'It is I Who Am Transforming': Mining, Capitalism, and the Conscious Earth

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Westland, Robin
Mining , Capitalism , Ecopsychology , Feminist Geography , Material Geography , Resource Geography
This dissertation is guided by one underlying research question: How does one transform an environmentally destructive society? The society in question is that of the capitalist Western world. I begin with a hypothesis: the inherent destruction of the West is rooted in perceived human-Earth disconnection; thus, the path to sustainable Earth relationships may lie in re-perceiving connection. I limit my focus to the mining industry and the rocks and minerals it commodifies. Three stages of research are undertaken. First, I explore the ontology of the West through interdisciplinary circle-talks focused on the nature of rocks and minerals (NRM). Second, I relay findings of interviews conducted with senior mining executives about their relationships with the natural world and their views on the sustainability of capitalist modernity. Finally, I propose Earth gratitude as a doorway to Earth re-connection. I explored this potentiality in the course of my research by creating an Earth Gratitude Booth (EGB) which I hosted at the 2019 Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum convention. For all three stages of research, an ecopsychological ontology, an ontology of Earth-connection, has been incorporated. This research initiates and unearths new and vital conversations. The NRM discussions disclose complex ontological relationships with the rock world; I suggest that the Western discourse of an objectified Earth does not well reflect the diverse ontologies of Western individuals. In the mining interviews, I encountered individuals with varying degrees of conscious Earth relationship. When asked about capitalism, not a single participant believed the system to be sustainable; indeed, many recognize the toxicity of capitalism and articulate an urgent need to change that system. Finally, the EGB highlights the challenge of ontological transformation. Some convention goers are antagonized by the EGB, and the dichotomies of male-female, mind-body, self-other are stark. However, most engagement facilitated by hosting the booth proved hopeful. I conclude that Earth gratitude may serve as a promising portal to re-perceived human-Earth connection.
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