PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (12): 2153-2162.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.12.014

• Reviews • Previous Articles    

Progress of research of political ecology from the perspective of geography and implications

HUANG Yiheng1(), ZHU Hong2,3, YIN Duo2,3,*()   

  1. 1. School of Geography, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
    2. School of Geography and Remote Sensing, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
    3. The Research Center for Human Geography and Urban Development in Southern China, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2021-01-07 Revised:2021-06-30 Online:2021-12-28 Published:2021-12-24
  • Contact: YIN Duo;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971184);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41901173);Team Project of Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province(2018B030312004)


With the increasing severity of global environmental problems, scholars found that apolitical studies could not work on the environmental crises effectively, so they tended to seek for a more profound perspective to fix the environmental problems. Thus, political ecology has gradually become a critical field of environmental research in different disciplines. The core theme of political ecology is to trace political factors influencing environmental issues. Based on this theme, geography, a key discipline on human-environment relation studies, enhances the spatial and political perspectives in political ecology studies. It uses its professional strength, such as scale, region, and landscape to study political ecology. Summarizing theories and topics about political ecology from the perspective of geography has practical and theoretical meanings for the construction of Chinese ecological civilization. This study first mapped the theoretical timeline of political ecology and pointed out that the theories of political ecology are rooted in early environmental criticism, cultural ecology, Marxism, poststructuralism, and posthumanism, in line with the history of geographical thoughts. Political ecology claims that the understanding of environmental issues needs to be placed on broader social circumstances, uncovering the spatial conflicts among various actors including human and nonhuman in the consequence of conversation from physical nature to social nature. Second, this study analyzed nearly 30 years of literature on political ecology research in geography in the Web of Science core database, drawing a conclusion that relevant studies mainly focus on four topics: 1) ecological economics and green-development, focusing on spatial accumulation and flow of green capital; 2) environmental governance and conservation, revealing discourses producing various spatial forms in conservation; 3) environmental identity and micropolitics, demonstrating the negative and positive effects on micro environmental practices; 4) the object of ecology and agency, paying attention to how nonhuman's agency disturbing and cooperating with human politics. Finally, we conclude that the ultimate goals of political ecology from the perspective of geography are to reveal the inequality of social relations behind environmental space and to seek social improvement programs. Furthermore, based on the topics of political ecology research in geography, we put forward four future directions of political ecology research in China from the perspective of geography.

Key words: political ecology, geography, environmental issues, human-environment relation