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Accepted Contribution:

Theorizing thresholds: extraction, stability, and the epistemic politics of ecosystem collapse  
Matthew Archer (Maastricht University)

Short abstract:

This paper critically examines the notion of ‘regime shifts’ in systems ecology by engaging with local ways of understanding, anticipating, and experiencing socioecological collapse. It draws on interviews about threats and thresholds with people living near mining sites in vulnerable ecosystems.

Long abstract:

In the context of research on ecosystem stability, the trickiest components to measure are those that deal with thresholds or ‘regime shifts,’ namely the points at which a particular ecosystem is no longer able to recover from or cope with various types of disturbances or perturbations, what ecologists refer to as latitude and tolerance, respectively. The main reason for this is that in order for ecologists to accurately measure the latitude and tolerance of an ecosystem, that ecosystem would have to have already collapsed (or undergone a regime shift).

This paper examines alternative ways of theorizing, anticipating, and responding to socioecological collapse, drawing on feminist and Indigenous epistemologies to better understand both the hierarchies of knowledge that underlie dominant theories and methods in systems ecology and rendering explicit the inherent entanglements of being, knowing, and doing. Through an analysis of interviews with people living around large-scale mining sites in vulnerable ecosystems, it builds on ecological approaches to thresholds and regime shifts by offering a necessary corrective to these models’ (and modelers’) often blinkered focus on top-down, “objective” data. In doing so, the paper centers new types and sources of data in both academic and policy debates about ecosystemic resilience and stability – folklore, oral history, gossip, etc. Such an approach emphasizes the importance of understanding ecological perturbations – and the knowledge we rely on to make sense of them – as always already political.

Combined Format Open Panel P380
Knowledges of ecology and ecologies of knowledge
  Session 2 Friday 19 July, 2024, -