University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California at Berkeley
Lisa C. Kelley
Santa Clara University, University of Hawaii at Mānoa
Indiana University at Bloomington
Human-environment interactions are complex, dynamic and deeply political. Critical Physical Geography (CPG), is "a new field that combines critical attention to relations of social power with deep knowledge of a particular field of biophysical science or technology in the service of social and environmental transformation" (Lave et al. 2014). CPG responds to critiques of political ecology that the political is privileged over the ecological (Walker 2005), often by incorporating the more technical methods of an ecological or biophysical field with the political and critical insights from political ecology and science and technology studies. Many debates on the value of these integrations have focused on their capacity to generate new theorizations of human-environmental linkages. There has been a relative underemphasis on the practical utility of such integrations for policy, conservation and development.
Critical attention to the political economy of knowledge, history, uneven spatial patterns and local dynamics are more than just an add-on to human-environmental research. Paying close attention to these empirical questions in tandem with the more classically studied ecological and environmental questions about land change, deforestation, and pollution often demands different conservation and development strategies all together. Simply put – what kind of work can critical physical geography get done, that more positivist conservation science or political ecology on its own cannot do? Here we reflect on how integrated CPG approaches have yielded practical insights for environmental policy debates that go beyond insights of a single approach on its own. We are particular interested in CPGs of agrarian change which engage with debates surrounding land use, land cover or agrarian livelihoods, but welcome a broad range of contributions.
Lave, R., Wilson, M. W., Barron, E. S., Biermann, C., Carey, M. A., Duvall, C. S., ... & Pain, R. (2014). Intervention: Critical physical geography. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 58(1), 1-10.
Walker, P. A. (2005). Political ecology: where is the ecology. Progress in Human Geography, 29(1), 73-82.