The theme of this international conference is Anthopocene, Global Environmental Change and Powerful Geography. The term ‘Anthropocene’ was proposed by Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to define a new geological age marked by the predominance of human impacts on Earth’s geo-ecology. Paul Crutzen explains that the starting point of the Anthropocene coincided with James Watt’s invention of the steam engine in 1784. This was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe which was then followed in North America. They use petroleum and coal to power factories and facilitate people’s lifestyles. The use of this technology has accelerated the conversion of land in colonial countries in the South (Africa, Asia and Latin America) for plantations. In addition, the opening of mining areas for industrial raw materials for Northern countries (Western Europe and North America).
The Industrial Revolution marked the beginning of the Anthropocene period. This cannot be separated from industrial capitalism which massively exploits fossil fuels and political violence to open up new lands and extract natural resources for production. “The Anthropocene is a lighthearted story, because the concept does not further question the phenomena of social inequality, alienation, and violence that have permeated the economy and power,” writes Jason W. Moore in Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism (2016). Jason Moore, a sociologist and geographer at Binghamton University, proposed the Capitalocene concept that takes into account the history of capitalist production and accumulation activity around the world. By drawing a positive relationship between political economy and the destruction of nature, the implication is that the risk of mass extinction becomes a political issue from the start.
Moore calls climate change caused by the Capitalocene (Capital Age) by drawing on the starting point in 1492 when Christopher Columbus set foot on the American continent. The steps taken by Columbus were followed by other Europeans by sailing to Africa and Asia. They looked for spices, gold and other produce. Moore calls it Cheap Nature (cheaper natural sources). These practices of exploitation of nature and colonialism were carried out with violence and slavery by Europeans against indigenous peoples in America, Asia and Africa. The question is, Have these practices changed completely today? Unfortunately the answer has not completely changed.
According to Tania Li, “Contemporary plantation expansion is no less important and of an unprecedented scale. Since 2000 plantation-based sugar production has grown rapidly in Brazil; and in Indonesia and Malaysia millions of hectares of mixed forest and agricultural land have been cleared by plantation companies to grow oil palm.” Crude palm oil, a commodity produced by these plantations, is a key ingredient in the mass production of fast food, detergents, cosmetics, and cooking oils and biofuels. Half of the products in European-American supermarkets contain palm oil, and that makes these products less expensive. Indonesia produces 50 percent of the world’s supply of palm oil, and most of it—about 60 percent—is exported to India, which is popular as an affordable cooking oil. Palm oil generates tremendous profits for plantation companies and engages some fifteen million people in “plantation life”, but in a way that is detrimental to rural spaces. Apart from land grabbing, loss of customary lands, flexible rural livelihoods, diverse ecosystems, and healthy forests for climate change mitigation.
The way we produce food and use land, travel, and use water and energy resources, combined with the world’s growing population, has seriously endangered the environmental resources on which we depend. Global environmental changes, including climate change, land and ecosystem degradation, and species and biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion, changes in hydrological processes and freshwater supplies, and pressures on food production systems significantly affect human health and well-being. In fact, evidence shows that this health impact has already occurred, such as the COVID-19 pandemic which has not completely disappeared to this day. The global loss of ecosystems and their services is one of the most pressing and challenging problems facing society in the 21st century, with broad links to poverty, natural disaster risk and disease.
Powerful knowledge refers to what knowledge can do or what intellectual power it gives to those who have access to it. Strong knowledge provides more reliable explanations and new ways of thinking about the world and acquiring it and can provide language learners to engage in political, moral, and other kinds of debate. (Young 2008, p. 14) ‘Powerful knowledge’ is powerful because it provides the best understanding of nature and the social world we have and helps us go beyond our individual experiences… (Young 2013, p. 196). Maude identifies knowledge as power if it enables young people to: 1) Find new ways of thinking, 2) better explain and understand the natural and social world, 3) think about alternative futures and what they can do to influence them, 4) have power over their own knowledge, 5) able to engage in important debates of today, and 6) go beyond the limits of their personal experience.
Huckle states that geographic knowledge is powerful when it is critical and empowering. To be critical it must reveal the structures and processes at work in the world that lead to injustice, lack of democracy, and failure to realize other forms of sustainable development. It must reveal the ideologies that cover these structures and processes and must offer social alternatives or ways to bring about justice, democracy and sustainability that can empower individuals and societies as they put theory into practice. Using a critical perspective and relational thinking, this international conference wants to dissect the relationship between the extractive industry and climate change and the worsening of natural disasters and social injustice.