A memory from pre-corona times – a visit to Montevideo March 2020

A memory from pre-corona times

Looking at these four photos now, taken when I was visiting Ana Agostino and Constance Dupuis in Montevideo Uruguay March 6-13 it seems a life time, not just two weeks ago. My visit included what today would be an unthinkably risky schedule. Together with Ana and Constance (and our partners) on 7 March we attended the opening of the Plaza Las Pioneras, a collective feminist space mingling with 100s of people in a joyful celebration of reclaiming disused space for feminist arts and culture and politics. On 8 March we were marching with 350,000 people through the centre of Montevideo singing, chanting. I admired all the energy and vision around me. In all these encounters I was constantly being introduced, hugged and kissed. We washed our hands but we were free of the omniscient presence of the Corona virus in our daily life, though it was there in the messages from Italy (where my daughter and others in WEGO were on lockdown) and of increasing worries about what if it were to spread?  

During my visit I went to the Universidad de la República de Uruguay, Montevideo (UdelaR) and the Defensoria de VyV de Montevideo  to discuss the WEGO project and Constance’s project on ageing and to give a talk on Feminist Political Ecology and development dilemmas organised by Javier Taks at the Social Science faculty. More informally, I joined a dialogue with feminists of all ages at the Cotidiano Mujer about feminist political ecology and eco-feminism. I was poised to go on with Ana and Constance to Buenos Aires to meet more feminists in academia and government, when the impact of COVID-19 abruptly hit. Just the day before leaving for Buenos Aires we were informed as I had been in Italy less than two weeks ago, I was not allowed into Argentina, and it rapidly became clear that foreigners were going to be asked to leave Uruguay. 

Now we are in the reality of Corona times it seems incredible how much I could do in that week in Montevideo, and what I took for granted. We could walk, chat, hug, enjoy dinners together, greet and kiss strangers, sit together on crowded buses, visit museums and even go to a Tango concert.

These photos capture those last tranquil moments, as well as the deep friendship and respect I have for Ana Agostino who hosted me. I have known Ana for well over a decade. We share our feminism, our passions and our network of friends overlap. I use her writing on climate justice and post development for my classes, and have been inspired over the years by her on-going commitment to human rights, environmental justice and feminism. I am so pleased she has accepted to be Ombudsperson for WEGO bringing her 5 years of experience of being Ombudsperson at the Defensoria in Montevideo and vice president of Latin America Ombudpersons. 

These photos were taken by Constance in Montevideo and also at La Flores – a seaside area we visited just before I went to the airport. It was here amongst the sea, the flowers and birds that I shared some needed quiet time with Ana and enjoyed this last (for a while)  beautiful sunset of freedom.

Wendy Harcourt

Field notes: resilient leadership in times of crisis

Field Notes —

What ‘resilient leadership in times of crisis’ means

Our communities can lead, but their challenges are critical

Island and coastal communities, and the people who care about them near and far, must pull together right now.

Tourism and lobstering, our key economic drivers, are in peril. The islands and coast rely on an annual influx of $4 billion in tourism revenue, earned primarily between June and September. If the pandemic runs its course through October, as some models predict, the financial stability of many families will evaporate.

For the $1 billion lobster industry, national markets and key export countries are struggling, so demand has evaporated. The pandemic has driven lobster prices through the floor, below $3 per pound at the boat. At that price, it doesn’t make sense for fishermen to take their boat off its mooring.

In the midst of this turmoil, North Haven island has garnered national and international press attention by the decision of its board of selectmen to ban non-residents from coming to the island.

One reaction to North Haven’s move is sympathy, with some seeing it as consistent with nations closing borders and enforcing social distancing measures. And so it is not surprising the island community would implement its own measures to accomplish what others are trying to do on an international scale.

But community is experienced personally and specifically, not in the abstractions of pandemic and international politics. At a personal level, North Haven’s decision has amplified concerns among a large number of people who consider Maine home, but are not residents. For seasonal residents who thought they were neighbors and friends, the move to close off the island may seem like distrust and animosity, and could have a long-term detrimental impact on the community’s social fabric. Many who care about the Maine coast, but live elsewhere, are asking if they are still considered a part of the communities they love.

Many of the educational, social, and cultural institutions in island and coastal communities exist because of a partnership between residents who lead local initiatives and the generosity of seasonal residents. Decisions that amplify the “from here, from away” divide undermine the social fabric that has allowed Maine’s island and coastal communities to become guiding lights nationally and internationally for how to live sustainably.

There are good reasons why Maine coastal communities are struggling with responding to those who might come to Maine to wait out the pandemic. Maine’s island communities are at great risk during this pandemic because of the age of their populations. Maine’s island communities have a median age of 48; Maine’s median age is 44.6, making it the nation’s oldest; and the U.S. has a median age of 37.9.

The islands are vulnerable, since the virus has a disproportionate impact on seniors. These are communities of between 50 and 1,200 people with little or no capacity to deal with medical emergencies.

In this context, the concerns expressed by North Haven municipal leaders are understandable, but the message still hurts.

All across Maine, small isolated communities are struggling with how to care for people. When we look to the islands more broadly, we find a more educational and conversational tone during this stressful time. It can be summarized as follows:

Please consider the risk you would expose our community to by coming here. Our community has an aging population that is already difficult to care for, and our resources are stretched. We don’t have the ability to help care for you if you get sick. You will have to go to the mainland. It would be a great help to us if you stayed where you are right now. We appreciate you, and we look forward to seeing you when the pandemic passes.

A robust series of conversations are taking place across the coast as the pandemic worsens. The Island Institute is helping to facilitate these discussions.

Resilient leadership in times of crisis requires generosity and caring, networking, asking for and offering support, and staying informed. Leadership also requires recognizing that island and coastal communities exist in reciprocal relationships with each other. The long-term relationships between island and coastal residents—and those who care about the Maine coast more broadly—are of critical concern, because this will not be the last crisis Maine’s island and coastal communities face.

It is important that we pull together, rather than create divides. Our actions today will speak volumes on how we interact with each other the next time we need the care and support of our neighbors.


Additional information and resources

State reacts to coronavirus challenges with emergency legislation

Island Institute coronavirus resource page


* Island Institute is a partner institute in the WEGO-ITN consortium

How are communities responding to climate crisis, and what can we learn from them?

WEGO coordinator Wendy Harcourt  was interviewed by Erasmus University Rotterdam. Read the full interview.

“We are looking at how communities are responding to climate crisis in order to understand how to link this to a global understanding of resilience”

 

News from CERN: community economies website

Jenny Cameron of Community Economies Research Network (CERN) shared the following news:

A small group have been working on the Community Economies Website – it’s a labour of love done in our spare time.

This website serves a number of functions and one of these is to share 
news and information about community economies activity. To do this the 
latest news is featured on the home page (see  https://www.communityeconomies.org/) and then all news items are in the 
News section (see https://www.communityeconomies.org/news).

We’re still fine-tuning a few things (e.g. making it clear in the News 
section that there is more than what you see and that you need to click 
on each story to read the full item; and we’re working on the images 
that go with each story).

To test our capacity to run regular news items we’ve focused on the 
activities of the core members of the Community Economies Institute 
(these are the people listed on the People page of the website).

But we’re now ready to run more news items (ideally a new story each 
week), and we’d like to include news about the community economies 
activity of CERN members. This might be information about teaching 
community economies, an update on a community economies research 
project, a community economies workshop or opening. If you look at the 
News section you’ll get an idea about the types of activities that are 
being featured.

All you need to do is email jenny.cameron@communityeconomies.org with 
some brief information (and perhaps a link to a website) and an image 
idea (could be a photo or you’ll see we sometimes grab an image from a 
document). Jenny will put the story together and run it by you before 
adding it to the Home page.

Look forward to hearing from CERN members and sharing more information 
about what we’re all “up to”.

Jenny Cameron

CERN Inaugural international community economies conference

With the Handbook of Diverse Economies edited by J.K. Gibson-Graham and Kelly Dombroski coming out in 2020 it seems high time to organize the Inaugural International Community Economies Conference. This conference will offer the opportunity for members of the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) to share their work, discuss common themes of interest and advance a post-capitalist politics.

The conference is organised by the Community Economies Institute with the School of Spatial Planning & Development and the School of Political Science at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It will take place from

5-7 November 2020 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

The CERN currently has 225 members spread across 27 countries. It is hoped that by locating the conference in Thessaloniki—an historic site of international cultural interchange—many people from across the world will be able to attend. Registration costs will be kept low and there will be a limited number of travel bursaries for those who cannot access institutional conference funds.

The conference will begin on Thursday night with an opening address followed by an interactive poster session and participatory mapping of the CERN story. Friday and Saturday are set aside for paper presentations, panels and workshops organized by CERN members. There will also be sessions open to the public in which connections between community economies research and current concerns are discussed with scholars and activists from Greece and the region. The conference will be followed by an optional day of field visits and walks in Thessaloniki and the surrounding region led by activist researchers. During the conference the Greek translation of Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities (with additional Greek examples) will be launched.

An international organizing committee led by Katherine Gibson, Giorgos Gritzas and Karolos Kavoulakos is being formed. The Community Economies Institute and the University of Thessaloniki will provide organizational support for the conference.

More information about deadlines for submitting papers, panels and workshop proposals will be forthcoming. And keep an eye on the community economies web site for more information: www.communityeconomies.org

Hope to see you there!

Undisciplined Environments goes live

Undisciplined Environments – a platform for political ecology research and activism – has launched today, 1 October 2019

This novel effort is a collaboration between the ENTITLE Collective and the WEGO project, as well as other transnational networks – like the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).

Undisciplined Environments (UE) aims to become an influential crossroads for activists, researchers, journalists and anyone interested in the mutual imbrications of power, society, culture and ecology. Our commitment is to establish UE as a compelling virtual space to share ideas, stories, concepts, methods and strategies for the elaboration of the knowledges and practices needed to build more emancipatory socionatural worlds.

WEGO members Panagiota KotsilaIlenia Iengo, Irene Leonardelli, Wendy Harcourt and Stefania Barca are on the editorial collective.

 

Feminist community library in Budapest

feminist community library
Photo: Alice Owen

This feminist community library in Budapest comes highly rated on WEGO tripadvisor! Antonia Burrows has spent decades collecting second hand books on everything from feminist theories of science to cats (via herstory, black history, poetry…) and transformed this flat into a community library run by volunteers with regular film screenings and discussions. Meanwhile gender studies has just been banned in Hungary and the Central European University is being forced out of the country.

Diverse economies & arts based methods workshop

Wilding at a farm in Wageningen.

A group of fellow thinkers and travellers got together from 8-10 July 2019 for a workshop in Wageningen. They discussed their work as it relates to diverse economies and arts-based methods. Among them were WEGO members Chizu Sato, Wendy Harcourt and Nanako Nakamura. The workshop was held at the Centre for Space, Place and Society.

Wendy introducing the exhibition.

The workshop closed with a public art exhibition on  Other (food) + (art) economies are possible! where the group shared some of their individual and collective work in a convivial space with food and drinks and with time for chats with the wider public.

All photos by Wendy Harcourt

WEGO lead panel discussion at European Conference on Politics and Gender

WEGO was out in force at the European Conference on Politics and Gender which ran from 3 – 6 July 2019 in Amsterdam.

Wendy Harcourt, Gulay Caglar, Chizu Sato, Constance Dupuis Marlene Gomez and Nanako Nakamura were involved in several panel discussions at the Conference Below are abstracts from some of those panels.

Care and the Commons in Troubling times: confronting whiteness

Led by Constance Dupuis and Wendy Harcourt

Our paper looks at the everyday practice of feminist political ecology as not only practices rooted in one geographical place and culture but also as collective processes that are forming a global community network. We explore how feminist political ecology (FPE) aims to navigate racist structures, gender and class inequalities that determine struggles over rights and resources. Inspired by Donna Haraway’s staying with the trouble, our paper looks at how we confront whiteness in feminist political ecology. We address the ways in which white privilege and colonialism continue to be reproduced and how FPE can engage in critical conversations without centring the white experience.

Analyzing the Politics of the Everyday: A Feminist Political Ecology Perspective

There is ample evidence that neoliberal restructuring has led to precarious living conditions as well as to environmental degradation, both of which negatively affect community well-being worldwide. In response, many alternative initiatives have mushroomed at community level that aim to counter neoliberal policies through changing everyday practices of care and natural resource management. Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) is an approach that analyses these practices by taking into account power relations within different systems of oppression at different scales. With an emphasis on the importance of embodiment, place and scale, FPE aims to unveil the processes through which different actors interact, and the strategies and political mechanisms that community initiatives use to challenge the existing power relations based on exploitation, domination, and conflict. This panel seeks to introduce the theoretical tenets of FPE and to show how FPE contributes to feminist political science. Papers will be analyzing different social movements and initiatives around issues of social and environmental justice, natural resource management and care.

Strengthening communities

Suzanne MacDonald and Rob Snyder from Island Institute are presenting at “Strengthening Communities,” a conference in Aviemore hosted by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Strengthening Communities Conference Scotland brings together people who are at the heart of community-led development. The inaugural event was held in September 2017 and the second conference took place at the end of May 2019 at the MacDonald Aviemore Resort.

Five years ago, the Island Institute added the banner “Strengthening Communities” to their website. And late last month, Rob found himself being escorted—by a bagpiper, no less—to a keynote speaking engagement at the second “Strengthening Communities Conference” in the Scottish Highlands.

The conversations that took place over four days in Scotland echoed conversations in Maine’s island and coastal communities. The Highlands has a workforce housing crisis, broadband infrastructure is lacking, “depopulation” threatens its vitality, and its communities also are being undermined by a lack of local input into how the ocean is being developed.

A scenic view of an island off Scotland. Photo: Yvonne Thomas

The 2019 conference offered an opportunity to share ideas and experiences on the issues that matter most in community development. Its theme this year was ‘Ionnsachadh is fàs le chèile’, ‘learning and growing together’.

For more information, read Rob’s blog on the Island Institute website