This paper engages in a critical assessment of environmental management as a way of rethinking our co-habitation with earthly powers. Focusing on the post-disaster reconstruction of Constitución, a Chilean costal city severely damaged by the 2010 tsunami, we argue that environmental management theory has not fully recognised that, sometimes, we humans confront excessive forces that cannot be diplomatically managed or assumed as manageable objects that will readily accept our invitation to compose a common world.
Thinking with Sloterdijk’s notions of atmosphere and immunisation, this paper proposes a theoretical programme to re-frame post-disaster environmental management as the creation of life-enabling membranes to contain, isolate and immunise human existence from indifferent forces such as tsunamis. More specifically, we follow the technopolitical controversies around the design of an anti-tsunami park in Constitución to draw attention towards two crucial moments of this process: the definition of the park’s composition and the debate around the park’s fallibility. We argue that these moments point to a type of environmental management engaged in the articulation of an immunising atmosphere to secure an interior for human dwelling. Moreover, these two moments specify empirical challenges not fully developed in Sloterdijk’s atmospheric philosophy: the rearrangement of science, politics and materials that is brought along in the process of erecting an immunological membrane; and the bioeconomy of life (and death) that emerges upon the possibility of an immunitary breakdown. In the concluding section we turn to the ecological and ethical challenges opened up by an atmospheric approach to environmental management.