Publications

Speaking Power to “Post-Truth” : Critical Political Ecology and the New Authoritarianism

Neimark, Benjamin; Childs, John; Nightingale, Andrea J.; Cavanagh, Connor Joseph; Sullivan, Sian; Benjaminsen, Tor A.; Batterbury, Simon; Koot, Stasja; Harcourt, Wendy

Summary

Given a history in political ecology of challenging hegemonic “scientific” narratives concerning environmental problems, the current political moment presents a potent conundrum: how to (continue to) critically engage with narratives of environmental change while confronting the “populist” promotion of “alternative facts.” We ask how political ecologists might situate themselves vis-à-vis the presently growing power of contemporary authoritarian forms, highlighting how the latter operates through sociopolitical domains and beyond-human natures. We argue for a clear and conscious strategy of speaking power to post-truth, to enable two things. The first is to come to terms with an internal paradox of addressing those seeking to obfuscate or deny environmental degradation and social injustice, while retaining political ecology’s own historical critique of the privileged role of Western science and expert knowledge in determining dominant forms of environmental governance. This involves understanding post-truth, and its twin pillars of alternative facts and fake news, as operating politically by those regimes looking to shore up power, rather than as embodying a coherent mode of ontological reasoning regarding the nature of reality. Second, we differentiate post-truth from analyses affirming diversity in both knowledge and reality (i.e., epistemology and ontology, respectively) regarding the drivers of environmental change. This enables a critical confrontation of contemporary authoritarianism and still allows for a relevant and accessible political ecology that engages with marginalized populations likely to suffer most from the proliferation of post-truth politics. Key Words: authoritarianism, environmental policy, political ecology, post-truth, science.