The University of Arizona

From the Virocene to the Lovecene epoch: multispecies justice as critical praxis for Virocene disruptions and vulnerabilities

Jude L Fernando


In the Virocene epoch, global pandemics such as COVID-19 disrupt the world order organized by capitalism and racial privilege, making clear the unsustainability of 'normal' ways of organizing society and nature. Despite its failure to address these disruptions, the existing capitalist-racist system attempts to reproduce itself, posing greater risks of disease, inequalities, and injustice to the most vulnerable human and nonhuman populations. The Virocene epoch makes these workings visible, and challenges both hegemonic and counterhegemonic ways of organizing human–nature relations. Political ecology requires new emancipatory theoretical-political strategies firmly grounded in a theory of justice that embodies social and ecological rights in order to imaginatively produce new ways to counter such social and ecological crises arising from the global process of capitalism and viral activities. To this end, political ecology must develop a universal perspective on the justice-rights-power nexus with an explicit moral basis to enhance its emancipatory praxis against the globalizing challenges of the Virocene, without reproducing existing vulnerabilities and without dismissing hegemonic and counter-hegemonic narratives in the name of otherness, difference, universalism or sameness. In this article, I reconfigure the justice-rights-power nexus to dismantle oppression and injustice in pursuit of regenerative solutions. I chart an alternate 'multispecies theory of justice' building upon love as an embodiment of the moral foundations for critical multispecies justice praxis, which produces another world of diverse, interconnected communities committed to social and ecological wellbeing. The 'Lovecene' is an aspirational planetary-order shaped by multispecies (human and non-human) equality and justice that transcends the anthropocentricism of current periodizations of planetary-level social and economic change. It attempts to overcome the limitations of many political-ecological theories of justice centered on notions of 'right order', 'fairness', 'distribution', and 'opportunities and capabilities', thereby successfully addressing the sociological and ecological vulnerabilities of the Virocene.

Key Words: Virocene; political economy of health; capitalism; racism, vulnerability, pandemic

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