Graduate student Jeff Vance Martin publishes Revisiting and revitalizing political ecology in the American West
Political ecology, initially conceived to better understand the power relations implicit in management and distribution of natural resources in the developing world, came “home” to the American West in the 1990s and 2000s. This groundswell of research did much to problematize socio-environmental conflicts in the region, long typified by tensions over land and resources, identity and belonging, autonomy and authority. Since first touching down in the West, however, the “big tent” of political ecology has only grown bigger, incorporating new perspectives, epistemologies, and ontologies. At the same time, the nexus of environment and society is perhaps even more salient today, amid a regional conjuncture of populist revolt, climate change, and rapid political economic transformation. Here we reflect on three longstanding regional concerns – energy development, wolf reintroduction, and participatory governance – leveraging the pluralism of contemporary political ecology to better understand their contemporary incarnations. In so doing, we highlight the need to bring together insights from both “traditional” approaches and newer directions to better understand and engage contemporary challenges, with their heightened stakes and complexity. Such an approach demonstrates what we might learn about global processes in this place, as well as what insights regional praxis (often woefully provincial) might gain from elsewhere – new ways of seeing and doing political ecology. Our goal is to generate discussion among and between political ecologists and regional critical scholars, initiating new collaborative engagements that might serve the next wave of political ecology in the 21st century American West.