Moving beyond borders: Anarchist political ecology and environmental displacement [chapter]


At the dawn of the 20th Century, Elisée Reclus (1905) characterised the western world by its fervent nationalism, tightening borders and widespread mockery of humanitarianism. Current political discourse on forced migration and its physical manifestations, however, suggest that Reclus’ (1905) observations may be more relevant now than ever before. Militarisation and technologization of borders, an emergence of migrant slums in otherwise wealthy nations, and a reluctance to recognize the forcefully displaced as ‘refugees’ are all attestations of this. All the while, with environmental displacement being its newest chapter, forced migration has no end in sight. In 2015, the number of displaced persons due to environmental reasons surpassed the number of those displaced due to conflict. The international community, however, has been reluctant to formally acknowledge a new classification of ‘environmental refugee’. A perspective anchored in political ecology helps to understand this, as there is strong overlap between the resistance to adequately recognize displacement due to environmental stresses and a largely denialist neoliberal discourse surrounding issues such as climate change, environmental decay, and resource depletion. In a time where there is an increasing demand for States to manage conflict, crises and disasters that they themselves are responsible in producing, a key tenet of Beck’s (1992) ‘reflexive modernization’, it seems unlikely that this paradox can produce a sustainable solution for the environmentally displaced. Yet, in rejecting catastrophic fatalism, anarchist political ecology provides insight on where to go from here. As resources become increasingly scarce and environmental risks greater, Reclus’ (1905) vision for an ‘era of mutual aid’, largely defined by a transgression and eventual disappearance of borders becomes all the more relevant within the context of environmental displacement. As Reclus (1905), the emergence of this sense of ‘human unity’ would prevent societies from final ruin, as experienced during earlier stages of human civilization.


Parent, Nicolas. 2022. “Moving beyond borders: Anarchist political ecology and environmental displacement.” In J. Mateer, S. Springer, M. Locret-Collet, and M. Acker, Energies Beyond the State: Anarchist Political Ecology and the Liberation of Nature, 45-66. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.


This chapter is available through ResearchGate.