The University of Arizona

Political ecology, variegated green economies, and the foreclosure of alternative sustainabilities

Connor Joseph Cavanagh, Tor Arve Benjaminsen

Abstract


Abstract Over the past two decades, political ecologists have provided extensive critiques of the privatization, commodification, and marketization of nature, including of the new forms of accumulation and appropriation that these might facilitate under the more recent guise of green growth and the green economy. These critiques have often demonstrated that such approaches can retain deleterious implications for certain vulnerable populations across the developing world and beyond. With few exceptions, however, political ecologists have paid decidedly less attention to expounding upon alternative initiatives for pursuing both sustainability and socio-environmental justice. Accordingly, the contributions to this Special Section engage the concept of the green economy explicitly as a terrain of struggle, one inevitably conditioned by the variegated forms that actually-existing 'green economy' strategies ultimately take in specific historical and geographical conjunctures. In doing so, they highlight the ways in which there is likewise not one but many potential sustainabilities for pursuing human and non-human well-being in the ostensibly nascent Anthropocene, each of which reflects alternative – and, potentially, more progressive – constellations of social, political, and economic relations. Yet they also foreground diverse efforts to pre-empt or to foreclose upon these alternatives, highlighting an implicit politics of precisely whose conception of sustainability is deemed to be possible or desirable in any given time and place. In exploring such struggles over alternative sustainabilities and the 'ecologies of hope' that they implicitly offer, then, this introduction first reviews the current frontiers of these debates, before illuminating how the contributions to this issue both intersect with and build upon them. Key words: Green economy; political ecology; political economy; alternative sustainabilities

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v24i1.20800