Oecologies: The Histories of Sustainability
24 September 2014
Jeremy Davies (School of English, University of Leeds), “Sustainability, Geohistory, and the Anthropocene Epoch”
Summary: “Sustainability” is a longstanding desideratum in environmental politics. Recent years have seen much discussion of the idea that environmental upheavals mean the world is entering a new geological epoch, the “Anthropocene.” Those two notions—the ideal of sustainability and the proposal of the Anthropocene—offer sharply contrasting ways of imagining the current ecological crisis and possible responses to it. Both have significant antecedents in the earth sciences of the late eighteenth century. The former is typically attuned to the eighteenth century’s directional or cyclical theories of the earth; the latter is explicitly dependent upon the alternative historicist theories that came to prominence after the French Revolution. This talk will compare those ways of thinking about time and change in earth systems.
Speaker information: Jeremy Davies is a lecturer in English at the University of Leeds, UK. He is spending part of autumn 2014 as a visiting lecturer in UBC’s Department of English, working on a book called The Birth of the Anthropocene.
29 October 2014 (Event co-sponsored with Ecologies of Social Difference; talk to be delivered at 12 pm in GRSJ 028)
Catriona Sandilands (Environmental Studies, York University), “Botanically Queer: Plants, Sex, and Biopolitics”
Summary: Plants have been profoundly queer players in modern projects of describing “life” for ethical and political consideration. From their taxonomic destabilizations of colonial order in the eighteenth century to their questionings of agency in recent posthumanist discourses, plants demand that we think about living, being, and becoming in ways that interrupt anthropocentric, heteronormative figurings of agency, futurity, and life generally. This presentation will explore “botanical queerness” with an eye to thinking through the complexity of humans’ relations to plants beyond habitual modes of address. Plants are not simply objects of human concern; they offer up modes of being, becoming, and living that have been overlooked in more animal-centric accounts, and that point to a more queer and ecological understanding of life in relation to power.
Speaker information: Catriona (Cate) Sandilands is Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, where she teaches and writes at the intersections of environmental humanities/ecocriticism, social and political theory, and feminist/sexuality studies; she is also Vice President of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). Among her many publications, she is the co-editor of Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire (Indiana, 2010) and has written numerous articles and essays exploring different facets of sexual/ecological intersection; her most recent writings on plant-human relations will be collected in the forthcoming volume Plantasmagoria: Plants and the Politics of Urban Habitat.
26 November 2014
Kenneth Lertzman (School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University), “Ecology and a Sense of Place: Go for a Walk in the Woods and Save the World”
Summary: What have we learned about people’s relationships with nature from explorations at the nexus of ecology, archaeology, and ethnobiology? There are many examples of both positive and destructive interactions with the environment in the archaeological and historical records – and in research on modern systems of resource management. However, one broad conclusion is that sustainability is a learned phenomenon – and that learning happens through intense engagement with nature, whether through the multi-generational lived experience of traditional knowledge or through formal scientific research. Society today faces many profound challenges in our relationships with the global environmental systems that support us. All of these are made more difficult by the withdrawal of human experience from intense immersion in the natural world, loss of multi-generational connections to place, systematic dismantling of local knowledge in management institutions, and the disenfranchisement of science in the policy-making system. These issues, as expressed in phenomena such as global climate change, are the defining social-ecological problems of our time.
Speaker Information: Ken Lertzman is interested in a broad range of topics related to ecosystem dynamics, conservation, and management. His research has focused on how natural disturbance regimes and management interact to produce pattern and dynamics in forest stands and landscapes. He has an ongoing interest in how changing climate drives ecosystems and the landscapes and resources available to people who live in them. Increasingly Ken’s work focuses on trying to understand the complex dynamics and resilience of coupled social-ecological systems. He conducts collaborative, multi-disciplinary research as part of the Hakai Research Network, which works in partnership with First Nations and others to conduct and apply research about ecosystem-based management and sustainability on the British Columbia Coast. Ken’s current research examines climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation, alternative silvicultural systems, analysis of forest light environments, ecological restoration, forest fire risk analysis, analysis of forest tenures and stewardship, First Nations’ forestry and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.