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Risk landscapes: a new nature requiring a new expertise

Thu, August 30, 11:00am to 12:30pm, ICC, E5.3


This paper examines how environmental governance in Victoria, Australia has shifted from managing natural resources to managing risk. Natural resource management (NRM) regions have been developed over the past 20 years. The establishment of NRM as an administrative order fostered new measurement techniques, knowledge practices and expertise that were led primarily along disciplinary lines. Recently, a new administrative order has been established that reconfigures NRM regions into risk landscapes. In this new regime predictive, probabilistic simulation technologies are used to reconceive the landscape and to effect interventions in nature.

The production of risk landscapes involves the intricate layering of maps (e.g. key infrastructure assets, private property, ignition threat, tree cover) in order to pinpoint sensitive areas and trigger points that are to be addressed through environmental resource and financial management decisions. Paradoxically, by making risk mitigation the focus of environmental management disciplinary expertise becomes secondary; it becomes a question of asset management and stocktaking. We argue that in this new regime scientific expertise actually neutralizes itself in turn opening up a space that requires a new politics and a new form of critique.