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SSN Seminar: bringing climate politics home:

SSN Seminar: bringing climate politics home:

A seminar with Jessica Lehman (Durham University) and Abby Kinchy (RPI), hosted by the Deakin Science and Society Network.

Please join us for this online seminar hosted by the Deakin Science and Society Network (SSN). You can join the conversation on Twitter by following us at @SSNDeakin and using the hashtags #SSNseminar


Bringing Climate Politics Home: Lived Experiences of Flooding and Housing Insecurity in a Natural Gas Boomtown


Shale oil and gas development has transformed many North American communities into boomtowns, created new environmental health risks, and generated a rise in greenhouse gas emissions. In public policy and research, these social and environmental transformations are typically addressed separately–even though people often experience them together. In this paper, we develop a framework for examining lived connections between fossil fuel extraction and climate change. We propose the concept of carbon mobilization to describe the multiple stages of fossil fuel extraction and combustion that may be experienced separately (as an economic boom, climate disaster, or air pollution, for example) or simultaneously, in locally distinctive combinations. We explore lived experiences of carbon mobilization in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, a community that, in the last decade, has gone through a shale gas boom and bust and has twice suffered from severe flooding. Interviews with social service providers and county leaders indicated that connections between the fossil fuel industry and climate disaster manifested most saliently around housing security—particularly the loss of housing due to floods as well as economic insecurity related to boom-bust cycles. Economic changes that gas development brought to the community made flood resilience more challenging for some, and easier for others. In the county, there were “double losers,” for whom economic changes combined with climate changes to create major housing hardships. At the same time, the natural gas industry was a “double winner”–benefitting from climate disaster by gaining a reputation for helping the community recover from the floods. This case suggests that while global climate discourse may not resonate locally in communities where fossil fuels are produced, people make locally-salient connections between different stages of carbon mobilization, and these connections have important public policy and social justice implications.

About the speakers:

Jessica Lehman is Assistant Professor of Geography (Human-Environment) at Durham University. Her research focuses primarily on international environmental politics. She is especially interested in marine geographies, environmental knowledge production, and resource politics.

Abby Kinchy is a Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She studies environmental politics and writes about conflicts involving science, social movements, and controversial new technologies. Most recently, she co-authored Science by the People: Participation, Power, and the Politics of Environmental Knowledge (Rutgers, 2019).

About the discussants:

Kirsty Howey is a Research Fellow at Deakin University where she is conducting research on environmental risk and the regulation of onshore hydraulic fracturing industry in the Northern Territory. A former lawyer, her PhD research ethnographically examined practices of native title and land rights agreement-making. She lives in the boom/bust city of Darwin.


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