chapter  1
Editors’ introduction
Pages 16

Developed through academic inquiry and engaged political practice, political ecology has experienced a meteoric rise. Its growth as an academic field is perhaps most evident in Anglophone geography in North America, where political ecology constitutes one of the largest and fastest growing specialty groups of the Association of American Geographers. Growth has been both rapid and uneven, and at times contested by longer-established fields. Matching political ecology’s rise in popularity has been its diversification, such that the term is now applied to a very broad set of concerns that revolve around societies’ relationships with the nonhuman environment. Even a cursory look at journal titles and conference presentations shows that the label “political ecology” is applied to research topics as seemingly disparate as water access in India, land grabs in the Amazon, Sahelian pastoralism, lawn care in the United States, fisheries management, wetland markets, indoor air quality, AIDS, and obesity. And of course the Anglophone tradition is but one stream of political ecological thought, which has barely engaged with the Francophone, Spanish, and other literatures, particularly as developed in Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere in the global South. Political ecology also extends beyond academic enquiry to the knowledge claims and political practices advanced by people, many of them poor, who are subject to rationalities of resource management, environmental projects and/or pollution to which they do not consent. When viewed from this broad perspective, then, political ecology is a riotously diverse field, with origins and trajectories resembling more closely a tangled evolutionary lineage than a neat family tree.