Video series: Second Training Lab

Originally planned to take place in Bolsena, Italy, at WEGO-ITN’s partner Punti di Vista, last year’s Second Training Lab was adapted into an on-line event, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All meetings, lectures, workshops and plenaries happened between June 10th-18th 2020.

All encounters and discussions were recorded and are now also available in videos produced by the group. The editing was a collaborative project by WEGO PhD’s Marlene Gómez, Dian Ekowati, Enid Still and Anna Katharina Voss, together with film maker John Akerman.

Videos include a keynote lecture by Prof. Dr. Katherine Gibson, from the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) – plus discussions between WEGO members about the meanings of Feminist Political Ecology and care. Finally, 3 videos depict mini lectures on PhD’s research projects.

They are also available at our Youtube and Vimeo channels.

Video: What to expect from the 8th International Degrowth Conference?

WEGO-ITN’s partners and researchers have gathered to produce this video, as to prepare for the Feminist Political Ecology Key Conversation, a series of pre-event online discussions building up to workshops and a plenary at the 8th International Degrowth Conference, that will take place in the Hague between 24-28 August 2021.

Calls for contribution – in any form: articles, art, videos, perfomances – are still open until April 6th.

The conversations will explore feminisms, relations of care and well-being, with a focus on the following: How can we understand care as central within degrowth and at the core of our economies and societies? In what way can economies be rearranged in terms of provisioning that care, taking into account health, aging and ability, whilst degrowing? How can we change our relations of care among humans and more-than-human beings so that future societies are just for all living beings? How can we think about degrowth in relation to Covid19 and avoid essentializing nature when talking about these relations?

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

New book: “Forces of Reproduction”

“In May 2011, Zé Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo, nut collectors and members of the agroforestry project (Projeto Agro-Extractivista, PAE) of Praialta Piranheira in the Brazilian Amazon, were brutally murdered as a consequence of their engagement in protecting the forest from illegal logging and timber trafficking (Milanez, 2015). Making a living from a non-exploitative and regenerative relationship with the forest, and passionate about the defence of the rights of both Amazonia and its people, Maria and Zé Claudio’s deaths are among the number of earth defenders whose lives are being taken, year after year, for opposing the infinite expansion of global economic growth (Global Witness, 2017; Martínez-Alier, 2002). But their lives and labour belongto an even wider class, which Ariel Salleh (2010) has called the global meta-industrial labour class, made up of those less-than-humanized (racialized, feminized, dispossessed) subjects who reproduce humanity by taking care of the biophysical environment that makes life itself possible. I call them the forces of reproduction: they keep the world alive, yet their environmental agency goes largely unrecognized in mainstream narratives of that epoch of catastrophic earth-system changes that scientists have called the Anthropocene.”

This is how WEGO-ITN’s partner, Prof. Dr. Stefania Barca, begins her new book, “Forces of Reproduction“. She presented her publication today at an online seminar attended by 50 people, organised by Environmental Justice project.
“This book is a provocation. I want to challenge the so-called ‘master’s narrative’ on climate, the ‘green economy’ discourse, which is consistent with neoliberal practice and which sees nature as an investment opportunity”, said Prof. Barca at the seminar. “Zé Claudia and Maria are part of the non-hegemonic view. They are not victims of economic growth, they are agents of a counter-hegemonic power, in a ecofeminist sense.”

In the second part of the book, Prof. Barca also highlighted how the hegemonic view of the Anthropocene denied the possibility of existing different versions of modernity, by denying colonial relations, sex and gender relations, class relations and interspecies relations in their narratives.

You can see the whole seminar on Environmental Justice’s Youtube Channel.

Meeting and Caring with a group of feminist activists in Indonesia

Cancelled weddings, work challenges, homesickness, menstruation talks, loss of friends to Covid-19. Even with all the hardships, our enthusiasm at the Ruang Baca Puan Collective did not subside to promote activism and cultivate feminist literacy.

Since last year, I have initiated, along with local activists from Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra Islands, the establishment of Ruang Baca Puan Collective’s, as a reading room and literacy collaboration for Indonesian women. On January 23 2021, the Ruang Baca Puan Collective had its first meeting in 2021. We are composed by ten women of different ages, professions, religions, education, and from different island, who are united by activism and feminist literacy.  Unfortunately, two of the members were unable to join the meeting: Fiqoh, a very busy labour union leader, and Sartika, who had to deal with her early pregnancy. The rest, eight of us – four people in Samarinda and Bengalon, East Kalimantan province, one person in North Sumatra province, two other people in Jakarta, a WALHI / Friend of the Earth Indonesia activist and a high school student, and I, myself, in Passau, Germany. Together, we coordinate the Collective, including organising an ecofeminist Literacy Course which will start next month.  It seems the COVID-19 pandemic has created a more shortened space and time through online platforms. The boundaries separating global and local community become thinner and even borderless, as if the air or the landscape that is originally not limited by administration.

The online meeting began with collective “care”. We shared news on what we are going through, so that we are aware and supporting one another, if needed. I use the term ‘care’ not in the shallow meaning when it translates to ‘peduli’  in Indonesian language.  ‘Care’ here is in the context of ‘politics of care’, it is beyond the meaning of “peduli”, which sounds more superficial. It is ‘care’ in a more political sense, for instance, I became an activist because I care for myself (self-care), my community, and nature. 

The collective ‘care’ was a fun and emotional part, there were many stories told. One of the members said, “I haven’t had my period for 8 months.” She then reflected on why her body reacted this way. As it turned out, this was because of her lifestyle that has changed slovenly, irregular eating, eating junk food such as soft drinks, and lack of sleep. Recently, her gout has recurred so her family was worried and took her to the doctor. However, after she changed her lifestyle into a healthier one, her body began to make peace with herself. She was celebrating the return of her menstrual cycle. 

Image: Voni Novita

Another member said that she has grown a keen interest in growing plants since she has to work from home due to the pandemic. We’re shown pictures of her small yard that looks nice and green. She has become increasingly paranoid because COVID-19 is now close to her family’s circle. The collective members who live in East Kalimantan also feel the same way. Interestingly, there are many COVID-19 clusters around coal mining sites, where many people come and go. One of the company contractors of Kaltim Prima Coal, the largest coal mine in Indonesia, is known to have more than 1000 employees affected by COVID-19. Unfortunately, these clusters have not been widely discussed because they don’t want the money machines for the oligarchs to decrease. Despite the workers falling sick, the extraction machines don’t stop. 

The capitalist economic system has always found its way to increase profits in the midst of crisis. I remember the protest against Omnibus Law in Jakarta and around Indonesia in October – November last year which was ratified by the central Government and Parliament in times of pandemic. This law is a legal product  that will make it easier for mining companies to access permits, operate without proper Environmental  Impact Assessment, and even get free royalties. In the meantime, the local communities who live in the area where the natural resources are continuously extracted, have to suffer multiple times. The Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) in its report last year stated that the local community had been hit by mines, and now were being hit  by a global pandemic.

Another interesting story shared in our meeting is about healing after a failed wedding. One member of the collective told us, “In the last two months my life has been so hard, it’s like a roller coaster ride,” she said. She failed to get married last year, and had to heal not only herself, but also her family. On important note, she and her partner consciously agreed to cancel the wedding even though the invitation had been spread out to the public. At least she managed to calm her family down and made peace with herself. I was glad to hear her story about finding a way to heal her mother by keeping her busy planting ornamental plants at home. “The key is buying her flower pots and providing her flower seeds,” she said. I was even amazed to hear that she decided to attend her cousin’s wedding, who got married for the second time. She has prepared herself to answer the stigma of unmarried women or women who failed to get married. She had expected the conversation to turn out to be, “Your cousin has been married twice, you even failed to have one.” I agree with her, a big smile is the most civilized way of responding to that sentence in a society that considers marriage as an obligation, the end of achievement, promotion to higher degree and noble path to heaven.

Even so, there was a member of the collective whose activities remained unbothered. Her name is Delvi. I met her in Central Kalimantan last year. At that time she was an activist for Women’s Solidarity. Now, she is in Brastagi, North Sumatra. Even when we met online, she was at her mother’s coffee shop in a busy traditional market in Brastagi. Every now and then she would stop the conversation because he had to serve the customers. “There are lots of talks in this coffee shop, from gossip to politics,” she said. Her relationship with customers is very close. “We can even ask for free vegetables or fruits, if their goods are kept in the shop,” she added.

I, in Germany, had a very different story. I am studying Feminist Political Ecology  with the chair of Comparative Development and  Cultural Studies at University of Passau. In the past week we’re required to wear N95 masks on public spaces – any kind of cloth mask is prohibited. All shops including restaurants are closed since before Christmas, and only raw food stores are open. The school’s teaching and learning system is conducted online, although some offices are still open, they are recommended to work from home. As predicted, the winter season has made it difficult for the number COVID-19 cases to fall. Europe is now entering the second wave of COVID-19, including Passau, a city where I live with a population of about 50 thousand people, located on the German-Austrian border.

Even though there are those who failed to get married, had their menstruation stopped for 8 months, unable to return to their hometowns, and lost their close friend because of COVID-19, our collective enthusiasm with the Ruang Baca Puan Collective  does not subside to promote activism and cultivate feminist literacy.

The Ruang Baca Puan Collective  was originally a reading group of Vandana Shiva’s works, which consisted of  environmental justice activist part of  the networking of TKPT, JATAM and JATAM East Kalimantan. Last year, we discussed Vandana Shiva’s books on ecofeminism, including a critique of the essentialization of women’s roles. This discussion then inspired us to share knowledge through the Women Reading Room which was made opened to young girls in summer 2020. There were around 119 participants who registered and only 20 people were selected to take online classes from June to September 2020. Some of the alumnae later joined the Ruang Baca Puan Collective and will organise the first feminist literacy course in the rain season January – May 2021. Last week, they held a book discussion of “Feminism for the 99%, A Manifesto”. We are proud to be able to do it collaboratively and collectively. 

 

What does the Ruang Baca Puan Collective do? Visit our website on www.pejuangtanahair.org   

Prince Claus Chair in Equity and Development 2021-23: call for applications

The International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS/EUR) is inviting applications for the Prince Claus Chair (PCC) of Equity and Development 2021-23 with the theme: 

‘Putting care at the center of equity and development: challenges for gender aware economies based on an ethics of care for people and the environment’.

The Prince Claus Chair

The Prince Claus Chair in Equity and Developmentis a rotating professorship in the field of Equity and Development. The chair was established jointly by two Dutch institutions, Utrecht University (UU) and the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in honour of Prince Claus of the Netherlands (1926-2002): http://princeclauschair.nl/The Chair is intended for a young academic from the Global South.

The chair is ‘honorary’ (0.0 fte) and rotates annually between these two establishments and the term has a duration of two years. The Chair holds the post for two academic years (2021-23) and remains embedded in her/his own institution while undertaking residential periods to participate in an agreed programme of activities in The Netherlands in line with the PCC Vision document (link). The residential periods will be for a minimum of 6 months over two years and all costs associated with travel, living expenses and accommodation in The Netherlands will be covered. 

The International Institute of Social Studies

The PCC 2021-23 will be based at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS/EUR: https://www.iss.nl/en). The ISS is an international post graduate research and teaching institute based in The Hague, which brings together people, ideas and insights from around the world in a multi-disciplinary setting which nurtures, fosters and promotes critical thinking and innovative research on fundamental social problems. Through its teaching and research, ISS has strong partnerships with organizations and individuals in the Global South and a vibrant network which ensures that teaching and research remain socially relevant.

The PCC 2021-23

For the PCC 2021-23, ISS is looking for a socially committed researcher who is deeply engaged in our world’s rapidly changing economic, ecological and technological environments. The candidate selected will be a researcher from the Global South, who is undertaking cutting edge multidisciplinary research and who, in addition, is engaged with communities in both within the academic world and outside of it. The position is intended for an up-and-coming scholar who would benefit from being a PCC in order to further her or his own research, engage in teaching where requested, and to contribute to the public debate reflecting specifically on the Covid-19 pandemic on ways to put in place equitable care at the centre of economies.

The PCC chair will work with the ISS in the partnership with Wageningen University  to develop the research programme and will be embedded in a number of key global networks – The Well-being, Ecology, Gender and community (WEGO); The Community Economies Research Network (CERN); The Revaluing Care in the Global Economy; Political Ecology Network (POLLEN; The International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) and The Degrowth R&D– to select case studies to be undertaken with communities which have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in innovative and exciting ways, and to contribute societally relevant and policy-relevant papers.

The research will explore care and responsibility at the intersection of feminist political ecology and economy looking at community economies and the careful-work in communities for humans and the more-than-human and how care is centred in current economic policy, based on principles of equity, diversity and gender justice. Any teaching or public engagements will relate to the expertise of the candidate. They will be undertaken closely and collaboratively and in the context of ISS interests and engagement in equity and development. For more background on how the research is positioned and designed see here: PCC Final background paper

The ideal candidate has a strong research profile that is able to combine fields that take care as central to their enquiry such as: public health, gender and labour studies, feminist economics, social policy, reproductive rights and health, and environmental justice and the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, candidates will:

  • be from or based in the Global South
  • have a PhD (obtained in the last 15 years) and good academic track record;
  • be fluent in English;
  • be based in an academic institution and/or research network that has strong societal relevance and impact in the area of gender and care;
  • be able to participate and help to strengthen research networks linked to ISS, Wageningen and other institutions in The Netherlands and internationally;
  • be able to engage in post graduate teaching public debate when requested; and
  • be available to be in the NL for 3 months per year of the appointment in at least two periods. 

Application

The International Institute of Social Studies is committed to building and sustaining a community based on inclusiveness, equity and diversity and believes this will contribute to our mission and vision of being the best institute in our field. ISS is an equal opportunities employer and encourages applications from candidates of all genders, ethnicities and nationalities. Given the current composition of the ISS academic staff and priorities relating to staff diversity, the Institute has a preference for applicants originating from the Global South and also encourages applications from minority candidates.

Please submit the following documents in one PDF file to Azza Elias Botrus: eliasbotrus@iss.nl:

  • a motivation letter (maximum 4 pages) which includes a description of areas you would like to focus on in the PCC; 
  • a detailed CV which provides information on your publications, grants, teaching activities and teaching evaluations, societally relevant activities; and 
  • contact details of three referees. 

Please do not send letters of reference or examples of your academic writing.

Deadline for submitting your application is 1 September. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for a skype interview in the period 14-22 September 2020

For additional information: 

On the PCC 2021-23 position please contact: Professor Wendy Harcourt: harcourt@iss.nl

On the background of the PCC and vision document, please visit: http://princeclauschair.nl/

On ISS, please visit: www.iss.nl

WEGO at the Degrowth Vienna 2020 conference on Strategies for Social-Ecological Transformation

Wendy Harcourt, Anna Katharina Voss and ISS MA graduate Rosa de Nooijer invite you to the presentation of our paper ‘Relations of Care: Ethics and Food Production in Europe’ at the upcoming Degrowth Vienna 2020 conference. In our presentation we explore how Covid-19 is redrawing our understanding of social reproduction and how care is part of the embodied labour of women and men engaging in alternative food production in rural landscapes in Italy and in the reclaimed territory of the Flevopolder in The Netherlands. We will give our talk at the panel ‘Territories, Resources and Care Work. Feminist Perspectives on Transformation’, convened by university lecturer, freelance author and scholar-activist Christa Wichterich.

relations of care
Source: Degrowth Vienna 2020 conference

Our collaborative session will look at everyday politics and practices of care work as counternarratives of resistance and regeneration emerging in territories menaced by resource extractivism, large dam construction and industrialisation of food in Africa, South America and Europe. We will be joined by Samantha Heargreaves from the African alliance of women against extractivism WoMin and her talk on ‘Extractivism, Women’s Care Work and the Right to Say NO’, and PhD candidate Camila Nobrega Rabello Alves who will speak about ‘Feminist Perspectives on the Social-environmental Conflicts of the Hydropower Dam São Luiz do Tapajós, Brazil: Shifting Narratives’.

As Covid-19 has disrupted our plans to travel to Vienna in person and instead to exchange our thinking and experiences in a virtual conference space, we will also reflect on how this unprecedent global health-and-beyond crisis has brought visibility to the essential and life-sustaining nature of care and care work, only reaffirming the urgency to think and act towards radical alternatives beyond the patriarchal-capitalist growth model. Following the single presentations there will be time for questions and we hope for a lively discussion with the audience. 

What: Panel ‘Territories, Resources and Care Work. Feminist Perspectives on Transformation’

When: 31 May 2020, 10-11:30am

Where: Online

For info and registration: https://www.degrowthvienna2020.org/en/

Video for presentation

We are running behind the farmers: mapping food, knowledge and care in Chennai, the peri-urban and beyond

In the city of Chennai, Restore, an established non-profit organic food store, has been working closely with and for farmers for over ten years. More than a ‘shop,’ this organisation has networks and connections that extend to both local farmers and farmers as far away as Bangalore and Ooty. These networks are not simple supply chains but flows where food, knowledge and care move back and forth between the urban, the rural and the spaces in between. 

To bring visibility to these flows, the farmers, the knowledge and the caring practices involved in building such connections, we are exploring the possibility of a collaborative counter-cartography project.

Following the work of Kollectiv Organgotango+ and contributors to the book ‘This is Not an Atlas’ (2018), the project adopts the term ‘counter-cartography’ to describe what will be a process of mapping human and more-than-human food relations and thus, making visible flows of knowledge and care in and around Chennai. Such flows or embodied connections of food, knowledge and care often obscured by positivist and capitalist representations of food networks and supply chain mappings. 

The first aim of the project is to give consumers who shop at Restore more information and understanding about their food and where it comes from, thus making visible the farmer, their labour and their knowledge. The second aim is to challenge the dominant processes and conceptions of capital market flows by demonstrating: (1) the mutual flows of knowledge between farmers and traders, (2) the care networks that are constituted between farmers and traders that disrupt market norms and (3) the caring relations that exist between humans and more-than-humans across urban and rural landscapes. The ‘map’ will intersect with the Tamil seasonal farming calendar to demonstrate and make visible the dynamic and circular flows of food, knowledge and care moving within space and through time.


This project note is part of my ongoing research with farmers and traders in Chennai, India. It was proposed and discussed with activists at Restore in Chennai a few days before I had to leave India due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore still very tentative and has not moved beyond this first discussion in early March 2020. We are also in the process of translating the note into Tamil to share with farmers and other activists in and around Chennai.

Despite being at this very early and uncertain stage I wanted to share this with the WEGO network and other interested scholars working in collaboration with activist networks and using participatory mapping to invite feedback and reflections.
Enid Still

Regenerative practices of care during and beyond the pandemic

Arundhati Roy, in her widely circulated 3 April 2020 Financial Times piece ‘The pandemic is a portal’, argues that the pandemic offers us a chance to think about the world anew, ushering in a new era. I, hope with Roy, that the pandemic becomes understood as a historic breakdown of capitalist logic which demands a new type of life-world where caring and the commons. And I ask, with her, what could be the basis of a new regime of social reproduction that can sustain human and other life?

These questions I ask myself, somewhat foggily, as I navigate ideas for a new regime via my screen and zooms, at my desk here in Rome. In this global pandemic, the State has found a new place in our lives here in Europe, restricting our once (apparently) free lives. And, importantly, even for those who could not see it before, there is now ample evidence of the failure of capitalism to provide care for citizens, despite Europe’s wealth and privilege.

My mind turns frequently to Bolsena, Italy, where I am a member of a small community-based organisation Punti Di Vista. In this tiny hamlet perched on a volcanic lake, histories of epidemics have come and gone. New eras have been ushered in by the Romans, the Catholic Church, land owners, and the modern Italian state. The deep blue volcanic lake which, I miss, has seen the redrawing of boundaries of wealth, territory, resources, and knowledge that have protected some and have abandoned others. Even though I am far from the lake, I take heart from its quiet peaceful presence in my memories to keep hope.

We are living in a period where we are rapidly redrawing how we understand care. The act of care, who cares, who is cared for, has become visibly part of the biopolitics of State control of their population’s life and death. The biopolitics of the emerging economics of Covid-19 has exposed the inability of the current neoliberal global regime to secure life with justice. The care and the health of populations is mitigated by deep economic and political rifts marked by gender, age and race.

These days I am often left reeling – how do we deal with the sudden expansion of coercion and surveillance that leads to such inequity and exclusions. How do we cope as we are suddenly forced to consider how can care of self is carried out as the virus connects us in ways we cannot see. We are asked to applaud but cannot protect the care givers. I continue to wonder what solidarity on-line or with physical distance means.

In Corona times what was once ordinary has become about life or death, – washing hands, getting medical supplies, distributing protective equipment, harvesting and delivering food delivery, caring for children, supporting the sick and elderly. Our principles of care work (now seen as essential work) have expanded to include workers who maintain collective life on all levels – from medical staff to those supplying food, milk, sanitation, electricity, connectivity. We live with intimate governmental intervention that controls our movements in the home, in shops, schools, work places, and tells us the safe ways to care (physical distance, masks). Covid-19 asks us to rethink everyday strategies of care and responsibility.

Judith Butler’s beautiful piece in Con Tactos(21 April 2020) on Human Traces on the Surfaces of the World complicates our need to rethink further. The pandemic materially asks us to care for ourselves and others as we shield ourselves with masks and soap, as we stay home, learn to work and connect via the Internet. We are now acutely aware of the material objects which sustain, and create our social relations – the surfaces of things that determine how we connect – the plastics, packaging, stairwells, seats, walls, pavements, the particles in the air we breathe. These objects are all entangled in our means of production and social production, determining life and death. We now feel ourselves vulnerable as we touch, brush past, breathe,we feel our susceptibility to what lives on the surfaces of the objects that pass between us. As Butler states:

“The virus lands on, enters, one bounded body and departs to land on the skin of another or on an object, looking for a host —the surface of a package, the porous material of a shared world”.

The question is whether we can live with these new ways of connection and in so doing usher in a new era where that can not only unmask but break the inequalities which underscore global capitalism. How to move beyond the deep multifaceted inequalities which have so clearly emerged with the pandemic and work towards maintaining communities that are organising and giving shape to solidarities that are based on care?

In rethinking social reproduction, that is by putting care centrally to our economic and health systems, we can help to end extractivism, fight exploitative production and environmental damage, oppose sexism and racism. In working against systemic inequalities we can learn from the pandemic about how our human and more than human lives are bound up together in the material relations of production and social reproduction that connect us across territories, languages, bodies and cultures.

I would like to conclude by returning to the lake of Bolsena. The lake is regenerating. The stop to tourism has meant less waste, less plastics are entering the lake. Some communities of care, families, clusters of farmers, shop owners are weathering the pandemic. Those outside remain connected. The birds continue to sing, and spring has unfurled. So, what could a new era mean for that territory? What new values of care are possible? Economically, there is a sense of change, as some products went on line, some compensation offered, but there is a sense of deep waiting now, a wariness of what is to come, how the town, dependent on tourism, the selling of local wines and food cultures will survive a pandemic, this time round.

 

Care – extra care

I’m trying hard to sleep, seeing my dear 18 month-old daughter finally fall asleep. I am exhausted, tried to sleep, but instead my mind travelled far to where I started my journey as a PhD with WEGO. Here are some reflections of that time. I remembered that soon after I got shortlisted as a candidate in the project, I found out that I got pregnant with my second child. My first one was 7 years old and while we had been trying to have another one the last 1,5 years, nothing happened. And therefore, getting the news was really surprising. 

Before I knew it, I got the position. Only with the support of my current supervisor, I managed to start my PhD, but with a delayed start, an initial visa refusal drama and a big move to UK with my husband and 2 kids (one was 4 months old). I wouldn’t have been able to get myself together if not for the kindness and care from my colleagues in the university, the project, my neighbours, and new friends I found in Brighton. They literally have gone extra miles, far beyond their responsibility. I remember when my project manager dropped in to our place in our first evening in our “Brighton home” and gave us a rug, blanket and a cot while we’re still waiting for the bed to be delivered from the preloved-charity shop we bought them from. I remember how long the chain was of my supervisor’s email trying to work out finance to help me out with the big move. I remember how my new neighbour helped us with the practical elements of the move. And also how one of the friends in WEGO got me to gather myself together when I found out one of our dearest family passed away while I was alone in Brighton before my family joined me. Then finally I remember how a parent in my son’s school took my son to the cinema and watch his very first movie in Brighton.

So much has happened, great and not-so-great things I did not foresee would happen, but what I learned is that here and there, many people will help when you reach out. Therefore, despite the rollercoaster, I have no regrets, it’s all worth it. Even if I found that my project often came last and needed to wait for the end of the day to be touched.

But I wouldn’t be here (and my kids would not have enjoyed the nice kebab in this photo next to an intriguing museum in Brighton) if not because of this support system, the care of those lovely people. Thank you!

Coronavirus and the much needed overcoming of capitalism

It is important to incorporate a new vision linked to the ethics of care, which opens the possibility of hoping for a better world, a world in which the community dimension becomes central, where care is the basis for connections, not only between human beings but also at the community level and with nature.

The arrival of the Coronavirus in Uruguay has put the population on alert and transformed daily life. The call to stay at home cannot be answered in the same way by all people, considering the activities they carry out but also because not everyone has the real possibility of confronting extreme situations given that the necessary social protection measures have not yet been put in place. What is clear is that, in line with what happened in other affected countries, either voluntarily, by measures suggested by the authorities or imposed by (more or less democratic) measures, the changes in daily life have been radical.

These changes in behaviour respond to the fact that the population perceives that there is an imminent danger. The virus is in circulation and the possibility of people getting sick, or in serious cases dying, is a reality. It is a concrete fact that impacts their lives, directly, or through the excess pressure that the epidemic places on the health system shared by the population. It is not a personal problem. It is a collective problem, a problem of humanity as a whole. There are causes (not entirely clear) and there are consequences. And the consequences are visible. Containing and transforming the situation requires public policies, systems that respond equitably, and an informed and acting society.

At least since the 1970s, when the first United Nations conference on Environment and Development was organised, humanity has had the necessary information and available data that establishes with absolute clarity that the dominant model of production and consumption, like the Coronavirus, sickens and kills, in addition to destroying nature and the diverse ecosystems, putting at risk not only the lives of the present but of future generations. For 50 years, the universal response has been to maintain the same model, dressing it up with statements and terms that are becoming fashionable as a denialist strategy to continue praising economic growth as an indispensable condition for the well-being of humanity. Every year, multiple conferences are organised and programmes are put in place to make production and consumption “sustainable”, to make the economy “green”, to have industry and technology develop “resilient” practices, and the list could go on citing buzzwords used to ensure the perpetuation of a destructive, unjust, discriminatory, exclusive model that fundamentally puts at risk the continuity of Life in its many manifestations.

While the Coronavirus multiplies exponentially and we know the number of victims daily, capitalism has produced unequal societies where millions die daily from multiple causes: hunger, preventable diseases, violence, environmental pollution, destruction of ecosystems, etc. But in addition, capitalism has generated individualism as a central phenomenon, which determines total indifference to the suffering of “the others”, added to the centrality of consumption almost as a way of existence. In recent decades, countless books and articles have been written, innumerable courses have been organised at  university and popular levels, networks have been created throughout the world promoting lifestyles that not only call into question the capitalist model but, and fundamentally, they summon to recognise that there are other ways of being and inhabiting our common planet. Feminist and environmental movements, as well as those of solidarity / community economies, have systematically proposed the necessary consideration of care, reciprocity and overcoming extractivism in relation to nature as central processes to achieve truly sustainable, egalitarian and just societies.

When the pandemic has passed and all of us recognise that we live in another world (in which thousands will no longer be, not only the direct victims of the pandemic, but those who will have succumb to other diseases because of non-existent or weak public health systems which collapsed in the face of the crisis, millions who will have lost their livelihoods and did not have protection systems that could guarantee their right to life and well-being, depressed socioeconomic and environmental indicators and without the resources to reverse them) the ways of being in the world and the public policies that enable them will play a central role in the prevention of new crises. That is why it is important, now, to put on the table knowledge, visions and practices that state that the virus is not the anomaly or the monster, but rather reveals the monstrosity of the dominant model1.

CENTRALITY OF LIFE

In this other world, care must be more important than the logic of profit, putting Life at the centre and not money. Care is an intrinsic function of “the social”, which has historically been associated with the feminine and that can sometimes become a burden linked to gender mandates, devalue and become invisible in its contribution and relevance. It is important to incorporate a new vision linked to the ethics of care, which opens the possibility of hoping for a better world, a world in which the community dimension becomes central, where care is the basis for connections, not only between human beings but also at the community level and with nature. Care helps to contribute to more sustainable livelihoods, to the extent that satisfying needs, rather than being exclusively linked to markets (and economic growth). is mainly understood through reciprocity and solidarity. The State is not oblivious to these processes, but quite the contrary, plays a central role in guaranteeing its solidification for the population as a whole, distancing itself from the neoliberal logic that makes each person responsible for their life and that of their family in open opposition to the ontological reality that defines us as human beings – that is, our relational and community nature. The current Coronavirus pandemic is also an excellent example of the impossibility of individual solutions, showing that the only way out of the crisis is caring, for ourselves and for others, that each person who needs attention is intertwined with their most immediate environment, with their community and with the citizenry as a whole, and that the State has the fundamental role of providing resources and distributing them with a criterion of justice and social equality.

But caring goes far beyond us, people. The capitalist mode of production assumes that nature is only the source of resources to satisfy supposedly infinite needs, and that therefore the supply of goods and services must be unlimited in order to guarantee permanent economic growth that generates jobs, consumption, exploitation of nature, new products, new jobs, consumption. Above all, this cycle is predicated on permanent profit, which, invested in speculative markets, allows enrichment without social responsibility and without offering any type of benefits or assistance to the majority of the population. The population, with some luck, will be able to access some of those jobs, consume, that consumption continues to depend on the exploitation of nature and continues to contribute to the enrichment of the famous 1% that concentrates 44% of the world’s wealth2. This is the monstrosity of the system, which lays waste to rivers, species, plants, soils, animals; that creates strata and classes condemning broad sectors of the population to situations of exploitation due to their sex, gender, sexual orientation, class, capacity, place, age, ethnicity; that puts at risk the very continuity of Life without offering well-being or care; and that favours the emergence of diseases that one day make us realise that all the accumulated assets do not even serve to begin to respond to the challenge.

 NATURE AND INTERDEPENDENCE

From a feminist and ethics of care perspective, it is possible to affirm that the dominant vision of nature in capitalism does not recognise its intrinsic value and its interrelation with the diversity of Life, but merely positions it as a provider for human beings, and this is what has justified unsustainable uses and over-exploitation, with known consequences in terms of climate change, pollution and others. The challenge is precisely to recognise the interdependence, the necessary limits in its use, the existence of nature’s own needs that require respect for cycles, protection, care and proper handling, regeneration and restoration of certain processes. The extractivist logic that guides the exploitation of nature is the opposite of the logic of care, and just as it happens with people and societies, it not only harms the subject of those exploitative actions (in this case nature) but the interdependent system as a whole. The stories that come from different parts of the world regarding skies that turn blue again, improvements in the quality of water and air as a result of the decrease in economic activity, are indications that changes in the way of production have a fast impact in nature.

These changes, however, and as we saw at the beginning, respond to the emergency and largely to fear. Long-term changes require a new understanding of the meaning of life and well-being. From the centrality of the economy to the centrality of Life. From self-identification as consumers to citizens. From nationals of a country to inhabitants of a shared planet. From recipients of public policies to co-makers of a reality that celebrates diversity and thrives on plural and diverse knowledge. There will be those who argue that it is a romantic approach. But it is in reciprocal care, within the framework of states that guarantee egalitarian and social protection policies, with programmes that allow overcoming inequalities and discrimination, and with productive practices that recognise and respect interdependence with nature, that we are playing the chances of overcoming this crisis today and forward.

Montevideo, March 2020

This article was originally published in Brecha, Montevideo, Uruguay: https://brecha.com.uy/coronavirus-y-la-necesaria-superacion-del-capitalismo/

1. Bram Ieven and Jan Overwijk,  “Dit is de normale orde”, De Groene Amsterdammer, 18 March 2020, https://www.groene.nl/artikel/dit-is-de-normale-orde
2.  Global Inequality, https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/#global-wealth-inequality