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Luttes pour l’eau dans les Amériques

Chloé Nicolas-Artero
Sébastien Velut
Graciela Schneier-Madanes
et al.

I- Penser les politiques hydriques et l’écologisation depuis les Amériques

Chapter 2. Political Ecology of Water in the Americas: Justice, Power, Flows

Paul Robbins

Texte intégral


1In 2016, the American Journal of Public Health released a study of lead levels in the blood of a sample of children in the city of Flint Michigan, revealing dangerously elevated levels of lead. These children were exposed to the toxin, known to lead to learning disabilities and brain injury in small children, via the city’s own public water supply. Subsequently, all the children in Flint – some 9000 of them – were treated for exposure (Figure 1). This is a public health disaster predicated on water management errors of an enormous magnitude, and a municipal tragedy of enduring horror for the largely poor and overwhelmingly African American residents of the city and its inner wards [Hanna-Attisha et al., 2016].

Figure 1. Predicted Surface of Child Blood Lead Level and Ward-Specific Elevated Water Lead Level AGer (Post) Water Source Change From Detroit-Supplied Lake Huron Water to the Flint River: Flint, MI, 2015

Figure 1. Predicted Surface of Child Blood Lead Level and Ward-Specific Elevated Water Lead Level AGer (Post) Water Source Change From Detroit-Supplied Lake Huron Water to the Flint River: Flint, MI, 2015

Source: Hanna-Attisha et al., 2016

2It is tempting to treat this water management question as a technical problem, or perhaps a bureaucratic one. This is because the elevated lead levels were brought about by a decision to change the source of the city’s municipal Water Supply from Lake Huron and the Detroit river, to local Flint River water. That river’s water is highly corrosive and hard to treat, and so led to the leaching of lead from the iron pipes throughout the city, unleashing a torrent of toxins which entered the bodies of the most vulnerable population, poor children.

3This decision, and the subsequent slow response to remedy the situation are, narrowly speaking, a technical error. It is one, further, that might have been avoided, in theory, by better informed engineering.

4But to let the issue stand there, in technical terms, would do a great disservice to any hope of improving policies for water management. This is because the source of the problem rests in a complex interlacing of class and race issues, a political ecology of the water system, which made this horrific outcome one that is likely to be repeated again. As geographers Laura Pulido [2016] and Malini Ranganathan [2016] have convincingly argued, structural forces are at work here. Only by attending to the more far-reaching causal factors at work in the case, can we unravel the puzzle.

5Why, after all, did the city change its water supply in the first place? At the time, the city was under the control of an Emergency Fiscal Manager, an authority empowered to govern the municipality, with little oversight or control from the public and the city’s residents. Such an authority is empowered when the city is deemed, by the governor, to be in a state of fiscal crisis. According to Michigan’s Public Act 436, this falls under the authority of the governor, who at that time was venture capitalist Rick Snyder. In other words, the decision was made by a political appointee, in an undemocratic process, in a situation of fiscal desperation. In an effort to save 18 million dollars in water costs, the city was poisoned.

6Why was the city in a fiscal crisis? Certainly, the movement of capital from the city has been long and ongoing, but its segregated inner areas were created by racist city planners as far back as the 1960s. The Home Owners Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Authority also have notoriously “redlined” maps governing the availability of home loans, making African Americans ineligible for support and raising the costs of housing. This sent the city into a slow downward financial spiral.

7Why weren’t the lead pipes replaced long ago? This emptying out of the city’s tax base, as it turns out, had been further expedited by white voters who had fled to the city’s suburbs, who continuously voted to deny changes in taxation that might have served the city. The absence of those taxes made it impossible to maintain critical infrastructure, including the city’s pipes.

8Why was the Flint River so corrosive? The water quality of the Flint River had been impacted by industrial contamination for decades, making the water both corrosive and hard to treat. That degradation came throughout the 20th century, serving as a hidden natural subsidy to General Motors Corporation, whose manufacturing sites expelled industrial waste directly into the river. As a result, Lake Huron water had been used, rather than local Flint water, for decades.

9Why did the city take so long to respond? Throughout the crisis, the city refused to accept that there was something wrong with the water supply. This was even after General Motors reported the water was corroding their industrial equipment. Revealingly, midway through the crisis, General Motors was allowed to go back to less corrosive Lake Huron water, even while the city’s residents were not. The discourse that dominated official understandings insisted that the residents were merely mounting a political critique of austerity, and that they had insufficient expertise to judge water quality. This racially tinged discourse of expertise meant that a final intervention took years.

10In short, toxic exposure is rooted in corroding pipes from neglected infrastructure, resulting from an eroding tax base associated with white flight and redlining the housing market. Toxic water comes from source decisions made by autocratic authorities empowered by a financial crisis created by the same urban development policies, urged on by austerity discourse and abetted by a discourse of expertise that slowed the response (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The political ecology of the Flint water crisis

Figure 2. The political ecology of the Flint water crisis

Source: Paul Robbins, 2019

11Housing policy is water policy. Tax policy is water policy. Industrial policy is water policy. Michigan’s Public Act 436 is water policy. Political economy matters; racism matters; discourse matters. Political ecology matters.

What is Political Ecology?

12So, what is political ecology? Political ecology has myriad definitions, most of which aren’t especially useful. The best among them include a recent definition by Bridge, McCarthy, and Perreault [2015, p. 7-8], who describe it as “an environmental research field marked by a set of ‘common commitments’” to “critical social theory”, to “in-depth, direct observation involving qualitative methods”, it is also a “normative political commitment to social justice and structural political change”. Perhaps more succinctly, Piers Blaikie and Harold Brookfield [1987, p. 17] defined the field back in 1987 as combining “the concerns of ecology and a broadly defined political economy”. In the period since those words were written, it should be noted, the field has broken the bounds of Anglo-American research and became a global phenomenon, with differing schools and approaches across Europe, Asia, Africa, and throughout Latin America. Each of these regional versions of political ecology undoubtedly defines the field somewhat differently.

13In more practical terms, political ecology tends to hew to a few key approaches and addresses several core themes [Robbins, 2020]. First among these is the notion that socio-environmental outcomes and configurations do not just “happen” but are instead driven into particular configurations by key drivers and structural conditions. Chemical runoff from neatly groomed American lawns, for example, is not an act of cultural coincidence but instead the outcome of a push for new markets in a stagnant agrichemical industry [Robbins, 2007].

14Second, political ecology tends to highlight that environmental outcomes often entail winners and losers, and that the people and ecosystems that gain resources, inputs and protection, often do so at the expense of other such people and systems. The growing reach of oil-palm deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon and the boom this represents for the global industry, for example, is inevitably tied to the political economy of smallholders and their relative poverty, along with the problematic neoliberal outsourcing of basic rural public works by the state to private interests [Bennett et al., 2018].

15Third, political ecology tends to think in terms of human and non-human dialectics, meaning that both people and things are mutually transformed by their interaction. “Things” are not discreet objects, but rather they are processes, formed by relationships [Ollman, 1993]. The city of Chicago, for example, is created and constituted by the oceans of grain and meat that flow into it, even as these are materials constituted by the threshing machines, iron rails and tarmac roads that make up the city itself [Cronon, 1991].

16Fourth, political ecology tends to make specific claims about the state of nature, even while it makes… claims about claims about the state of nature. It studies material conditions of nature, in other words, but also the systems of knowledge and belief that govern how we come to know those material conditions. For example, study of Arid North Africa by political ecologist Diana Davis [2016] shows both how the region’s deserts were not man-made but instead products of climate change, even while she reveals how the reverse claim has become hegemonic in our understanding of the region – rooted as it has been in French forestry science. Both the desert and stories about the desert are the objects of concern.

17Notably too, political ecology is critically reflexive. This means that political ecologists carefully attend to their own subject positions (as researchers or activists, as those with or without white or male privilege, and so on) and the impact of those positions on their work. So too, it is explicitly normative, insofar as it operates under the assumption that there are better, more sustainable, and more just outcomes and that research that does not direct us towards those ends is problematic. Even so, political ecology asserts the need for rigorously material and empirical investigation, even if real “objectivity” is necessarily elusive [Goldman et al., 2010].

18Within those bounds, the themes of political ecology are numerous. Some work examines how the degradation of ecosystems is linked to the marginalization of people, and vice versa (the Flint water case would fall into that category). Other work stresses how conservation of the environment, ostensibly aimed at protecting the Earth, is often a form of struggle for control, of land, resources, and power. As a result, a great deal of research in the field focuses on environmental conflict, or the way conflicts between people can become conflicts over the environment, and vice versa. Another key theme is one that focuses on human identity and subject formation. In this case the work explores what kinds of people we become, owing to our interactions with the environment and the political systems we devise for its access and control. Finally, most recent political ecological research examines how non-human objects and actors can become enrolled in political struggles and how the agency of nature can have an impact on social and political outcomes.

19These themes together have proven especially productive in examining the raced, gendered, casted, colonial, and capitalized natures produced in the world, especially in access and use of water, globally [Budds & Sultana, 2013; Sultana 2018a, 2018b, 2020; Sultana & Loftus, 2015]. So, having introduced the field, in a cursory way, the remainder of this essay briefly presents four cases of the application of political ecology to water in the Americas. In each, the approach is introduced to help understand critical issues and shed light on explaining outcomes. The essay closes by considering some of the shortcomings of political ecology, or rather, pointing to where other kinds of analysis might be useful.

Water, Citizen, Colony, and Economy

20To begin, in 2001, the government of Belize turned the water utility of Belize City over to an Anglo-Dutch multinational CASCAL, effectively privatizing water and sewerage services for the entire city of 70.000 residents. This experiment failed. The case of Belize is only one of dozens of failed water privatization projects, the most famous undoubtedly being Cochabamba, Bolivia [Bakker, 2013]; but it is a telling example.

21Ostensibly, the failure was due to unjustified price increases, leading to high levels of public resistance. Even so, without an investigation of the social response to the upheaval, it is difficult to understand how and under what conditions water property transformations produce public response.

22The work of Danish Mustafa and Philip Reeder begins [2009] from this question. What led to wide-spread pushback and what does it tell us about the future of water in the Americas? To tackle this question, the two engaged in deeply immersive qualitative research, interviewing hundreds of citizens, across the social spectrum, to get a sense of what and how they felt.

23Their first finding is clear. People felt there had been little or no improvement in service and experienced higher prices. This represents a perfectly economically rational reason for calling on the government, vociferously, to end the experiment.

24But digging deeper, it is clear that ideological, affective and experiential factors played a major role. First among these was a strong sense of raiding national assets, with explicit sensitivity to the only recent history of colonization in Belize (which was decolonized only in 1981). Citizens repeatedly told Mustafa and Reeder [2009] that they grieved the government for turning over control to non-national actors and participating in a global circulation of value. It was not so much that the system operated in a market, as it was that the perceived flow of value did not return to the government, and so to the people. “The government should stop spending our [stolen] money in other countries and use it on infrastructure. Fix all the drains not only the ones on their [the politicians’] streets”; “reason was to rip off the people. They keep selling our assets. We see no advantages at all from the privatization. As a people we have access to nothing now”; “if it were left to them they would have sold us”, respondents explained.

25In short, their responses were nationalist in nature, anti-colonial in tone, and largely directed at the government, rather than the company itself. What does this tell us about the value of political ecology? For one, it points to the way that a sensitivity to colonial history and issues of state governance can help direct research attention to findings beyond rational economic responses. These responses to neoliberal globalization are founded in a specific national history and a strong distrust of the state (as opposed to the actual firm in question). This points us towards policy questions and answers, in turn. Notably, when the government bought back majority shares (83%) in the water utility, putting it largely back under state ownership, in the form of Belize Water Services, the structural and delivery model did not necessarily change much. But the political model and its optics did, a politically ecologically predictable result.

Water, Power, Expertise

26The second case focuses less on conflict over a specific resource or ecosystem, but instead on a struggle over ideas. Rebecca Lave’s innovative book, Fields and Streams [2012], describes the divisive conflict over methods used for stream restoration in the United States. Stream restoration, as a field, focuses on fixing hydrologic messes made by people in the past. Restoring destroyed streams, by applying engineering and design principles to alter hydrologic flow, is a field filled with practitioners, professionals and many scientists.

27As it happens, among the most prominent of all of these is a single practitioner with no formal degree in the field: Dave Rosgen. Rosgen is internationally famous for developing a restoration technique called “Natural Channel Design” (NCD). This approach uses rocks and woody materials to stabilize streambanks. It has been adopted by local, state, and federal water management authorities and Rosgen, as a consultant, has single-handedly trained a vast majority of professionals in the field of stream restoration in the U.S.

28The problem is that Rosgen’s approach is universally derided and despised by many scientists in the field of stream hydrology. They suggest that NCD has no scientific merit and that it is a kind of “snake oil” (meaning: fake remedy). Conflict between the formal scientific community and Rosgen has been fierce. Arguments break out at meetings; pointed critiques are written; university experts in the field are unusually emotional in their opposition. Even so, evidence that the approach does or doesn’t work is actually somewhat thin. That is, it is still unclear if the approach is more or less effective than others. It is the fact that NCD is not rooted in university science that disturbed researchers most.

29As a result, Lave asks two questions. First, how can a non-scientifically trained expert come to dominate a water management field despite the opposition of almost all university experts? Second, where does such vociferous resistance to Rosgen’s work come from, especially given the absence of empirical evidence that the approach doesn’t work.

30To answer these questions, Lave conducts an intensive ethnographic and historical analysis of the field of stream restoration. Studying the actors and the journals, and conducting oral histories with agency personnel and scientists, she painstakingly reconstructs the emergence of this relatively young field. Her results are intriguing.

31Lave concludes that the rise of restoration as a practice emerged not from the academy (and therefore not from the fields of hydrology and fluvial geomorphology) but instead from an economic need. In the 1970s, the demand for expert practitioners in this area exploded, as new regulations created a massive market. The Clean Water Act, notably, calls for stream restoration to be performed if any disturbance occurs through the process of development. This meant that thousands of projects proliferated, as companies and farmers altered streams and rivers in an expanding agricultural and industrial economy. By the 2000s, the political economy of restoration was made up of countless professional consultants, paid with a flow of capital out of economic development in riparian areas. Rosgen, coming from outside academia was able to establish his approach as the common one for most such projects, providing training to the new army of consultants, necessary for their legitimacy. His approach became the de facto one across the United States.

32Having established the field, the academic community began to follow, with increasing demand for science in this area emerging and National Science Foundation grants and other resources flowing to restoration-related sciences. Restoration science grew, a product of this same emerging economy, yet scientists themselves had been locked out of informing actual practice on the ground. Rosgen’s existence and his success challenged, in a fundamental way, scientist’s authority and power as experts. The normal process of knowledge production and dissemination had been overturned.

33Indeed, the traditional assumption that universities produce knowledge, which is then sent out to solve problems, now appears transformed, with state and market drivers pushing new applications and new knowledge and non-traditional actors creating new knowledge, even while the university continues to play a key role (Figure 3). This is a challenge to knowledge production in the era of neoliberalism.

Figure 3. “A new model for the interlinked political economy of science”

Figure 3. “A new model for the interlinked political economy of science”

Source: Lave, 2012

34Though Lave describes her work as a kind of “critical physical geography”, this is definitely also a form of political ecological explanation. Firstly, Lave effectively balances claims about nature with claims about claims about nature. Her work is filled with detailed explanations of hydrology, restoration techniques, and fluvial systems. There is a lot of science in this book. At the same time, her work focuses heavily on what competing stories professionals tell about those systems. Second, Lave tells this story always with an eye on political and economic drivers and the interests (in the state and in the market) that are implicated in the resolution of these debates: political ecology.

35How is this approach more generally useful? First, it provides us with a way to explore and explain how expertise about water changes over time and the way it is subject to forces within the larger political economy. This approach is definitely applicable to numerous areas of disagreement about water systems that are critical to policy-making. Consider uncertainties about groundwater systems, or on the overall flow and availability of water in water-scarce regions. All of these are areas of constant conflict in the Americas, and all of them depend on the legitimacy of certain kinds of knowledge systems to achieve consensus for action. How are such consensuses formed? What is the role of markets and capital in influencing the resolution of such debates? What is the role of traditional experts and from where do new experts come? These questions are critical to understanding water in the Americas and show the useful place of a political ecology approach.

Water Poverty: Race, Class, and Geography

36The third case is one that examines access to water across the United States. As researchers Shiloh Deitz and Katharine Meehan [Deitz & Meehan, 2019] remind us, household water insecurity, even in the United States of America, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, is in a state of crisis for many. As recently as 2016, at least one and a half million Americans had no connection to water systems, and no sewage connection. This number is comparable to the population of the fifth largest city in America.

37The political ecological questions is, who are these households and why are they unserved? This winner versus loser story is a stark one insofar as these citizens with no access to water live in a country whose GDP per capita is among the highest of the world (the US ranks 7th, after Qatar). To get the answer would require both rigorous quantitative and spatially explicit research, but it would also necessarily attend to questions of justice and be guided by hypotheses that begin from issues of inequity. Are minority communities differentially affected? Is it only rural areas? How are spatially-, racially-, and economically-driven outcomes intertwined?

38Deitz and Meehan’s methods are too complex to summarize here, but the general approach is to extract statistically significant spatial clusters of households without access to water and plumbing and then extract demographic values correlated or counter-correlated with these clusters of plumbing poverty. These are then used to map the probability that a certain kind of household (like a poorer household or an Hispanic one) is plumbing poor. The spatially explicit results are startling (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Correlations of class and race with plumbing poverty

Figure 4. Correlations of class and race with plumbing poverty

Source: Deitz & Meehan, 2019

39Notably, this is not a rural problem. Among households with incomplete plumbing: 73% are located in metropolitan areas, 11% are in medium-sized cities, 7% are in small towns, and just 9% are in rural areas. Moreover, only 1,5 percent of U.S. households are indigenous, but among households that are plumbing incomplete, 6,2 percent are American Indian or Native Alaskan households. Similarly, 12,8 percent of U.S. households are black, whereas 16,6 percent of households with incomplete plumbing are black. Hispanic-headed households make up 12,5 percent of all U.S. households and 16,7 percent of those with incomplete plumbing. Households with incomplete plumbing have lower incomes on average than those with complete plumbing. Although mobile homes are occupied by 5,8 percent of households, that proportion is over twice as high among households with incomplete plumbing (14,4 percent). Even so, just 14 percent of households without complete plumbing are “trailers” or mobile homes. The remaining 86 percent of homes without complete plumbing are single-unit homes or multi-family housing. Considering housing tenure and ownership, a greater proportion of the plumbing incomplete rent (51,1 percent) than the national average (36,6 percent).

40This suggests a structural problem, but one also rooted in regional and sometimes local policy and water economics. In some regions, for example, being Native American or a renter does not result in lack of access to water, but in others in strongly correlates. For example, Native Americans in the US Southwest are more likely to be plumbing poor than those elsewhere, as is the case for African Americans in the U.S. southeast (see Figure 4). Local experiences of drawing water from toxic wells or living with a non-functioning toilet are situated in regional political, economic and racialized contexts, suggesting structural habits of political economy that make degradation correlate with marginalization.

41What this suggests for the value of political ecology is twofold. First, it shows that highly normative, justice-focused, questions, rooted in critical social theory and a structural view of social-ecological process, are amenable to rigorous quantitative and spatially explicit analysis. It also suggests that the answers to such questions can pinpoint jurisdictional contexts that can animate policy, agitation, and social action. Political ecology can be useful. This certainly could be extended to other questions concerning water in the Americas.

Water, Power, Infrastructure and State

42Finally, consider the question of water scarcity and climate change, which has recently received political ecological attention, especially in the US West [Standish-Lee et al., 2006]. Throughout much of the region, and indeed the country as a whole, the central discussion of the last few decades has been consideration of dam removal. Hundreds of removal projects have been undertaken in recent years, and many more are planned. The political economy of this is clear, since capacity for new dams peaked in the late 20th century, and the prime movers behind federal dam building in the West, the Bureau of Reclamation (and the Army Corps of Engineers to a lesser degree) have been eclipsed in power by new settlers, new land and water use proponents, and new agencies.

43A recent study by Denielle Perry and Sarah Praskievicz [2017] suggests an interesting countertrend, however: a push for large-scale water storage. New projects typically do not mimic the traditional dam and more often come in the form of auxiliary infrastructural projects, such as dam augmentation and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR). Dam augmentation increases storage capacity of an existing system without expanding the footprint of the dam, which would make it run afoul of both environmental and economic, developmental, limits and restrictions. Similarly, Aquifer Storage and Recovery works to “bank” surface water during high-flow periods, typically by diverting surface flows and injecting the surplus in confined aquifers. That bank is drawn on during water deficit periods to supplement surface supplies.

44Policy-makers and water managers have pivoted towards storage in these forms as part of a new hydrological economy. The reasons for this are both obvious and subtle. As Perry and Praskievicz show, the central issue for many developed-world contexts, is the new crunch on water resources presented by climate change. The sustained drought conditions throughout the southwest and mountain west have put many existing storage facilities in a perilous position. This is coupled with the remarkable demographic growth of the most arid regions: of the 11 states with the fastest-growing populations, eight are in the arid U.S. West.

45But rather than turn to adaptation and demand-side management, the bureaucratic habits established in the dam growth era of the 20th century are grafted into a new suite of technologies: big infrastructure, large bureaucratic apparatus, capital investment, and a deferral of the challenge of managing the overuse of the existing resources. This supply-side thinking, which accompanies this push for more storage, is a product of very real challenges of climate change, but merged with the internal logics of both the state and capital. As Perry and Praskievicz [2017, p. 449] describe it, these represent “a continuation of the same high-modernist water management practices that led to large reclamation projects in the U.S”: a political ecology of water.

46This brief review of political ecology, as an approach to water in the Americas, suggests some utility. To recapitulate, it draws our attention to inequality and structural discrimination by race and class, as it does in Flint. It attends not only to the way social actors respond to things in the economy (i.e. the price of water), but also in their identity, notions of national power, and relationship to the state, as it did in Belize. Political ecology points to how knowledge of nature and social and political power are intertwined through expertise, all within a changing political economy, as it does in the case of stream restoration. It encourages us to form radical hypotheses to submit to rigorous science, as it does in the case of the plumbing poor. And it invites us to stress the logics of state in capital when explaining techno-environmental projects and solutions for confronting climate change, as it does for auxiliary infrastructural projects. There is a lot of value in the tradition.

Political Ecology Everywhere but Never Alone

47But political ecology cannot do everything. While Flint’s water is ultimately a matter of racialized political economy, it is also an engineering problem. Though Belize failure of the city in privatizing water is a result of social struggle, the utility still must deliver water, which is an economic and policy problem. Stream restoration is contested, but there are ultimately better and worse ways of managing streams, which require rigorous hydrologic research to uncover. Plumbing inequalities can be revealed, but to solve them will require a number of social and technical programs. What those programs entail may necessarily involve high modernist infrastructure, as exhibited in auxiliary infrastructural projects. In short, political ecology cannot do this all alone.

48What is required instead is a political ecological component to investigations of water in the Americas. This component needs to drive and be driven by other modes of investigation and other research traditions, however, ranging from engineering to spatial modeling. Engineers do not typically speak the language of political ecology, of course and, on occasion do not share the same epistemology or ontology with the field and its texts. This makes such engagements difficult, but all the more urgent.

49As such, it is essential to think about the role of political ecology as dialogic. Rather than thinking about political ecology as a specialized body of knowledge or a specific approach, or a kind of human specialist, it might be better to encourage that we consider it as a moment within research and practice, or a kind of critical reflection in investigation, one that operates both within broader research practice, but also outside it, at critical distance [Robbins, 2015].

50No project should be devoid in short of political ecology, and yet no project should proceed with political ecology in isolation. Knowing exactly when and how to think with political ecology is the challenge, therefore, as is making a wider audience interested in its use. But after having lived in and around this field for almost 30 years, I can assure you: it is not going away.


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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Predicted Surface of Child Blood Lead Level and Ward-Specific Elevated Water Lead Level AGer (Post) Water Source Change From Detroit-Supplied Lake Huron Water to the Flint River: Flint, MI, 2015
Crédits Source: Hanna-Attisha et al., 2016
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Figure 2. The political ecology of the Flint water crisis
Crédits Source: Paul Robbins, 2019
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Titre Figure 3. “A new model for the interlinked political economy of science”
Crédits Source: Lave, 2012
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Titre Figure 4. Correlations of class and race with plumbing poverty
Crédits Source: Deitz & Meehan, 2019
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Paul Robbins is professor and Dean of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research spans a range of topics, including the politics of natural resource management in India, mosquito management in the US Southwest, and chemical use in American households. He is the author of the foundational textbook Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction and the award-winning book — Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are.

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