Alessandra Ponte

Université de Montréal

“Governing Climate”

In 1778, Jean-Baptiste Moheau, author of a research on the French population, stated: “It is up to the government to change the air temperature and to improve the climate. Giving direction to stagnant water, planting or burning down forests, mountains eroded by time or by the continual cultivation of their surface – all create a new soil and a new climate.” Michel Foucault cited Moheau’s text in the introductory address of his 1977-78 course on Security, Territory, Population at the Collège de France to explain the ‘irruption’ of the problem of inserting the ‘naturality’ of the human species (the population) into the artificial milieu of political relations of power. Between the end of the XVIII century and the beginning of the XIX, cartographic representations and utopic projects reflect the novel concern, identified by Foucault, of administering milieus. To investigate such shift in the formation of the modern state Foucault developed the concept of ‘governmentality’. The paper reexamines Foucault’s hypothesis in an attempt to resituate and redefine the current debate about climate change and its governance.


Alessandra Ponte is Full professor at the École d’architecture, Université de Montréal.  She has also taught at the schools of architecture of Princeton University, Cornell University, Pratt Institute New York, the ETH Zurich, and at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia. She has been adjunct professor at School of Design of Built Environment and Engineering, Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia), taught workshops in collaboration with the AA School London and the Catholic University of Santiago de Chile, and seminars at the University of Costa Rica. For the last eight years she has been responsible for the conception and organization of the Phyllis Lambert International Seminar, annual colloquia held at the Université de Montréal, addressing current topics in landscape and architecture. She curated the exhibition Total Environment: Montreal 1965-1975 (Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal, 2009) and collaborated to the exhibition and catalogue God & Co: François Dallegret Beyond the Bubble (with Laurent Stalder and Thomas Weaver, London: Architectural Association Publications, 2011). She has published extensively including recently a collection of essays on North American landscapes titled The House of Light and Entropy (London: AA Publications, 2014). She contributed to the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Architecture in 2014 (Arctic Adaptations) and 2016 (Extraction). From 2013 to 2016 she has been a member of the research group Future North a partnership between the School of Landscape and Urbanism AHO (Oslo) and the Barents Institute and she has recently been invited to collaborate to one of projects of the Office for Urbanization (Graduate School of Design, Harvard University) titled Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas.