RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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264 Determinism, environment and geopolitics: an interdisciplinary conversation
Convenor(s) Philip Conway (University of Bristol, UK)
Chair(s) Philip Conway (University of Bristol, UK)
Timetable Friday 04 September 2015, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Peter Chalk - Rooms 2.2 & 2.3
Session abstract “There are no necessities, but everywhere possibilities; and man, as master of the possibilities, is the judge of their use. This, by the reversal which it involves, puts man in the first place [au premier plan] – man, and no longer the earth, nor the influence of climate, nor the determinant conditions of localities.” — Lucien Febvre, A Geographical Introduction to History ([1922], p.236)

Issues of environmental determinism and possibilism have structured human geographical debates since at least the 1920s. However, in recent decades these concepts have become more a matter for disciplinary textbooks than intellectual debate. This session is motivated by the conviction that, given the challenges of the Anthropocene, this must change. Febvre’s response to determinism, now nearly a century old, is plainly inadequate. ‘Man’ can no longer be considered either ‘judge’ or ‘master.’ The ‘influence of climate’ will not be washed away by 1920s-style humanism. And yet, for all human geography’s theoretical riches, the alternative is not obvious.

Our challenges are vast, complex and ineluctably interdisciplinary. Bearing that in mind, this experimental session consists of four diverse, open and conversational roundtables on interrelated but distinct themes:

Determinism and representation (chair: Gwilym Eades)
Possibilism and historical geography (chair: Simon Dalby)
Calculation and environmental science (chair: Lauren Rickards)
Complexity and potentiality (chair: Jason Dittmer)

These roundtables will debate their respective matters of concern individually before presenting their findings to the group. The session has two major goals: first, to collectively sketch ‘the state of the art’ of environmental geopolitics with regard to these issues; and, second, to discern the major contours of agreement and disagreement between the interested parties. We will not pretend to produce any definitive conclusions but, rather, attempt to more broadly outline the problematical terrain that requires further collective exploration.

This session is, of course, open to all; however, we would particularly welcome participants from physical geography and the environmental sciences.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Roundtable Open Discussion
Gwilym Eades (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Simon Dalby (Balsillie School of International Affairs, Canada)
Lauren Rickards (RMIT University, Australia)
Jason Dittmer (University College London, UK)
Determinism and representation (chair: Gwilym Eades)
Possibilism and historical geography (chair: Simon Dalby)
Calculation and environmental science (chair: Lauren Rickards)
Complexity and potentiality (chair: Jason Dittmer)