Political Ecology and Resilience

posterI will be participating in a public discussion Resilience and Political Ecology at Upssala University April 27th in a moderated discussion with Prof. Alf Hornborg a professor of Human Ecology at Lund University, which will be moderated by Eva Friman from the Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University

The discussion will be Friday 27 April 2012, 14.15-17.00,  Hambergssalen, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, Uppsala University. More information is on the DevNet website here and here.

Alf Hornburg and I previously had an online discussion on this blog where I tried to understand and respond to his critique of resilience, based on a review Victor Galaz had of a recent paper of his.  I expect that the discussion will be interesting and I hope that there will be some fruitful discussion.

While the discussion has been framed by the organizers as a debate, I do not see political ecology and resilience as opposed.  Indeed, I wrote a 1999 paper in Ecological Economics -Political ecology and ecological resilience: An integration of human and ecological dynamics - (doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(00)00217-2) that suggested some ways I thought ideas from political ecology could be included in resilience thinking.  While resilience researchers have long argued that issues of power need to be included in resilience thinking there hasn’t been a mass movement towards their integration, but there have been a fair number of researchers how have attempted to explicitly combine aspects of political ecology and resilience thinking.

For people that are interested in thinking I’ve stated a group on Mendeley to share papers that attempt to integrate resilience and political ecological theory and methods.  Right now there are about 30 papers in there, but I expect there are a number that have been missed, and I hope Resilience Science readers can add them to the group.

I haven’t carefully read all the papers in the Mendeley group, but three papers that I found particularly interesting are:

  • Karl S Zimmerer’s 2011 The landscape technology of spate irrigation amid development changes: Assembling the links to resources, livelihoods, and agrobiodiversity-food in the Bolivian Andes.  Global Environmental Change 21(3) 917-934. doi:  10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.04.002,
  • McSweeney and Coomes 2001 Climate-related disaster opens a window of opportunity for rural poor in northeastern Honduras<.  PNAS 108(13)  5203-5208.doi:  10.1073/pnas.1014123108
  • Turner and Robbins 2008 Land-Change Science and Political Ecology: Similarities, Differences, and Implications for Sustainability Science.  Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33(1) 295-316. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.environ.33.022207.104943

Conceptual diagram from Turner and Robbins

5 thoughts on “Political Ecology and Resilience”

  1. For those who missed it the first time around, I posted an exposition and review of Hornborg’s book (Power of the Machine) which ends with my take on the ships passing in the night nature of the initial debate between Hornborg and Galaz/Peterson. I’d agree with Garry’s above comment — that the approaches aren’t necessarily contradictory. But I doubt that the resilience community as a whole would be willing to embrace Hornborg’s specific theoretical formulation of the concept of power.

    http://ecologicalsociology.blogspot.com/2010/04/hornborg-part-4-power-in-resilience.html

  2. There is a huge diversity of theoretical formulations of power.

    Approaches to political ecology from Paul Robbins, Diane Rochleau, Piers Blaike, Marianne Schmink, and Karl Zimmerer have appeared to better connect with resilience thinking than Alf Hornberg’s, but that still gives a lot of space available to further develop power, especially in connection to resilience ideas.

    I recommend the Political Ecology text book by Paul Robbins is a good places to start exploring political ecology, as are the series of papers by Peter A. Walker on where are the politics, politics and ecology in political ecology.

  3. I think the comment about incorporating PE into resilience thinking says it all. Why is the other way around never mentioned? For example, when I did my PhD on environmental management and rural development in Burkina Faso in the 1990s, I referred to ‘resilience’ in the opening chapter, wrote a lot about skills of local farmers, but set that within a sorry history of colonial and post colonial and then international development interventions in the region, many of which frustrated resilience and were integral to everyday life. Political ecology described them far better, since I had to deal with the socialist revolution, the arrival of neoliberalism and privatization, the international development agenda, peasant struggles and resistance, and many things that a ‘systems’ approach could do far less well. As I see it, creating resilience is one small part of a political ecology agenda and analysis. Christian Kull is the latest to have written a paper comparing the 2 approaches. And maybe now Simon Bush got a paper into Ecology&Society that is basically favouring a political ecology approach, maybe things are turning? The much stronger theoretical analyses of political ecologists could use a small hand particularity with ecological analysis.

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