The University of Arizona

Ecologies of Hope: environment, technology and habitation - case studies from the intervenient middle

S. Ravi Rajan, Colin A.M. Duncan

Abstract


This paper is an introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Political Ecology on "Ecologies of Hope." The authors argue that discrete, specific, and often, local actions can create spaces that are bettering human lives and livelihoods. The five papers identify actions and movements that are situated in the "middle" between the individual and larger social and economic formations, and inbetween social and economic status- quo and revolution. They are everyday initiatives that do not make revolutionary claims, but which in small but significant ways, help transform the lives of people and communities. These "ecologies of hope" resonate with the work of Karl Polanyi, and his identification of the modern disembedding of the economy and the environment from its societal and cultural context. Polanyi argued that processes that result in a loss of cultural "habitation" engender movements by societies to protect their social solidarity, and distortions of their relationship with the natural environment. Creating and carving out "ecologies of hope" may not mitigate catastrophic global change or miraculously transform the unjust into the just, but does make life and livelihoods a bit more habitable. For people whose lives are affected, this matters. Political ecology should recognize the importance of creating spaces for "habitation" that are not necessarily structural and scalable.

Key words: Karl Polanyi, ecologies of hope, habitation, self-organized communities. 


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v20i1.21758