So much of what we know of clean water, clean air, and now a stable climate rests on how fossil fuels first disrupted them. Negative Ecologies is a bold reappraisal of the outsized role fossil fuels have played in making the environment visible, factual, and politically operable in North America. Following stories of hydrocarbon harm that lay the groundwork for environmental science and policy, this book brings into clear focus the dialectic between the negative ecologies of fossil fuels and the ongoing discovery of the environment. Exploring iconic sites of the oil economy, ranging from leaky Caribbean refineries to deepwater oil spills, from the petrochemical fallout of plastics manufacturing to the extractive frontiers of Canada, Negative Ecologies documents the upheavals, injuries, and disasters that have long accompanied fossil fuels and the manner in which our solutions have often been less about confronting the cause than managing the effects. This history of our present promises to re-situate scholarly understandings of fossil fuels and renovate environmental critique today. David Bond challenges us to consider what forms of critical engagement may now be needed to both confront the deleterious properties of fossil fuels and envision ways of living beyond them.
David Bond teaches anthropology and environment at Bennington College, where he also helps direct the Center for Advancement of Public Action (CAPA).
"This riveting history of the present explores petrochemical capitalism's ongoing assault on planetary conditions. Showing how environmental thresholds and assessments have been organized not as protections against but as authorizations for pollution, this book unpacks with passion and precision the amplifying force of industrial toxicity. An essential book for our times."
– Joseph Masco, author of The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making
"Negative Ecologies is a bold and brilliant exemplar of what a critical adisciplinary scholarship needs today. One wants to underline every sentence, to asterisk every page. I can think of no ethnographic work, no social inquiry that forecasts with such power and purpose the subversive work demanded of those with the resources to confront and document how the embrace of fossil fuels is decimating the US and the world."
– Ann Laura Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies, The New School for Social Research
"David Bond has a different sort of oil story to tell. Wide-ranging and multifaceted, Negative Ecologies inventories the enormity of oil's catastrophic impact on planetary life. Bond shows how oil spills and petro-disasters are generative, the means by which the environment is known, governed, and normalized through toxicity thresholds and environmental impact assessments that narrow what constitutes evidence, interpretation, and regulation. Bond brilliantly reveals how oil's negative ecologies produce new landscapes of vulnerability, new mappings of the mediums of harm, and new responsibilities."
– Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
"This book challenges us to think in new, powerful ways about the origins of the environment as a category of knowledge, the production of knowledge, and the predicament of human dependence on fossil fuels."
– Kathryn Morse, author of The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush
"Read this! It calls us back to fundamental questions about how the environment has been conceptualized, pointing to the risks of thinking in established terms. Thinking with Bond in terms of negative ecologies is a powerful alternative."
– Kim Fortun, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine