Connected Sociologies of Pollution

The Environment and Climate Change - Lecture 1

Lecturer: Dr Su-ming Khoo

25 Apr 2022

Pollution is a difficult, but essential topic for understanding how colonialism results in inequality, exploitation and injustice. Pollution embodies unjust distributions of harm, connecting structures of thought concerning law, land, resources, knowledge and waste to bodily realities of illness, injury and death, which are distributed in unjust and discriminatory ways.

This brief lecture draws together and connects colonialism, pollution, environmental harm, with some broader reflections on industrialism, war, extermination, racism and wilful ignorance.

This lecture takes Olof Palme’s speech at the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment as its starting point. The idea of ‘ecocide’ is examined from its origins in war crimes to peacetime injustices that result from ‘economic logic of pollution’, a colonial logic of resource accumulation and harmful waste.

This lecture suggests that a decolonial approach to pollution is needed to counter depoliticized, violently unequal and dehumanized understandings of the Anthropocene.