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Environmental Work at a Distance: Crowd-funding ecological care?

Environmental Work at a Distance: Crowd-funding ecological care? Article Image

8. August 2023

Join us on 1 November for an inspiring public lecture and discussion with Prof. Dr. Leigh Johnson from the University of Oregon on "Environmental Work at a Distance: Crowd-funding ecological care?".

1 November, 2023
Environmental Work at a Distance: Crowd-funding ecological care?

Prof. Dr. Leigh Johnson
Prof. Dr. Leigh Johnson
Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, Geography, University of Oregon

Chaired by Karin Schwiter, Professor in Humangeography, University of Zurich

DSI Event room SOC-E-010
Rämistrasse 69, Zurich

4.00 to 5.30 pm, followed by an apéro.
The event is open to the public and free of charge. No reservation required.

Numerous initiatives for landscape restoration and adaptation to climate change envision a greener, cooler world financed through digital platform-based philanthropy. As the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) gains momentum, so too have crowdfunding platforms that allow individual donors and companies to fund restoration, adaptation, and resilience building measures – often packaged with the promise of verifying impact via digital and geospatial tools. Scholars have demonstrated how digital platforms are entwined with the growth of a precarious “gig economy” for care and service work. Relatively unconsidered, though, is how digital platforms are changing environmental labor. Platforms offer users the possibility to finance a specific number of trees planted, earthworks built, or acres of rangeland restored, often in a far-away location. Often – though not always – obscured from these transactions is who does the work, and in exchange for what. Do these platforms offer novel channels to fund those performing critical ecological care work, or exacerbate existing uneven labor relations? This talk draws on case study examples from US, Europe, Kenya, and Uzbekistan to trace relations between consumer-benefactors, funders, platform managers, and environmental work. It stresses the current diversity of restoration initiatives and socio-ecological relations advanced by crowd-funding platforms, while enumerating the risks posed by platform-financed ecological care.

Leigh Johnson is Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. Her current research focuses on the ecological labor of climate adaptation and disaster response, investigating the extent to which climate adaptation and development projects rely on un- and underpaid labor to repair socioecological systems to endure climatic changes. This includes comparative work applying labor geography perspectives to climate adaptation across multiple scales and spaces of the Global South/Majority World and North/Minority World.