Posts Tagged ‘Coweeta LTER’

Knowing Climate Change, Embodying Climate Praxis: Experiential Knowledge in Southern Appalachia

March 4, 2015 Comments off

We’re all excited that several years of fieldwork through the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP) is starting to yield some publications.  Here is another new paper that is coming out in a special issue of the Annals of the Association of the American Geographers on Imagining Socio-Ecological Transformation.

Rice, J.L., B.J. Burke, N. Heynen (2015) “Knowing Climate Change, Embodying Climate Praxis: Experiential Knowledge in Southern Appalachia.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105(2)

Abstract: Whether used to support or impede action, scientific knowledge is now, more than ever, the primary framework for political discourse on climate change. As a consequence, science has become a hegemonic way of knowing climate change by mainstream climate politics, which not only limits the actors and actions deemed legitimate in climate politics but also silences vulnerable communities and reinforces historical patterns of cultural and political marginalization. To combat this “post-political” condition, we seek to democratize climate knowledge and imagine the possibilities of climate praxis through an engagement with Gramscian political ecology and feminist science studies. This framework emphasizes how antihierarchical and experiential forms of knowledge can work to destabilize technocratic modes of governing. We illustrate the potential of our approach through ethnographic research with people in southern Appalachia whose knowledge of climate change is based in the perceptible effects of weather, landscape change due to exurbanization, and the potential impacts of new migrants they call “climate refugees.” Valuing this knowledge builds more diverse communities of action, resists the extraction of climate change from its complex society–nature entanglements, and reveals the intimate connections between climate justice and distinct cultural lifeways. We argue that only by opening up these new forms of climate praxis, which allow people to take action using the knowledge they already have, can more just socioecological transformations be brought into being.

KeyWords: climate governance, democratization, politics of knowledge, praxis.


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. (forthcoming) “Can science writing collectives overcome barriers to more democratic communication and collaboration? Lessons from environmental communication praxis in southern Appalachia.” Environmental Communication

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 (forthcoming; on-line) “Megapolitan Political Ecology and Urban Metabolism in Southern Appalachia.” Professional Geographer.


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.

Congratulations to Dr. Seth Gustafson!

March 22, 2014 Comments off

I am very pleased to congratulate Seth Gustafson on having just successfully defended his Ph.D. Dissertation that is entitled “Urban Political Ecology and Exurban Environmental Knowledge in Post-2008 Southern Appalachia.”

Seth’s project will no doubt push the boundaries of urban political ecology in important ways.

Also, many thanks to his research committee members Drs. Jennifer L. Rice, Steve Holloway, Josh Barkan and Ted Gragson.


This dissertation draws on urban political economy, urban political ecology, and science
studies to examine the social and environmental consequences of urbanization in historically
rural areas, especially the driving influences prompting new rounds of urban development in the
countryside and as how communities draw upon different forms of knowledge to address the
socioenvironmental burdens and benefits of exurban growth. More specifically, the dissertation
examines how the 2008 financial crisis impacted the politics of environmental knowledge and
uneven development in exurban southern Appalachia. I draw on my diverse training in
qualitative methods of archival work, interviews, and participant observation; quantitative
examination of parcel-level tax data and other socio-economic and socio-ecological data; and
spatial analysis using GIS. The case study I use is a local policy controversy in Macon County,
North Carolina, regarding the regulation of steep mountain slope development to prevent
landslides. This economically peripheral region experienced rapid urban growth from 1960-
2008 but lacked state regulatory or civil society capacity to address the economic,
environmental, and social upheaval resulting from the decades of growth and the post-2008
crisis. With varying degrees of success, local residents had long attempted to mitigate landslides
and other negative environmental externalities of urban growth in their historically rural area, but
did so only under the auspices of massive capital investment via residential construction. I show
that as the financial crisis constricted this influx of capital, it intersected with attitudes toward
expert geological knowledge and non-expert knowledge of the landscape, thereby thwarting
attempts to mitigate landslide vulnerability.

KEY WORDS: urban metabolism, urban political ecology, uneven development,
environmental knowledge, Coweeta LTER, southern Appalachia