Trading disaster: Containers and container thinking in the production of climate precarity

Parsons, Laurie; Safra de Campos, Ricardo; Moncaster, Alice; Cook, Ian; Siddiqui, Tasneem; Abenayake, Chethika; Jayasinghe, Amila Buddhika; Mishra, Pratik and Billah, Tamim (2022). Trading disaster: Containers and container thinking in the production of climate precarity. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12545

Abstract

Abstract: This paper examines how global trade shapes and intensifies disasters. Juxtaposing three basic, everyday consumer goods – a t‐shirt, a brick, and a tea bag – with disasters manifesting in their respective global supply chains, it highlights how climate change, local environmental degradation, and carbon emissions are dynamically shaped by consumption. Analysis of data collected in South and Southeast Asia reveals that local environmental degradation linked to international trade interacts with global climate change and the policies intended to mitigate it, influencing how and where disasters manifest. Underpinning this analysis is the physical and conceptual presence of the container. With more and more of the natural environment packaged and redistributed for global trade, the container thinking that underpins these logistics is increasingly imbricated in environmental processes. Indeed, as this paper aims to show, the container logic that frames analysis of these processes – linked to and drawn from the logistics of global trade – serves as both obfuscator and actor in the global landscape of environmental risk.

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