Lecture 4 - The Commodification of Nature - Lecture 4 The Commodica2on of Nature Abstrac2on Agenda I The commodica2on of land The se>lement of New

Lecture 4 - The Commodification of Nature - Lecture 4 The...

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Unformatted text preview: Lecture 4 The Commodifica2on of Nature -­‐ Abstrac2on Agenda I.  The commodifica2on of land –  The se>lement of “New England” II.  The abstrac2on of natural elements –  The Chicago grain trade III.  The industrializa2on of nature Key terms •  •  •  •  Property regime/system Freehold Usufruct Property terms –  plat –  survey –  sec2on line (U.S.-­‐specific) •  Resource fron2er •  Commodity chain •  “Second nature” •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  Commodifica2on Abstrac2on Subsump2on Turnover 2me Bill of sale Secondary market Financializa2on Futures contract Specula2on “Corner” I. The commodifica2on of land Watertown, Massachuse>s property parcels, 1600s h>p://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~danielsofmassachuse>sbaycolony/gen1.html William Cronon (1954 – ) The se>lement of New England •  •  •  •  “New World”: a classic resource fron2er Forcible dispossession of exis2ng popula2on Extensive and intensive exploita2on of land Commodifica)on and sale of surveyed land Na2ve American property regimes •  inten2onal limits on exploita2on –  Mobile popula2ons, few fixed se>lements –  Diverse/seasonal food sources –  Use-­‐based property regime: •  usufruct rights: nego2ated, overlapping claims on par2cular uses of land •  use 2ed to specific seasonal ecological processes •  Landscape managed but not driven by accumula2on “Land in New England became for the colonists a form of capital, a thing consumed for the express purpose of crea2ng augmented wealth. It was the land-­‐capital equa2on that created the two central ecological contradic2ons of the colonial economy. One of these was the inherent conflict between the land uses of the colonists and those of the Indians… But there was a second ecological contradic2on in the colonial economy as well. Quite simply, the colonists’ economic rela2ons of produc2on were ecologically self-­‐destruc2ve. They assumed the limitless availability of more land to exploit, and in the long run that was impossible.” -­‐ Changes in the Land, p. 169 The New England property regime •  No fundamental limits on exploita2on –  “Improvements” •  felling trees, fencing/enclosure •  conveying right of private, exclusive ownership (freehold) à conflict with usufruct (use-­‐based) •  dispossession of Na2ve Americans based on “underu2liza2on” –  Reorganiza2on of the ecological landscape •  Deforesta2on/local species ex2nc2ons •  Ul2mately local collapse of resource-­‐intensive industries (forestry, local agriculture, fur trade) •  Landscape transforma2on driven by expansion of material wealth The rectangular survey system, dividing land into even units h>p:// General Land Office (GLO), land survey, Lee County, Iowa, 1837 h>p:// II. Abstrac2on of natural elements Grain elevator, late 1800s h>ps:// The commodifica2on of the prairie “Few other regions in the United States were be>er suited to the system which the government had used since 1785 for selling public lands, subdividing the na2on into a vast grid of square-­‐mile sec)ons whose purpose was to turn land into real estate by the most economically expedient method. By imposing the same abstract and homogeneous grid pa>ern on all land, no ma>er how ecologically diverse, government surveyors made it marketable. As happeened during Chicago's land craze of the 1830s, the grid turned the prairie into a commodity, and became the founda2on for all subsequent land use.” -­‐ William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis (1991), p. 102 Before the grain elevator “A merchant like Burrows in Davenport would sack up the grain he had purchased from farmers in his vicinity, load it onto a flatboat or steamship, and float downstream to the docks at St. Louis. To reach Chicago during the 1840s, he would have made a similar trip by wagon. Once he arrived, he would unload his grain and try to sell it for cash to dealers who needed it to meet local demand. Much of the street and levee ac2vity that struck visitors in Chicago and St. Louis consisted of sellers trying to find buyers and buyers trying to find sellers for the sacks of grain lying on the ground around them.” -­‐ Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis, p. 107 Laborer hauling sack of wheat, Sanand, India h>p://in.reuters.com/ar2cle/2012/02/17/india-­‐wheat-­‐idINDEE81G04Y20120217 Flatboat on the Mississippi, early 1800s engraving (n.d.) h>p://steamboammes.com/flatboats.html Causes of reorganiza2on of grain trade •  New technologies –  grain elevators (1842) –  railroads and telegraph (expansion post-­‐1850) –  grading system (1856) •  New organiza2onal forms –  Chicago Board of Trade (1848) –  Official inspectors (1860) •  Geopoli2cal events –  1820s-­‐30s opening of fron2er aner defeat of French –  1848 revolu2ons in Europe drove investors to U.S. –  1850s Crimean War and grain price spike The role of abstrac2on in transforming the grain trade •  need to overcome natural limits on speed of grain trade à –  grain elevator à abstrac2ng ownership •  increases volume of grain handled •  reduces labor-­‐intensive bo>lenecks at transhipment –  grading system à abstrac2ng characteris)cs •  reduces concrete differences to several standards •  decouples ownership from physical commodity –  futures contracts à abstrac2ng space & )me •  mi2gated inherent instability of ecological processes •  enabled secondary markets decoupled from commodi2es •  private market organized by the Chicago Board of Trade Geographic unevenness and diversity of aquifers of the United States h>p://pubs.usgs.gov/ha/ha730/ch_a/A-­‐introduc2on4.html First commercial grain elevator, Chicago, 1839 h>ps://chicagology.com/harbor/grainelevators/ Modern grain elevator loading purpose-­‐built railcar, Canton, Kansas h>p://midkscoop.blogspot.com/2014/12/gemng-­‐grain-­‐on-­‐train.html Grain elevators in order of age, New Ulm, Minnesota h>p:// Modern grain elevator, Bovina, Texas, 2010 h>p://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bovina_Texas_Grain_Elevator_2010.jpg Chicago Mercan2le Exchange h>p:// -­‐design/chicago-­‐mercan2le-­‐exchange-­‐9_13_106.html Chicago Board of Trade floor h>p://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chicago_Board_of_Trade_II.jpg Chicago metropolitan area, with railroads radia2ng outward h>p:// Gibson City, Illinois grain complex along railroad h>ps:// ,-­‐88.3980878,1115m/data=!3m1!1e3 Railroad network, 1860 h>p://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist111/industrial.html Railroad network, 1870 h>p://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist111/industrial.html Railroad network, 1880 h>p://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist111/industrial.html Railroad network, 1890 h>p://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist111/industrial.html Rates of travel in the United States, 1800-­‐1930, by Charles Oscar Paullin, 1930 h>p://flashbak.com/10-­‐fabulous-­‐maps-­‐of-­‐the-­‐united-­‐states-­‐1856-­‐1932-­‐21181/ Results of ra2onalizing the grain trade •  Time-­‐space compression –  telegraph à more rapid communica2on –  RR à more rapid conveyance •  Previously isolated economies increasingly connected via markets –  Eastern and western grain markets move in tandem –  Regional, na2onal, interna2onal price convergence •  Growing separa2on from local environmental condi2ons –  drought, early frost, etc. –  “second nature” •  Crea2on of an economic space covering most of the United States Ra2os of UK prices to Chicago and New York prices showing convergence h>p://eh.net/page/6/?s=The+history+of+Foreign+Exchange “Grain elevators and grading systems helped transmute wheat and corn into monetary abstrac2ons, but the futures contract extended the abstrac2on by libera2ng the grain trade itself from the very process that had once defined it: the exchange of physical grain. In theory, one could buy, sell, and se>le up price differences without ever worrying whether anything really existed to back up contracts which purported to be promises for future delivery of grain.” -­‐ Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis, p. 126 “[T]he futures market, when viewed in the most cynical terms, was a place where ‘men who don't own something are selling that something to men who don't really want it.’” -­‐ Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis, p. 125 Financial innova2on & specula2on •  Chicago-­‐based futures market –  created by the Chicago Board of Trade •  Financial specula2on –  Selling “promises to deliver” grain, not actual grain… and then trading those promises as money –  “Long” and “short”-­‐selling: gambling that price of grain would go up or down before the contract came due –  Scams: bubbles, “corners” on the market –  Tying ecological processes and the food supply to market fluctua2ons III. The industrializa2on of nature Grain elevator, TX, 2010 h>p://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bovina_Texas_Grain_Elevator_2010.jpg Need for factors in large quan22es “But the more complicated industrial produc2on became, the more numerous were the elements of industry the supply of which had to be safeguarded. Three of these, of course, were of outstanding importance: labor, land, and money. In a commercial society their supply could be organized in one way only: by being made available for purchase. Hence, they would have to be organized for sale on the market —in other words, as commodi2es.” -­‐ Polanyi, The Great Transforma=on, p. 78 Simplifica2on of nature on a world scale “The new agricultural systems onen meant that, over large areas, the range of crops produced was narrowed to those commodi2es required by metropolitan industries, such as cocoa, coffee, co>on, groundnuts, palm oil, rubber, sisal, sugar and tea. Colonies thus became associated with the produc2on of one or two items, being forced to import whatever else was needed…” -­‐ Rob Po>er, Key Concepts in Development Geography, p. 65 Inherent need for expansion “The outright seizure of basic wealth—clearly no inven2on of the sixteenth century—provided no durable basis for the endless accumula2on of capital. What did provide a reliable basis for the new civiliza2on was a set of appropria2ve prac2ces combined with the world market and technological innova2ons oriented towards global expansion.” -­‐ Jason Moore, “Beyond the ‘Exploita2on of Nature’? A World-­‐Ecological Alterna2ve,” h>ps://jasonwmoore.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/beyond-­‐the-­‐exploita2on-­‐of-­‐nature-­‐a-­‐world-­‐ecological-­‐ alterna2ve/ “Unpaid” work of nature and labor “First, commodity fron2er movements were not merely about the extension of commodity rela2ons, although this was indeed central. Commodity fron2er movements were also, crucially, about the extension of territorial and symbolic forms that appropriated unpaid work in service to commodity produc2on. This unpaid work could be delivered by humans—women or slaves, for example—or by extra-­‐human natures, such as forests, soils, or rivers. Second, such fron2er movements were, from the very beginning of capitalism, essen2al to crea2ng the forms of cheap nature specific to capitalism…” -­‐ Jason Moore, “The Origins of Cheap Nature: From Use-­‐Value to Abstract Social Nature,” h>ps://jasonwmoore.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/the-­‐origins-­‐of-­‐cheap-­‐nature-­‐from-­‐use-­‐value-­‐to-­‐abstract-­‐social-­‐nature/ Above-­‐ground facili2es of a copper mine, Zambia h>p://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/students/curriculum/m9/ac2vity6.php Russian state oil company Gazprom Arc2c drilling rig h>p:// Tyson plant, Dakota City, Iowa h>p://siouxcityjournal.com/special-­‐sec2on/local/industry/expansion-­‐of-­‐tyson-­‐s-­‐dakota-­‐city-­‐plant-­‐nearing-­‐comple2on/ar2cle_aafea3b1-­‐e24a-­‐5c7e-­‐8272-­‐ f3e84f7db2bf.html Summary •  Industrial produc2on of nature –  commodifica2on & abstrac2on –  conversion of ecological processes into resources (“second nature”) –  subsump2on of ecological processes to economic rhythms •  “overcoming” geography tends to create new fron2ers and peripheries –  intensive and extensive ra2onaliza2on of ecological processes For Friday •  Read Sco> Prudham, Knock on Wood •  Key points –  Note the geographical reorganiza2on of the wood industry – what new resources and technologies enabled this? –  What kinds of “second nature” do you see being produced? ...
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