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Our Calculable Earth: The Abstraction of Nature and the Death of Environmental Politics

  • Thomas S. J. Smith
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter examines the calculative rationality displacing other ways of knowing and interacting with ‘nature’. Several increasingly dominant approaches to representing our environment are discussed, including the planetary boundaries approach, ecological footprint measures, ecosystem services (ES) and payments for ecosystem services (PES), and carbon trading. It is argued that contemporary environmental research and the environmental movement more broadly appear to be increasingly dominated by a type of ‘environmental accounting’. This abstraction and the rise of ‘numerical environmentalism’ have resulted in important, broader questions being foreclosed. For instance, climate change is increasingly seen simply as a technical issue involving too much carbon in the atmosphere and the transgression of planetary boundaries seen simply as a technical matter of retreating within a ‘safe space’.

Keywords

Planetary boundaries Environmental footprints Ecosystem services Payments for ecosystem services Abstraction Post-political 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic

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