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Renewable energy, Sustainable development -- Research


Using a regional political ecology lens, this paper explores emerging geographies and politics of a “postnatural” ecomodernist turn in mainstream environmentalism. We examine the unfolding case of ecological restoration and renewable energy development at Southern California’s Salton Sea. Ambitious proposals to restore the massive, increasingly degraded lake (and finance restoration) by reengineering it as a hub for geothermal energy generation and hightech green industry hinge upon the ambiguity and malleability of restoration in an environment long classified as postnatural. These plans coincide with a broader rush on renewable energy sites in the California desert, and mounting conflicts over water and land with legacy agroindustrial interests. The case illustrates significant problems within postnatural environmentalism. First, it demonstrates how theorizations of the postnatural can intersect with green capitalist projects of re(e)valuation and development, as the Sea’s managers manipulate environmental framings to support accumulation-minded projects, and accumulation imperatives swamp other functionalities of restoration. Meanwhile, despite the flourishing of postnatural discourses, the “pristine” is shown to do continued work as the Sea becomes a sacrifice zone for development deflected from better-protected spaces. This postnatural positioning has rendered the Salton Sea vulnerable to neoliberal austerity and speculation in ways that compromise its future existence.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space and can be found online at:



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