The Perry Ridge blockade of 1997: environmental political action, place and the role of local knowledge.

Date

2011-05-02

Authors

Ross, Noah

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with understanding how the distinct “knowledges” articulated by environmental activists address the places that activists relate to. Through an engagement with the theoretical work of Edward Casey and Doreen Massey, it is argued that humans engage with specific places through an embodied encounter that takes place on the basis of particular evolving cultural traditions. These cultural traditions are influenced by the relations that are encountered in specific places through the course of inhabitation, creating local ecological and social knowledges in the process. Based on this understanding, it is argued that framings of environmental politics by environmental activists in relation to culturally specific scientific understandings of nature are often unable to address the particularity of local social and ecological relations that are contested in specific places. The danger is that contesting environmental politics in terms of the language of nature will de-emphasize the importance of local political relations and the knowledges that are generated in relation to these scales of political engagement. This theoretical argument is developed in connection to a case study of the Perry Ridge blockade, an anti-logging demonstration that took place in the Slocan Valley during 1997. It will be argued that there are important aspects of the politics of environmental activists involved in the Perry Ridge blockade that are based on the knowledge generated through inhabitation of the Slocan Valley. The presence of local ecological knowledge in the Perry Ridge blockade indicates that elements of local activist traditions are subjugated when analyses of environmental politics are understood in terms of abstract cultural discourses such as nature. This conclusion indicates that rural environmental activists are not only engaged in a politics of nature but often also in the messier political processes encountered through inhabitation in places. Given that discourses of nature that are scientifically generated are able to jump scales and impact local political processes, the danger is that the use of such discourses will restrict attempts by local activists to engage in a more thorough way with the complex politics of specific rural places.

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Keywords

Dissent, Environmental Politics, Place, Rural Politics, Local Ecological Knowledge, Political Theory

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