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labor ecologies

This research began through a collaboration with Joshua Griffin (Griff) at the University of Washington as we thought through some shared questions across our work concerning social reproduction, labor, and environmental stewardship. 

We developed "labor ecologies" as a productive analytic through which to consider the intersections of justice,  sovereignty, and sustainability in Pacific Northwest coastal economies, with stretch and resonance to other places. The concept indexes the  ways in which spatial histories, practices, and future visions of diverse communities and polities are enacted, interconnected, and contested across multiple scales.


Applying this lens to a familiar coastal site, for example Seattle’s Elliott Bay, demonstrates the ways in which divergent  understandings of coastal productivity have shaped and continue to shape the region. Intertwined at the Port of Seattle, are not only the violences of settler colonialism, racial  capitalism, and ecological sacrifice, but also historic and emergent overlapping movements of Indigenous resurgence, worker refusal, and environmental justice. The Duwamish Tribe, for  example, is a founding member of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, which today labors to  ensure river cleanup efforts meet the standards developed by the surrounding community to  restore environmental health and protect both fisher people and their families In recent years, the Port itself has been the site of some of the city’s most intense labor  struggles led by mostly immigrant short-haul truckers against the precarity of their status as  independent contractors and for basic rights like bathroom access, overtime pay, and healthcare. What do these and other coastal movements for environmental sovereignty,  justice, and collective futurity have in common? 

Our team also includes or has included Izzi Lavalle (UW- SMEA), Sycora Powell (UW- SMEA), Max Forman (UW- Geography), and Danielle Brown (UW- Geography). 

The Coastal Futures Archive: labor ecologies of regenerative placemaking in the Pacific Northwest
P. Joshua Griffin, Carrie Freshour, Izzi Lavalle, & Sycora Powell

under review

A region of vast ecological abundance, the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America serves an outsized role in environmental imaginaries in both the U.S. and Canada. Yet the region is also home to competing visions of coastal renewal and restoration, which exist in disparate relation to the historical and ongoing structures of settler colonialism and racial capitalism. More than a century of dispossession, resource extraction and industrialization has had devastating impacts on the homeland ecologies of Indigenous Coast Salish nations, displacing communities, traditional fisheries, and contaminating coastal ecosystems throughout the Pacific Northwest. Despite the persistence of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, Indigenous, Black, and communities of color today labor to sustain, build, or restore relations with place. This paper emerges from a relationally-driven research praxis and digital storytelling platform–The Coastal Futures Archive–that brings together organizations, communities, individuals, and coalitions enacting reparative futures in relation to Pacific Northwest coastal ecologies. We introduce the analytic “labor ecologies” to trace diverse histories, practices, and future visions that animate restorative ecologies and coalition building beyond the displacements of colonial racial capitalism. 

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