Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
In Alaska, where ever-more-massive extractive projects vie for priority with longstanding industries requiring healthy fish and game stocks, resource development conflicts are often waged through reference to time. “In the most important land-use decision in North America in our time,” prominent environmentalists contend of the proposed Pebble Mine, sited for the Alaskan commercial salmon fishing region of Bristol Bay, “an essentially eternal supply of food is pitted against an essentially eternal supply of poison” (Safina and Reynolds 2019). Such arguments tend to position resource economies in a way that highlights their equal temporal footing (e.g., in claims to eternity); or, alternatively, underscores their fundamental opposition, such as in juxtaposing the cyclical, expansive nature of biotic fecundity with the finite, fast-ticking clock of the active life of a mine. While these succeed in framing the debate as a stark moral choice, they fail to capture the tangled interrelationships that suffuse the forms of time they arrange as equivalents or antagonists. This paper explores how different temporal registers have inflected the debate over the Pebble Mine in order to sharpen analysis of competing capitalist futures. It draws attention to how the time of salmon is enmeshed with the rhythms of a major industry as well as the ecological pulses that exceed it, showing how these enmeshments are consequential to profitmaking. In so doing, the paper argues that despite the regularizing and commensurating logics most often associated with capitalism, it sees most success in joining highly divergent temporalities and making them its own.