EXALT Dialogues

EXALT Dialogues is a quadrennial online event series that fosters critical thinking and discussion on extractivisms and transformative alternatives and which also aim to deconstruct and disrupt thinking that perpetuates dominant power structures, colonialities and growthism.

EXALT Dialogues is a quadrennial online event series that fosters critical thinking and discussion on extractivisms and transformative alternatives and which also aim to deconstruct and disrupt thinking that perpetuates dominant power structures, colonialities and growthism. The dialogues host researchers and activists from various fields and backgrounds to further critical knowledge and understanding on emergent topics related to the multiple crises, violent global structures and their local manifestations.

The events are open for everyone and are aimed to support cross-pollination between people and academia, and across various research fields, such as natural resource politics, anthropology, political economy, political ecology, economics, global studies, decolonial studies, agrarian and peasant studies, extinction studies and conservation studies. The talks will be recorded and published on EXALT’s Youtube channel.

Rivers, sand extractivism, and disrupted hydrosocial relations

When: Wednesday 10th of April, 15.00-16.15 (Finnish time), 14.00-15.15 (Central European Summer Time), 8.00-9.15 am (Toronto)

Where: Recording of the event on the EXALT YouTube channel 


  • Vanessa Lamb, an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Science at York University. 
  • Keith Barney, an Associate Professor and Head of Department for the Crawford School’s Resources Environment & Development (RE&D) Group at the Australian National University.

In April EXALT Dialogues is delighted to welcome Dr. Vanessa Lamb from York University, Canada, to give a keynote talk on the extractive politics of sand mining. Vanessa has been at the forefront of studies on sand mining that link local political ecologies with broader political economic processes. She has also raised criticism on how the current ‘sand crisis’ narrative declaring sand as a ‘rare’ and ‘disappearing’ resource may simplify and obscure complex relationships. Her insights are based on long-term fieldwork in Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar.

There is an increasing extractive pressure on world’s rivers (Boelens et al. 2023). Large dams have been discussed and contested for decades and their recent resurgence has major implications on riverine livelihoods, fisheries, and biodiversity (Blake & Barney 2018, Käkönen & Nygren 2023, Zarfl et al. 2015). Moreover, toxic waste from industrial agriculture and mining threatens fluvial environments. More still, riverine ecologies and hydrosocial relations are increasingly disrupted by sand mining. Construction-grain sand is currently one of the most extracted resources in the world, and it is mainly found in aquatic systems such as rivers (Rentier & Cammeraat 2022). Yet, in broader discussions on extractivisms, focus on hydrocarbons, metals, energy minerals and precious gemstones has long overshadowed construction materials such as sand (Franks 2020). As the sand demand to produce concrete and reclaim land is growing at a tremendous rate, a ‘sand crisis’ has been announced (Lamb 2023), for example, in UNEP reports (2014, 2022) and several media accounts (BBC 2019, Guardian 2017, Reuters 2021, Torres et al. 2017). Much of the recent scholarly literature has taken a global approach on sand mining (Bendixen et al. 2019, Bisht 2021, John 2020) yet there is also an emerging body of studies on dispossessive livelihood effects, vulnerabilities, and more local power dynamics in shifting sand frontiers (Asif & Van Arragon 2024, Hougaard 2023, Lamb et al. 2019, Lamb & Fung 2021, Marschke et al. 2021).

Mira Käkönen (Australian National University) begins the event by connecting sand grabbing with broader discussions on rivers and extractivisms (5 mins). Thereafter Vanessa Lamb will deliver a keynote talk (40 mins) that addresses questions such as why is sand grabbing happening at unprecedented rates in particular locales; what are the implications, especially in terms of riverine livelihoods; how to make sense of the multi-scalar connections at stake; and what kinds of questions of justice and governance should be asked? Subsequently, Keith Barney will provide comments and engage in a discussion with Vanessa drawing on his extensive work on resource politics and various forms of extractivism in Southeast Asia (10 mins) before the floor is opened for questions and answers from the audience (15 mins).



Asif, F. & Van Arragon, L. (2024) Precarious livelihoods at the intersection of fishing and sand mining in Cambodia. Ambio 53, 565–578. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-023-01963-9 

Blake, D. & Barney, K. (2018) Structural Injustice, Slow Violence? The Political Ecology of a “Best Practice” Hydropower Dam in Lao PDR, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 48:5, 808-834, https://doi.org/10.1080/00472336.2018.1482560 

BBC (2019, 18 November) Why the world is running out of sand? Author: Vince Beiser https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191108-why-the-world-is-running-out-of-sand 

Bendixen, M., Best, J., Hackney, C., Iversen, L.L., (2019) Time is running out for sand. Nature 571, 29–31. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-02042-4 

Bisht, A., (2021) Conceptualizing sand extractivism: deconstructing an emerging resource frontier. The Extractive Industries and Society https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2021.100904. 

Boelens, R., Escobar, A., Bakker, K., Hommes, L., Swyngedouw, E. et al. (2023) Riverhood: political ecologies of socionature commoning and translocal struggles for water justice, The Journal of Peasant Studies 50(3), 1125-1156 https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2022.2120810 

Franks, D.M., (2020) Reclaiming the neglected minerals of development. The Extractive Industries and Society 7, 453–460. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2020.02.002 

Guardian (2017, 27 Feb) “Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of” https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/27/sand-mining-global-environmental-crisis-never-heard 

Hougaard (2023) ‘As we exploit the river, we should give something back’: A moral ecology of sand extraction, The Extractive Industries and Society 5, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2023.101301 

Käkönen, M. & Nygren, A. (2023) Resurgent dams: shifting power formations, persistent harms, and obscured responsibilities, Globalizations 20(6), 866-886, https://doi.org/10.1080/14747731.2022.2098668 

Lamb, V. (2023) Constructing the global sand crisis: Four reasons to interrogate crisi and scarcity in narrating extraction, The Extractive Industries and Society 15 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2023.101282 

Lamb, V., Marschke, M. & Rigg, J. (2019) Trading Sand, Undermining Lives: Omitted Livelihoods in the Global Trade in Sand, Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109(5), 1511-1528, https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2018.1541401 

Lamb, V., Fung, Z., (2022) Expanding transboundary environmental governance: a mobile political ecology of sand and shifting resource-based livelihoods in Southeast Asia. Environmental Policy and Governance. https://doi.org/10.1002/eet.1972 

Marschke, M., Rousseau, J.-F., Beckwith, L., (2021) Displaced Sand, Displaced People: Examining the Livelihood Impacts of Sand Mining in Cambodia. https://www.cairn-int.info/journal-afd-research-papers-2021-205-page-1.htm 

Rentier & Cammeraat (2022) The environmental impacts of river and sand mining. Science and the Total Environment 838 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155877 

Reuters (2021, 18 February) Shifting sands: The messy business of sand mining explained. Authors: Marco Hernandez, Simon Scarr and Katy Daigle. https://www.reuters.com/graphics/GLOBAL- ENVIRONMENT/SAND/ygdpzekyavw/index.html 

Torres, A., Liu, J., Brandt, J., Lear, K. (2017) The world is facing a global sand crisis. The Conversation, Sept. https://theconversation.com/the-world-is-facing-a-global-sa nd-crisis-83557 

UNEP (2014) Sand rarer than one thinks. United Nations Environment Programme.

UNEP (2022) Sand and sustainability: 10 strategic recommendations to avert a crisis. GRID-Geneva, United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva, Switzerland

Extractivisms and neoliberal urbanization

When: Thursday, January 25th, 2024, 17.00 (Finnish time, EET), 15.00 (UTC)

Where: Recording of the event on the EXALT YouTube channel


  • Salvatore De Rosa, postdoc at the Center for Applied Ecological Thinking (CApE) at the University of Copenhagen.
  • Emel Tuupainen, theory and activism oriented architect and a doctoral student doing their research at Tampere University.
  • Ville Kellokumpu, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Geography Research Unit of the University of Oulu.

The 1st EXALT Dialogue of 2024 delves into the extractivist nature of modern urbanization and alternative practices within architectural and urban planning. The discussion explores how architects, urban planners, and land-use professionals can address extractivism in their work and asks about the possibilities of fostering alternative and transformative practices in urban planning. To address these challenges, the speakers will discuss the significant environmental and economic implications of resource extraction and evolving urban-periphery relations. 

The speakers approach urban centers as crucial players in growth-based economies as nodes of capital accumulation, where the connection between the financial and real economy drives the increase of consumption and the imports of materials for construction. As a result, architects and planners find themselves grappling with the consequences of such economic priorities. In conjunction, the neoliberal privatization of public capital has diminished the frame in which urban planners are able to work, as market-led planning models prioritize attracting investors and celebrating growth as development. This trend both reinforces and intensifies extractive practices in both urban and rural areas, eroding the possibilities for planning in non-growing contexts.

Providing insights into these issues will be Salvatore De Rosa (University of Copenhagen), Emel Tuupainen (Tampere University) and Ville Kelokumpu (University of Oulu). They will each deliver brief (approximately 20-minute) presentations on their work related to this topic. Subsequently, they will engage in a discussion among themselves before opening the floor for questions and answers from the audience.

Zoom-link will be sent to participants closer to the event. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. 


Weaponizing Public Funds: Revisiting the Social Engineering of Extraction

When: Thursday, November 30th, 17.00 (Helsinki time, EET) / 16.00 (CET) / 15.00 (UTC) 

Where: Recording of the event on the EXALT YouTube channel


  • Bojana Novakovic is an actor, filmmaker and the coordinator of the anti-lithium mining movement Marš sa Drine in Serbia.
  • Nik Völker is the founder of Mining Watch Portugal, a transparency initiative covering the socio-environmental impacts of the extractive industry in Portugal.
  • Andrea Brock is a political ecologist/economist, and lecturer at the University of Sussex.

The well-known reputation of mining companies despoiling environments, endangering workers, and igniting conflicts, if not, civil wars is well-known. Yet, since the 1990s and, specifically, the Global Mining Initiative (GMI) enormous efforts have been made by extractive companies to rehabilitate and refashion their image. Efforts towards ‘corporate social responsibility’, mineral certification schemes, Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Due Diligence efforts are among the high-profile programmatic efforts. This trajectory continues with so-called ‘transition materials,’ which are materials, such as nickel, lithium and rare earth elements among others, that are dedicated to lower-carbon energy systems. While ‘transition materials’ are mined for non-transitional purposes (and often used in the military sector), mining companies are also investing in and applying lower-carbon power generation (wind, solar, hydroelectric power), meanwhile automating, digitalizating and electrifying their operations to call it ‘green mining.’ High-profile efforts, however, are matched with more subtle and under-handed maneuvering.

This rebranding of mining companies as socially responsible and environmentally friendly takes on more extreme efforts. European public funds, specifically though Horizon and other research grant schemes, are being directed to extractive companies, or their affiliates, in an effort to persuade people and members of government of the needs to expand conventional and so-called green extractive operations. The Portuguese Prime Minister’s recent resignation over corruption allegations related to imposing green extractivist projects serve as another recent example. The imposition of mining by every means remains an ever-pressing issue.

The 4th EXALT Dialogue: Weaponizing Public Funds— Revisiting the Social Engineering of Extraction looks further into the recent efforts of mining companies and governmental institutions to enforce extractive operations. Join us to explore this issue further, learning about the depths of recent private-public efforts in Europe to organize and engineer the social conditions to make extractive operations politically and practically feasible. Talking us through these issues will be Bojana Novakovic (Marš sa Drine, Serbia), Nik Volker (Mining Watch Portugal) and Andrea Brock (University of Sussex, UK). They will give a short-talk (15min) on how they have tracked, documented and experienced the social engineering of extraction, which will be followed by time for them to exchange with each other, before opening up the floor for questions and answers from the audience. The event will be facilitated by Alexander Dunlap.



Brock, Andrea. 2020. “‘Frack off’: Towards an Anarchist Political Ecology Critique of Corporate and State Responses to Anti-Fracking Resistance in the UK.” Political Geography 82: 1-12.

Brock, Andrea, and Alexander Dunlap. 2018. “Normalising Corporate Counterinsurgency: Engineering Consent, Managing Resistance and Greening Destruction around the Hambach Coal Mine and Beyond.” Political Geography 62 (1): 33–47.

Brown, Allen. 2021. “Corporate Counterinsurgency: Indigenous Water Protectors Face Off With an Oil Company and Police Over a Minnesota Pipeline.” Online: The Intercept.

Dunlap, Alexander, and Mariana Riquito. 2023. “Social Warfare for Lithium Extraction? Open-Pit Lithium Mining, Counterinsurgency Tactics and Enforcing Green Extractivism in Northern Portugal.” Energy Research & Social Science 95 (1): 1–21.

Rico, Manuel, and Buzzoni, Lorenzo. 2023. "Firms linked to environmental abuses got millions in EU ‘green mining’ grants" Investigate Europe. 

Various Authors. 2020. “Joint Civic Statement on the European Horizon 2020 Project MIREU.” https://ecologistasenaccion.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/statement-H2020-MIREU.pdf.

Verweijen, Judith, and Alexander Dunlap. 2021. “The Evolving Techniques of Social Engineering, Land Control and Managing Protest against Extractivism: Introducing Political (Re)Actions ‘from Above.’” Political Geography 83: 1–9.


Extractivism and Decolonial Thought

When: Friday 8th of September 2023, 4pm / 16.00 (Helsinki time, EEST), 1pm / 13:00 UTC

Where: Recording of the event on the EXALT YouTube channel


  • Amanda Lickers, Iako'tsi:rareh (she/they) Six Nations Seneca is an emerging artist (@skrimpskrap) and contributor to the Land, Body, Defense Environmental Violence Tool Kit released by Native Youth Sexual Health Network in partnership with Women’s Earth Alliance.
  • Prof. Kiran Asher, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The University of Massachusetts Amherst 
  • Usman Ashraf, Doctoral Researcher, Doctoral Programme in Political, Soci­etal and Regional Change, University of Helsinki
  • Carlos Tornel, Research Postgraduate (PhD) in the Department of Geography, Durham University

The enduring problem of extractivism remains at the center of decolonial critique and action: Rejecting and fighting the extraction of habitats, people and ideas in the service of imperialist societies. This, moreover, entails fighting and negotiating the forced imposition of ideologies and relationships that condition, if not shape, how people live, work and relate with their habitats, ecologies and the peoples within them (Simpson, 2017). This Exalt Dialogue opens a roundtable discussion with four theorists challenging and fighting extractivism and (neo)colonialism. This dialogue explores how extractivism intersects with decolonial thought.

This intersection, however, relates to definitions. Identifying the key attributes of extractivism and (neo)colonialism, and their exterminating consequences (Dunlap, 2021). It is significant for how people understand and relate to state institutions, raw material development and market forces. We must ask, is industrialism itself a form of extractivism and, if so, what does that mean for everyday struggle and participation in state institutions? Anti-extractivist and decolonial struggle imply ardent, committed and, frequenlty, life-threatening struggle, yet we see these terms becoming academic industries or slogans to write on signs and display at the European Parliament. Is “decolonize now” the new “democracy now?”

How people identify the ‘colonial model’ will determine how terms like “decolonization” and “decolonality” are used. Is it possible to decolonize ‘state institutions,’ ‘international relations,’ ‘national security’ and ‘extractive industries’ or are these claims a symptom of “an insidious conciliatory process of decolonial recuperation rooted in cultural and symbolic change primarily fixated on transforming social stature” (IAM, 2017: 3)? Decolonization implies anti-colonial warfare, combating statist counterinsurgency and neoliberalism, which the Zapatista’s acknowledge the latter, as “a new war to conquer territories” (Marcos, 2001: 559). Is “the decolonial current just an academic trend” (Esteve, 2023 [2018]: 134) spreading political divisions, essentialized identities and rudimentary binaries (Asher, 2013; Dunlap, 2022; Wilson, 2023)? Is the state an evolution of the colonial model and (Dunlap, 2021), if so, what does this mean for representative democracies and the social democratic ‘Nordic model’?

This Exalt Dialogue seeks to look at these questions and more with Amanda Lickers, Kiran Asher, Usman Ashraf, and Japhy Wilson. This will be followed by a time for authors to exchange with each other, before opening up the floor for questions and answers from the audience. This Dialogue seeks to seed political self-reflection and consider ways to remediate the harms of extractivsim and (neo)colonialism that are ever-present and proliferating today.

The purpose of this EXALT Dialogue is to advance, or formalize, alternative thinking around how to slow, transform and stop extractivism as we know it. Extractivism, as foundational to modernity, remains an enduring challenge, which the EXALT initiative seeks to further explore and discuss with people struggling and researching against it. .



Asher, K. 2013. Latin American decolonial thought, or making the subaltern speak. Geography Compass, 7(12), 832–42.

Dunlap, A. 2021. The Politics of Ecocide, Genocide and Megaprojects: Interrogating Natural Resource Extraction, Identity and the Normalization of Erasure. Journal of Genocide Research, 23(2), 212–35.

Dunlap, A. 2022. ‘I don’t want your progress! It tries to kill… me!’ Decolonial encounters and the anarchist critique of civilization. Globalizations, 1–27.

Esteva, G. 2022. Gustavo Esteva: A Critique of Development and other essays. New York: Routledge.

IAM (Indigenous Action Media). 2017. Uprooting Colonialism: The Limits of Indigenous Peoples’ Day [online]. Available from: http://www.indigenousaction.org/wp-content/uploads/uprooting-colonialism-zine-r… [Accessed 1 Oct 2018].

Marcos, S. 2001. The Fourth World War Has Begun. Nepantla: Views from South, 2(3), 559–72.

Simpson, L.B. 2017. As we have always done: Indigenous freedom through radical resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wilson, J. 2023. Extractivism and Universality: Inside an Uprising in the Amazon. Oxon: Routledge.

Debating Degrowth: Can Degrowth Provide an Alternative to Extractivism?

When: Wednesday 10th of May 2023, 1pm / 13.00 Helsinki Time (UTC+3), 10.00 am UTC

Where: Recording of the event on the EXALT YouTube channel


Degrowth has taken academia by storm and now slowly makes its way into European and international policy agendas. From repeated reference and consideration in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2022, IPCC) reports to European Commission interest and recent awarding of the EU Synergy Grant to the Research & Degrowth team. The existential threat that capitalism and industrialization poses to the planet, manifesting in widespread socio-ecological and climate catastrophe, has made the degrowth position—demanding the reduction of material production and energy consumption—timely and necessary. Degrowth, however, is not just about material and energy reduction, but also regrowing happier and healthier lifeways, pastimes and forms of work. The popular uptake of degrowth cannot be overstated, but what is degrowth in reality, what kind of worlds it aims to enact, and how will degrowth actually remedy the present and anticipated trajectory of extractivism and capitalist growth?

This EXALT Dialogues seeks to raise this question and discusses it with degrowth proponents. This event asks the question: “How does Degrowth confront extractivism and what can that look like in practice?” This question will be answered by the renowed degrowth scholar Dr. Marta Conde in a short (25min) Keynote, which will then be discussed by Dr. Brototi Roy, Dr. Katharina Richter and Dr. Alexander Dunlap.

Insurrection in Energy Research: Pluriversal Encounters with Energy Transition & Renewability

When: Tuesday 14th of February at 5pm / 17.00 (Helsinki time, EET)

Where: The recording of the event on the EXALT YouTube Channel


The hopeful claims of “green,” “clean” and “renewable” energy to transition capitalist societies towards socio-ecologically harmonious political economies have fallen short on closer investigation. Material and energy consumption is increasing, low-carbon infrastructures are adding to existing hydrocarbon and nuclear energy sources and, still more, wind, solar and hydrological extractivism is creating similar violent socio-ecological disruptions on the ground. Capitalist energy development reproduces the same expansive and accumulating problems whether energy is produced by conventional hydrocarbons or low-carbon infrastructures—the latter concealing extensive mineral extractive and hydrocarbon dependent supply-webs. This naturally raises the question: “If low-carbon infrastructures are also ‘bad’, then what can we do?”

The first Exalt Dialogue confronts this question: What are the obstacles and pathways for creating alternative energy systems? This question speaks to the issue of global extractivisms underlying low-carbon energy systems and what type of alternative visions we could imagine as individuals, collectives and communities. This EXALT Dialogue invites us to consider an insurrection in energy research, delving into the Pluriverse by discussing the coloniality of energy systems with four energy researchers with different critical perspectives and ideas on the matter of electricity production and development.  Speaking this question above, and their own concerns, we will hear a short-talk (10-15min) about their work and how they might imagine alternative forms of electricity production today, followed by a shared discussion.