Special Section: Experimental and speculative political ecologies edited by Dylan M. Harris and Dan Santos

Speculative Political Ecologies: (re)imagining urban futures of climate extremes

Authors: , , , ,


What role can a speculative political ecology play in (re)imaging urban futures of climate extremes? In recent years, narratives of dystopian futures of climate extremes have proliferated in geosciences, and across the media and creative arts. These anxiety-fueled narratives often generate a sense of resignation and unavoidability, which contributes to foreclosing the possibility of radically different political projects. In this article, we argue that these narratives conceal the coproduction of nature and society and treat nature as the problem, thereby locking futures into dystopic configurations. Political ecology scholarship can contribute to generate a politics of possibility by reconceptualizing the relations that constitute urban futures under climate extremes as socionatural. This, we argue, calls for a more experimental political ecology and new forms of theorizing. To this aim, we develop a speculative political ecological approach grounded on a numerical model that examines the potential of transformative change in the aftermath of extreme flood events in a capitalist city. Analytically, this opens a unique possibility of exploring urban futures beyond current trajectories, and how these alternative futures might transform vulnerability and inequality across urban spaces. From a policy perspective, we lay the foundations for a new generation of models that apprehend the role of power and agency in shaping uneven urban futures of climate extremes.

Keywords: Speculative political ecologies, climate change, disasters, transformative change, urban futures

How to Cite: Rusca, M. , Mazzoleni, M. , Barcena, A. , Savelli, E. & Messori, G. (2023) “Speculative Political Ecologies: (re)imagining urban futures of climate extremes”, Journal of Political Ecology. 30(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.4827