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Since the early 2010s, small drones have become key tools for environmental research around the globe. While critical voices have highlighted the threat of ‘green securitisation’ and surveillance in contexts where drones are deployed for nature conservation, Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) worldwide have also begun using drones – most often in alliance with non-governmental organisations or researchers – exploring this technology’s potential to advance their own territorial, political and socio-ecological goals. Against this backdrop, this paper examines six different experiences in five countries where communities are using small drones in areas of high ecological and cultural diversity with international significance for nature conservation. We highlight the ways that communities deploy drones – both in terms of their motivations and actual use strategies. We also reflect upon the opportunities and barriers that IPLCs and their collaborators encounter in designing and implementing meaningful drone strategies, explicitly considering social, economic and political challenges. Finally, we consider the socio-ecological outcomes that community drone use enables across these sites along with the ways that drones engender more biocultural and territorial approaches to conservation through IPLC-led monitoring and mapping efforts. In conclusion, we suggest that effective, meaningful and appropriate deployment of drones, especially with IPLCs as protagonists in their use, can support nature conservation together with the recognition and protection of biocultural and territorial rights. Given the mounting demands for conservation to counter intertwined global socio-environmental crises, community drones may play a role in amplifying the voices and territorial visions of IPLCs.
In this article we identify the ways in which Leon Trotsky’s ideas constitute a powerful resource to understand the contemporary crisis of international relations and its historical roots in the 20th century. Trotsky’s concept of uneven and combined development has already been highlighted as a signal contribution by an established scholarship in and around the discipline of International Relations. While this is a welcome development, we contend that it has come at a significant cost, detaching Trotsky’s theoretical insights from his revolutionary politics. We employ a different mode of engagement with Trotsky’s ideas, focusing on the theory of Permanent Revolution as an expression of an original analysis of the dialectic between the national and the international. Far from being a theoretically detachable and politically erroneous appendage to the more fundamental and applicable concept of uneven and combined development, we argue that Permanent Revolution constitutes its necessary culmination, as well as Trotsky’s most significant contribution to classical Marxism. We then elucidate how, writing in the first half of the 20th century and applying his theory of Permanent Revolution, Trotsky was able to diagnose certain essential lines of political development – the rise and ongoing breakdown of American hegemony, the political degeneration and collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence and failure of the postcolonial independent nation states – tracing the long and crisis-ridden trajectory of international relations from the second half of the 20th century down to today.
To achieve the dual goals of minimising global pollution and meeting diverse demands for environmental justice, energy transitions need to involve not only a shift to renewable energy sources but also the safe decommissioning of older energy infrastructures and management of their toxic legacies. While the global scale of the decommissioning challenge is yet to be accurately quantified, the climate impacts are significant: each year, more than an estimated 29 million abandoned oil and gas wells around the world emit 2.5 million tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the US alone, at least 14 million people live within a mile of an abandoned oil or gas well, creating pollution that is concentrated among low-income areas and communities of colour. The costs involved in decommissioning projects are significant, raising urgent questions about responsibility and whether companies who have profited from the sale of extracted resources will be held liable for clean-up, remediation and management costs. Recognising these political goals and policy challenges, this article invites further research, scrutiny and debate on what would constitute the successful and safe decommissioning of sites affected by fossil fuel operations – with a particular focus on accountability, environmental inequality, the temporality of energy transitions, and strategies for phasing out or phasing down fossil fuel extraction.
In this policy intervention, we recount the process of producing a policy briefing targeting researchers and practitioners who use drones in biodiversity conservation. We use the writing process as a springboard to think through the ways that interdisciplinary exchange has and might further inform the ethical use of new technologies, such as drones. This approach is vital, we argue, because while drones may be deployed as tools that enable or empower forest, wildlife or habitat monitoring practices, so too can they be variously disruptive, repurposed and/or exceed these applications in significant ways. From questions of surveillance and capture, data ownership and security, to noise disruption, drone use requires careful and critical reflection, particularly in sensitive contexts. Yet, interdisciplinary exchange attentive to the ethical, social and experiential dimensions of drone use remains patchy and thin. To this end, this intervention reflects on the process of a group of scholars from ecological, environmental and social science backgrounds coming together in an interdisciplinary project grappling with diverse issues around responsible conservation drone use. After recounting our methodology, including the surprises and learning that emerged in practice, we contextualise the key themes we chose to foreground in our published policy briefing. We conclude by connecting our collaboration with wider actions and energies in the context of existing (conservation) drone policy and practice, while underscoring our contributions to existing work.
Political elites have been evading the causes of climate change through deceptive fixes. Their market-type instruments such as carbon trading aim to incentivise technological innovation which will supposedly decarbonize or replace dominant high-carbon systems. In practice this techno-market framework has perpetuated climate change and social injustices, thus provoking public controversy. Using this opportunity, social movements have counterposed low-carbon, resource-light, socially just alternatives. Such transformative mobilisations can fulfil the popular slogan, ‘System Change Not Climate Change’.
This book develops key critical concepts through case studies such as GM crops, biofuels, waste incineration and Green New Deal agendas.
Techno-market fixes carry beneficent promises to decarbonize economies in ways avoiding societal disruption and conflict. But the problem runs more deeply: they justify institutional change along neoliberal anti-democratic lines, supposedly in order to realize the techno-optimistic promises. Often a mobilized counter-public has stimulated public controversy and promoted alternative solutions. Exemplifying eco-localization, some local agendas would incur lighter resource burdens, enhance socio-economic equity, involve grassroots innovation, localize production-consumption circuits, assign political responsibility and devise appropriate sociotechnical means. Such transformative mobilizations undermine climate fixes and go beyond them. More effective strategies can emerge from Participatory Action Research, whereby researchers and practitioners jointly define the problems that warrant research. In the case studies here, knowledge exchange with political activists helped to sharpen action-research questions for a systemic perspective on false solutions versus alternatives. As many cases here illustrate, technical designs and standards always facilitate one social order rather than other, thus warranting political struggle. This big picture can help to identify and facilitate an effective social agency for transformative mobilizations, as steps towards system change.
The EU originally promoted agribiotech (genetically modified [GM] crops) through several neoliberal policy changes extending market relations. This techno-market fix included broader patent rights, market liberalization of agriculture, and research agendas blurring the public and private sectors. In the EU’s dominant narrative, agribiotech would be a crucial eco-efficient means for multiple benefits, for example, for the sector to gain global economic competitiveness, to minimize farmers’ dependence on agrichemicals and thus to protect natural resources. But GM crops were soon denounced for threatening the environment and human health. Mass opposition eventually blocked a European market, opening up opportunities for ‘quality’ alternatives, eventually for promoting agroecological systems. Yet policy support measures have been constrained by the dominant techno-market agenda, subsidizing agri-industrial systems for higher yield and global markets. When climate change became a more salient issue, in 2014–2015 GM crops were relaunched for a ‘climate-smart agriculture’ which supposedly would make agri-industrial systems more resilient, while also becoming eligible for carbon credits. Critics turned this techno-market agenda into a political controversy over ‘corporate-smart greenwash’ and thus an opportunity to promote agroecological alternatives as truly climate-resilient for ‘cooling the planet and feeding the people’.
In 2009 the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive set a statutory mandate for renewable energy in transport fuel, citing the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This mandate expanded biofuels from edible feedstock, thus provoking controversy over multiple harms. The obligatory market incentivized land-use changes in the global South, in turn restricting resource access for local food production, while disguising various harms through sustainability criteria. As a key rationale, the EU mandate would help stimulate the EU’s Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE): technoscientific progress would bring ‘advanced biofuels’ using only non-edible feedstock. Meanwhile this future promise served to perpetuate conventional biofuels. Even before the Directive’s enactment, critics provoked opposition over several issues, for example, the EU’s resource plunder, significant harms beyond the sustainability criteria, lax standards for vehicle emissions, and a delay in electric vehicles as replacements. Despite such opposition, the mandate continued to permit the most harmful feedstock for at least another decade after the 2009 Directive. This outcome resulted from prioritizing an ‘investment climate’ for the KBBE rather than GHG reductions.
In recent years, Green New Deal (GND) agendas have gained significant support for a transition to an environmentally sustainable, low-carbon, socially fairer economy. In the 2019 US and UK versions, endorsed by some public-sector trade unions, the GND sought to achieve a net-zero carbon by 2030, localize production-consumption circuits and reduce resource burdens. Proponents envisaged greater socio-economic equity by mean such as expanding public goods and workers’ cooperatives. When these agendas sought endorsement by major political parties, however, trade unions in fossil fuel sectors sought a commitment to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as a condition for supporting a GND, thus perpetuating fossil fuels. Such promises illustrate the general appeal of technofixes to soften societal conflicts around a potentially disruptive decarbonization process. By contrast, going beyond climate fixes, the labour movement has been promoting GND local campaigns for a socially just, low-carbon economy. Its agendas for retrofitting houses illustrate a cooperative eco-localization perspective, in conflict with the neoliberal techno-market fix of competitive tendering that constrains insulation standards and improvements.
The slogan ‘System Change Not Climate Change’ has sharpened public debate about the societal changes that are necessary to avoid climate disaster in ways creating an environmentally sustainable, socially just future. The demand for ‘system change’ directs attention at profit-driven, high-carbon production systems which cause climate change, other environmental harms, resource plunder and social injustices, along with policies which perpetuate them. Protest has generated low-carbon, socially just alternatives, but these have often lacked an effective social agency for replacing harmful high-carbon systems. Meanwhile neoliberal techno-market fixes have emphasized market-based incentives for techno-solutions. This policy framework underlies the UN Climate Convention and the European Union, whose false solutions have maintained system continuity, contrary to their environmental pretensions. Such fixes have sometimes provoked public controversy, as an extra opportunity to promote alternatives. This book presents a big picture of their strategies and potential, as steps towards system change.