ATMOSPHERE AS
‘AER NULLIUS’


The idea of the atmosphere (and hence the climate) as an empty territory, belonging to no-one and exempt from existing power structures. This positions the climate as a psycho-symbolic space to be freely conceptualised by predominantly Euro-American theories of resilience and ecological governance which often pay little attention to longstanding indigenous knowledge and political stakes. Anthropologist Zoe Todd uses the term aer nullius in her recent essay ‘An Indigenous feminist’s take on the Ontological Turn: Ontology is just another term for colonisation.’1 Building on the work of Glen Coulthard (Yellowknives Dene) she argues that thinkers framing the atmosphere as a form of ‘commons’ can be guilty of presenting it as a power-neutral blank slate up for the taking. Perhaps a conceptual parallel to the colonial project of declaring land terra nullius or ‘nobody’s land’, aer nullius translates as ‘air belonging to no-one.’1

SEE ALSO: Greenwash, Eco-colonialism, Terraforming.

1. Zoe Todd, ‘An Indigenous feminist’s take on the Ontological Turn’, Journal of Historical Sociology, March 2016, 29:1, http://onlinelibrary. wiley.com/doi/10.1111/johs.12124/full
Mark