Why not Celebrate December as Political Ecology Month

The discipline of geography celebrates geography awareness week in November, as well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) awareness day. I sort of understand geography awareness week, but why does GIS get its own day when no other subdiscipline does? Not to be outdone, I am declaring December to be political ecology month. Whether you know it or not, political ecology month has been celebrated for centuries (even though the subdiscipline is only a few decades old). Here is my evidence.

In December, we wear special apparel which has symbolic value. Such as a red (Santa) hat, which signifies political ecology’s privileging of Marxian political economy. Moseley santa 3

We have other symbols. Consider the green evergreen tree, aka Christmas tree – a potent political ecology symbol. Of course it is green, signifying the ecological aspects of political ecology. But beneath this ecological symbolism lies even deeper meaning. This tree was originally used by medieval Germans around the Winter Solstice, and festooned with candles to represent their worship of tree spirits. As such, the tree represents culture and tradition – and political ecology’s links to older cultural ecology traditions. It is a tree of many political ecology meanings.

Finally, let us consider the orgiastic frenzy of consumerism which occurs in the month of December. Again – this is a potent political ecology metaphor. As many of us with small children know, the light bulb burns brightest before it actually burns out. As such, this binge of overconsumption brings us closer to “the end of capitalism as we know it (JK Gibson- Graham 1996).” 

Finally, we tell stories (or counter- narratives) during political ecology month. As such, I have composed the following in honor of my senior seminar students this term (which may bear some resemblance to another story you know).

Twas the night before the political ecology capstone was due

‘Twas the night before the political ecology capstone was due, when all through the group house

Not a device was stirring, not even my computer mouse;

The paper was loaded into the printer with care,

In hopes that political ecology inspiration soon would be there;

The non-seminar roommates were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of a-theoretical policy prescriptions danced in their heads;

And my seminar mate with her coffee, and I with my chocolate,

Had just settled down for a long winter’s all nighter,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a burst of inspiration, and reams of lucid insight,

With a little political economy, to quicken my understanding of land degradation,

I knew in a moment it must be the saint of the field- Piers Blaikie that is.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Watts! now, Rocheleau! now, Bassett and Robbins!

On, Bryant! on Turner! on Peet and Bebbington!

To trod on hegemonic discourses! to break down the capitalist wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry ideas that before the counter-narrative fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to my computer key pad the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of ideas, and St. Blaikie too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on my desk

The prancing and pawing of each powerful insight.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down my typing finger tips St. Blaikie came with a bound.

He was dressed all in furry of ultimate causation, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with proximate ashes and soot;

A bundle of dualisms he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a interdisciplinary peddler just opening his pack.

His attention to gender — how it twinkled! his attention to class and ethnicity – how merry!

His analysis burned red, yet his detail was situated in real dirt!

His droll insights were lucid and penetrating,

And the beard of his chin was as red as Marx and Engles;

The stump of a pen he held tight in his teeth,

And his writing encircled his head like a wreath;

He gave me a broad and powerful counter-narrative which he deposited in my little round head,

I shook, and I laughed like a lucky old fool.

Now my capstone had the potential to be chubby and plump, a right jolly old paper,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all of my paper with powerful writing; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the group house chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Political Ecology Month to all, and to all a good-night.”

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