South Explorer/LAAT Rotterdam
My photo work is hosted on Cargo now.
might be different but is not.
“Initially, Momaribowei-teri imported pots from another politically allied village, Mowaraoba-teri. In explanation, Momaribowei-teri villagers vigorously insisted then that they didn’t know how to make pots, that they formerly did make pots but had long ago forgotten how to do so, that the clay in their area was no good for making pots anyway, and that they got all the pots that they needed from Mowaraoba-teri. But then a war interrupted the alliance between Momaribowei-teri and Mowaraoba-teri, so that Momaribowei-teri could no longer import pots from Mowaraoba-teri. Miraculously, Momaribowei-teri villagers suddenly “remembered” how they had long ago made pots, suddenly “discovered” that the hitherto scorned clay in their area was perfectly good for making pots, and resumed making their own pots. Thus, it’s clear that the Momaribowei-teri villagers had previously been importing pots from Mowaraoba-teri out of choice (to cement a political alliance), not out of necessity.”
Source: The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond (2012:74)
Looking towards Rotterdam Zuid (March, 2013)
Two cities have been formed by two loves. The one seeks sustenance, shelter, and the maintenance of objects and environments, but the greatest glory of the other is when the one lifts up its head in its own glory and says “hey” to the other and then the other says to the other “hey.” Also when the two cities, earthly and ideal, say to one another “hey, you other city, you are really my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” In the one, all the princes, kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, bosses, and the nations they subdue are ruled by the love of saying “hey” to the other; in the other, the princes and the subjects shout in the middle of the square about ruling and love and some citizens take dictation. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the armies, defense contractors, urban planners, and banking systems; the other says, “hey, I will love thee, the other city, with my strength, too.” And this love is reciprocated! And the two cites are in love! And therefore the wise men and women of the one city, living according to love, have sought the profit of their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known the ideal city and the earthly city also became their imaginations and in becoming this became the glory of incorruptible everything and they became together birds and they become together pilgrims and they become together four-footed beasts and they become together creeping things.
“Those who content themselves with a critique of the economy invariably propose some sort of regulated, acceptable capitalism – non-pornographic, more environmentally friendly, and always more democratic. But nothing can come of such chimeras.” (Alan Badiou)
In a recent Op-Ed on Resilience, Andrew Zolli argues that sustainable development largely failed in its intent to bring about social, environmental and economical well-being because it lead to the popular misunderstanding that “a perfect, stasis-under-glass equilibrium is achievable”, this is of course a misguided interpretation, since our popular consciousness is now beginning to grasp that the world exist in various stages of disequilibrium, falling in and out processes of regeneration.
I find striking that nowhere in the article Zolli mentions system ecologists like Gunderson and Holling in the States (he does mention Emory University though, where Gunderson is based) and Folke in Sweden who “popularized” the complexity of disequilibria and resilience in ecological systems and its relationships with the social systems we live in. This is worth mentioning because, after all, also sustainable development was born out of the search for radical ecological and social alternatives to development. So where did sustainable development go wrong?
Pelling contends that the policy legacy of international conventions such as the UN Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Rio Summit of 1992) was largely constrained by the acceptance of the “substitutability of environmental for economical value” and by strong industry lobby (an ongoing plague also at most recent UNFCCC fora). A sole interest in maximizing economical value has proved time and again counterproductive for the economy itself as there is no economic efficiency with social marginalization and inequity.
Halle suggests that also endogenous factors within sustainable development played to its own detriment, like narrow approaches to ecology and environment which failed to capture the overlaps with social dynamics. Environmental conservation agendas often started out projects and campaigns, with great pomp, to protect vital forests without, from the onset, considering other vital social elements of land tenure and security, a source of daily struggle for people in many parts of the world.
Did sustainable development fall in the “world as steady-state” trap that Zolli mentions? The economy has not been interested with steady-state equilibrium already for some time, certainly before the concept of sustainable development gained prominence in the 1980’s. By the 1970’s complexity and cybernetics had already influenced much of the economics, ecology and social sciences discourse. Even natural disasters, were used to exemplify the need for more human-environment integrated approaches offered by cybernetics. Hence sustainable development, a movement born out of ecological sciences, knew well the impossibility of equilibrium but just decided to ignore it.
The important question now is what can climate change adaptation and resilience bring to this banquet of chimeras? Can we see a reprise of sustainable development in their features?
Adaptation should be seen as resilience if we take into consideration social learning and self-organisation. Or as Pelling (2011:56) puts it “the vision of adaptation as resilience is to support the continuation of desired systems functions into the future through enabling changes in social organization and the application of technology. Such changes are facilitated by social learning (the capacity through which new values, ideas and practices are disseminated and become dominant) and self organization (the propensity of the social collectives to form without direction from the state or other higher-level actors) to enable technological evolution, new information exchange or decision making procedures”. More deeply resilience may require a new set of values and institutions, fundamentally challenging the structural constraints, which determine human capacity and action in response to external environmental shocks. In other words it may generate a space to question actors who support or resist climate adaptation when it has implications on social, economic, political and cultural relations.
In my work I spend a considerable time reading donors and many institutions project reports on climate change adaptation. Certainly climate change adaptation is influenced by current and future development conditions, a feature that renders the evaluation of climate change adaptation projects complex and uncertain. Sustainability is also included as evaluation criterion in most current and emerging frameworks but its effective use to conduct evaluation assessments varies considerably. The concept of resilience, unsurprisingly since sustainable development shared the same faith, is being abused, stretched, shrunk, and misunderstood. How to embed and analyze resilience’s components, such as social leaning and self-organization, in climate change adaptation projects and programs is not fully understood and recognized yet. Encouragingly, there are some exciting examples of this coming from civil society organizations, NGOs and individuals, but this shall be the topic of a future post.
William Kentridge “Negotiations Begin from little morals” (1991)
”But here’s where the Dutch example is instructive. The government did not ask for volunteers to leave. It made a decision, based on real numbers and the economy of the area. The polder would be used as a spillway. The farms would have to go. The farmers would be compensated, but staying wasn’t an option: a tough, greater-good decision that American politicians tend to avoid like kryptonite.
Rather than try to sue for more money or fight the plan, as farmers elsewhere did over other elements of Room for the River, the residents of Overdiepse Polder came up with a novel idea: Yes, the polder would become a spillway but the government should build a number of mounds along the southern edge onto which a half-dozen or more of the farmers could resettle. The mounds would be large enough (roughly 20 acres) to accommodate new farmhouses and sheds, and high enough (20 feet above the level of the polder) to keep dry. There wouldn’t be enough room for 17 mounds, so some of the farmers would have to leave. Constructing eight mounds, as it turned out, was the right number”.
The question of Eurocentricism is now entirely blase. Of course Europeans are Eurocentric and see the world from their vantage point, and why should they not? They are the inheritors of multiple (now defunct) empires and they still carry within them the phantom hubris of those empires and they think their particular philosophy is “philosophy” and their particular thinking is “thinking”, and everything else is - as the great European philosopher Immanuel Levinas was wont of saying - “dancing”.
The question is rather the manner in which non-European thinking can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America - counties and climes once under the spell of the thing that calls itself “the West” but happily no more.
— Hamid Dabashi on Intellectual chutzpah
Folke et al., (2011) “Reconnecting to the Biosphere” AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 40:7: 719-738
In a globalized society, there are no ecosystems without people and no people that do not depend on ecosystem functioning. They are intertwined and thus, ecosystem services are generated by social–ecological systems. Social–ecological systems are dynamic and connected from the local to the global, in complex webs of interactions subject to gradual and abrupt changes. Dynamic and complex social–ecological systems require strategies that build resilience rather than attempting to control for optimal production and short-term gain in environments assumed to be relatively stable. The shift from people and nature as separated parts to interdependent social–ecological systems provides exciting opportunities for societal development in tune with the biosphere; a global sustainability agenda for humanity. In this article, we focus on the necessity and challenge of reconnecting humanity to the biosphere. It is argued that this is a fundamental prerequisite in the search of planetary opportunities that meet both global sustainability criteria and human development needs.
Reading articles by Folke always put me in a state of deep optimistic thoughtfulness (yes, planetary opportunities!) equally balanced with a daunting feeling of real-world derangement.
[…] no one really knows the history of the punctuation mark. The current running theory is that it comes from Latin. In Latin, the exclamation of joy was io, where the i was written above the o. And, since all their letters were written as capitals, an I with an o below it looks a lot like an exclamation point.
But it wasn’t until 1970 that the exclamation point had its own key on the keyboard. Before that, you had to type a period, and then use the backspace to go back and stick an apostrophe above it. When people dictated things to secretaries they would say “bang” to mark the exclamation point. Hence the interobang (?!) – a combination of a question (?) and an exclamation point (!). In the printing world, the exclamation point is called ‘a screamer, a gasper, a startler or a dog’s cock’.