Skip to main content

2020 | Buch | 1. Auflage

Non-Human Nature in World Politics

Theory and Practice

herausgegeben von: Joana Castro Pereira, André Saramago

Verlag: Springer International Publishing

Buchreihe : Frontiers in International Relations


Über dieses Buch

This book explores the interconnections between world politics and non-human nature to overcome the anthropocentric boundaries that characterize the field of international relations. By gathering contributions from various perspectives, ranging from post-humanism and ecological modernization, to new materialism and post-colonialism, it conceptualizes the embeddedness of world politics in non-human nature, and proposes a reorientation of political practice to better address the challenges posed by climate change and the deterioration of the Earth’s ecosystems.

The book is divided into two main parts, the first of which addresses new ways of theoretically conceiving the relationship between non-human nature and world politics. In turn, the second presents empirical investigations into specific case studies, including studies on state actors and international organizations and bodies. Given its scope and the new perspectives it shares, this edited volume represents a uniquely valuable contribution to the field.


Introduction: Embracing Non-Human Nature in World Politics
This book theorizes and empirically analyses the intertwinement between world politics and non-human nature breaking the anthropocentric boundaries that have characterized the field of International Relations thus far. Gathering contributions from several different perspectives ranging from post-humanism and ecomodernism, to new materialism and post-colonialism, the book is divided into two main parts. The first is dedicated to new ways of theoretically conceiving the relationship between non-human nature and world politics. The second presents empirical investigations focusing on specific case studies. It includes chapters on state actors and international organizations and bodies. This edited volume is a distinctive intervention in the field, offering new perspectives on how to conceptualize the embeddedness of world politics in non-human nature and how to reorient political practice to better address the challenges posed by climate change and the degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems.
Joana Castro Pereira, André Saramago
Concluding Discussion: The Planetary Is Not the End of the International
Drawing on chapters of this book as well as wider literatures, in this concluding chapter I first situate the relative invisibility of non-human nature in IR, pointing to the demise of geopolitics around the Second World War as part of a wider bifurcation of knowledge into “social” and “natural” sciences. Secondly, I argue that current attempts to take account of non-human nature have tended to bring with them globalist framings that underplay or even obscure the importance of the international. Thirdly, I outline an outlook that does not feature prominently in the rest of this book, but which might provide an additional way of further developing its goals, allowing a theorisation of society that has the non-human at its core to form the building block for a materialist theory of the international. The overall aim is to take stock of attempts to grasp how the metabolism between humans and non-human nature is itself multiple, intrinsically bound up with and marked by relations between societies—separate yet coexisting socio-ecological entities.
Olaf Corry

Theoretical Investigations

The End of Normal Politics: Assemblages, Non-Humans and International Relations
Over the past decade, notions of the non-human have become established in a range of disciplines—for example, archaeology, human geography, anthropology, and architecture. However, their impact on politics and international relations has been restricted. In this chapter, we consider the reasons for this, identifying what we term ‘normal politics’ as the dominant form of anthropocentric discourse that prevents non-humans from taking their proper place in the political realm. In contrast, we propose a form of assemblage politics that is better placed to accommodate notions of the non-human, whilst also offering fresh perspectives on politics and international relations. We develop and illustrate our notion of assemblage politics using three examples: car use, Brexit and the climate crisis.
Bob Carter, Oliver J. T. Harris
Across Species and Borders: Political Representation, Ecological Democracy and the Non-Human
Debates about democracy and ecology invariably lead to the question of the representation and membership of non-human animals, ecosystems and the biosphere in world politics. This chapter responds by interweaving two lines of inquiry. One considers the fundamental political theory that could generate an adequate account of how to give representation to the non-human in the polity. Key theoretical interventions will be considered alongside a posthumanist, new materialist account of the material agency of ecosystems. The second considers the dilemmas involved in designing ecological democratic institutions that could include the non-human in communicative systems of membership and accountability. We propose two new enabling structures for ecological inclusion and governance: 15 regional ecosystem assemblies to cover the Earth’s major biomes, and an Earth System Council to coordinate integrated action, both of which include and channel representation from states, indigenous communities, and proxy guardians for the non-human. Such institutions require a deep commitment to the complexity and vitality of the biosphere, reflexivity and humility in proposing Earth system repair, and a constant awareness of the aporetic quality of political representation as such, in support of new forms of interspecies politics and governance that might work for and with the biosphere as a whole.
Anthony Burke, Stefanie Fishel
A Quantum Anthropocene? International Relations Between Rupture and Entanglement
The Anthropocene is marked as a paradigm shift in Earth history and politics. This has simultaneously led to two competing characterizations of the new epoch: as an age of “rupture” from the past and as a reflection of “entanglement” between the human and the non-human. In this chapter, I assess how the logics of rupture and entanglement create different, often competing understandings of the Anthropocene within the academic field of International Relations (IR). I conclude by challenging IR scholars to more closely engage with quantum social theory in light of the profound “spookiness” of the Anthropocene.
Cameron Harrington
Ecologies of Globalization: Mountain Governance and Multinatural Planetary Politics
Mountain governance has emerged as new node of planetary management of non-human nature. Referencing the common ecological fates suffered by mountains around the world because of climate change, it aims to fuse ecological, political, and cultural perspectives together in a new political object. One of its central organizing categories is the sacred landscape, which is neither a purely natural object nor a socially valuable one, but rather, an exceptional sacred one to be protected, conserved, and/or developed. This chapter enquires into the production of global mountains by secular governance regimes. Against a number of accounts of environmental governance, it first argues that mountains are multiple objects, not singular natural ones. It then suggests that sacredness is a particularly problematic way of rendering these multiple mountains as singular, in ways that undermine the very ends of mountain governance. Instead, in the service of finding a more politically plural, but also more multinatural, planetary politics, the chapter proposes an analytic and political focus on routes and routing, which better show the multiple mountains that are in play in these regions, drawing on the transboundary region surrounding Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas as a case study.
Rafi Youatt
Conflicting Temporalities and the Ecomodernist Vision of Rewilding
Ecomodernism offers a progressive and humanist vision of the Anthropocene, one in which publicly funded innovation has made possible both universal prosperity and planetary-scale rewilding. However, given the present primitive state of technology, ecomodernism is surely guilty of fabulism as its realisation would depend on technologies that may not be available for many decades. Despite this, ecomodernists argue that there is an overriding moral imperative to accelerate the transition to a fully integrated high-energy planet even if this accentuates the short-term need for solar radiation management. The aim of this chapter is to review the debate between ecomodernists and traditional environmentalists in relation to these conflicting temporalities. It is suggested that science may be of surprisingly little help in settling the underlying macro-political disputes.
Rasmus Karlsson
Elias in the Anthropocene: Human Nature, Evolution and the Politics of the Great Acceleration
Civilization faces the challenge of reconciling growth with biophysical limits, whilst avoiding devastating geo-political conflict. Radical demands for ‘degrowth’ are often juxtaposed with realist ‘eco-modernist’ scenarios. Elias’s theory of civilizing processes and his concept of the triad of controls provide an invaluable framework for evaluating the reality-congruence of both trajectories. An Eliasian understanding of ecological conscience formation is synthesized with insights from Ernest Gellner (on exo-education), Walter Ong (on literacy and individuation) and Owen Barfield (on the history of consciousness). Successful navigation of the politics of the Anthropocene implies societal solutions and arrangements that exist in the barely conceivable ‘adjacent possible.’ Eliasian concepts are invaluable in the exploration of such possibilities, but his rationalism and commitment to greater ‘detachment’ make him blind to the simultaneous requirement for selectively higher degrees of ‘involvement’ in the process of both ecological conscience formation and the consolidation of ‘imagined community’. Adam Seligman’s theory of ritual and sincerity provides a complement to Elias’s rationalism. Elias underplays the possibility that more detached scientific and economistic processes of model making and orientation might co-exist with patterns of conscious, creative, cognitive dissonance: modalities of ‘paradox’, enchantment and participation associated with more relational and reciprocal forms of ‘livelihood’ economy.
Stephen Quilley

Empirical Investigations

Anthropocentrisation and Its Discontents in Indonesia: Indigenous Communities, Non-Human Nature and Anthropocentric Political–Economic Governance
This chapter discusses the ‘anthropocentrisation’ of political–economic governance in Indonesia through the establishment, expansion and evolution of the modern state. The process began with colonial state-building in the mid-nineteenth century, following efforts by colonial rulers to exploit their colonies more effectively in order to compete in the global market. The creation of a unified national political and economic governance system with rigidly defined territories gradually displaced ecological governance systems of indigenous communities, and Indonesia’s independence led to further institutionalisation of anthropocentric political–economic governance. The authoritarian and developmentalist New Order government (1965–1998) consolidated the power of the state and its control over people and nature, effectively marginalising indigenous communities, despite the formal recognition of Adat Law. State transformation in the age of globalisation, fragmentation, decentralisation and internationalisation of state apparatuses has gradually loosened the grip of the state since the 1980s. Indigenous communities, supported by transnational advocacy networks, used this opportunity to create a governance space for themselves. While these initiatives have been partially successful, the loosening grip of the state does not mean the reversal of anthropocentrisation.
Shofwan Al Banna Choiruzzad
Ecological Civilization: The Political Rhetoric of “Marxism with Chinese Characteristics”
Critics argue that the Chinese rhetorical concept of ecological civilization has been used to justify an increasingly authoritarian government without substantial improvements in China’s environmental footprint. Far from instituting an ecologically responsible socialism, China appears to be continuing on a path of rapid industrialization, growing economic inequality, and repression of individual rights. However, the concept of ecological civilization has played a significant projective, polemical, and appropriative rhetorical role in the Chinese context. An analysis of the function of ecological civilization in Chinese policy shows that it has contributed to a national self-identity based on environmental responsibility by projecting a fictionalized image of itself as an alternative to Western capitalism. The rhetoric of ecological civilization has not always translated into improved environmental policy, nor is its vision for a holistic, socialist society likely to be translated into an objective reality. Still, the concept remains a useful rhetorical tool both for the government and for Chinese citizens attempting to hold the government accountable to its stated ideals. Rather than discounting ecological civilization because of its rhetorical function, its rhetorical effects should be analyzed on its own terms. On the whole, ecological civilization as a rhetorical concept has produced positive political effects with respect to climate change and should be encouraged as a potential tool for environmental progress in China, whether it is used by the Chinese government, Chinese citizens and activists, or international environmentalists.
Justin Heinzekehr
America First: The Trump Effect on Climate Change Policy
Just when the world’s leaders needed to unite to halt the runaway effects of global climate change, the U.S., the largest historic contributor to greenhouse gases, elected a president in 2016 who vowed to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and to roll back all of the limited environmental regulations that had been put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Donald Trump was elected by a minority of the American people through a peculiarity in the American political system known as the Electoral College. Defying every tradition of democratic rule, and with the assistance of a compliant Republican majority in the Senate, a base of hardcore public supporters and a right-wing media, he has managed to assert his particular brand of authoritarian nationalism on policymaking. Through the use of a variety of sources—U.S. government documents, U.N. reports, the reports of environmental watchdog groups, scholarly and news articles, this qualitative case study lays out the historical context in which Trump’s attacks on the environment arose, examines his actions thus far to roll back progress on climate change, and demonstrates that sub-state and non-state actors have become new protagonists in the national and global effort to prevent dangerous climate change. While these efforts are important, much depends on whether Trump can be replaced by a Democratic congress and presidency backed by strong public pressure.
Sheila D. Collins
Rights of Nature in the European Union: Contemplating the Operationalization of an Eco-Centric Concept in an Anthropocentric Environment?
A global movement to give legal rights to nature is slowly gaining momentum in the face of the ongoing biodiversity crisis that is hitting our planet. At its core, the concept of rights of nature presupposes a novel template for ecological governance, which is aimed at prioritizing nature’s right to exist and to flourish through a societal and legal reform. This chapter makes two separate arguments. First, it argues that rights of nature constitutes a powerful new paradigm for ecological governance. Second, it demonstrates the difficulties and opportunities encountered when operationalizing this emerging concept within the existing legal order through a case study on the interplay between nature’s rights and the existing EU legal order. In spite of the identified alignment between a more rights-based approach to nature protection and the existing EU environmental law, several long-standing defects of the existing EU legal order seem to block a further operationalization of rights of nature. Against the backdrop of the relatively strict case law at EU level with respect to standing in environmental cases before EU courts and the persisting anthropocentric nature of many EU environmental directives, this chapter concludes that the recognition of rights of nature at the national level, either through strategic litigation or legislative amendments, is to be approached as the most realistic pathway to the short-term operationalization of ecocentrism in the EU.
Hendrik Schoukens
The European Union’s Diplomacy: Protecting Non-Human Nature?
The European Union (EU) is widely considered as a ‘leader’ in global environmental politics. Over the past forty years, it has gradually adopted a corpus of primary/secondary environmental law allowing it to become the strongest regional environmental protection regime in the world. As a global actor, the EU attempts to export this acquis, following a mainstreaming approach that in principle demands attention to the protection of non-human nature in all of its external action. Employing four different approaches to the human-NHN relationship derived from the debate about global environmental justice, this chapter provides a critical discussion of EU external activities related to the protection of non-human nature and their effects. It focuses on three domains that are central to tackling the causes of the Anthropocene: EU external action aimed at mitigating climate change, halting biodiversity loss and governing the Arctic as a major theatre of environmental degradation processes. The chapter finds that the EU’s diplomacy primarily pursues a ‘reformist’ justice agenda, aimed at better ‘managing’ non-human nature. It fares rather well with regard to the conclusion of international environmental agreements (institutional effectiveness), but less so when it comes to the actual protection of non-human nature (ecological effectiveness).
Simon Schunz, Bram De Botselier, Sofía López Piqueres
Trust and the WWF in the Arctic
The perception of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO), particularly environmentally focused ones, is mixed throughout the North and the Arctic. In the North American North and Arctic, the legacy of the anti-sealing campaign has left an indelible mark that reinforces local views that protection of non-human nature is the environmental INGO priority. This chapter explores the questions: how do you develop a trusted reputation as an INGO operating in the North and how does perceived trustworthiness influence organisational capacity? It argues that balancing the human and non-human aspects of the Arctic and North is central to INGO ability to be trusted and seen as trustworthy in those parts of the world. The ability of an INGO to demonstrate that it accounts for both dimensions is reinforced by its brand. Lying at the heart of the brand, and trust in it, are organisational legacy and networks. Using the case study of the World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund (WWF), this chapter demonstrates that legacy and networks, with the access they can provide, are essential to INGOs ability to demonstrate to different audiences in the North and Arctic that they can work with them. The primary audience for INGO work used in this piece is the Arctic states and their representatives to the Arctic Council, the Arctic region’s pre-eminent forum for environmental protection and sustainable development discourse.
Danita Catherine Burke
A Typology of Direct Action at Sea
Direct Action (DA) is a sometimes confrontational strategy employed by those seeking to bring about the change they would like to see in the world. It is typically applied within the boundaries of states, however, the high seas provide an ideal theatre for the use of DA at the international level. The most prolific practitioners of DA at the international level are marine conservation organizations. In recent years, there has been increased diversity of DA strategies. This chapter develops a typology of DA at sea, using the categories of traditional DA, service provision, monitoring/surveillance, deterrence and compellence. The latter three categories of the typology eschew the moral framing traditionally invoked by activists, in favour of legalistic framing. These forms of ‘Direct Enforcement’ (DE) frame ecologically harmful activity as criminal in nature, and propose DA as a form of law enforcement. In so doing, practitioners expand the role of non-state actors into a territory traditionally reserved for the state. While this expansion has the potential to put activists and governments into conflict, this is not exclusively the case. Several activist-state relationships are identified: acquiescence, antipathy, concurrence and collaboration.
Teale N. Phelps Bondaroff
The IPBES Conceptual Framework: Enhancing the Space for Plurality of Knowledge Systems and Paradigms
Conceptions of nature and of humanity’s place within it, we argue, are the best arena to finally confront and resolve the fundamental epistemological and ontological divide that stands in the way of transformative change. We develop this idea focusing on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), whose goal is ‘strengthening the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services’. In 2015, the IPBES created a Conceptual Framework to support policy-makers, and different stakeholders, in their assessment of complex interactions between the natural world and human societies. One of the main goals of the Framework is to allow plurality, bringing together different knowledge systems, and its particular representations of humans-nature relations. In this chapter, we explore the epistemological and ontological assumptions that lay behind the Framework’s endeavour, aiming to contribute to strengthen its ability to achieve such a goal. First, we set out the theoretical context and the analytical tools for a critical review the IPBES Framework; second, we expose limitations and hidden assumptions that risk undermining the Framework’s pursuit of plurality of knowledge; finally, we identify and discuss the conditions to create the space that allows for effective dialogue across paradigms and knowledge systems. We conclude arguing for the need to transcend paradigms and to embrace integral approaches (re)connecting biodiversity conservation and humans and nature.
Lavínia Pereira, Olivia Bina
Non-Human Nature in World Politics
herausgegeben von
Joana Castro Pereira
André Saramago
Springer International Publishing
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN