TERRAFORMING IN THE EASTERN FOREST: Spatial Practices for and against Planetary Regeneration

Klosterwill, Kevan, Constructed Environment - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Wilson, Barbara, AR-Planning Dept, University of Virginia

Geoengineering has been put forward as a necessary and inevitable response to climate change; however, many critics have argued that this proposal for planetary action is merely an extension of the same logics of modernity and capitalism that have produced the climate crisis in the first place. This dissertation identifies an alternative approach to climate manipulation, dubbed planetary gardening — encompassing practices such as regenerative agriculture, permaculture, afforestation and other acts of multispecies care with carbon sequestration benefits — which arise from or are compatible with counter-modern and relational philosophies. Collectively, these modern and counter-modern practices compose a broader, contested field of terraforming activities at work in shaping the planetary landscape. The relational philosophical tradition extends from the Romantic era forward to pragmatism and contemporary STS and multispecies discourses and is allied with tactics of knowing such as nature writing and nature connection, which aid in cultivating a relational sensibility. This project proposes that these philosophical premises and knowledge-generating tactics can aid in identifying, appreciating, and synthesizing regenerative and other carbon sequestration efforts into a more substantial agenda for alternative climate action. Central to this alternative approach is a shift away from a reductionist global perspective as the primary venue for climate knowledge and toward an embrace of more localized perspectives that can narrate situated metabolisms, affective relations, and capabilities for action among a range of actors. The radically qualitative modes of knowing offered by environmental writers provide a prime tool for uncovering these possibilities. To draw these various threads together and emphasize their material consequences, the concept of spatial practice is employed to describe as the ways a particular cultural or (sub)cultural form of life imagines and acts in the world. In the case of dominant forms of modernity, their spatial practices are fractured and specialized into specialized subcultures, a fracturing that contributes to the current planetary crises. Meanwhile, the counter-modern spatial practices synthesized here tend toward a greater accessibility and generality useful for producing metabolically sound ways of life from a carbon perspective. Further, their heterogeneity is useful for imagining an adaptive and pluralistic "ecology" of practices tuned toward local environmental and cultural contexts but with a greater potential for carbon balance. To explore the links between the local and planetary that this investigation posits are central to more efficacious climate action, the dissertation focuses on the deciduous forest in the Eastern United States, a region that facilitates deep reading of intersecting landscape conditions and practices, and speculative imagining of what more comprehensive application of regenerative multispecies spatial practices might afford environmentally and culturally. Case studies of several of these multispecies practices applicable to the landscape of Virginia, are developed through analysis of interviews with farmers, foresters, conservationists, and community members.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Climate Change, Multispecies, Relational Ontology, Landscape, Permaculture, Geoengineering
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