Perspectives on climate change: ontological wars in Amazonia

Killick, Evan (2015) Perspectives on climate change: ontological wars in Amazonia. In: Trans-Environmental Dynamics: Understanding and Debating Ontologies, Politics, and History in Latin America, 29 -31 October 2015, Munich, Germany.

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Drawing on research with both indigenous people and academic and policy workers this paper examines understandings of forest conservation and climate change mitigation strategies in contemporary Amazonia. It begins by considering both indigenous conceptions of and physical interactions with the environment. Through this focus the paper interrogates local ontologies and what they may or may not suggest about indigenous notions of forest conservation. It also considers anthropology and anthropologists’ own role in emphasising such distinctions, noting how recent emphases on ontological difference have tended to parallel an older exoticisation and reification of indigenous cultures. The paper argues that such approaches can act to obscure and undermine some of the more practical and pragmatic approaches of indigenous groups to their environments as well as their interactions with other groups. In its second half the paper introduces a similar analysis of contemporary, non-indigenous notions of climate change and climate-change mitigation policies, examining both their practical outcomes as well as their ontological underpinnings. Here the focus is specifically on the UN backed REDD+ initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), noting how within this framework the rainforest and its people are reified as saviours of modernity’s ills but only within a particular economic and legal framework in which carbon can be understood as the region’s latest extractive commodity. Through this triangulated analysis of emic and etic approaches to the Amazonian environment the paper seeks to consider the opportunities and limitations of the latest technical solutions being offered, the ethical issues surrounding the fact that climate change is itself an outcome of broader processes of modernity, and finally the role of indigenous people within both these debates and suggested practical solutions.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Keywords: Ontology, Nature-Culture, Amazonia, Environment, Climate Change
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Evan Killick
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2017 10:51
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2017 13:12

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