FPE Dialogues UK – a look into frontline communities and the multiple faces of extractivism

This series of events was organised by WEGO-ITN Early Stage Researchers Dian Ekowati, Siti Maimunah, Alice Owen and Eunice Wangari, plus Prof. Rebecca Elmhirst, as a mentor.

The British version of WEGO-ITN’s Feminist Political Ecology Dialogues happened between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 in two separate occasions: on the The United Nations COP26 Peoples Summit for Climate Justice and as part of the Despite Extractivism Exhibition, organized by the Extracting Us Collective.

1. WEGO-ITN at UN Climate Change Conference

The United Nations COP26 took place in Glasgow, UK in November 2021 and was the focus for our first FPE dialogue event series.  

We invited the public, through the COP26 Peoples Summit for Climate Justice events programme, to join us to discover stories from Indonesia, Kenya and the UK which can be woven together to tell a bigger story about the making of climate colonialism, the logics of extractivism, and the ways communities resist and find alternatives.  We shared stories which have come to us through our research with communities as part of the WEGO network for Feminist Political Ecology. 

Through this FPE dialogue, we ask: what does the climate emergency look like in each of these places?  How do frontline communities resist ‘false solutions’? Through a toxic tour, we juxtapose untold stories from riverine, forest, agrarian, pastoralist and suburban communities in West and Central Kalimantan (Indonesia), Kenya and the UK. These stories of everyday struggles for life may be overlooked, and therefore untold, in the drama of large-scale resistances. Alongside the tour, we invite those attending in person to join us in an open story-sharing space to gather and connect untold stories from elsewhere.

We also bring these stories to the United Nations COP26 Virtual Gender Marketplace to bring our FPE perspective into conversation with policy makers alongside bodies including IUCN, UN Women and others engaged with gender and the climate agenda. 

Full post here.

Despite Extractivism Exhibition

Despite Extractivism is an online exhibition that assembled expressions of care, creativity and community in relation to diverse extractive contexts. The exhibition is both an exploration of extractivism, and of the already-existing alternatives. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the violent logics and impacts of extractivism. The FPE dialogues event series provokes questions and discussions with communities, creatives and activists. Whilst our questions are informed by Feminist Political Ecology (FPE), the dialogues provide an opportunity to push FPE in new directions. 

In addition to the co-curation of an online exhibition following on from the Extracting Us exhibition series, the organising team organised a series of online webinars which were spaces where artists, activists, researchers and interested audiences could convene to explore extractivism and its alternatives through a FPE lens.  Between a launch event and a closing event, three webinars explored the stories, ideas and practises of the Despite Extractivism contributors and the communities they engaged with. The events, featuring performances, presentations and discussions,  focused in turn on expanding but intersecting scales, from the body to the global.  

Full post here.

Access to the webinars here:

What we can learn from women in grassroots environmental justice movements

Notes from “Women in Graassroots environmental justice movements”, CSW66 parallel event, organized by Pangea Foundation and WEGO-ITN, March 22nd, 2022.

Women from marginalized territories are often overlooked when speaking of women’s leadership, but they are often at the frontline of environmental justice movements. To share their powerful stories, Pangea Foundation and the EU funded Innovative Training Network WEGO – Well-being Ecology Gender and cOmmunity on feminist political ecology have organised an online parallel event in the context of the 66th Session of the United Nation Commission on the Status of Women. 

The webinar was introduced by Simona Lanzoni, Pangea Foundation’s vice-president, followed by a roundtable discussion moderated by Wendy Harcourt, Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Development at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Netherlands, both members of the WEGO network. Speakers were from different backgrounds: researchers, activists, and farmers and they shared their story of activism or research with women grassroots movements for environmental and social justice. Ana Agostino, WEGO’s ombudsperson, from Uruguay, who has been ombudsperson of the city of Montevideo for five years, shared a story about Vecinas (female neighbours), a grassroot group of women of the city of Montevideo, concerned about what was happening not only to them personally, but to the community at large. Khayaat Fakier, Prince Claus Chair on Equity and Development 2021-3 at ISS, from South Africa, spoke about the Rural Women Assembly, a self-organizing movement of women farmers, spread across thirteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Miriam Corongiu, a farmer from the so-called Land of Fires, Campania, Italy, shared her experience as a farmer and activist in an environmentally degraded territory within the networks Citizenship and Community, Stop Biocide and the ecofeminist group Georgica. Seema Kulkarni, from India, national facilitation team member of MAKAAM – Forum for Rights of Women Farmers, spoke about women coming from farmer suicide households. Agustina Solera, Post Doc Prince Claus Chair on Equity and Development at ISS, from Argentina, shared her experience with the Mapuche Community in Patagonia, Argentina. Siti Maimuna, WEGO PhD student at the University of Passau, from Indonesia, told her experience with the local anti-mining movement, the women’s organization TKPT, working with women in communities affected by mining, the indigenous people’s organization OAT, led by indigenous women in the island of Mollo and other NGOs in Kalimantan Island, campaigning for water justice. 

Siti Maimuna’s story is a story of resistance, a story of women resisting extractivism. When mining companies arrived in Indonesia, women opposed the destruction of nature by occupying the territory with their own bodies. According to Siti Maimuna the human body is part of nature, therefore “opposing the destruction of nature is the same as refusing the destruction of the human body” and “the human body and the body of nature cannot be separated”. In Indonesian, “we call the human body Tubuh, and the nature or the territory where the body belongs is Tanah Air, Tanah means soil, and Air implies water. We call[ed] this the resistance to defend Tubuh-Tanah Air. Defending the bodies”. Women led the resistance against mining, activists organized demonstrations and created songs that were sung in every forest as a form of protest and resistance. Some of them decided to bury their feet in cement in protest mining companies and this act became a symbol of resistance. Eventually some companies left the area and since then, every two or three years, women organize a festival to celebrate the resistance and its success.

Women at the Ningkam Haumeni Festival, Indonesia

Agustina Solera’s experience refers to the time of her PhD research, in the Andean area of Patagonia, Argentina, with the Mapuche community and their schools in rural areas. She wanted to learn from the Mapuche’s ‘way of being in relation’, a way of being sustained on care and respect for the weave of life and its regeneration. When Agustina Solera got the opportunity to meet the population she learnt the fear, the stigma and the shame associated with being Mapuche. She recounted that “schools in Argentina played a main role in “civilizing” the surviving indigenous populations, erasing, denying or, in the best case, devaluing ancestral ways of being in relation (between humans and other-than-humans)”.  Now, instead, “rural schools have become places of belongings in which struggles for resistance and re-existence germinate; have become fertile spaces where people from different cultures encounter each other.” Here, we see that the struggle for the reconstitution of language, knowledge, history and culture silenced in the past are not separable from other struggles of environmental and social justice.

Rural Schools, Andean Patagonia, Argentina

Seema Kulkarni’s experience with MAKAAM and women farmers from suicide affected households in the state of Maharashtra, India is a story of agrarian distress, caused by the commercialisation of agriculture. The lobbying from the pesticide and the chemical industries led to an increase in the cost of cultivation and to a transition from a decentralized model to a corporate model of food production. All these factors contributed to an increase in farmers’ suicides, in particular in those states that were rapidly industrialising, and agriculture was increasingly seen in the commercial space.

The women of farmer suicide households are never visible. The state and its programs have not recognised them as workers and farmers in their own right. “Makaam story starts from there, politicizing this issue, centralizing the question of women farmers as farmers and not just as widows of these farmers,” said Seema Kulkarni. These women were dispossed of their rights, the majority of them never had access to the land that belonged to their family, and they were suffering also the stigma associated with their husbands’ suicide. 

The movement’s action that took place in the capital of the Maharashtra state got a lot of attention from policy makers. These women started to be seen as a political category that demanded attention and a different kind of policies. But there was more. Women were saying that during the Covid-19 pandemic the commercialisation of agriculture left them without food, and they wanted real change. They said no to chemical fertilizers and no to chemical pesticides because they didn’t want to be controlled by corporations, they wanted their knowledge and their understanding of their farms to be at the forefront. 

Miriam Corongiu’s story is of resistance and care from the so-called Land of Fires, Italy, a land where two million people live, characterized by toxic fires of illegally discharged waste, big polluting mega infrastructures (such as incinerators and gas power plants), and a phenomenon called ecomafia, organized crime connected to corrupt politicians and irresponsible managers. “It’s right here that agroecology is more necessary” stated Miriam Corongiu, “especially agroecology made by women, because of its attention to the regeneration of the relationship between nature and human beings, not only to the organic techniques to cultivate the land.” She is a member of several grassroots movements in Terra dei Fuochi, such as Stop Biocide and Citizenship and Community network, and part of an ecofeminist group of women, Georgica, all of them cultivating gardens, trying to fight for food sovereignty and agroecology.

Miriam Corongiu, Land of Fires, Campania, Italy

Khayaat Fakier shared the story of the Rural Women Assembly of South Africa, a country deeply affected by the consequences of climate change that make farming and the provision of healthy food and nutrition to children and communities extremely difficult. A group of women coming from a very arid land not far from Cape Town tried to engage with the local and national government in order to obtain access to land for the production of food, but they were quite unsuccessful. Then, thanks to the interaction with a group of fisherwomen through the Rural Women Assembly, they started aquaponics production of vegetables, a mode of production where plants are planted in water. The water is populated by fishes, which feed from the nutrients and the oxygen that the plants emit into the water and, at the same time, the fishes fertilize the water. Both groups of women benefited from the initiative. This is an example of how the idea and notion of agroecology isn’t separate from food production for the communities and “demonstrates a way in which women working in nature can build collaboration in order to not just improve their own conditions and the conditions of the community but to collectivize the struggle for access to production” said Khaayat Fakier. 

Ana Agostino’s story takes place in Montevideo, Uruguay, where the Vecinas, a group of local women, gave the impetus to an urban regeneration project in the city center. Women from the neighborhood brought to the attention of the ombudsperson of the city of Montevideo the problem of abandoned houses in the city center. This led to the creation of a program called Fincas Abandonadas, a project with the purpose of recovering abandoned deteriorated houses located in the central area of the city and restoring their social function. The municipality organized consultations with the local citizens and found three uses for these abandoned houses. First, dispersed housing cooperatives: houses owned collectively that in spite of being all in the same plot, were dispersed within the neighborhood; second, a Trans House, in response to the LGBTIQA+ community’s need to have a collective space for people who had someone in the process of gender change in their families. Third, a Half-way home, a secure home for people facing difficult situations, such as domestic violence, homelessness, having come out of different types of institutionalizations, etc. 

The story of the Vecinas of Montevideo and their complaints about abandoned houses “is a clear example of this continuum between the day-to-day life of women who inhabit their space with a sense of community, and how they help in the definition and implementation of policies that contribute towards a better life for their communities and for the environment,” said Ana Agostino. Moreover, this case demonstrates that care for the environment where women live in, is not limited to the rural space, but it also includes the urban. 

In conclusion, the speakers highlighted what emerged from the discussion and the stories shared during the webinar. Miriam Corongiu stressed the importance of care: care for the land, the community, loved ones and family; Khayaat Fakier the need of enhancing transnational solidarity, making connections within and across movements, between the rural and the urban spaces; Siti Maimuna stated that we have to learn how to reconnect with each other and nature, underlining that “knowledge restitution is very important and we have to start thinking about how the resistance and the struggle is experienced in our bodies.” Seema Kulkarni pointed out that “all of these stories are powerful stories saying that women are organizing, women are collectivizing, and they are looking at alternative ways of living, creating this world”. Ana Agostino concluded by saying that these stories were stories of women’s resistance, but “the resistance we are talking about is a creative resistance reconstituting a way of being in relation with others and to nature”.  

FPE Dialogues Italy: a six-episode radio show

Introduction 

In the summer of 2020, half a year into the pandemic, a group of women coming from different political experiences and life paths working and living in Italy decided to come together as a rural feminism collective called Tutte Giù Per Terra and learn autonomoulsy how to organize, host and record several radio episodes. Anna Katharina Voss, Ilenia Iengo, Irene Leonardelli are PhD students and Stefania Barca mentor in the WEGO-ITN project, Miriam Corongiu is a farmer, Maddalena Cualbu a shepherd and Katya Madio a teacher. We gathered weekly to discuss topics, news, share experiences in order to build a collective knowledge upon which we planned our episodes. 

Radio shows were again very popular since the beginning of the pandemic, which reduced the spaces to encounter and discuss in person, but allowed for new and old methods of dissemination and organising to bloom. We sought the opportunity to participate in a radio channel called Radio iafue per la terra, an information and dissemination project run by Alleanza sociale per la sovranità alimentare, an Italian movement bringing together farmers and farm workers for food sovereignty. 

Picture: Irene Leonardelli

This is how we started the FPE dialogues in Italy, shaping them around 6 radio episodes, where the collective Tutte Giù Per Terra aimed to create a space for encounters of different grassroots experiences that engage with agroecology, women and LGBTQIA+ self-determination in rural areas, ecofeminist struggles against environmental contamination and neoliberal processes in the rural world and alliances across rural and urban feminisms. We intended to reach a public of alternative agricultural networks, undergraduate and graduate students and activists engaged in Political Ecology and transfeminism across the country.

We propose below the recording of these six radio episodes (all in Italian) with a short summary in English indicating the speakers and the main topics discussed. With this experience we grew collectively from the internal discussions, preparation and organisation, and we acquired editorial and hosting skills for radio shows. We aimed to share and amplify knowledge in the fields of feminism and agriculture/rurality in Italy, especially regarding alternative agricultural practices and political networks working on commons, depatriarchization of practices and environmental violence.

Yet the FPE Dialogues in Italy did not only involve online conversations through the different radio episodes. At the end of September 2021, some of us physically met in Naples to learn more about each other’s work and strengthen our collaboration. In particular, Ilenia, Irene and Stefania spent an afternoon with Miriam Corongiu at her Orto Conviviale, the farming project that she manages just outside of Naples, where she also lives. As activists and researchers in the Land of Fires (La Terra dei Fuochi), Ilenia, Stefania and Miriam have known each other and worked together for a long time. Instead, Irene, who is from the North of Italy and currently lives in the Netherlands, met Miriam for the first time. 

We walked around the farm admiring the plants and trees that Miriam (together with her husband and daughter) is growing. We sat together and listened to Miriam’s experience about what it means to be a woman farmer in the Land of Fires. We discussed the strength of her work as a political project. We shared experiences and stories of other women farmers involved in agroecological projects in different places where we have lived and worked (India, north of Italy, Spain, Romania). We talked about the struggles and the joys that come from farming a land with attention to preserving traditional seeds and trees and learning from traditional practices, taking care of the soil, the water and cherishing the harvest each season. Miriam’s Orto Conviviale represents a place of resistance and struggle in the midst of a land that keeps burning. It is also a place of conviviality and sharing where local women meet to buy fruit and vegetables but also to sit together and discuss, share experiences, do politics.

Picture: Irene Leonardelli

Learning from Miriam’s project while being there in person, enjoying the delicious food she prepared with all her harvest, was incredibly inspiring to reflect on what it means to actually practice feminist political ecology and on the importance of farming collaborations blurring the binaries between research and activism and urban and rural socio-ecological spaces. We hope that the FPE Dialogues in Italy, and all the conversations we fostered through and beyond the radio programmes, will continue to flourish in this direction….

Watch – and listen to – the full episodes here:

Episode 1 – An introduction to rural and peasant feminisms

Episode 2 – A dialogue on feminism and care for the territory with Comunità rurale diffusa

Episode 3 – A dialogue on patriarchal violence in agriculture with Simona Lanzoni and Stefania Prandi

Episode 4 – A dialogue on the restanza movement in Irpinia with Maria Laura Amendola

Episode 5 – A dialogue on farmers protests in India with Irene Leonardelli and Arianna Tozzi

Episode 6 – A dialogue on the 8M feminist strike and territorial resistances

Register now for the “Despite Extractivism” online exhibition

The Despite Extractivism online exhibition assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives?

Accompanying the exhibition, our events series is an unfolding opportunity for collective learning and solidarity building with artists, activists, academics, communities and active audiences.

Between an online launch event and a closing event, three webinars will explore the stories, ideas and practises of the Despite Extractivism contributors and the communities they engage with. The events, featuring performances, presentations and discussions, focus in turn on expanding but intersecting scales, from the body to the global. Presenters and further information to be announced.

Register now and don’t miss it!

 

Check out the exhibition’s program

Welcome
Thursday 20th January |12-1.30pm (UK)
The curatorial collective will be joined by contributors to launch the website and open the exhibition to the public. Together we will take a guided journey through the online exhibition spaces, meet the artists and explore the themes and questions at the heart of the exhibition.

Embodiment
Thursday 27 January |12-1.30pm (UK)
Embodied, sensory or emotional experiences can evoke (new) sensibilities to extractive realities at a personal level. In this webinar we will explore how particular kinds of creative practises and strategies not only portray such experiences but also motivate embodied persistence or resistance , because of – or despite – extractivism.

Community
Thursday 3 February |12-1.30pm (UK)
Communities of place are often at the centre of stories about impacts and resistance to extractivism. When we ask what persists ‘despite extractivism’, the question also invites us to think about what we mean by ‘community’ in our stories.

Worlding
Thursday 10 February |12-1.30pm (UK)
Extractivism describes a singular and toxic way of being in and relating to the world. Each Despite Extractivism contribution invites us to relate and act ‘otherwise’ in different ways and through different registers. Working with the Zapatista definition of the pluriverse – ‘the world we want is a world in which many worlds fit’ – this webinar provides a common space to share stories and conversations across our differences.

Closing
Tuesday 8 March – International Women’s Day (Time TBA)
This event will bring together the collective learning of the exhibition and accompanying events. Rather than marking the end of the project, the event will consider what new ideas, connections or questions have unfolded and how we might cultivate these.

Thinking visually at the 8th Degrowth Conference

The 8th International Degrowth Conference that took place in The Hague between August 24th and 28th was an immersive and comprehensive event  around the central theme of “Caring Communities for Radical Change”. During the five days of the conference, debates focused on care and justice as a way of thinking of degrowth as a collective project promoting sustainable, decolonial, feminist and post-capitalist modes of flourishing.

WEGO-ITN was one of the organizers and our PhD worked for months to guarantee that it would run smoothly – you can read Anna Katharina Voss’ insights here and here, for more details on the organizations.

Panels, plenaries, movie screenings and art installations helped deepen the discussions and broaden the ways that informations got spread. WEGO-ITN added another layer into this visual thinking by inviting artist Carlotta Cataldi to produce an artistic representation of three of the plenaries.

Feminist Political Ecology Perspectives on Degrowth:

Decoloniality and Degrowth Plenary: Resonating and Listening:

And the Closing Plenary:

You can take a look on how Carlotta creates her work on video as well.

 

 

 

Commoning and community, a meeting in Eindhoven

On the last day of May, blessed by the weather, WEGO mentor Chizu Sato and I, Nanako Nakamura, visited a farmhouse surrounded by woods and bush in the middle of fields on the outskirts of Eindhoven to discuss the role of surplus in community building and a transformative potential of commoning with a group of food design students from the Design Academy Eindhoven. We were invited by Arne Hendriks, who is an artist, researcher, and founder of the Harahachibu-University. When we got there, the seminar turned out to be in the open air, chickens and dogs running around. Some of the students are living the house and around the area, forming an inspiring permaculture community with their neighbors. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, they opened the farmhouse for collective learning to design food and imagine life in different ways.

The seminar started with eating home-made soup. It was made of ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs, brought by students. These ingredients are surplus from their own households and cooking and eating together support the production and reproduction of a food commons. Chizu talked about surplus production, appropriation and distribution in the modern economy and how they are organized differently in capitalist and non-capitalist class processes. The discussions went into prevailing capitalist narratives in relation to planetary boundaries, gendered social relations, social justice, populism, media ethics, all of which influence our consumption choices and decisions in our everyday lives. Commons and its transformative process of commoning were also brought into the discussion as important frameworks to describe the creation of more sustainable and healthy communities.

As an example of commoning, I introduced a case from my research about women’s buckwheat (soba) cultivation on unused rice fields in rural Japan. Due to the political encouragement for rice supply reduction since the 1960s, rice cultivation has been remarkably declined in many rural areas. As a result, increased numbers of unused and abandoned spaces have raised concerns about deteriorating agroecosystem, biodiversity, and rural landscapes. In my case study, these dormant rice fields were utilized by the local women’s for buckwheat cultivation, to make locally produced soba noodles as means of rural revitalization and multi-species survival. This soba commoning demonstrates how these women are interacting with other community members, state actors, consumers, and non-human earth others, e.g., soba plants, rice, fields, surrounding environment, to live well in rural aging and depopulating context. Also, it highlights the process of making a socio-ecologically sustainable community, where physical and emotional struggles are entangled, and challenges are emerging from social, economic, political, climatic, gendered aspects of rural communities.

The seminar closed after sharing insights and challenges, such as finance, shared/unshared ideologies, and harmonization among community members even though we did not come to any conclusion. Sharing my case study and exchanging thoughts was a wonderful experience for me in these difficult times.

Post-credits scene: When we were about to leave, one student came to me and asked me a question whether I have watched Tampopo, the Japanese film. According to her, my talk reminded her of the film. Yes, it is perhaps comparable to my soba case because it depicts relational processes revolving around Ramen noodles in a constellation of relationships, conflicts, emotions of differences with unique human and non-human characters.

Seminar: ‘Imagining Abolition Ecofeminism(s)’ is now online

Giovanna Di Chiro, Professor of Environmental Studies at Swarthmore College and WEGO-ITN partner, spoke on April 29th on an ISS’ Development Research Seminar. She discussed approaches to community-based research and pedagogy that integrate abolition feminisms and anti/de-colonial and environmental justice activism.

It this seminar, Prof. Di Chiro proposed imagining and practicing more just and care-based forms of ‘sustainability’ in the face of the growing, and interconnected crises of poverty, dispossession and climate disruption. She was introduced by WEGO-ITN’s coordinator, Prof. Wendy Harcourt.

You can now watch the talk here.

 

 

Call for contributions for “Spaces of Possibility”- Conference and Exhibition

Our colleagues at RECOMS, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN that started around the same time as WEGO and covers fairly similar topics, are organising an international confex (Conference + Exhibition) in Brussels from the 7th till the 11th of June 2021. The event is titled ‘Spaces of Possibility: communities and places in times of social and environmental uncertainty’ and is open to anyone who is interested in the themes of community-driven transformation, socio-environmental justice and creative methods. The programme will include exciting keynotes, creative workshops, interactive sessions, a policy roundtable and guided tours of the exhibition.

Do you want to be part of this compelling programme by presenting your work, facilitating a workshop or initiating a debate? The call for contributions (presentation & full session proposals) is now open! The thematic tracks are:

  • Systems and structures
  • Representation and justice
  • Material places and embodied practices
  • Sustainability research as co-creative practice

For more info on the themes, deadlines and other practicalities, visit the event’s webpage:
https://recoms.eu/content/recoms-confex

 

COVID-19 NOTE: Please note that the event is planned to be organised in-person adhering to strict safety and health regulations. However, if this will not be possible in light of further development of the pandemic, the conference part of the programme will be held online. The event will under no circumstances be cancelled or postponed.

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   

Covid-19 pandemic and oil spills in the Ecuadorian Amazon: The confluence of two crisis

How can we reframe the current planetary crisis to find ways for decisive and life-changing collective action? The Amazon region of Ecuador, at the center of two crises –Covid-19 and a major oil spill–, but also home to a long history of indigenous resistance, offers some answers.

Navigating two crises

In Ecuador, the intensification of resource extraction and pollution, floods and weather disturbances have hit hardest marginalized populations. Indigenous peoples and people living in the Amazon have continuously suffered an enormous political and economic disadvantage when confronting extractive industries and allied state bodies. The vulnerability of the peoples and territory of the Ecuadorian Amazon region has been even more severely exposed during the Covid-19 lockdown period which began 16 March 2020.

On 7 April 2020, the Trans-Ecuadorian Oil Pipeline System and the Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline, which transport Ecuador’s oil production, collapsed. The pipelines were built along the banks of the Coca River and the collapse resulted in the spillage of an enormous quantity of crude oil into its waters. The Coca river is a key artery in the regional Amazon system. It runs through three national parks that form one of the richest biodiverse areas on Earth, which has been historically preserved by the ways of life of the indigenous peoples who inhabit it.

Read the full article here

Wendy Harcourt is co-author of this blog published on Undisciplined Environments