Geographies of Waste: Space, Scale and Geopolitics

Panel(s) proposal for the 2015 Canadian Association of Geographers conference: Geographic Diversity and Dialogue, Vancouver (BC), Canada, June 1 through 5th, 2015.

Panel(s) co-convenors:

  • Dr. Kate O’Neill (Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley, USA)
  • Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega (Assistant Professor, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE, Mexico)

Waste (be it in solid, liquid or airborne form) is a component of everybody’s daily life.. Anthropogenic activity necessarily generates waste in one way or another. Governing waste is a complex activity given the transnational, cross-scalar and uneven temporal dimensions of waste production, transportation, recycling and ultimately, disposal. Wastewater generated in a US chemical plant located upstream of a small village in Mexico could very well impact negatively the livelihoods of vulnerable communities downstream. International flows of electronic waste have increased in recent years, and e-waste has become a global concern for policy-makers and environmental activists. Across nations of similar states of economic development, informal recyclers (waste pickers) have very different livelihoods and behavioral patterns, and face myriad challenges of different natures.

In this panel, we seek to explore the geographies of waste locally and internationally. We seek to understand patterns of global and domestic governance of waste, broadly defined. We are open to papers that discuss the spatial patterns of e-waste trading, the transnational dimensions of solid waste management, and/or the global politics of sanitation and wastewater governance, the human and spatial dimensions of waste production, geographies of informal waste picking, etc.  Some of the papers on this panel are empirical papers that explore case studies of waste, wastewater and e-waste governance through the lenses of scale, space and politics. Others are more theoretical papers that frame a multidisciplinary conversation bridging geography, political science and international relations theories. Finally, we offer comparative and globally-focused papers that enable us to create a more generalizable understanding of the spatial dimensions of how waste is governed globally and whether we can ascertain specific policy pathways for a more sustainable society.