Environmental Politics journal cover
Article/journal, Climate change, energy & environment, Munk School

The politics of 21st century environmental disasters

We outline the main concerns for grappling with increasing environmental disasters in this Symposium. Our focus is threefold: first, to theoretically investigate what constitutes an environmental disaster and identify the parameters for political responses through the discourse in high level multilateral fora; through the construction of the sovereign state system; and through the promotion of ignorance. Second, we aim to identify contemporary practices of the state that exacerbate the impact of, and responses to, environmental disasters. We show how states promote extractivism based on limited understandings of nature drawn from Western political liberal philosophy.

Finally, we highlight the strengths and weaknesses in political and institutional responses at the local level to such disasters by state and non-state actors. This shows how both slow and fast violence of environmental disasters affects communities, but also how vulnerable subjects are predicated on pre-existing capabilities.