through organizational technologies whether or not they have a choice, of their autonomous power potential (153). Luke believes that new associations of autonomous individuals on a more local but less than national level can work as viable alternatives to the surrogacies of industrial democracy, militarized nationalism, and personal consumption within the industrial system of developed nation-states. Populists – old and new – advance their visions for alternative conditions of associating ordinary people with new arrangements of machines, which would accentuate personal competencies, familial cohesion, and communal ecologies (155). 

Nick Anthony is a junior at Virginia Tech with majors in History and P.P.E. (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics). His undergraduate research on the illegal eradication of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense by the American government highlights parallels in contemporary perceptions of armed self-defense among African Americans.

James Peed is a junior at Virginia Tech with a major in Environmental Science and graduated with an associate’s degree in Science, with a specialization in chemistry, from Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, VA. He had a capstone project utilizing UV Spectroscopy on the Chesapeake Bay to identify light patterns that can measure pollutant content.

Sam Kemp is a Junior with majors in Economics and PPE.  He hopes to attend law school in Virginia and practice law after graduation.  He has worked at a workers compensation law firm for the past two summers and he is interested in pursuing that area of legal practice.  He is currently researching a project comparing state systems of Judge selection and their effect on case rulings in 2020.