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Organizer: Daniel Aldana Cohen
Workshop sponsors:
Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2, University of Pennsylvania
The Social Life of Climate Change, London School of Economics

Friday, April 20 | 10:30 am – 6 pm | Stiteler Hall Room B26 (UPenn)

[Scroll down for schedule, full bios, and presentation abstracts]


Climate change makes enormous demands on critical social science. This domain of inquiry must change deeply to confront an epochal shift that is rapidly remaking (and could even destroy) human life. Critical social science’s potential to contribute to urgent political projects to confront climate change remains in question. A new generation of scholars is investigating the social and spatial dynamics of climate change and associated ecological changes. At the Unsettled Spaces workshop, some members of this nascent network of scholars will present work and think through the tasks of researching and communicating the entwinement of climate change with other long-standing socio-environmental processes, from colonial and racialized violence to capitalist patterns of economic development. One key question is how to reconcile a tradition of critical scholarship that has often shied away from numbers, and the increasing sophistication of quantitative approaches to measuring environmental phenomena.

We will be guided by questions like the following:

  • How do prevailing projects of adaptation and decarbonization intersect with long-standing patterns of colonial and racial violence, capitalist economic development, inequality, and infrastructure politics?
  • How is climate change consolidating or unsettling landscapes of human life, and their attendant colonial, racialized, and capitalist dynamics? How are projects to transform these landscapes reinforcing or unsettling inherited structures of social power and the built environment?
  • How does quantifying relationships between carbon and other environmental phenomena, from air pollution to flood risk, unsettle or clarify existing accounts of social and spatial inequalities?
  • What kinds of political economies are currently shaping climate politics, and what are the prospects for transforming those? How much does “green capitalism” differ from capitalism?
  • How can such research agendas contribute to emerging political efforts to confront climate change, in terms of decarbonization, adaptation, and connected agendas?

Alongside the core intellectual challenges of the research, two connected challenges stand out. First, to develop personal and professional networks across stale disciplinary divides—and oceans! How can early career scholars unsettle brittle academic spaces that are adapting too slowly to the post-disciplinary, public, sped-up, and conceptually improvised demands of climate scholarship? Second, how can we situate our work in the broader political context of an epochal struggle against eco-apartheid, and for a democratic and egalitarian future?

We can’t fully resolve these intellectual and practical problems decisively; our efforts will be improvised. This workshop is organized in that improvisational spirit. The daylong event will consist of three panels: one focused on landscapes (more or less urban) of energy and extreme weather; one on developing and critiquing quantifications of carbon, related pollution, and risk; and one on political economic approaches to climate politics. Over meals and coffee before and after the panels, we’ll also dig into the work and think about strategies to make better use of academic resources (for our research, and for organizing politically).

Recognizing our generational challenge, only untenured academics will present papers. There will be a small audience of Philadelphia-based students and researchers.

This workshop is generously supported by the Perry World House, the Fels Policy Research Initiative, and the Population Studies Center, all at the University of Pennsylvania.



10:30 am-12:30 pm

Opening remarks

First panel: Contested landscapes: energy and climate extremes

Kasia Paprocki, London School of Economics | The Climate Change of Your Desires: Imagining Urban Climate Futures and the Death of the Village

Daniel Aldana Cohen and Nicholas Pevzner, University of Pennsylvania | Gramsci Landscapes: Delimiting the Trenches of the Clean Energy Transition

Thea Riofrancos, Providence College | Scaling Democracy: From the Extractive Frontier to a Just Transition

Kevin Ummel and Daniel Aldana Cohen, University of Pennsylvania | Follow the Carbon


12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Lunch and coffee | McNeil Building, 3718 Locust Walk, 5th Floor, Population Studies Library


1:30 pm – 3:15 pm

Second panel: The quantification of environmental (climate?) causes and impacts

Rebecca Elliott, London School of Economics | Second-Order Economization Risks of Insuring Climate Change: The Case of U.S. Flood Insurance

Xiaoying Liu, University of Pennsylvania | What Happens in the Womb under the Dome: The Impact of Air Pollution on Birth Outcomes 

Aashish Gupta, University of Pennsylvania | Air Pollution and Health in India

Nate Millington, University of Cape Town | Crisis Articulations: Day Zero, Waste Politics, and Uncertainty in Cape Town, South Africa





3:45 pm – 5:45 pm

Third panel: Political economies of climate change: flows and blockages

Sophie Webber, University of Sydney | Creative Farmers, Climate Politics, and Lowland Rice Production in Indonesia

Li Zhang, Henan Agricultural University | Organic Farming or Greenwashing? Gender, Ethnicity, and Climate Change Adaptation in China

Gustavo Oliveira, Swarthmore College | Misleading Mitigation: The Politics of Biofuel Policies

Jesse Goldstein, Virginia Commonwealth University | Planetary Improvement: Cleantech and the New Green Spirit of Capitalism

Alyssa Battistoni, Yale University | The Caring Conservation Corps? On Social and Ecological Reproduction 

Closing remarks




The Caring Conservation Corps? On Social and Ecological Reproduction
I outline a left-feminist approach to a low-carbon, less resource-intensive political economy, in terms of three problems with work: kind; distribution; and amount. The kind of work: capitalism systematically undervalues both social and ecological reproduction; a left-feminist approach to climate politics would emphasize work oriented towards sustaining human and nonhuman life, emphasizing care for people and ecosystems. The distribution of work: One challenge of traditional green jobs is that there are often disparities in geography and skill: a job building wind turbines may not be available to a former coal miner. With “pink-green jobs,” however, skills tend to be differently distributed across not only space but gender. Changing kinds of work therefore require changes in expectations for who does what kinds of work. The amount of work: Reducing work time should remain a goal. Affirmations of care work’s value should proceed with caution: care, too, can be onerous, underpaid, exhausting, and unrewarding. Left visions of a low-carbon economy must be careful not to mistake even unalienated labor for leisure.

Alyssa Battistoni is a PhD candidate in political theory at Yale working on topics related to political economy, environmental politics, feminist theory, and the history of political thought. Her dissertation reads twentieth-century political economic thought through feminist and ecological perspectives. Alyssa also writes frequently on politics for publications including Jacobin, Dissent, and n+1.


Gramsci Landscapes: Delimiting the Trenches of the Clean Energy Transition
Landscape will play a central role in the massive clean energy transition that is already underway. Renewable energy systems could require 100-1000 times more space than fossil fuels, plus new contentious infrastructures like transmission corridors. This transition thus implies the geographic reorganization of investment and energy production, setting off contestations and negotiations across social groups and places. Taking the North Atlantic as our empirical focus, our paper explores the emerging the landscape politics of the renewable energy, entering a debate currently dominated by neoliberal technocrats. We focus on three dynamics in particular. First, the fact that big energy companies like Statoil, Tesla, and Samsung are shaping large landscape transformations under cover of urgency and with state support, exacerbating local community opposition (with parallels to nuclear and fossil fuel infrastructure battles). The speed and scale of Big Clean’s deployment threatens to re-inscribe an old industrial model, igniting reasonable place-based revolts (a second “Blockadia”) that could slow decarbonization. Second, we argue that design, though often associated with boutique one-offs and technocratic Dutch development schemes, should be a central terrain of left struggle. New Deal programs were most successful when pursuing a site-specific model of infrastructure that pioneered landscape-sensitive design. The precedent is imperfect, but requires attention. Third, coalitions organizing for and against the renewable energy transition are modeling new kinds of alliances, at once within regions and across them as urban activists seek ways to support community-based, rural clean energy development.

Daniel Aldana Cohen is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2. He conducts qualitative and quantitative research on the politics of climate change, social movements, and cities. His research and writing have appeared in publications including Nature, Public Culture, Metropolitics, Jacobin, Dissent, the NACLA Report on the Americas and the UTNE Reader, and in edited volumes including Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas (UC Press) and The City Is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age (Cornell UP).

Nicholas Pevzneris a full-time lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, where he teaches studios on urban design and on the territorial landscape potential of energy infrastructure, and where he co-teaches courses in urban ecology. Nicholas’ research focuses on the public and civic potential of infrastructure, and on the integration of urban ecological systems and their metrics into design methodology. At Penn he has taught core studios in urban design and elective studios on the territorial landscape potential of energy infrastructure. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Scenario Journal, a digital open-access publication devoted to showcasing and facilitating the emerging interdisciplinary conversations between design and ecology.


Second-order economization risks of insuring climate change: The case of U.S. flood insurance
This paper investigates the tethering of insurance to climate change as a social and political accomplishment. Drawing on interviews, ethnographic observation, and archival and other key documents, the paper traces efforts to repurpose the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—a federal program established in the late 1960s—for climate change adaptation at interrelated national and local scales. As a matter of national policy, reformers framed climate change as a technical problem for the NFIP. They sought to incorporate climate science into the NFIP’s flood maps in order to account for future uncertainty. How precisely the NFIP could do this, however, was shaped by what I characterize as ‘second-order economization risks’: risks attendant on the transformation of physical risk into direct costs and financial values. Local efforts to recalculate flood risk in New York City from 2013-2016, which overlapped with the work of federal experts to account for climate change in the NFIP’s maps, required federal and local authorities to consider how changes to flood maps would affect insurance premiums and property values. The result was a negotiated arrangement that separates maps of current flood risk from maps of future flood conditions and assigns them distinct roles in governance. The paper shows that making climate change ‘insurable’ is not simply a technical and scientific matter of approaching catastrophic risks with difficult-to-calculate probabilities; it is circumscribed by political pressures related to how costs are passed on and what people, industries, and other affected groups are willing and able to pay.

Rebecca Elliott is an assistant professor of sociology at the London School of Economics. Her current research focuses on the political and economic governance of climate change, with a forthcoming book project (Columbia University Press) on U.S. flood insurance. Her work has appeared in Politics & Society, the British Journal of Sociology, and Poetics.


Planetary Improvement: Cleantech and the New Green Spirit of Capitalism
In this presentation I critically examine the central role that technology plays in visions of green capitalism – or more specifically, the belief that “clean” technologies, a.k.a. “cleantech”, can and should figure centrally to any socio-ecological transformation of the capitalist economy. Clean technologies are positioned at the center of narratives promising environmental salvation through the incremental improvement of the industrial status quo. Pulling from two years of ethnographic research with cleantech entrepreneurs and investors in New York City, I identify a new green spirit of capitalism, or “planetary improvement,” whose political ontology helps to legitimize business as usual, albeit in slightly greener and cleaner forms. While Max Weber presented the first spirit of capitalism as a Protestant ethic where hard work became a means to save one’s soul, Planetary Improvement argues that we now have a green spirit of capitalism where entrepreneurial innovation has become a means to collectively save our planet. As part of an effort to develop a critical environmental politics of technology and innovation, we must understand the ways in which planetary improvement amounts to an enclosure of society’s collectively creative capacity to think and make new worlds. Cleantech entrepreneurs envision themselves transforming the capitalist economy into a green economy bit by bit, and refuse to see how alternately, this capitalist economy is actually transforming their visions and ideas, recycling any new technologies or the possibility thereof, through the commodity form.

Jesse Goldstein is an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University. His work looks critically at the intersections of technology, capitalism and environment politics. He has recently published his first book, Planetary Improvement: Cleantech Entrepreneurship and the Contradictions of Green Capitalism (MITP, 2018).


Air Pollution and Health in India
Developing countries face a high burden of disease and death due to air pollution. This talk highlights research on three different sources and contexts within India: effects of coal burning power plants on respiratory health; the influence of solid fuel on pollution, child mortality, and adult health; and finally, the consequences of rising air pollution in cities such as Delhi. Going beyond these proximate causes, we also discuss the implications of climate change, capitalism, and social inequalities in shaping this disease burden.

Aashish Gupta is a PhD student in Demography and Sociology. He grew up in India, around the cities of Delhi and Chennai, and has research interests in health, environment, and social inequalities.


What Happens in the Womb under the Dome: The Impact of Air Pollution on Birth Outcomes
This paper estimates the causal impact of ambient air pollution on birth outcomes in a high polluting country. We exploit the exogenous variation in air quality during the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and Paralympic Games in China, during which strict regulations were mandated to assure good air quality. Specifically we study the adverse impact on birth outcomes of three “criteria” pollutants using daily monitored air quality data and birth certificates data during 2009-2011 from Guangzhou city in Guangdong province and 2 control cities in Hainan island province, which were not affected by Asian Games related air quality regulations. We undertake a difference-in-difference estimation strategy using whether the gestational period overlapped with the period of the Asian Games and Paralympic Games as an instrument for level of prenatal exposure to pollution. We find all three pollutants cause adverse birth outcomes, with the results especially robust for the preterm delivery outcome. We test the robustness of the results to many changes in specification, and examine the heterogeneity of the impacts across gender, mother’s age and educational group. This is one of the few studies that identify the causal impacts of air pollution on adverse birth outcomes in China.

Xiaoying Liu (Ph.D. Economics, University College London) is a postdoctoral researcher at Population Studies Center at University of Pennsylvania. Her research interest is in environmental economics and early child development, especially studying the interactions between environment and human activities. During her postgraduate time she was actively involved in several environmental research projects, such as wetland restoration in Yangtze’s River and natural forest conservation program evaluation in Southwest China, with emphases on evaluating the impact of environmental programs on household labor supply and rural poverty. She also acted as a main researcher in various international projects on topics that included groundwater management in China, Portugal and Tunisia, and biodiversity governance in northwestern China.


Crisis Articulations: Day Zero, Waste Politics, and Uncertainty in Cape Town, South Africa
Throughout 2017 and 2018 in Cape Town, a continued lack of rainfall combined with existing infrastructures of water management to produce what was has been referred to as a water crisis. Echoing other framings of environmental crisis in the city – most notably, in the waste sector – Cape Town’s ongoing experience with scarcity reflects the difficulties of adapting existing infrastructural systems to new uncertain environmental and political dynamics. The city’s deployment of crisis throughout 2017 and 2018 is subsequently one broader instance of the usage of crisis framings to link references to climate change with what are longer-term patterns of vulnerability and infrastructural inequality. Drawing from ongoing research into the material politics and infrastructures of water and waste in Cape Town, I consider the relationship between infrastructural unevenness, scientific or existential uncertainty around climate change, and the notion of crisis within contemporary urban environmental governance. I argue that the mobilization of climatic uncertainty has been deployed to support a narrowing of decision-making space and thought that has served to frame environmental crises in terms of technical fixes, demand management, and individualized response. This suggests, worryingly, that the uncertainties associated with climate change response will lead not to new modes of living but rather the entrenchment of existing patterns of inequality and vulnerability.

Nate Millington is a postdoctoral researcher with the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. He is interested in the politics of infrastructure and climate change adaptation in cities of the global south, and is currently conducting research into the waste economies in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. From 2014-2016, he was a Fulbright scholar in São Paulo, Brazil. He has also written about the aesthetic politics and environmental imaginaries found in images of Detroit, Michigan’s so-called ‘ruins’ and New York City’s High Line Park. He holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Kentucky and an MSc in Geography from the University of Wisconsin in 2010.


Misleading Mitigation: The Politics of Biofuel Policies
Biofuels are central to capitalist efforts to mitigate climate change, yet the capacity of existing biofuel policies and production practices to reduce carbon emissions is widely challenged. After all, critics of biofuels as a mitigation strategy show that agroindustrial production practices and clearing land for their expansion generates net carbon emissions. Biofuel proponents respond these critiques employ insufficient data or problematic models, and/or argue that new generations of biofuels will resolve this problem in due time. Consequently, most of the literature on this topic is now a mystifying debate that turns on various assumptions and contending models of land use change, agroindustrial intensification, subsidies and market prices, and life-cycle analysis of biofuel production, alongside conflicting conjectures about future policy implementation, consumption practices, and technological transformations. Rather than contributing to the cacophony of this mystifying debate, I seek to unsettle it by shifting our focus to the politics behind the discourses, policies, production practices, and research on biofuels. I draw on political ecology as framework, and past research on how biofuel policies emerge from particular conjunctures of corporate, state, and environmentalist interests in the USA, EU, China, and Brazil. I argue pro-biofuel discourses, policies, and production practices are not actually formulated with climate change mitigation as its core purpose—but are rather driven primarily by modernist and capitalist imperatives to harmonize capital accumulation in the fossil-fuel dependent energy and automotive sectors with agroindustrial interests and state concerns over energy security. Biofuel discourses, policies, and production advances effectively through a tense alliance between corporate sectors, rendering many policy mechanisms ineffective or even outright counterproductive to facilitate more socially and environmentally sustainable energy production and agricultural practices. Research on biofuels that does not engage this underlying political economy contributes to the mystification that sustains misleading discourses and efforts of climate change mitigation.

Gustavo Oliveira obtained his PhD in geography from UC Berkeley, and is currently postdoctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Swarthmore College. His research focuses on Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness and infrastructure, political ecology of agroindustrialization, geopolitics of the BRICS, hegemony, and class formation. He has published on the transnational soybean sector, land governance, and biofuels in Brazil and beyond. He is co-organizer of the BRICS Initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies, and guest editor with Susanna Hecht of a special issue on “Soy Production in South America” in the Journal of Peasant Studies, republished as Soy, Globalization, and Environmental Politics in South America (Routledge, 2018).


The Climate Change of Your Desires: Imagining Urban Climate Futures and the Death of the Village
The celebration of the imagined climate-resilient city is perhaps the most lauded of fables of planetary urbanism. The resilient Asian city is particularly celebrated, both as hope and model for the possibility of urban climate futures around the world. Development and policy initiatives such as the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities campaign have praised and anticipated dramatic transformations in the urban landscape in a climate changed future (largely technological, but also profoundly social). Climate change is an “opportunity,” planners tell us, for a modern, developed future for the Asian city. What these discourses of urban climate futures often elide is the erasure of rural space and rural futures. What are the possibilities of rural futures in the time of climate change? Does the possibility of urban climate utopia carry with it the necessity of rural climate dystopia? In this chapter, I investigate these concerns through the experience of Bangladeshi migrants who have left rural coastal communities for construction work in urban slums surrounding Kolkata. The threats posed to their coastal villages by a variety of ecological threats (both loosely and closely linked with climate change) are intimately connected to their migration in search of new urban livelihoods. The labor of these migrants is both necessary to and invisible within the imaginary of Kolkata’s rapid urban growth, and integration into a global tech economy. The experiences of these migrants suggest that the demise of rural futures is not incidental, but necessary to the celebration of urban climate futures. I thus bring together an examination of imaginaries of urban climate futures with an investigation of what I call the agrarian question of climate change.

Kasia Paprocki is an Assistant Professor of Environment in the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She holds a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Her work has been published in academic and popular outlets including Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Geoforum, Climate and Development, Journal of Peasant Studies, Third World Quarterly, Economic and Political Weekly, and Himal Southasian.


Scaling Democracy: From the Extractive Frontier to a Just Transition
The expanding extractive frontier has involved new types of conflicts between local communities, extractive firms, and states. Increasingly, conflict centers on the “directly affected communities” located within the spatially immediate zones of the point of extraction and/or transport of hydrocarbons and minerals. These communities bear the socio-environmental brunt of extraction, are potentially the exploited labor of the extractive process, and do not necessarily benefit from the revenues and profits generated. It is perhaps unsurprising that such socio-natural relations give rise to conflictual dynamics. And this set of dynamics is not specific to extractive projects. It is also relevant to the renewable energy sector, and the potential wave of disputes over land-intensive solar and wind farms. Despite the neatness of this account, my paper will pry apart its obviousness—with both analytical and political motives. Analytically, there is utility in understanding how and when the uneven territoriality of extraction (or of renewable energy capture) generates political-economic conflict—rather than assuming that it necessarily does, or assuming the form it might take. And, politically, it is worth thinking through the impressive achievements and also the limitations of an ecological justice strategy centered on a geographically-bounded conception of directly affected communities. With these analytic and political motives in mind, this paper draws on my fieldwork on the conflict surrounding large-scale mining and oil extraction in Latin America, and teases out the more portable lessons for the global fight against fossil fuels—and the transition to a renewable energy system. Specifically, I’ll present an ethnographic vignette of a community mining consultation in the southern highlands of Ecuador, and introduce the concept of scaling democracy: the practices by which democracy—understood as both a set of procedures and a claim to legitimate authority grounded in popular sovereignty—is mapped onto more or less encompassing territorial scales. The analysis of scaling democracy as ongoing and conflictual process focuses our attention on how collective identities and interests are linked to specific scales of decision-making and territorial notions of the people, and how these are in turn enacted in democratic practice.

Thea N. Riofrancos is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College. Her research focuses on the contentious politics of resource extraction, radical democracy, social movements, and the left in Latin America. Her book manuscript, Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador, is currently under review. Her work has appeared in Perspectives on Politics, Cultural Studies, and World Politics.


Organic Farming or Greenwashing? Gender, Ethnicity, and Climate Change Adaptation in China
Agriculture is one of the main causes of carbon emissions that drive climate change. It is also the sector of social and economic activity most vulnerable to climate change, and arguably the most important given the basic human need for food. Therefore, agriculture must be central to climate change mitigation and adaptation. In particular, the development of organic farming practices can capture and store carbon in the soil, reduce use of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers, and cultivate agro-ecosystems that are more resilient to floods and droughts, and less dependent on mechanization and long-distance transportation. In this paper, I discuss efforts to revive traditional peasant farming practices and scale-up organic farming systems in China. My approach is grounded in critical agrarian studies and development sociology, and draws on comparative ethnographic research in Henan and Guangxi provinces undertaken from 2014 to 2017. In Henan, a large-scale organic rice cooperative project became unsettled by the conjunction of a major drought and the drive to scale-up commercial production. The cooperative gave up organic production but kept a greenwashed branding strategy to sustain its commercial success. In Guangxi, on the other hand, a smaller scale organic vegetable cooperative was also unsettled by major flooding and commercial pressures, but refused to pursue greenwashing strategies. I argue differences in gender and ethnic identity among the leaders of these cooperatives explains their divergent paths. In Henan, where men from the ethnic majority lead the cooperative, greenwashing reinforces structures of power that are prioritized over climate change adaptation. In Guangxi, on the other hand, women from an ethnic minority lead the cooperative, and their need to transform social relations of power sustains their pursuit of agro-ecological practices. It is crucial to understand, therefore, how climate change adaptation projects articulate with ethnic and gender identities and their political economic struggles.

Li Zhang obtained her PhD from the China Agricultural University, and was visiting fellow in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University. She is currently assistant professor at Henan Agricultural University and remains a research fellow of the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative. Her scholarship focuses on food sovereignty, gender and ethnic identities, class inequality, and environmental sustainability. Her doctoral project involved ethnographic research on China’s food safety counter-movements, including new government regulations and bottom-up self-protection mechanisms among peasants. She has published on democracy and socialist theory, ecological agriculture, urban farming, and bottom-up responses to China’s food safety crisis.


Follow the Carbon
Following the carbon into the viscera of social life, with the most spatial resolution possible, can cast new light on socio-spatial inequalities and inform a range of social science research on hitherto unasked questions like: What is the relationship between density and consumption (and between the built environment and socially patterned behavior more broadly)? What is the carbon footprint of racist suburban exclusion and gentrification? Is there a widespread, quantifiable “irony gap” between poor and racialized communities’ vulnerability to climate change and their contributions to it? The initial foundation for this agenda is a carbon footprint database in the US of unprecedented spatial resolution. To that end, the (SC)2 Project is developing novel techniques to estimate life-cycle household carbon footprints at something approximating the neighborhood level. A working prototype covers emissions from household utilities and vehicles for the Philadelphia and San Francisco regions. These results will be shared, along with an example of how such data can be analyzed to better understand the factors that drive variation in carbon footprints across the population.

Kevin Ummel is a data scientist, President of Greenspace Analytics, and research associate at the Population Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania. He consults on data-intensive projects for universities and environmental NGO’s like Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the World Resources Institute. Kevin was formerly a Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria, and a Visiting Senior Associate at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.


Creative farmers, climate politics, and lowland rice production in Indonesia
In the context of agricultural production, providing seasonal rainfall forecasts is expected to improve planting strategies and thereby optimise outputs. To this end, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, along with the Bureau of Meteorology, Climatology, and Geology, provides an online, integrated planting calendar system that is intended to guide rice farmers, increase commodity production, and improve food – and national – security. These ‘climate information services’ are narrowly prescriptive, reflecting the common state agency assumption that farmers do not understand, and are responsible for declines in, their agroecological conditions and production. In this paper, we analyse how lowland rice farmers collectively engage with and against these state and extra-state projects of environmental control in order to craft their livelihoods. Despite these failures in the form and content of these climate information services, however, we find that the projects have expansive social and environmental effects. We show that farmers “play” with and between the projects, manipulating their inputs and outputs in order to subsidise their livelihoods and assert their collective political status. The farmers are creative in reworking, reproducing, and reformulating the intentions of scientific and bureaucratic regimes.

Sophie Webber is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney. Sophie is an economic and environmental geographer with research interests in the politics and economies of climate change adaptation and resilience in South East Asia and the Pacific region and at large scientific and development institutions.

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