Disingenuous Natures: Modalities, Mechanisms and Methods

In this session we invite participants investigating environmental management and development interventions, and their biophysical outcomes, that emerge from science distortions, research biases and environmental narratives that mischaracterize human interactions with the physical landscape (e.g., Crossley 2004, Goldman and Turner 2011, Lave et al. 2014, Forsyth 2015, Davis 2016). We view these social-ecological conditions as ‘disingenuous natures’ (Simon 2019). These are disingenuous environments because “despite being constructed by surreptitious knowledge, incomplete science and fictitious histories – they are understood and managed as if they were a legitimate, authentic and thus genuine depiction of past and contemporary social-ecological interactions” (Simon 2018, 72). This understanding of the relationship between environmental science, knowledge and management thus draws from political ecology and, more recently, critical physical geography research seeking to “investigate material landscapes, social dynamics, and knowledge politics together, as they co-constitute each other” (Lave et al. 2018, 6). We hope this session will generate productive conversations that closely and recursively connect (a) what we come to know about particular landscapes or social-ecological relationships (i.e., the science and stories of disingenuous natures), with (b) how that knowledge is carried forward and ultimately applied and instantiated within particular landscapes and social-ecological systems (i.e., the material and political implications of disingenuous natures).

We welcome papers from a wide range of geographical, temporal and topical contexts. We encourage theoretical, empirical and methodological contributions across the human-physical geography divide. Paper themes might include:


  • Close investigations of scientific practices, paradigms and epistemologies that distort our understanding of, and materially impact, landscapes and actually existing biophysical processes.

  • Social and institutional factors, including reified policy frameworks, that normalize flawed science and biased knowledge of environmental change, and make them seem credible to the public.

  • The underlying influences of post-colonial, patriarchal, racist and other discriminatory belief systems that inform the production of environmental knowledge and the management of particular places and peoples.

  • Methodological approaches and considerations that may be helpful to other researchers who dig beneath the surface to uncover and highlight information that challenges environmental ‘stories of record’.

  • Examples highlighting the emancipatory nature of disingenuous nature research, including opportunities to generate alternative (and more inclusive and socially just) storylines, sciences and environmental futures.


Please send your paper abstracts to Gregory Simon (gregory.simon@ucdenver.edu) and Rebecca Lave (rlave@indiana.edu) by December 8



Crossley, P. L. 2004. Just beyond the eye: Floating gardens in Aztec Mexico. Historical Geography, 32, pp.111-135.

Davis, D. K. 2016. The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge. MIT Press.

Forsyth T. 2015. Integrating science and politics in political ecology. Chapter 8. In,The International Handbook of Political Ecology, p.103.

Goldman M. J., Turner MD 2011. Introduction. In M. J. Goldman & M. D. Turner (Eds.), Knowing Nature: Conversations at the intersection of political ecology and science studies (pp. 1–29). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lave, R., Wilson, M. W., et al., 2014. Intervention: Critical physical geography. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 58(1), pp.1-10.

Lave R., Biermann C., Lane S.N. (2018) Introducing Critical Physical Geography. In: Lave R., Biermann C., Lane S. (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Physical Geography. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Simon, G. L. 2018. The Rise of Disingenuous Nature and Neoliberal Stealth Unknown-Knowns. In Reflecting on Neoliberal Natures: An Exchange (Eds., P. Bigger and J. Dempsey). Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 1:1-2 pp. 71-75.

Simon, G. L., Peterson, C. 2019. “Disingenuous Forests: A Historical Political Ecology of Fuelwood Collection and Forest Cover Change in South India.” Journal of Historical Geography


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