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Thursday, May 11, 2023
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Towards an Alternative Planetary Petrochemical Politics
The global petrochemical industry is under intensifying pressure to transform, as a major polluter at the nexus of the plastics, climate, and toxic pollution crises. This talk reflects on findings from an in-depth, multi-site sociological study of the petrochemical industry, with research spanning high-level industry meetings, petrochemical plant tours, and polluted fenceline communities in the US, China, and Europe. Drawing inspiration from debates on critical environmental justice, Gramscian political economy, just transitions, and degrowth, it will explore “multiscalar activism,” an emerging form of collective resistance that makes connections between social and environmental justice issues across diverse movements, sites, and scales of political struggle. Multiscalar activism against the hegemonic power of the global oil, petrochemical, and plastics complex has the capacity to raise the public visibility of local campaigns, but it can also pose political risks of state repression and enduring toxic injustice. Will escalating resistance ever be sufficient to halt the course of damaging petrochemical proliferation? To address this question, this talk will outline some possible critical interventions towards an alternative planetary petrochemical politics.