Panel for POLLEN 2023, June 27-29, 2023
Creating Change through Colonial institutions? Rights, Sovereignty, and Emerging Technologies in Global Environmental Governance
Co-organizers: Catherine Corson and Kevin Surprise, Department of Environmental Studies, Mount Holyoke College
United Nations (UN) treaties, laws, regulations, and norms for environmental governance, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, are spaces where colonial-capitalist systems are reproduced but also spaces where these systems are increasingly challenged by Indigenous groups, environmental activists, agrarian social movements and advocates for radical, decolonial reforms to the global political economic system. Actors mobilizing human rights-based approaches seek to use the tools and legitimacy of the UN to protect environments, livelihoods, and ways of life, with varying degrees of success. Yet, these UN mechanisms are themselves rooted in neo-liberal and -colonial forms of power that continue to perpetuate the harms these strategies aim to prevent. One central area of concern is the development of emerging environmental technologies – from artificial intelligence, to blockchain, to geoengineering – that pose novel questions for rights, sovereignty, and social transformation. Particularly when connected with mega- and innovative-finance, such techno-fixes tend to foster the consolidation of environmental elites – from multinational investment banks, private companies, big technology firms, governments, and large nongovernmental environmental organizations – who see opportunities for new markets or new rationales for territorial expansion. This session aims to explore how mechanisms embedded in capitalist and colonial histories, namely rights, sovereignty, and technology, perpetuate socio-environmental harms and injustices in global environmental governance (GEG), and how these mechanisms have been mobilized to challenge those same systems, with topics including but not limited to:
Interested individuals should send a expression of interest, including a title and 250 word abstract to the organizers via this google form by March 27th.