Jeremy Walker is Senior Lecturer in Environment, Culture and Society in the Social and Political Sciences Program of the School of Communications. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales, a BA Communications (Social Inquiry, Honours with University Medal) from UTS, and a PhD (History and Philosophy of Science) from UTS. Prior to his appointment at UTS he taught at the Dept. of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.
Jeremy Walker is a core research member of the Climate Justice Research Institute (UTS). He is a member of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG), the Australasian Association for History, Philosophy & Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS), and Koori Country Firesticks Aboriginal Corporation (KCFSAC). He was Visiting Scholar at the Alexander Koyre Centre for the History of Sciences and Techniques (CNRS, Paris) in 2011, and at the Centre for Evolutionary and Functional Ecology (CNRS, Montpellier) in 2012.
Can supervise: YES
Jeremy Walker's research interest lies in the history of intellectual and technological interactions between the natural sciences (ecology, thermodynamics, systems theory, geology) and the human sciences (economics, political theory, law), and the consequences of these histories for contemporary policy challenges involving just transitions to renewable energy and bio-based production processess, and the preservation of ecosystems threatened by planetary heating.
Current interests are the legal geography of fossil fuel extraction, the history of neoliberalism, the renaissance of Indigenous techniques of fire and biodiversity management; the role of microbiology in the anticipation of global change and in post-hydrobcarbon industrial transformation; and the history of artificial biospheres, from 19th Century greenhouses to the microbial life-support systems needed for long-term human space habitation.
Jeremy Walker has contributed to curriculum development at UTS in the areas of international political economy, the history and philosophy of science and technology, climate policy and environmental humanities. He has served as disicpline co-ordinator for the Social and Political Sciences program, Honours co-ordinator and is currently the Indigenous Student's Liaison Officer for the School of Communication.
Walker, J 2020, More heat than life: the tangled roots of ecology, energy and economics,, Palgrave Macmillian, SIngapore.
This book traces the interacting histories of the disciplines of ecology and economics: from their common origin in the ancient Greek concept of oikonomia, through their distinct encounters with energy physics, to the current obstruction of neoliberal economics to responses to the ecological and climate crisis of the so-called Anthropocene. Reconstructing their constitution as separate sciences in the era of fossil-fuelled industrial capitalism, the book offers an explanation of how the ecological sciences have moved from a position of critical collision with mainstream economics in the 1970s, to one of collusion with the project of permanent free-market growth, in and through the thermal crisis of the biosphere.
Walker, JR & Johnson, M 2018, 'On mineral sovereignty: towards a political theory of geological power', Energy Research and Social Science, vol. 45, pp. 46-66.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The Anthropocene thesis invokes the ‘enormous geological power’ of industrialism: driven by hydrocarbon combustion, manifest in planetary heating. Yet political theory has proceeded as if the organisation of geological power were incidental to history. Geological agency, we submit, is precisely what mining industries are organised to achieve, materially and politically. We propose mineral sovereignty as a term of method to analyse geological power in its legible, institutional and intentional forms. We deploy it to excavate an entwined genealogy of state and corporation: one evident in the constitutional (or extra-parliamentary) technologies of sovereignty and property that order the appropriation and distribution of mineral wealth. Through three provocations, we ‘stratify’ the concept of sovereignty: in the ‘royal metals’ of early modern states; in the rise of neoliberalism as a re-privatisation of mineral-energy infrastructures against the claims of social democracy; and in anticipatory extensions of mineral sovereignty to outer space. Mineral sovereignty discloses methodological problems for energy and climate policy. Pre-analytical distinctions between public law and the private power of fossil capital imply a hierarchy and separation that cannot be presumed, but must be achieved. We must ‘leave it in the ground’: this requires the re-assertion of democratic control over the mineral estate.
Granjou, C, Walker, J & Salazar, JF 2017, 'Guest editorial to the special issue ‘Politics of anticipation: on knowing and governing environmental futures’', Futures, no. 92, pp. 1-4.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
MELiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) is a long-term technology program of the European Space Agency. Its aim is to construct autonomous habitats in deep space, supplying astronauts with fresh air, water and food through continuous microbial recycling of human wastes. This article considers how anticipated futures of space travel and environmental survival are materialized in the project to engineer the minimal biosphere capable of reliably sustaining human life: a human/microbe association with the fewest possible species. We locate MELiSSA within a history of bio-infrastructures associated with colonisation projects: refugia in which organisms dislocated from their originary habitats are preserved. Analysis of MELiSSA’s sewage-composting technology suggests that the disordering complexity of human waste presents a formidable “bottle-neck” for the construction of the minimal biosphere, in turn suggesting our dependence on microbial communities (soil, the human gut) of potentially irreducible biocomplexity. MELiSSA researchers think of themselves as pragmatic enablers of space exploration, yet a wider family of space colonisation projects are now imagined in terms of the prospect that the Earth might cease to function as the minimal biosphere capable of supporting civilisation. MELiSSA’s politics of anticipation are paradoxical, promising technologies with which to escape from the Earth and through which it may be sustained.
An experiment with lettuces was underway when we visited
the pilot plant of the MELiSSA Project located within the
Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental
Engineering at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The pilot
plant itself, although modelled on natural aquatic ecosystems such
as ponds and lakes, appeared rather like a highly sophisticated,
sterile tangle of machinery. The lettuces, their roots sunk in a
hydroponic system circulating nutrient-enriched water, were
positioned on a conveyor belt that slowly ferried them towards
the end of the growth chamber as they matured. Stainless-steel
tanks were connected by various tubes and pipes, their vital flows
carefully monitored and reconditioned by computer. Although
the lettuces were otherwise indistinguishable from gardenvariety
salad greens, we knew these were no ordinary plants; their
purpose was to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and food. Their
germination was staggered sequentially, their growth meticulously
managed to help stabilise oxygen levels within the chamber
and allow for harvesting over time. In another sealed chamber,
photosynthesising algae converted light, water and carbon dioxide
into oxygen and edible biomass (‘spirulina’). These were part of a
complicated bioengineering project that could provide incredible
outcomes for both space travel and waste management.
In this article we describe how the historical emergence and rise of future studies, since the founding issue of Futures in 1968, has been intricately connected to the emergence and development of environmental anticipation as discourse and practice. We trace a dialectical and inter-twined relationship between technologies of environmental anticipation and forecasting, and technologies of anti-environmentalist anticipation and counter-intervention, one which we argue shapes not only the contemporary politics of anticipation, but in a very material sense, the future conditions of biological and social life on Earth. In so doing we want to address the possible contributions that the field of futures studies can make to to reimagining collective agency and ways of being on Earth, whilst reflecting critically upon its genealogical relations to the political reason and strategic horizons of powerful fossil fuel interests, from the crisis of the 1970s to the present. The article also introduces this special issue of Futures on “The Politics of Environmental Anticipation” with the aim to bring to the fore the role that social scientists play in environmental anticipation – ie. drawing attention to the fact that the future could always have been otherwise. As a whole, this stimulating collection of eight original articles provides a critical assessment of a range of sites where varied and conflicting politics of environmental anticipation are constituted and resisted.
Ecotrons are large instruments designed to produce experimentally valid knowledge through the controlled manipulation of enclosed, simplifed ecosystems. Situating the ecotrons within a select genealogy of artificial biospheres, and drawing on interviews with key researchers engaged in the conception and recent construction of two ecotrons in France, we propose to think through ecotrons as promissory and anticipatory infrastructures that materialize a profound reconfiguration of ecologists’ roles within wider civilizational narratives. Ecotrons encapsulate ecologists’ ambitions to practice a ‘hard’ science, recognized by international environmental and science policy forums: they were integral to rise of the sub-discipline of functional ecology which underpins the policy discourse of ‘ecosystem services’. Combining patterns of controlled experimentation with live simulations of future environmental conditions anticipated in climate change scenarios, and thus materialise a reorientation of the vocation of ecology: to secure the resilience of those ‘ecosystem services’ deemed critical to social life. Originally tasked with assessing the effects of biodiversity loss on to the productivity and stability of the biosphere, ecotron research is increasingly focused on artificial microbial ecosystems, and takes place within a terminology resolutely optimistic about the possibilities of micro-ecological engineering, to the exclusion of earlier concerns with mass extinction.
We live in a winter of disconnect. As the permafrost melts and global warming accelerates, bringing us to the cusp of catastrophic environmental changes, governments and corporations continue their campaign of denial. Many of us are caught up in the public theatre of climate policy, confounded that something so transparently illogical as outright science denial has been so effective. Why has the Left, which has always regarded itself as having science on its side, been so paralysed by climate policy? Geoengineering is a portmanteau term covering a range of intentional large-scale manipulations of the Earths climate.. Like most neoliberal prescriptions, the most important aspect of this tortured marriage of science and corporate commodification is that it doesnt work. Geoengineering presumes corporations can take unilateral actions violating international treaties and not have to own the consequences. It doesnt resolve the root problem increasing CO2 concentrations and it will not stop ocean acidification, itself so dire that some scientists have called for a suite of novel `ocean engineering techniques to prevent the collapse of coral reefs.
Walker, JR 2013, 'Worlds to endure: weathering disorder from Arnhem Land to Chicago', Global Networks a Journal of Transnational Affairs, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 391-409.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
In this article I consider the cosmopolitical enfolding of Western and indigenous ontologies of order and disorder implicit in the production of a `carbon offset by the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project. The resumption in Arnhem Land of broad-scale land management by indigenous fire ecologists and its reframing as `carbon farming is contextualized within an historical analysis of the distinctions made between `magical thinking and `rational notions of agency, causality and cosmic order. I move from the account of Australian totemism in classical anthropology, through cold war climatology, to the theories of rational expectations that support contemporary carbon trading. Examining the entangling of Aboriginal and late-modern pyrotechnical orders, I contrast ubietous (place-oriented) ontologies of land, law and cosmic order with their Western counterparts in sovereignty, land law and finance theory. Arguing that the elder Australians possessed a philosophically coherent political economy grounded in detailed earth sciences and topological networks of economic practices, I reverse the anthropological mirror back upon the economic doctrines of the neoliberal era, which advocate the reimposition of order on the wild climate by means of a comprehensive financialization.
Plant, R, Walker, JR, Rayburg, SC, Gothe, J & Leung, T 2012, 'The wild life of pesticides: Urban agriculture, institutional responsibility, and the future of biodiversity in Sydney's Hawkesbury-Nepean River', Australian Geographer, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 75-91.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Agricultural chemicals are a notoriously intractable source of environmental pollution. Offering enhanced agricultural productivity, they simultaneously risk degrading the ecological basis upon which agriculture depends. This paper considers chemicalisation as a cause of the erosion of aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, focusing on the Hawkesbury-Nepean River and the small-scale horticulturalists who supply the city's fresh vegetable markets, working under the pressure of urbanisation, retail monopolies, indifferent land-use planning, and often without access to information about pesticide use in the languages they understand. Arguing that standard practices of `risk management are unable to adequately control chemical contamination, the paper presents findings from interviews with actors within the `assemblage of institutions with responsibility for agriculture, water quality, and environmental protection, in order to assess the effectiveness of pesticide governance in the Greater Sydney Basin. It appears that pesticide pollution is far from being tamed: it is rarely measured nor monitored, neither is it a priority of any particular agency. Arguing that public health, the long-term viability of local farming and the ecological well-being of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River are mutually consistent goals, we conclude that these vital elements of the common-weal are currently subject to a system of `organised irresponsibility. The paper concludes by proposing several ways forward
Walker, JR & Cooper, M 2011, 'Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation', Security Dialogue, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 143-160.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The concept of 'resilience' was first adopted within systems ecology in the 1970s, where it marked a move away from the homeostasis of Cold War resource management toward the far-from-equilibrium models of second-order cybernetics or complex systems theory. Resilience as an operational strategy of risk management has more recently been taken up in financial, urban and environmental security discourses, where it reflects a general consensus about the necessity of adaptation through endogenous crisis. The generalization of complex systems theory as a methodology of power has ambivalent sources. While the redefinition of the concept can be directly traced to the work of the ecologist Crawford S. Holling,the deployment of complex systems theory is perfectly in accord with the later philosophy of the Austrian neoliberal Friedrich Hayek. This ambivalence is reflected in the trajectory of complex systems theory itself,from critique to methodology of power.
Walker, JR 2020, 'Between fire and law: What might economists learn from Aboriginal pyrotechnicians about managing the estate?' in Marshall, J & Cubitt, R (eds), Technological and environmental ecologies: Complexity, ethical dynamics and disorder, Berghahn Books., New York.
Walker, JR 2016, 'Bringing Liquidity to Life: Markets for Ecosystem Services and the New Political Economy of Extinction' in Kohli, K & Menon, M (eds), Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis, SAGE Publications Ltd, New Dehli, pp. 5-37.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This chapter attempts to situate the rise of market-based conservation policy, and its associated theoretical and policy frameworks such The Economics of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services within a wider history of what might be termed financialisation. Outlining a new chapter in the long history of ontological adjustment of ecological science to dominant accounts of political economy, this chapter explores the emergence of a novel political economy of extinction. This can be analysed in the transformations of theory: the reframing of the sixth extinction crisis within the neoliberal idiom of ‘natural capital’ and ‘ecosystem services’ reflects a history of the reprocessing of political and scientific ecological discourse in order to better accommodate it to reigning economic doctrines. TEEB and other articulations of market-based conservation do little to question the dominant economic theory that has licensed the financialisation of social, political and economic life and led to our current global economic crisis. As a species of power, it can also be analysed in the social connections of the corporate boardroom: where the professional authority, executive expertise, epistemic frameworks and political projects of senior conservation ecologists increasingly converge with those of the worlds most powerful bankers.
Gothe, J, Leung, T, Lim, RP, Phyu, YL, Plant, R & Walker, JR 2011, 'Advocating for Biodiversity in the Hawkesbury Nepean River: critical research practices of visual communication design', Geography on the Edge, Institute of Australian Geographers, University of Wollongong, pp. 1-47.
Plant, R, Walker, JR, Rayburg, SC, Gothe, J, Leung, TM, Phyu, YL & Lim, RP 2011, 'The 'Social Life of Pesticides': How organised irresponsibility in the Greater Sydney Basin threatens the biodiversity of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River', Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) Conference Wollongong 2011, Wollongong, NSW.
Walker, JR, 'Biennale of Sydney (2008) "Revolutions: Forms that Turn"', Cockatoo Island.
"WeatherGroup_U" (art documentary video installation)
Walker, JR & Granjou, C 2018, 'MELiSSA la biosphère minimale : composter dans l’espace', Humanités Spatiales.