Author Archive

Can Science Writing Collectives Overcome Barriers to More Democratic Communication and Collaboration? Lessons from Environmental Communication Praxis in Southern Appalachia

February 23, 2015 Comments off

As some of my other posts show, I have been interested in how writing collectives can operate and say different things than single or multi-authored writing projects.  This new paper reflects of efforts out of the Coweeta Listening Project’s (CLP) experience having written many newspaper essays under the moniker of “Science, Public Policy, Community”, but under the shared authorship of the Coweeta Listening Project Writing Collective.

Burke, B. J., M. Welch-Devine, S. Gustafson, N. Heynen, J. L. Rice, T.L. Gragson, S.Evans, D. R. Nelson. (2016) “Can science writing collectives overcome barriers to more democratic communication and collaboration? Lessons from environmental communication praxis in southern Appalachia.” Environmental Communication. 10(2): 169-186.

Abstract: Despite compelling reasons to involve nonscientists in the production of ecological
knowledge, cultural and institutional factors often dis-incentivize engagement between
scientists and nonscientists. This paper details our efforts to develop a biweekly
newspaper column to increase communication between ecological scientists, social
scientists, and the communities within which they work. Addressing community generated
topics and written by a collective of social and natural scientists, the column
is meant to foster public dialog about socio-environmental issues and to lay the
groundwork for the coproduction of environmental knowledge. Our collective approach
to writing addresses some major barriers to public engagement by scientists, but the
need to insert ourselves as intermediaries limits these gains. Overall, our efforts at
environmental communication praxis have not generated significant public debate, but
they have supported future coproduction by making scientists a more visible presence
in the community and providing easy pathways for them to begin engaging the public.
Finally, this research highlights an underappreciated barrier to public engagement:
scientists are not merely disconnected from the public, but also connected in ways that
may be functional for their research. Many field scientists, for example, seek out neutral
and narrowly defined connections that permit research access but are largely
incompatible with efforts to address controversial issues of environmental governance.

Keywords: science writing; democratization; public engagement; journalism;


Transforming Participatory Science into Socioecological Praxis: Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Over the last several years I’ve worked with the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP) which is an ethnographically oriented action-research collective trying to better integrate social science within the Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Project.  Especially important has been work inspired through conversations with my colleague Brian Burke who initially came in as a postdoc to the CLP and through his efforts allowed us to drastically expand the project.  This week a paper Brian and I wrote for a special issue of Environment and Society titled “Transforming Participatory Science into Socioecological Praxis Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science” has been published.

Burke, B.J. and N. Heynen (2014) “Transforming Participatory Science into Socio-Ecological Praxis: Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science.’ Environment and Society. 5: 7–27

ABSTRACT: Citizen science and sustainability science promise the more just and democratic
production of environmental knowledge and politics. In this review, we evaluate
these participatory traditions within the context of (a) our theorization of how the
valuation and devaluation of nature, knowledge, and people help to produce socioecological
hierarchies, the uneven distribution of harms and benefi ts, and inequitable
engagement within environmental politics, and (b) our analysis of how neoliberalism is
reworking science and environmental governance. We fi nd that citizen and sustainability
science oft en fall short of their transformative potential because they do not directly
confront the production of environmental injustice and political exclusion, including
the knowledge hierarchies that shape how the environment is understood and acted
upon, by whom, and for what ends. To deepen participatory practice, we propose a
heterodox ethicopolitical praxis based in Gramscian, feminist, and postcolonial theory
and describe how we have pursued transformative praxis in southern Appalachia
through the Coweeta Listening Project.
KEYWORDS: citizen science, democratization, Gramsci, participation, science studies,
sustainability science


Megapolitan Political Ecology and Urban Metabolism in Southern Appalachia

September 3, 2014 Comments off

For several years I have been directing something called the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP).  A subset of this group has just published a first-cut effort to think through the rapid exurbanization within southern Appalachia through megapolitan geographies, urban political ecology, and notions of urban metabolism.

Gustafson, S., N. Heynen, J.L. Rice, T. Gragson, J. M. Shepherd, C.Strother (2014) “Megapolitan Political Ecology and Urban Metabolism in Southern Appalachia.” Professional Geographer 66(1): 688-694.


Drawing on megapolitan geographies, urban political ecology, and urban metabolism as theoretical frameworks, this article theoretically and empirically explores megapolitan political ecology. First, we elucidate a theoretical framework in the context of southern Appalachia and, in particular, the Piedmont megapolitan region, suggesting that the megapolitan region is a useful scale through which to understand urban metabolic connections that constitute this rapidly urbanizing area. We also push the environmental history and geography literature of the U.S. South and southern Appalachia to consider the central role urban metabolic connections play in the region’s pressing social and environmental crises. Second, we empirically illuminate these human and nonhuman urban metabolisms across the Piedmont megapolitan region using data from the Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, especially highlighting a growing “ring of asphalt” that epitomizes several developing changes to patterns of metabolism. The conclusion suggests that changing urban metabolisms indicated by Coweeta LTER data, ranging from flows of people to flows of water, pose a complicated problem for regional governance and vitality in the future.

Director and Graduate Coordinator of UGA’s ICON Ph.D. Program

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Unexpectedly over the summer I was appointed as the Director and Graduate Coordinator of UGA’s Integrative Conservation (ICON) Ph.D. Program.

The ICON Ph.D. program brings together faculty and students from UGA’s Department of Geography, Department of Anthropology, Odum School of Ecology, and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.  ICON is designed to ensure Ph.D. students gain disciplinary depth and learn to collaborate across disciplines and fields of practice to seek integrative solutions to the most complex socio-ecological challenges facing Earth today.

Having been involved with the developed the program since the beginning, it is a privilege to be in a position to lead the effort moving forward.

Over the weekend we had our new cohort orientation and it was exciting to see all of our cohorts (40 students in total) mixing ideas and insights.

Check out our new web page and please pass this along to any students looking for a challenging and rewarding PhD Program.





Categories: Uncategorized

A Pedagogical Model for Integrative Training in Conservation and Sustainability

May 18, 2014 Comments off

In the concluding chapter of an edited book titled Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural Consequences, published in 2007, James McCarthy, Scott.Prudham, Paul Robbins, and I wrote:

“In a world where information, data, and evidence are increasingly available from diverse sources, we should not hesitate to consult secondary literatures and sources in the natural sciences. But more radically, at a time when the questions of social and physical sciences increasingly converge, we should not be afraid to retrain ourselves to interpret, communicate, and produce new forms of data outside the confines of our own disciplinary and sub-disciplinary training, and to train the next generation of scholars to be more wholly integrative. Political economic climatology, regulation hydrology, and subaltern wildlife ecology are de facto fields of research. We need to prepare ourselves to engage them.”

This recently published paper I co-authored with another group of innovative thinkers, along with our ongoing efforts to develop the ICON PhD Program here at UGA, are efforts at putting this earlier vision into practice:

Welch-Devine, M., D. Hardy, J. P. Brosius, and N. Heynen. (2014) “A pedagogical model for integrative training in conservation and sustainability.” Ecology and Society 19(2): 10.




Acknowledging Trade-offs and Understanding Complexity: Exurbanization Issues in Macon County, North Carolina

February 26, 2014 Comments off

I have been working more and more with forms of collective writing, or in this case, large group writing, across a couple different groups. This recently published effort is the product of a seminar I co-taught with four other Profs and twelve PhD students from four across disciplines (Geography, Anthropology, Ecology, Forestry). This group represents the first cohort of the new(ish) Integrative Conservation PhD. Program we’ve been involved in building at the University of Georgia.

Vercoe, R. A., M. Welch-Devine, D. Hardy, J. A. Demoss, S. N. Bonney, K. Allen,
P. Brosius, D. Charles, B. Crawford, S. Heisel, N. Heynen, R. G. De
Jesús-Crespo, N. Nibbelink, L. Parker, C. Pringle, A. Shaw and L. Van Sant.
2014. Acknowledging Trade-offs and Understanding Complexity: Exurbanization
Issues in Macon County, North Carolina. Ecology and Society 19 (1): 23.

Interestingly, the third ICON cohort has just been involved in publishing this collectively written column that is a part of the Coweeta Listening Project‘s bi-weekly column in the Franklin Press

Science, Public Policy, Community: LTLT and UGA students form partnership

For our other columns, check out the CLP’s website archive.

New Hungarian Translated Collection on Critical Urban Studies (Kritikai Városkutatás) includes Swyngedouw and Heynen (2003)

February 16, 2014 Comments off

A new book on Critical Urban Studies (Kritikai Városkutatás) has just been published by L’Harmattan Budapest. It was edited by Csaba Jelinek, Judit Bodnar, Marton Czirfusz, and Zoltan Gyimesi. In addition to a number of exciting translations by other urban scholars the collection also includes a paper I wrote with Erik Swyngedouw published in Antipode in 2003.

Table of Contents and Swyngedouw, E., and N.C. Heynen (2014) “Városi politikai ökológia, igazságosság és a léptékek politikája.” In (eds.) Jelinek Csaba, Bodnár Judit, Czirfusz Márton, Gyimesi Zoltán. Kritikai városkutatás pp. 394-416

Marginalia of a Revolution: Naming Popular Ethnography and Republishing William W. Bunge’s Fitzgerald

November 5, 2013 Comments off

I have been interested, as long as I have known what geography is, in the work of Bill Bunge.  After I told some folks at one of Antipode’s Institute for the Geographies of Justice (IGJ) about my  interactions with Bunge, I was invited to write this paper that was just published in Social and Cultural Geography.  It is part of a special issue on “Marginalia” that Christian Anderson and Scott Larson special guest edited.  In addition to essays by our fantastic (and very patient) co-editors, the special issue also includes essays from  Brett Story, Cindi Katz, Vinay Gidwani, and Trevor Barnes.

Below I have also included a 2011 essay Trevor and I wrote in Progress in Human Geography as well as the new preface Trevor and I  co-authored for the 2011 edition of Bunge’s Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution

Heynen, N. (2013). “Marginalia of a Revolution: Naming Popular Ethnography and Republishing William W. Bunge’s Fitzgerald.” Social and Cultural Geography. 14 (7): 744–751.


Having recently been writing about the geographies of survival, here in this brief essay I
extrapolate a methodological and ethico-political sensibility from the scattered fragments
of my personal interactions with foundational radical geographer William W. Bunge. This
essay is intended to reconcile the marginalization that Bunge experienced, and
experiences today, within geography, with the methodological approach he pioneered,
even as he is often not recognized for doing so. An exploration through a pile of notes,
electronic voice files, and faxes helped me to think through lived forms of intellectual
marginalia via the life and methods of William Bunge and possibilities that exist for
recovering his method of ‘popular ethnography’.

Barnes, T. and N. Heynen, 2011. A classic in human geography: William Bunge’s (1971) Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution, Progress in Human Geography. 35(5): 712–720.

Heynen, N. and T. Barnes , 2011. Fitzgerald Then and Now. New Preface for the Second Edition of William W. Bunge’s Fitzgerald: Geography of Revolution. University of Georgia Press.

AESOP 5th Conference on Sustainable Food Planning

October 31, 2013 Comments off

Despite having decided to pull back on travel this year, I could not resist an invitation to give a talk at the AESOP 5th Conference on Sustainable Food Planning in Montpellier, France in October.  I gave one of the bookend talks (the closing talk was given by Bob Gottleib, which was a real treat given his pioneering role in politicizing food studies).  As far as I could tell one of my main contributions (not necessarily a positive contribution mind you), was causing trouble for the translators who had a challenging time dealing with my “not so calm, not so immobile” talk.  Selfishly, I learned a great deal about the state of urban planning and urban food system planning, especially in western European contexts, and used the occasion to develop my own ideas about “abolition ecology” a bit more through my own talk.

Here is the program:

Flyer BAT2 Page 1


Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation Editorial Board: Thanking the first generation, welcoming the next.

September 11, 2013 Comments off

In 2007 I met Neil Smith and Derek Krissoff at the San Francisco AAG to discuss the idea of essentially re-creating a book series at the UGA Press that Neil had initially created at Temple UP (with Peter Wissoker).  For a host of reasons, Neil’s Place, Culture, and Politics series only produced two (very good) books including George Henderson’s California and the Fictions of Capital and Katharyne Mitchell’s Crossing the Neoliberal Line Pacific Rim Migration and the Metropolis before it prematurely shut down.

Melissa Wright, Andy Herod and I,  along with Derek Krissoff, got the Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series off the ground at UGA Press later that year, and then in 2011, Deb Cowen replaced Andy as one of our co-editors.  More recently, Derek went off to be the Editor in Chief of the University of Nebraska Press, and we have been lucky to start working with the UGA Press’ new Editor in Chief, Mick Gusinde-Duffy.

Nineteen books later, with a large number more either under contract or at various stages of review or publication, many people tell us they think the series is doing very well.  We agree.

While ultimately it is the quality of the books that make a book series, much of the early success of the series has resulted from the commitment and support of our inaugural editorial advisory board.  The members of that board include:

Sharad Chari (University of Witwatersand); Bradon Ellem (University of Sydney), Gillian Hart (University of California, Berkeley), Andy Herod (University of Georgia), Jennifer Hyndman (York University), Larry Knopp (University of Washington, Tacoma), Heidi Nast (Depaul University),  Jamie Peck (University of British Columbia), Frances Fox Piven (City University of New York), Laura Pulido (University of Southern California), Paul Routledge (Leeds University), Bobby Wilson (University of Alabama).

We are very grateful for all of their guidance and the solidarity they brought to this endeavor.  As they say, “we couldn’t have done this without you”.  As these things go however, we have decided it is time to refresh the board as we move into the next phase of the series, so we are very pleased to announce the second generation of the GOJST board, which includes:

Mathew Coleman (Ohio State University), Sapana Doshi (University of Arizona), Zeynep Gambetti (Boğaziçi University), Geoff Mann (Simon Fraser University),  James McCarthy (Clark University), Beverly Mullings (Queen’s University), Harvey Neo (National University of Singapore), Geraldine Pratt (University of British Columbia), Ananya Roy (University of California, Berkeley), Michael Watts, (University of California, Berkeley), Ruth Wilson Gilmore (CUNY Graduate Center), Jamie Winders (Syracuse University), Brenda S.A. Yeoh
(National University of Singapore).

One of the members of the initial editorial board who I did not yet thank is Neil Smith, who served until he passed away on September 29th, 2012.  As we near the first anniversary of Neil’s passing, we at the series are working to launch a Neil Smith Book Prize in recognition of his inspiration, and the other many forms of help he offered getting the series up and going.  We hope the Neil Smith Book Prize will not only honor Neil, but also serve to keep the series growing with the highest caliber scholarship possible.

Stay tuned to learn more about efforts to help us establish the book prize in Neil’s name when we launch our fund raising drive in the coming months.