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Essay: seeding new ideas in the neoliberal city

We’re happy to share with you this beautiful essay, the first in what we hope will be a series of essays about political ecology in practice. If you would like to contribute an essay, please get in touch!

El silencio del viento contrario

By Massimo Paolini

The nocturnal wanders through Zurich of a man who plants seeds, with silent perseverance, have tight bonds with the silent resistance to the commodification of the city of a growing number of people throughout the planet. Seeding new ideas in the hostile environment of the neoliberal city as well as the search for a fair relation between humankind and nature are acts of resistance capable of undermining the illusory certainties of the neoliberal economy. This silent wind, that blows in a direction opposite the wind of progress that keeps open the wings of the benjaminian Angel of History, allows him to rest by the ruins of our epoch and ‘make whole what has been smashed’ to begin a new time.

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En Zúrich un hombre recorre la ciudad de noche con las manos cerradas. En silencio sigue los pasos marcados en un mapa. En las manos lleva semillas. No se trata de unas semillas cualesquiera, sino de plantas pioneras: plantas capaces de crecer en terrenos hostiles, en lugares inhóspitos para el desarrollo de la vida, plantas cuya característica es la abundante producción de semillas y de minerales que abonan el terreno para que puedan crecer otras plantas con más necesidades.

La ciudad contemporánea se ha vuelto un lugar inhóspito para el desarrollo de la vida: la lucha constante por la supervivencia de la casi inexistente naturaleza en un ambiente en el que la superficie de suelo sellado avanza inexorablemente guarda estrecha relación con la lucha contra la mercantilización de la ciudad.

La naturaleza, cuando presente, se convierte en el monumento a su ausencia, en el símbolo de la relación superficial, cautiva de la economía neoliberal, entre seres humanos y mundo natural que caracteriza nuestra época: mercantilizada (entradas para visitar parques y jardines botánicos, especulación sobre los llamados productos ecológicos, venta de costosos kits para aprender a cosechar en la ciudad, etc.) o bien violada (poda de árboles que se asemejan a amputaciones, plantas a pocos centímetros de los automóviles, hormigón y asfalto en parques y patios, etc.). La capa de asfalto, omnipresente, interrumpe material y simbólicamente nuestra relación con la tierra.

Las semillas de plantas pioneras que el hombre siembra en el silencio de la noche zuriquesa, en completa soledad y con la apasionada determinación de quienes no quieren ser espectadores pasivos de los eventos, crecen en las grietas del asfalto, en las hendiduras de la ciudad neoliberal, oponiéndose a la mercantilización de la naturaleza, actuando como aliadas de quienes abogan por un cambio radical en la organización de la ciudad y la vida social.

Este cambio puede realizarse a través de la recuperación de la relación entre seres humanos y naturaleza, restableciendo los vínculos profundos que siempre la han caracterizado, un acto de resistencia a la economía neoliberal. Para poder recuperar estos vínculos, al ser el ambiente inhóspito, son necesarias semillas de plantas pioneras que darán paso a la creación de un ambiente fértil para la futura vegetación. Trasladado a las ideas, las plantas pioneras son la metáfora de las ideas que, antes de alcanzar su momento de legibilidad, son consideradas radicales por el ambiente cultural inhóspito y contribuyen a la creación de un ambiente cultural fértil para la futura liberación.

Penetrar la ciudad de noche, cuando el silencio nos hace ver la destrucción operada por la economía neoliberal, es la metáfora de un paseo por las ideas que conciben la vida no como una competición para eliminar al adversario y alcanzar el poder y el éxito personal, sino como un tiempo abierto a la convivencialidad, al conocimiento de lo imprevisible, de lo poético.

Maurice, el hombre que siembra semillas e ideas en Zúrich, es uno de los protagonistas de la película Wild Plants, de Nicolas Humbert, recientemente estrenada en Praga, un viaje poético en busca de la energía de reacción a la destrucción de la naturaleza a la que estamos asistiendo. Una energía positiva que se condensa en personas que habitan distintas partes del planeta, desde Detroit hasta Ginebra y Zúrich, y tienen un elemento en común, que no conoce fronteras: el hecho de ser semillas de resistencia que engendran la esperanza de un posible, concreto cambio en nuestra época.

Actos individuales —como en el caso de Maurice Maggi— o colectivos —el activista nativo norteamericano Milo Yellow Hair, una pareja que decide dedicarse a cultivar la tierra en Detroit, una cooperativa de jóvenes en Ginebra que decide cultivar hortalizas y venderlas directamente a quienes viven en la zona— que ocurren a miles de kilómetros de distancia comparten la misma visión del mundo.

Cambio climático, deforestación, agricultura intensiva, apoderamiento de tierras por los poderosos, guerras: ante la destrucción debida a la tempestad del progreso, aceptado por la mayoría de las personas como si fuera un fenómeno inevitable (el mismo viento que empuja al ángel de la historia benjaminiano impidiéndole cerrar las alas), un viento sopla silenciosamente en dirección contraria por todo el planeta. Se trata de la reacción de personas que desmitifican el progreso técnico y su mercantilización rechazando su carácter ‘natural’ e inevitable y aplicando los ‘frenos de emergencia’ a la economía neoliberal, sintonizándose con el ritmo lento de las plantas.

Personas que a pesar de la distancia hablan el mismo lenguaje: el acto de sembrar en la ciudad, la cosecha y la venta de hortalizas a personas a las que conocemos personalmente, la decisión de (re)descubrir nuestra relación profunda con la naturaleza, el asombro ante los saltos de los animales libres junto con el rechazo a querer poseerlos y cautivarlos, son todos actos que se pueden definir políticos, lejos de las instituciones, cerca de la vida. Este viento contrario que contrarresta la economía neoliberal permite al ángel de la historia cerrar sus alas, detenerse ante las ruinas de la historia que ‘se acumulan hasta el cielo’ para empezar una época nueva.

El silencio de la poesía de las imágenes en el ruido de imágenes fútiles, las palabras densas y lentas en una aceleración de palabras huecas, son otros elementos de resistencia.

 

Autor: Massimo Paolini *

Artículo publicado en El Salto Diario y en Perspectivas anómalas | ciudad · arquitectura · ideas

* Teórico de la arquitectura, autor de Perspectivas anómalas | ciudad · arquitectura · ideas, escribe en publicaciones en el ámbito del pensamiento crítico.

Web: https://www.perspectivasanomalas.org

Twitter: @perspanomalas

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End the “Green” Delusions: Industrial-scale Renewable Energy is Fossil Fuel+


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Illegal wildlife trade & Nepal’s Ex-Prime Minister: Petition to the Supreme Court of Nepal

We are sharing this press release (and amazing story!) on behalf of Kumar Paudel, a research associate of Lancaster Environment Centre. You can read more about Kumar’s work with us here.

Kathmandu, Nepal
16 May, 2018

A unique petition, involving a tiger pelt and Nepal’s Ex-Prime Minister, was submitted to Nepal’s honorable Supreme Court today (074-WO-0807).

Conservationist and wildlife trade researcher, Kumar Paudel, Co-Founder of Greenhood Nepal, brought the petition following a chance viewing of something unexpected on national television. He explained that, “As part of my current research, I have interviewed more than 150 people serving criminal sentences for illegally trading of wildlife in Nepal. Coincidentally, I was watching a national broadcast of an interview with our former Prime Minister, Kritinidhi Bista. I was shocked to see that he was prominently displaying a tiger pelt as decorative item in his home.”

Though the law prohibits the ornamental use of endangered species, such as the tiger, the illegal harvest, trade and use of protected wildlife remains a problem across Nepal. It is a punishable crime, with high fines and prison sentences, and hundreds of people have been arrested and imprisoned across Nepal.

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(Ex PM Kritinidhi Bista giving an interview to a National Television at his home, Kathmandu, Nepal, September 2016. Source: Tweet of the interviewer Suman Kharel)

Mr. Paudel stated, “The law should not discriminate, even if it involves high ranking government officials. This is especially important because I have already met many other people who have been arrested and prosecuted for the same acts.” He also expressed concerns that, by featuring protected wildlife parts on national television, the ex-Prime Minister was endorsing the illegal use of protected wildlife, further threatening imperiled species.

To dig deeper, Mr. Paudel reviewed the prevailing rules and regulations, and identified a provision that allows for the use of wildlife parts with a special permission from Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and/or District Forest Office. When the Department confirmed that no such consent had been given, he reached out to the concerned authorities to request legal action, initially on 12 September, 2016, followed multiple enquiries. Mr. Paudel then identified 3 other public instances where the government had failed to prosecute high-profile individuals for crimes related to wildlife trade. Two years on, there has not been any progress.

This compelled Mr. Paudel to bring this petition to the Supreme Court, a case against a number of government departments that demands them to act on these prominent, yet overlooked cases of illegal wildlife use. Mr. Paudel stated, “I feel it is a moral obligation to raise my voice by issuing this petition. I believe that, by turning a deaf ear, the system condones wildlife crime, indicates biased application of the law and demonstrates a lack of unaccountability.”

Knocking on the door of the Supreme Court, Mr. Paudel feels, is the only remaining option to help protect Nepal’s wildlife.


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Tourism and Degrowth: Impossibility Theorem or Path to Post-Capitalism?

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Robert Fletcher, Asunción Blanco-Romero, Macià Blázquez-Salom and Ivan Murray

“Touristification” of cities is increasingly met by discontent of local communities deprived of their places: overtourism is a real issue and we must face the challenge of rethinking and remaking one of the world’s biggest industry. The time has come to start talking seriously about how to bring tourism and degrowth together

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More Shamans, less intolerance! An Indigenous Manifesto at Berlin Film Festival

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Felipe Milanez

The premier of the movie Ex-Shaman by Luiz Bolognesi at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival becomes the occasion for spreading a manifesto by Indigenous People of Brazil denouncing racism, violence and the loss of traditional knowledge: Shamans must exist and be respected, before it is too late, the world is devoid of spirituality and the Skies fall upon our heads
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The magic of the forest came to the winter of Berlin, bringing stories of violence and genocide, of evangelical proselytism, intolerance and ethnocide. The documentary film Ex-Shaman, directed by Luiz Bolognesi, got the Special Mention Documentary Award Jury at the Berlinale. It tells the story of a shaman who lost his powers when his people Paiter-Suruí, Amerindian of the Amazon, are converted by missionaries. Following every screening at the Festival, a manifesto against intolerance signed by 27 indigenous leaders and shamans and 15 indigenous…

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The Jacobin’s eco-modernist dilemma

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Stefania Barca

The answers to the climate crisis and to an ecological socialism must be searched for, not in ecomodernism, but  in the intersection of ecological, feminist, and socialist perspectives.

Editors’ note: This is the second in a series of ENTITLE blog articles that critically engage with the ongoing discussions about “eco-modernist socialism” and “communist futurism”, projected in Jacobin magazine’s climate change issue ‘Earth, Wind, and Fire.’  Our series continues the debate with critical insights that question the foundations of these proposals. In particular, whether they imply a substantive transformation of current capitalist socio-ecological regimes, or their continuation and even expansion. The series began with an article by Aaron Vansintjan and will also feature contributions by Eric Pineault and Emanuele Leonardi

The Jacobin’s Earth Wind and Fire issue has raised justified concerns from within the ecosocialist family, in view of its marked ecomodernist ethos. I share this concern about…

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Nature 3.0 – Will blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies save the planet?

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Sian Sullivan

Can new cryptocurrencies finance projects with positive environmental impacts, whilst unlocking ‘the $120 trillion natural capital market’? Mining cryptocurrency through appealing to environmental concerns seem more consistent with speculative tendencies in an era of financialised neoliberalism than attuned with practices of environmental care and equitable distribution of value.

image 1. Blockchained earth. Source: Front News International.

First there was Nature. Sometimes an Edenic garden, whose fruitfulness we live with in peace and reciprocity; sometimes a vast wilderness to be feared, tamed or worshiped. But always a lively mesh of entities, whose magnificent diversity is now threatened by a single biological species – Homo sapiens.

Then came Nature 2.0. A material world progressively understood, shared and commoditised in user-generated digital information cascading through multi-player communities inhabiting Web 2.0 – exemplified, perhaps, by the aptly named Second Life. In this technologically inscribed and consumed world…

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