Geography Compass

Environment, geopolitics and critique

By Matthew Rech

Simon Dalby, writing in Geography Compass, provides a compelling argument that prompts us to reconsider our place in the world, and to challenge implicit geographies associated with globalisation, geopolitics and the environment. As Dalby suggests, “some of the most taken for granted and obvious parts of environmental political thought are assumptions about context and environmental circumstances” (104), and it must be our role as geographers to continue to critique geopolitical categories and scientific understandings that shape political discourse.

Specifically, and in relation to the ongoing Copenhagen summit, Dalby takes issue with certain spatialisations used to organise our understandings of the world, which might often be out of line with the new contexts of our lives. These new contexts (meaning post September 11th politics, the transformation of humanity into an urban species, and new thinking in earth systems science) demand a rethink of the categories we use to make sense of our place in the world.

So, as we are beholden to the twists and turns of the climate summit this month, we should be mindful that “the taken for granted nature of geographical categories – states, regions, blocs, continents, resources and environments” (104) – shape political will and discourse. And also, that whilst “geopolitical reasoning is mostly about the view from the metropoles of the global polity” (104) we must remain cognisant of strategic silences, and the unheard voices of those that climate change may threaten most.

See the BBC Copenhagen newspage

Read Dalby, S (2007) Anthropocene Geopolitics: Globalisation, Empire, Environment and Critique. Geography Compass. 1. 1, 103-18

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