The Value of Carbon in creating Ecological Civilization

What is the value of carbon? How is carbon made, measured, and managed? And why does carbon play such a dominant role in environmental governance, in China and beyond?

Charlotte Bruckermann.

From carbon markets to low carbon living, the metric of carbon pervades Chinese environmental politics. The ambitions behind accounting for carbon is to steer the planet away from the ecological abyss wrought by classic industrial development and help forge a path towards a sweeping ecological civilization.

By calculating carbon in everything from power plants to forestry reserves, and plastic toys to bicycle rides, environmental degradation can be rendered in quantified, legible, and even monetary forms. Highly diverse processes, objects, and activities thereby become commensurate and exchangeable, often through market mechanisms and financial speculation. 

In this talk, Charlotte Bruckermann turns to three ethnographic fieldsites in China to show how carbon as a value intersects with money and finance.

  • First, Beijing carbon experts establishing, operating, and trading within the Chinese carbon market as part of ‘green finance’;
  • Second, a Guangzhou software company developing an online platform and mobile app for consumers to measure, share, and exchange their carbon footprints in an ‘inclusive carbon finance’ mechanism;
  • Third; a Fujian forestry project where trees are planted to absorb carbon dioxide, with the resulting carbon reductions sold on the provincial carbon exchange.

Bruckermann will discuss what, how, and why these carbon values compare, and why not, as economic growth and environmental sustainability, capital accumulation and political legitimation, financial debt and green credit, become fused through carbon as a value.

About Bruckermann

Bruckermann’s ongoing research examines social reproduction amidst economic accumulation and ecological transformation in China. Her doctoral fieldwork focused on the intersection between labour, locality, and class among rural families sustaining precarious livelihoods in defiance of state accumulation and corporate dispossession in Shanxi Province.

Her publications include the ethnographic monograph Claiming Homes: confronting domicide in rural China (forthcoming 2019, Berghahn) and the co-written textbook with Stephan Feuchtwang The Anthropology of China: China as ethnographic and theoretical critique (2016, Imperial College Press), and various articles and book chapters on kinship, housing, care, morality, and ritual in China.

She currently works on the project Frontlines: Class, Value, and Social Transformation in 21st Century Capitalism in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen. Bruckermann has previously worked in the LSE Anthropology department (2012-2014), the Humboldt University (re:work 2015), the University of Basel (2015) and at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (2016-2018). ​

Published Jan. 31, 2019 12:19 PM - Last modified Jan. 31, 2019 12:19 PM