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Presenter: Assoc Prof Matthew Kearnes, University of New South Wales

Knowing, sensing & reading earth: the morphologies of the carbon frontier

Date: 22 May 2019
Time: 12.30pm to 1.30pm
Location: B21.G04

Earth processes are increasingly being enrolled as unwitting, and at times reluctant, accomplices in efforts to address anthropogenic environmental change. In this context, the ‘terrestrialisation’ of carbon – and the figuring of landscape as a horizon for environmental restoration and climate control – constitutes an emergent frontier in contemporary environmental politics. In this paper I reflect on an ethnographic study of land-based carbon sequestration practices that are central to efforts to achieve a balance between anthropogenic carbon emissions and direct carbon removal. Drawing on research conducted in the US, Australia and the UK, I explore the ways in which practices of land-based carbon retention are being drawn into projects of landscape restoration, overlain by a rich array of aesthetic sensibilities. Designed to “meet the triple challenge of landscape restoration, climate change and food security,” carbon sequestration and landscape restoration technologies are being enrolled in political assessments of the feasibility for directly manipulating climatic systems – often referred to as climate engineering or negative emission technologies – designed to directly remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Taking up a ‘landscape ethnography’ approach to this emerging ‘carbon frontier’, and the re-imagination of soil as a site of promissory and speculative world-making at the interface between the logics of carbon removal and agricultural intensification, I conclude by reflecting on the prospects for reimagining ‘the field’ in ethnographic approaches to environmental and climatic change.

A/Prof. Matthew Kearnes is a member of the Environmental & Society group at the School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW.

Upcoming Seminars

Presenter: Dr Susan Ballard, Dr Joshua Lobb, Dr Catherine McKinnon, University of Wollongong
Title: Are we in the atmosphere; is the atmosphere within us?
Date: 5 June 2019
Time: 12.30pm to 1.30pm
Location: B21.G04

Presenter: Susannah Clement and Charlie Gillon, University of Wollongong
Date: 19 June 2019

Presenter: Dr Madeline Pill, University of Sydney
Date: 7 August 2019

Presenter: Dr Anna de Jong, University of Surrey
Date: 21 August 2019

Presenter: Associate Professor Kristian Ruming, University of Macquarie
Date: 4 September 2019

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Last reviewed: 15 May, 2019