Linking mobility and nature
Geographers at work: mobility and (socio)nature

Linking capitalism and nature and making places more-than-human

A number of students expressed further interest in discussing capitalism, especially in the context of nature. The following articles provide examples of different kinds of connections between capitalism and nature, and, more broadly. Feel free to comment on any or all in comments.

  • This report at High Country News is about the use and management of adjacent public and private lands in parts of the American West. What does this report suggest about how land rights are prioritized in the U.S.? Which has more protection: the right of private land owners to exclude others from their property or the rights of people at large to access public lands? Is nature more valuable here as a commodity, that is, as private property which can be used, bought, and sold for profit, or as a place for members of the public to practice recreational activities like hunting and hiking?
  • This article at the BBC is about the reintroduction of the beaver in the U.K. What role did capitalism play in the extinction of the beaver? What does the reintroduction of the beaver suggest to you about how culture can affect capitalism and about the role that natural traces can play in human culture? How does the beaver demonstrate how places are hybrid, or "composed" of both cultural and natural traces?
  • This article at Gizmodo looks at research on ants in cities. How have ants adapted to city environments? In what sense are city ants, like people, dependent on capitalism for meeting their material needs? Are these adapted ants "unnatural"? How does this research demonstrate another way of seeing places as more-than-human or as hybrids of culture and nature?
  • Finally, this article at Quartz considers the production and use of plastics by people and how that might be reflected in future fossils. What is the "Anthropocene"? How does that term reflect both the human influence in nature and also a way of seeing the world as more-than-human or as a hybrid place of culture and nature? How does the possibility of plastics becoming sedimented into the Earth's geology demonstrate that things have their own nature, independent of even the people who make them? What role has capitalism played in the making of the "Anthropocene" and the spread of plastics?


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 McKenzie Brown

I read the BBC article on the reintroduction of the beaver to the U.K. Capitalism, I believe, played a small role in the extinction of the beaver. I would argue that it was more the hunting and gathering economy that took out the beaver through hunting for its pelt and meat. Though some of it was for capitalist gain, because many trappers hunted the beaver only for the pelt to sell their product rather than to use the fur and meat for themselves.
The reintroduction of the beaver suggests that culture can affect capitalism in many ways. Culture's positive affect on capitalism is based on supply and demand and what culture can take from the natural world for exploited gain. Although, if the culture runs out of this resource, they might look to nature as a place to be protected to rebuild resources after they realize they have depleted the resource from over exploitation (as with the extinction of the beaver in the UK). The beaver happens to be a keystone species in many of its natural environments, including in the UK, which means that when the beaver thrives, so do the rest of the species in it's location. Conversely, when the beaver is suffering, so are the other species (nature, plants, animals) in its environment. So now the culture-nature relationship has shifted from exploitation to protection in order to rebuild their resources, which I would argue is a capitalist mindset of supply and demand.

Matt Herbert

McKenzie, I read the article at High Country which talks about private landowners shutting of public roads to public spaces. The article didn't mention why private land owners wanted to claim land that wasn't theirs (other than potential financial gain) but I am wondering if some private owners wanted to prevent over- exploitation for happening (similar to what happened in the beaver article.) I think it can be tough for officials to enforce boundaries of land because national forest spaces are very large. Also, it takes time and energy to for officials to enforce laws and boundaries (forcing private owners to rid of gates blocking public roads, etc.) It it apparent that these places are more-than-human because the value of nature affects how people behave.

Jiayue Wang

I read the article at Gizmodo talked about the ants live in the cities.
The research "ants living on pavements and in traffic islands have a particular appetite for junk food and meat—more so than ants living in a park or on a lawn," shows that the city ants are like people dependent on capitalism for meeting their material needs. However, Ants are the natural creatures, due to the people's diet in the city, ants changes themselves to adapt the environment, but this adapted ants are still natural, they obey the nature selection rule. So I think the beaver demonstrate another way of seeing places as more-than-human.

Yifan Lu

I read the article at Gizmodo looks at research on ants in cities. This article mentions "ants living on pavements and in traffic islands have a particular appetite for junk food and meat—more so than ants living in a park or on a lawn," which means ants depend on capitalism like human. Everyone know that ants like sugar, ants eat the same food we do. Which food they eat is totally depend on where they life, they change their material needs according to the different environment. So I think this research demonstrate another way of seeing places as more-than-human.

Madison Overholser

I chose to read the article in The High Country News about the boundary disputes in Montana. I cannot believe the greed an selfishness of the private landowners trying to restrict access and block off public roads to public land! I honestly think this testifies to the fact that our country really prioritizes personal land rights over the use of public land because of all the difficulties the National Forrest has had with making sure people can reach these public lands and trying to work out the disputes with the surrounding personal land owners. I believe that nature is viewed as a commodity; as a social status symbol between the haves and the have not's due to the lack of nature available.


I read the article about bringing back the beavers, and it turn bringing back a healthy wetland ecosystem. When reading about how the beavers helped this place become a thriving wetland, it really made me consider all the the ways we influence nature. In a lot of ways humans destroy nature, making room for thing like malls and houses. However, we can also decide that we want a more nature centered area and work towards making that happen. Although the beavers are the ones helping this ecosystem thrive, it was the human conscious decision that made this area a wetland rather than a parking lot. I believe that we often control the world around us more than one might think.

John Stone

Reading the Gizmodo article on ants gives a good example of how nature has adapted to live with us. One of the only reason that ants are able to live and thrive in the city is because of they're able to eat and drink the same food we do. The research in the article is a little strange, since it seems obvious that ants that are exposed to more foods rich in carbon 13 will have increased levels of it, but the fact that ants are able to live alongside us goes to show how nature and human civilization are one in the same. The ants were able to adapt to living in cities with us, yet they depend on humans to survive. What they consume is the same stuff that we consume, but without us they wouldn't be able to eat what they do on the streets.

Ana Bautista

I Read the quartz article about plastic bottles lasting for ages. The connection I draw between plastic and capitalism is that they advertise this, and make it cheap and it is hurting out nature. Humans were are the reason why plastic is taking over all of our nature. People choose to buy plastic bottles instead of using a reusable bottle. We need to think about the consequence that we will leave behind. Like the piles of plastics that will last a long time.

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