Succession: Queering the Environment – An Introduction

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In ecology, succession is a series of progressive changes made in a community over time. These changes often lead to higher diversity in an environment.

Succession: Queering the Environment is an eight-part NiCHE series that centers queer people, non-humans, systems, and ideas and explores their impact within the fields of environmental history, environmental humanities, and queer ecology.


“Being in Nature.” A lesbian couple share a moment. South Africa, Cape Town, 2015. Zeepix1, Wikimedia Commons.

The seed for this series was planted last June, when Tina Adcock and I realized that the only queer content on our site was Catriona Sandilands’ 2016 piece, ““Stumps”: Jane Rule on Galiano,” that was part of our Gender and Environmental History series. I viewed this gap in representation on NiCHE as an opportunity. Succession is the culmination of a year of thought and preparation, and I’m thrilled to watch this series unfold on NiCHE over the next month.

Galen Searching. By Transguyjay, Mormon Island, California, 2005, Flickr Commons

Though Succession features essays on queer environmental humanities, environmental history, and environmental studies, none of these fields can fully be separated from and are all indebted to queer ecology and queer ecological thought. This series partially marks the tenth anniversary of Catriona Sandilands and Bruce Erickson’s seminal collection Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire (2010). In the series conclusion, Nicole Seymour will tie the series’ posts to this anniversary. In order to provide a companion resource for this series, I created a tweet thread that pulls key ideas and quotes from Queer Ecologies:


“The task of a queer ecology is to probe the intersections of sex and nature with an eye to developing a sexual politics that more clearly includes considerations of the natural world and its biosocial constitution, and an environmental politics that demonstrates an understanding of the ways in which sexual relations organize and influence both the material world of nature an our perceptions, experiences, and constitutions of that world.” – Sandilands and Erickson


“Gay Penguins.” Art project by Eden–meant to represent the famous same-sex penguin couple. Wikimedia Commons.

Following in the footsteps of queer studies and queer ecology, this series considers queer as both a noun and verb. This series considers people on the LGBTQIA2+ spectrum and their relationship to the natural world. What unique relationships do queer people have with the environment? In a society in which oppressors have used the label “unnatural” to undermine LGBTQIA2+ rights, how do we celebrate queer connections to nature while critically assessing the term ‘natural?’ How do we help to heal generations of queer trauma by honoring queer peoples’ relationship to the environment? What happens when we unearth the rurality of queer experiences?

This series also asks what happens when we queer environmental ideas and systems. To queer the environment is to question the heteronormative systems that serve as a backdrop of scientific and environmental research, writing, and advocacy. How does our assumption of heterosexuality affect the way we view and label non-human animals and plants? How does it affect the way that we conduct and communicate our research? What opportunities lie in queering our environmentalism?


“Queer, then, is both a noun and a verb…ours is an ecology that may begin in the experiences and perceptions of non-heterosexual individuals and communities, but is even more importantly one that calls into question heteronormativity itself as part of its advocacy around issues of nature and environment – and vice versa.” – Sandilands and Erickson


Ptilotus obovatus bisexual flower, taken in the Pilbara of Western Australia , 2015, Timothy Hammer, Wikimedia Commons.

Succession will be published throughout the month of June in celebration of Pride Month. The essays in Succession will explore a wide variety of queer environmental topics from agriculture and rurality to lab frogs to ecofeminism. Although this series will neatly wrap up at the end of this month, we welcome new contributors, posts, and projects throughout the year. I am grateful for this opportunity to spotlight queer environmental scholarship. Happy Pride!

Succession: Queering the Environment Schedule:

Kampout Fresno 2011, Musical Chairs, David Prasad, Flickr Commons.

Feature Image: Kampout Fresno 2011, Madera, California, David Prasad, Flickr Commons.

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Jessica DeWitt is a historian of the American and Canadian environment, editor, and digital communications strategist. She is an editor and social media editor for NiCHE.

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