1st Edition

Doing Political Ecology

Edited By Gregory L. Simon, Kelly Kay Copyright 2025
    344 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    344 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Since its inception, the field of political ecology has served as a critical hub for inclusive and transformative environmental inquiry. Doing Political Ecology offers a distinctive entry point into this ever-growing field and argues that our scholarly “foundations”, today more than ever, comprise a cross-cutting latticework of research approaches and concepts. 

    This volume brings together 28 leading scholars from a range of backgrounds and geographies, with contributions organized into 18 analytical lenses that highlight different approaches to critical environmental research and “ways of seeing” nature-society interactions. The book's contributors engage the breadth and depth of the field, recognizing a variety of roots and genealogies, and give ample voice to these rich and complementary lineages. This inclusive presentation of the field allows diverse theoretical and empirical approaches to intermingle in novel ways.  Readers will emerge with a wide-ranging understanding of political ecology and will attain a diverse toolkit for evaluating human-environment interactions.

    Each chapter astutely grounds key methodological, theoretical, topical, and conceptual approaches that animate a range of influential, cutting-edge, and complementary approaches for “doing” political ecology.


    Kelly Kay and Gregory L Simon


    Section I - Politicizing Environmental Management


    Chapter One -  Sustaining Nature: Climate change and the catastrophe to come in Kiribati

    Sophie Webber


    Chapter Two – Producing Nature: Where Biophysical Materialities Meet Social Dynamics

    Christine Biermann, Justine Law, and Zoe Pearson


    Chapter Three – Governing Nature: Political ecology and the knotty tangle of environmental governance prelims

    Alice Cohen and Leila M. Harris


    Chapter Four – Contesting Nature: Nature as a field of power, difference and resistance

    Kate Derickson, Gabe Schwartzman, and Rebecca Walker


    Section II: Making Nature Knowable


    Chapter Five – Constructing Nature: Construal, constitution, composition and the politics of ecology

    Noel Castree


    Chapter Six – Narrating Nature: Decolonizing Socio-Ecological Assemblages

    Diana K. Davis


    Chapter Seven – Valuing nature: Constructing ‘value’ and representing interests in environmental decision-making

    Marc Tadaki and Jim Sinner


    Chapter Eight – Enumerating Nature: Engaging Environmental Science and Data within Critical Nature-Society Scholarship

    Lisa C Kelley and Gregory L Simon


    Section III: Capital, Colonialism, and Political Economy


    Chapter Nine – Globalizing Nature: Long-standing structures and contemporary processes

    Fernanda Rojas-Marchini and Jessica Dempsey


    Chapter Ten – Monetizing Nature: From Resource-Making to Financialization

    Kelly Kay


    Chapter Eleven – Protecting Nature: Political Ecologies of Conservation through the lens of Peace Parks

    Maano Ramutsindela


    Chapter Twelve – Degrading Nature: Production and the Hidden Ecology of Capital

    Matt Huber


    Chapter Thirteen – Consuming nature: From the politics of purchasing to the politics of ingestion

    Julie Guthman and Michaelanne Butler


    Section IV: Political Ecologies of Identities, Difference and Justice


    Chapter Fourteen – Engaging Nature: Public Political Ecology for Transformative Climate Justice

    Joel E. Correia and Tracey Osborne


    Chapter Fifteen – Gendering Nature: From Ecofeminism to Feminist Political Ecology

    Deepti Chatti


    Chapter Sixteen – Racializing nature: The Place of Race in Environmental Imaginaries and Histories

    Alex A. Moulton


    Chapter Seventeen – Embodying Nature: De-centering and re-centering bodies as socio-nature

    Nari Senanayake


    Chapter Eighteen – Unruly Nature: Non-human intractability and multispecies endurance

    Rosemary Collard


    Gregory L. Simon is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver. He has held positions at ETH Zurich, Stanford University, University of Colorado Boulder, and UCLA. His research examines the development and governance of social-environmental risks and vulnerabilities.

    Kelly Kay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her PhD from Clark University and has held academic appointments at UC Berkeley and The London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research is concerned with the political economy of the environment.

    Bold. Rich. Capacious. These are just a few words that capture the essence of this carefully curated collection of essays, each chapter masterfully highlighting the diversity of methodological, theoretical, and onto-epistemic approaches that have come to define the field of political ecology. The volume is bold in its celebration of the field’s diversity – exercising a kind of disciplinary disobedience in its refusal of narrating a singular origin story for political ecology and instead embracing the field’s diverse, evolving, and cross-cutting nature. Rich in its attentiveness to the field’s longstanding yet evolving concern with critical and engaged scholarship, while highlighting the wide range of critical methodological and theoretical interventions already being utilized by political ecology scholars to re-imagine and counter hegemonic practices of environmental governance and extraction. Capacious in the way it challenges us to continue pushing the disciplinary boundaries of political ecology scholarship and confronting the field’s traditional blind spots to generate new theories, histories, and genealogies of human-environment relations. “Doing Political Ecology” is an onto-epistemic tour de force and brilliant stock-take of the field, offering readers a fresh and innovative take on what it means to ‘do’ critical and engaged nature-society research in an increasingly changing and complex world.

    Kevon Rhiney, Associate Professor of Geography, Rutgers University

    This superb collection demonstrates the intellectual breadth and explanatory power of Political Ecology today.  The authors, a dream team of nature/society scholarship, walk us through the many facets of critical, transformative environmental research.

    Rebecca Lave, Associate Dean for Social and Historical Sciences and President of the American Association of Geographers, Indiana University Bloomington

    This brilliant volume, edited by two of the leading political ecologists of the 21st century and with contributions from dozens of exciting scholars in the field, provides a lucid, accessible, and actionable introduction and guide to a political ecology that is intellectually and empirically wider, deeper, and more diverse than ever before. By embracing the field’s rich heterogeneity, the editors have produced, perhaps counterintuitively, the clearest and most coherent overview to date of not just what political ecology is, but of how it can be used by those who seek to understand and change the world. It is required reading and an essential resource for researchers, students, and practitioners in this domain.

    James McCarthy, Leo L. and Joan Kraft Laskoff Professor of Economics, Technology and Environment, Clark University

    A tremendous introduction (or reintroduction) to the insights, interpretive lenses and approaches, and shared critical, justice-minded ethos that have drawn so many to political ecology. Lucky newcomers and current practitioners alike will find guides and inspirations here, as the collection’s diverse pool of authors welcomes readers along an engaging exploration of longstanding currents and new wellsprings in a rich, growing field. A timely exhortation to all that doing the collective work of political ecology matters now more than ever, and that embracing the field’s ongoing pluralization is crucial to its intellectual abundance, effective alliances, and hopeful future-making for an environmentally changed world.

    Sarah Knuth, Associate Professor of Geography, Durham University UK

    The origins of political ecology are diverse, multi-disciplinary and transnational, and its conceptual and methodological toolkit is wide-ranging and heterogenous resembling something like a big tent.  In their outstanding collection of nineteen rich chapters drawing on scholars located across North America, Europe, Oceania, Africa, and Latin America, Gregory Simon and Kelly Kay’s Doing Political Ecology offers a comprehensive and innovative census of the tent’s occupants. In seeing the field as a rich lattice-work of approaches, the book brilliantly illuminates not simply its breadth, scope and sophistication but how differing lineages offer up powerful and varied ways of ‘doing political ecology’ as a form or critical knowledge production and practice.  A book to think with and to savor.

    Michael Watts, Class of ‘63 Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley and Long Term Fellow Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala

    Doing Political Ecology is a timely and indispensable volume for scholars, students, and practitioners conducting critical environmental research in the twenty-first century. Its great strength is the inclusion of contributors whose diverse voices and methods are enlivening a new wave of scholarship. This outstanding edited collection offers a provocative encounter with the methodological, theoretical, and ontological approaches that are energizing political ecology as a field of inquiry and practice.

    Judith Carney, Distinguished Research Professor of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles

    While much has been written about what political ecology is, this volume explores what it means to do political ecology. Each chapter charts a unique story about the relationship between political ecology as a unifying field and the specific lenses that inspire individual political ecologists. Written by some of the subfield’s brightest new stars, this volume is both global in scope and grounded in compelling case studies. It showcases political ecology in all its manifold glory: a field where many concepts, methods, and outputs are welcome. This should be required reading for new political ecologists as well as those looking for fresh and inspiring new perspectives.

    Andrea Marston, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Rutgers University

    An inspiring collection of work by the leading lights and rising stars of political ecology, and a celebration of its continuing refusal of confinement within method or discipline.  Political ecology continues to develop as a complex harmony of voices, and remains a pluripotent lens, instinct, approach, and strategy for understanding the mutual constitution of environment and society.  Together, these authors weave a framework for research and action that is both generous and durable.

    Morgan Robertson, Professor of Geography, University of Wisconsin – Madison

    Political ecologists are doing innovative theorizations and praxis, drawn from diverse lineages of analyzing nature-society relations, ones that help address many complex global environmental problems globally. This book showcases this field of scholarship brilliantly by bringing together an impressive array of authors and ideas. Doing Political Ecology offers critical, emergent, and insightful arguments that are essential readings for political ecologists and interdisciplinary scholars and students interested in environmental politics and resource governance.

    Farhana Sultana, Professor of Geography and the Environment, Syracuse University

    In Doing Political Ecology, Kay and Simon have assembled a cast of luminaries in the field who together offer a novel and refreshing addition to recent edited collections on the subject with its innovative approach that political ecology is something that scholars do. Throughout its nineteen chapters, authors engage new pressing debates (data science), while also offering innovative takes on traditional concerns (epistemologies of knowing nature). Together the chapters in this edited book offer a timely and fresh contribution to the field of PE that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a must read and is eminently teachable.

    Trevor Birkenholtz, Professor of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University

    With a focus on doing political ecology, this book breaks into the ‘black box’: It is an open invitation to consider political ecology’s multiple roots, frameworks, and praxis. An important guide for both old and newcomers to the field.

    Diana Ojeda, Professor of Geography, Indiana University Bloomington

    The volume presents a diverse set of accounts, critiques, and authors, and it does so astutely. It is sensitive to the shifts in political ecology of the last decade and it honors the nexus of ‘new bodies’ of thought that have rightfully critiqued and now been assumed or subsumed into political ecology practice, such as the insights from Black Geographies, settler colonial studies, and racial capitalism.

    Eric Perramond, Professor of Environmental Science and Southwest Studies, Colorado College

    Doing Political Ecology offers well-curated, highly readable, and theoretically rich chapters on the stuff that’s animating US-based political ecologists today—from the ways that nature is monetized, enumerated, and narrated to the place of race and bodies in political-ecological struggle. This is a vital, go-to resource for graduate students and others intrigued by the frameworks, methods, and insights that political ecologists contribute to how we understand the world.

    Kendra McSweeney, Professor of Geography, The Ohio State University

    By uniting a host of global voices, contexts and concerns into a single, fresh, and accessible resource, Doing Political Ecology offers something new. This spirited collection demonstrates the urgency of critical environmental scholarship for addressing the world’s most urgent challenges - climate change, biodiversity collapse, and rampant environmental injustice - and compels students and readers to imagine and visualize ways they can intervene themselves. 

    Paul Robbins, Dean of the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin - Madison

    Reflecting emergent and established voices, and covering both foundational debates and new perspectives, Kay and Simon’s book captures the historical development and current state of PE, while offering insights that researchers can operationalize for years to come. The contributing authors, approaches, and topics reflected in the book are testimony to the commitment of Kay and Simon – and the field of PE – to maintaining space for multiple ways of doing, being, and knowing. The book platforms a wide series of ‘lenses’ or ‘frameworks’ – including feminist political ecology, Science and Technology Studies, political economies of nature, social constructivist approaches, and critical physical geography – while privileging none. In capturing this multiplicity and the diverse ways that researchers approach the field, the book provides particularly useful guidance for early career researchers cementing their own methodology, epistemology, and ontology position.

    Emma Colven, Lecturer in Risk, Environment and Society, Geography Department, King’s College London UK

    This book offers an exquisite collection of chapters that explore how nature is political, what environmental politics is all about, and the lineages of power through which nature is or ought to be politicized. For those who believe nature is inherently political, this book will surely offer key new insights and perspectives.

    Erik Swyngedouw, Professor of Geography, The University of Manchester, UK

    Doing Political Ecology is an excellent interdisciplinary collection that entangles the multiple ways critical scholars engage Nature. This text, and its “rockstar” combination of both established and emerging scholars, offers incisive thinking and salient policy insights that demonstrate the maturity of a subfield that is sure to attract a new generation of political ecologists just at a time when our planet needs them most!

    Sharlene Mollett, Distinguished Professor of Feminist Cultural Geography, Nature and Society, University of Toronto Scarborough