exercises for political ecology imaginaries

a redwing blackbird sits on a world composed of a Central Illinois Watershed


an experiential curriculum

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These virtual cards accompany the booklet, Field Guide 05: After Extraction: A Partial Political Ecology of Central Illinois (by Ryan Griffis), one in a series of “Field Guides to the Anthropocene Drift.” (download or view a PDF of the booklet) That booklet is a narrative guide to lands known as Central Illinois—specifically a region that some call the “Illinois Headwaters.” It is a combination of historical and contemporary observations of geological, social, and political forces that have shaped those lands and the lives that exist upon them. It attempts to be a creative application of political ecology, a field of study that views environmental and ecological concerns as inherently political, subject to political, social, and economic forces.

While the cards are meant to accompany that book, with its specific geographic focus, they are designed to be utilized more broadly within the lands occupied by the United States. They can be used as a kind of tool for learning about the lands where you are, but they offer only humble experiments in perception, questions, and prompts, instead of answers. As geographer Don Mitchell has said, “Landscape is important because it really is everything we see when we go outside. But it is also everything we do not see. …it is only by examining the landscape in its material form… and only by analyzing the social relations that go into its making, that we can begin to really learn (and learn from) what we are looking at.” *

A notebook or other simple place to write and draw responses to the exercises that follow will come in handy, but are not necessary.
- Ryan Griffis

* “New Axioms for Reading the Landscape: Paying Attention to Political Economy and Social Justice,” Don Mitchell. (from Political Economies of Landscape Change, Springer 2008.)