Speaking Power to “Post-Truth”: Critical Political Ecology and the New Authoritarianism

Benjamin Neimark, John Childs, Andrea J. Nightingale, Connor Joseph Cavanagh, Sian Sullivan, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Simon Batterbury, Stasja Koot, Wendy Harcourt

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Given a history in political ecology of challenging hegemonic “scientific” narratives concerning environmental problems, the current political moment presents a potent conundrum: how to (continue to) critically engage with narratives of environmental change while confronting the “populist” promotion of “alternative facts.” We ask how political ecologists might situate themselves vis-à-vis the presently growing power of contemporary authoritarian forms, highlighting how the latter operates through sociopolitical domains and beyond-human natures. We argue for a clear and conscious strategy of speaking power to post-truth, to enable two things. The first is to come to terms with an internal paradox of addressing those seeking to obfuscate or deny environmental degradation and social injustice, while retaining political ecology’s own historical critique of the privileged role of Western science and expert knowledge in determining dominant forms of environmental governance. This involves understanding post-truth, and its twin pillars of alternative facts and fake news, as operating politically by those regimes looking to shore up power, rather than as embodying a coherent mode of ontological reasoning regarding the nature of reality. Second, we differentiate post-truth from analyses affirming diversity in both knowledge and reality (i.e., epistemology and ontology, respectively) regarding the drivers of environmental change. This enables a critical confrontation of contemporary authoritarianism and still allows for a relevant and accessible political ecology that engages with marginalized populations likely to suffer most from the proliferation of post-truth politics. Key Words: authoritarianism, environmental policy, political ecology, post-truth, science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-623
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date6 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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    Neimark, B., Childs, J., Nightingale, A. J., Cavanagh, C. J., Sullivan, S., Benjaminsen, T. A., Batterbury, S., Koot, S., & Harcourt, W. (2019). Speaking Power to “Post-Truth”: Critical Political Ecology and the New Authoritarianism. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 109(2), 613-623. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2018.1547567