Simon Dalby’s work from the Balsille School of International Affairs challenges us to think about the practices our own country, as well as other capitalist nations, has exercised in order to further human security on our planet (“biohumanity”). In geography, these issues are known as “biopolitics”. Balby points out that humanity is at a point where the biohuman can no longer be the focus of our worry, as we have taken over the planet as our own, but that public discourses on humanity currently focus on the security thereof. The main concern of this essay is how human geography may respond to the new circumstances of the Anthropocene, and who gets to make the decisions about what kind of life it will be in the future for Earth’s biosphere. Another important question Dalby introduces is of the environmental dimensions of security. The question is, how do we decide what to do about environmental security without militarizing climate change? We have long been turning danger and emergency into economy in the West – is there feasible a way around this?
Dalby reiterates the idea that “carboniferous capitalism” is what has caused the current environmental problems we are facing, and that this is the emergency – not the climate itself. In other words, we must address the disease, not the symptoms. He goes on to state that “the theme of the Anthropocene is part of the answer to both the limits of the biohuman and the dangers of the ideology of nature” (185).
Mitigating risks in the Anthropocene is tenuous because risks can be “financialized”. It is interesting too that Dalby talks about Foucault’s ideas of power moving from monarchical control to democracy, as we haven’t seen much Foucault in our readings, and the advent of pastoral practices in “Third World” nations has made it all too easy for the West to think of itself as doing things the “right” way and needing always to intervene. The author points out, as we talked about last week, that creating carbon credit economies only aids in the dispossession and poverty of those in no position to even create a carbon footprint.
Dalby also brings up the point of thinking differently about “Degrees of Risk”, and using new models and attitudes that will help us plan more effectively for changes that are happening much more rapidly in Earth’s biosphere than we have ever before predicted or thought possible. Mainly, he argues that current climate policies are insufficient, and that “rapid de-carbonization of the global economy” must be where our attentions lie.
Conclusions, as far as I could make them out:
1) Environmental history and ecology continue to be very important, and we must use them in ways that do not treat geopolitical borders as actual fences.
2) The decisions made in the next few years or decades are crucial, for millennia to come; we need to keep our political options open as we learn more and continue changing the planet. The Anthropocene is not a terminal phase, it’s just the current/next one.
3) We have to stop ignoring what is happening to humans in favor of what is happening to the “non-biohuman” and realize that global economy (and ecology) is affecting everyone.
4) We are taking climate emergencies as opportunities for new modes of governance and development – we must be careful not to create a new “disaster capitalism”, at least any more than we already have.
Dalby, Simon. “Biopolitics and climate security in the Anthropocene.” Geoforum 49 (2013): 184-192.
Another paper by this author: