Past Event

Sustainability Inverted: Lecture By Jin Sato

February 27, 2024
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
The Forum at Columbia University, 601 W. 125th St., New York, NY 10027 315

Sustainability Inverted: How the Management of Nature Turns into the Control of People

Jin Sato, Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo/ Visiting Professor of Columbia Climate School

This talk, based on a book manuscript currently under review, explores the hidden politics of environmental policy by addressing the processes in which state control of nature turns into the control of local people. I focus on “inversion,” the mechanism of centralization in natural resource management implemented by the state. “Inversion” occurs when the policy that aims to conserve resources has the effect of disrupting the local peoples’ ownership of those resources, therefore disincentivizing their crucial participation in the very conservation efforts. Such expansion of state power is nonetheless accepted because of the rightful endorsement of intervention to “protect the earth”, whilst lacking ground-level scrutiny of intervention.

I draw on extensive fieldwork in Southeast Asia and examination of numerous cases of such policy inversion, exposing patterns in which local people are turned into enemies of the state. I propose to re-appreciate the virtue of interdependency and the intermediary organizations that could mediate the interests of local people and that of the state. Such intermediary organizations have been downplayed by, and virtually seen as a threat to, modernization and the development discourse of the past century. I argue that the key to addressing inversion lies in restoring the balance between individuals and the state through empowering multiple intermediaries on which the individuals can depend simultaneously. 

Presentation from 5-6pm

Reception from 6-7pm

Contact Information

Justine Herrera