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Kyle Haines

Political theory, environmental politics, political ecology, development studies, Mexico, Bolivia, the US-Mexico border region.

Dissertation Title: Putting the House in Order: The politics of ecological crisis

Description: My dissertation begins with two theoretical chapters.  The first is an extended treatment on the use and abuse of catastrophic rhetoric in green theory, tracing the emergence of global extinction fears to the dawn of the nuclear age and the critiques of technology that accompanied the new power to destroy all life.  This chapter works through the question of how to rhetorically address ecological problems through a consideration of the work of the Survivalists, Reinhold Niebuhr, Gunther Anders, and others, many of them primarily concerned with nuclear holocaust, in order to assess and critique modern examples of catastrophic rhetoric and their intended effects. 

The second theoretical chapter draws on the insights produced in the treatment of catastrophic rhetoric in order to begin critically querying the political possibilities presented in the burgeoning green literature.  Many green theorists have been clear that both socialism and capitalism as they exist are ‘industrial,’  meaning that both, with their authority predicated on continuously raising the standard of living (growth), were inadequate for addressing environmental problems collectively.  This chapter seeks out the often-dispersed and fragmentary treatments of ecological crisis across the ideological spectrum and, with a keen interest in both history and scale (temporal and geographic), begins to consider theories of nested institutions, subsidiarity, and local ecological democracy. 

The final chapter takes these more abstract theoretical and institutional challenges and places them in context through three broad case studies: first testing the claims and problems of bioregionalism in the border region of Tijuana and San Diego; second, investigating the possibilities for decentralization and decolonization in the ongoing projects for indigenous autonomy in Bolivia; and third, attempting to learn the lessons and potential promise of local systems of indigenous sovereignty in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.  Together, these efforts seek to conduct a thorough critique of modern environmental discourses, query theories of ecological political institutions, and refine theoretical insights through a rigorous engagement with specific temporal and geographic contexts, with a focus on the ‘developing’  world.

Committee: Co-Chair: Tracy Strong, Co-Chair: Harvey Goldman, Fonna Forman, Gerry Mackie, Marcel Henaff

Awards: President's Award for Outstanding Student Leadership at UC San Diego