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Philippe Le Billon

Perspectives on war and natural resources have been mostly environmentally deterministic, being either associated with scarcity-induced conflicts or greed-driven plunders. Rather than such universalizing narratives of ‘resource wars’, political ecology perspectives bring sensitivity to local historical and socio-ecological contexts, and their connection to broader processes of environmental transformations, colonization and capital accumulation. Concerned with multiple forms of violence associated with resource control and access, political ecology brings greater attention to distinctive ontologies, uneven power relations, a critical reading of historical contingencies and regimes of accumulation, a grounded analysis of the various actors, and multi-scalar analysis of spatially differentiated and complex socio-ecological processes. Engaging relations between resources, violence and war through political ecology also offers a way to move away from ‘securitization’––the reconfiguration of issues through a narrow and often violent and historical oppressive security lens––towards ‘worldization’, whereby the recognition of distinct ontologies, values and desires is privileged over the mobilization of security narratives and the institutional imperative of self-righteous intervention. As such, political ecology approaches provide the requisite breadth and nuance to understand the many forms of violence occurring as a result of unequal power relations. It also helps to explain violent landscapes of resource extraction, livelihood dispossession and cultural assimilation, while broadening horizons to diverse cosmologies and allowing for new understandings and solidarities.

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Philippe Le Billon and Gavin Bridge

The chapter considers the future of oil in the context of scientific debates over the status and significance of the Anthropocene. Oil consumption will continue well into the twenty-first century, notwithstanding mounting concern with climate change, and anxiety that society may have reached the end of oil’s Age of Plenty. The authors draw on geography’s several engagements with oil to set aside doomster and cornucopian accounts of oil’s future and, instead, consider oil as part of a broader ‘energy dilemma’. The politics of oil in the Anthropocene is more than a zero-sum game in the context of peak oil. It is increasingly about oil’s environmental and social signature – the struggle to define what role oil will have, and the political-ecological traces it will leave, for future generations. By bringing geographical work on oil into conversation with debates over the Anthropocene the authors highlight some of geography’s distinctive contributions to thinking about oil politics.