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Media Type: Article - Foundational
Date of Publication: February 4
Year of Publication: 2021
Publication City: Lyon, France
Publisher: Ecole Urbaine de Lyon
Author(s): Berenice Gagne
Journal: THE MONTHLY GLOBAL CHANGE REVIEW
Top photo – “Follow the leaders”, Berlin (Germany), 2011 © Isaac Cordal
A monthly publication by Lyon Urban School (Université de Lyon, France) written by Berenice Gagne, dedicated to a better understanding of global change and the Anthropocene urban world: a selection of news in many fields of knowledge, which aims to grasp the world we live in and the world to come.
Urban School of Lyon – Watching over the Anthropocene Urban World & Global Change. Born in CO2 332ppm, my children 400 and 406
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Check out the selection of Anthropocene Good Reads #2020: 60 books in many fields of knowledge to help understand what is happening and what is coming.
– “Portraits of places”: a series of discussions with architects, geographers and artists around the world, who talk about the place where they live and tell the story of “inhabited resilience” in a pandemic time. Guangzhou (China), Kabul (Afghanistan), New York (USA), Lagos (Nigeria), Barcelona (Spain), Carúpano (Venezuela) (A l’école de l’Anthropocène).
– An analysis of the political, social and economic issues surrounding concrete in West Africa: cement is the leading material produced and consumed in the world in terms of volume, and the cement industry emits 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, in cities in so-called “emerging” countries, “cement consumption is now used as a development index, on a par with gross domestic product”. It is even “loaded with affects” as it represents “the hopes of millions of women and men seeking to shelter their loved ones”. Many women engage in self-construction: “For them, concrete is a symbol of emancipation. It also symbolizes success: a scholar in Benin tells how 2 tons of cement are offered to academics when they retire. However, the global change reveals the environmental cost of concrete: “heat island, soil impermeability, use of air conditioning”. Experiments are bringing traditional earthen constructions and vernacular expertise up to date or introducing “the use of new materials, such as typha reeds” (Le Monde, 14/01/2021).
– In Chroniques de géo’virale (Editions Deux-cent-cinq, coll. « A partir de l’anthropocène », 2020), geographer Michel Lussault analyzes the pandemic as an invitation to return to a fundamental reflection on how the city can serve the ordinary “good living” of all. Far from the “World City” of rankings, he advocates “a new urban planning of care and attention” that should be able to accommodate 7 billion people in 2050 with dignity, while integrating social and environmental issues (Le Monde, 04/01/2021).
– “The future of cities is walkable, healthy, resilient places”: what if the pandemic made cities more attractive rather than less attractive, as some analysts predict? An op-ed by senior executive and director of the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Center for City Solutions: our future — just like our past — will be urban because human nature drives us to come together, to think and imagine together. Brooks Rainwater believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate already identified urban trends: congestion-pricing, street closures, dedicated space for cycling and micromobility, and the 15-minute city. Air circulation and ventilation issues will become central in the city of the future and risk increasing environmental inequalities, which is why inclusive policies will have to involve communities traditionally excluded from political decisions (Fast Company, 04/01/2021). In the same vein, an article on the pandemic as an opportunity to improve the city with the example of Barcelona (Spain), which proposed “the concept of superblocks as part of its green urban planning. Superblocks are nine-block neighborhoods with streets dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. Car traffic is limited to the main roads on the outskirts of the Superblocks” (The Conversation, 05/01/2021).
– “Teaching in the Anthropocene”: a conversation with academics from diverse disciplines, teaching in Europe and North America. A discussion on the need to break away from disciplinary teaching, on the need to focus not only on climate change, and on the shift in perspective and approach that is essential to put students in a position to reflect on the ethical and political stakes of the Anthropocene issue (A l’école de l’Anthropocène, 25/01/2021).
– Starting February 2nd, follow: “Welcome to the Anthropocene”, a series of interdisciplinary lectures, organized by the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities (University of Oslo), where scholars talk about how the Anthropocene has transformed their discipline and research (From February 2. to April 13., 2021).
– Solastalgia/eco-anxiety among scholars in environmental sciences: a study, at the crossroads of the sociology of affects and emotions, the sociology of science and the sociology of mobilization, on the ecological anxiety developed by ecologists, their emotional strategies and the epistemic commitments they put in place (Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines, 12/01/2021).
AGRICULTURE & FOOD
– “Digital Control: How Big Tech is turning to food and agriculture (and what it means)”. As Bill and Melinda Gates rank as the largest private owners of farmland in the United States, there is a growing interest by Tech giants in the agriculture and food sector. “This is leading to a strong and powerful integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, tractors, drones, etc.) and those that control data flows and have access to consumers. Agribusiness is also encouraging farmers to use mobile applications to access data and advice (GRAIN, 26/01/2021).
– “Argentina, China’s future pig factory?” Already among the world leaders in beef, Argentina will increase its pig meat production to meet the needs of the Chinese market. China’s domestic production was indeed hit by an epidemic of swine fever in 2018 and pork represents 70% of the population’s meat protein intake. In Argentina, this increase in meat production also implies an increase in the production of soybeans and corn, which further increases deforestation. In addition, the size of the farms (10 to 12,000 sows) leads to fears of pollution and an increase in the risk of epizootics or zoonosis. In the Chaco region, where 3 factory farms are planned, the project endangers the forest that constitutes the territory of the indigenous Qom and Criollos peoples (Reporterre, 14/01/2021).
ARTS & CULTURES
– The University of York (United Kingdom) is organizing a virtual seminar “Art + Anthropocene”, which offers an interdisciplinary approach. Scholars from the sciences, social sciences and humanities will analyze the effects of global change in their disciplines and will try to identify the intersections between art, culture and the environment. (University of York, From March 2. to 23., 2021).
– “Grow”, a light installation by Studio Roosegaarde in the Netherlands: designer Daan Roosegaarde transforms a 20,000-m² field into a dynamic work of art using high-density red, blue and ultraviolet LEDs. Beyond its beauty, the installation serves as a prototype for an experiment using light to increase plant growth and reduce pesticide use by up to 50% (Dezeen, 18/01/2021).
– The exhibition “Critical Zones”, curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, among others, at the ZKM in Karlsruhe (Germany), is extended online until August 8, 2021. The Critical Zone refers to the thin layer of the Earth’s crust where 99% of the living live. Destroying it would condemn many species to rapid extinction. The exhibition invites to explore new ways of coexistence with all forms of life to inhabit the Earth together.
DECOLONIALISM & POSTCOLONIALISM
– “The Anthropocene from North to South”: a conversation with Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria), Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) 2010, and Andri Snaer Magnason (Iceland), novelist and activist. From Iceland to Nigeria, what are the words, the commons on which we could agree? (A l’école de l’Anthropocène, 25/01/2021).
– “Tackling the roots of the exploitation of natural resources”: 3 sessions of a seminar with scholars and activists from the African, European and North American continents to restore memory and regain dignity for a life in harmony with planet Earth. This seminar seeks to identify the social, political and economic factors at the root of environmental and food issues. Session 1: who feeds the planet?, session 2: plantation and extractivism, session 3: green colonialism (A l’école de l’Anthropocène).
– A masterful and poetic text by the writer and anthropologist Dénètem Touam Bona, author of Fugitif, où cours tu?, on the colonial and modern idea of a “pristine nature”, which constitutes a call for rape and exploitation by “civilization”. The author reveals the Western imagination “of the rainforest where the cannibal rubs shoulders with the Vahine, the noble savage the fierce Amazon, the Eldorado the green hell. Behind this figure of the “wilderness” that continues to haunt the scientific notion of primary forest, there is a denial of humanity towards indigenous forestry communities”. Tropical forests are conceived as virgin lands by Europeans who do not find the marks they know: monuments, roads, cities, inscriptions. The conquerors sometimes deliberately erased certain landmarks to create the impression of a space to be conquered. “The blank on the map is therefore the product of a strategic operation to whitewash history, to wash away the memory of the land”. The colonial map does not show “the coupling of indigenous and vegetal memories”, those uses and rites that made the land a cosmos. “The conquistadors treated the Amazon as a blank page on which to put their mark: each plantation they grabbed in the jungle, each outpost or city they founded, each road they mapped out, is the great narrative of ‘civilization’”. The pristine forest refers both to the Garden of Eden and to the “Roman legal principle of terra nullius”, a land without masters, which legitimizes colonization in advance, as does “the Christian doctrine of the ‘Discovery’, formulated on the occasion of the papal bull of 1455”. Colonization is a negationism: “the negation of the belonging of the colonized to their own territory, except as a scenery, a picturesque fauna”. This negation leads to genocide or its attempt, inseparable from ecocide. “Colonization is “geo-graphy” in the literal sense: marking and shaping of a “pagan” land perceived as empty of meaning, as nothingness”. Marooning (this set of practices of escape and creative resistance by slaves) is therefore synonymous with removing oneself from the map of white people. “If the map is the instrument of a domestication of the land, then to live in the shadows — in the blank on the map — is neither to be marginalized nor to flee, but to bury oneself in the humus of an untamed land”. Finally, the author reminds us “the ‘savage’ has always hated the ‘natural’, they have always been ‘stylish’. How could bodies tattooed, scarified, incised, painted, oiled, perforated, adorned with feathers, be naked? Beyond the incorporation of the law of the group, the production of a memory-body, the marking of bodies is an act of stylization of the self. From this point of view, it is the settler who appears shapeless and senseless: under their modest clothes, their flesh has the nakedness of a blank page” (Terrestres, 13/01/2021).
– Tree planting: a paper that challenges the international forest restoration programs that are currently on the rise to fight climate change. The author, a plant ecology scholar from South Africa, says that many of the areas targeted for forest restoration in Africa, Asia and South America are rich and biodiverse ecosystems of ancient savannahs and grasslands that provide livelihoods for millions of people. She goes back to the colonial origins of reforestation: colonial forest management consisted of planting trees to compensate for deforestation caused by local people, who often lost control over their land in the process. This process was tested in Algeria before being applied throughout Francophone Africa, in Madagascar, then in the British colonies of East Africa and in India. “Since historical forest cover of Europe was estimated at roughly one-third, this became the target in other places too”. Today more than ever, this colonial tale lives on, and tree planting is presented as THE solution to a range of ecological ills: drought, global warming, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. The scholar calls for ecological restoration adapted to the local social and ecological contexts, but above all, she calls for addressing the causes of ecological catastrophe: the destruction of forests and other ecosystems by agriculture and logging and the production and consumption of fossil fuels (The Conversation, 31/12/2020).
– “They Want to Start Paying Mother Nature for All Her Hard Work”: “Continuing to ignore the value of nature in our global economy threatens humanity itself”. The Dasgupta Review, commissioned from Cambridge University economics professor Partha Dasgupta by the British government, translates into orthodox economy terms the effects of the global habitability crisis. The review suggests quantifying the services provided by nature to measure the “devastating cost” of growth. It does not question growth, but calls for more sustainable growth that would take into account “the depletion of natural resources” and “economic well-being” that would include nature’s goods and services (The Guardian, The New York Times, 02/02/2021).
– “Global climate action needs trusted finance data”: a call for the development of agreed and trusted accounting rules to measure funding paid by developed countries — mostly responsible for climate change — to developing countries — mainly impacted. Developed countries had committed to provide climate financing of $100 billion per year by 2020. According to the latest data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), developed countries mobilized nearly $80 billion in 2018 and should meet the $100 billion target by 2020. However, the NGO Oxfam estimated in October 2020 that the financial support dedicated to the climate by developed countries did not exceed $22.5 billion in 2017–18. In December 2020, a research group commissioned by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, revealed that donor nations were overestimating data on climate change funding. Such disagreements are fueling mistrust in the run-up to COP26. Developed countries have obtained the creation of a Green Climate Fund under the aegis of the United Nations, but most donor nations prefer to finance the countries concerned directly or through multilateral development banks such as the World Bank. In addition, more than 80% of climate finance are loans, generally granted to projects demonstrating a return on the investment, such as power generation. The lack of agreed and trusted accounting rules for climate finance (for example, distinguishing between actual disbursements and pledges of funding) therefore appears to be a major oversight in climate diplomacy. A trusted body (other than the OECD, which essentially represents rich nations) should be involved to develop these common rules: for example, the UN Statistical Commission or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (nature, 06/01/2021).
– A well-documented survey on the significant deforestation induced by the European biomass industry to develop renewable energy. In Estonia, the international demand for pellets has led to significant deforestation: pellets are a biomass to be burned for heating or lighting. Biomass (mainly produced from wood) now accounts for 60% of the renewable energy produced in the European Union, more than solar and wind energy combined, giving rise to a heavily subsidized cross-border industry (The Guardian, 14/01/2021).
– Space archaeologist Alice Gorman analyzes space as a place of intersectional tensions for race, gender and species (The Conversation, 30/01/2021).
– A long article on the ICARUS project (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space), an international research project that aims to collect data for 20 years from around the world on non-domestic animals, on land and in the air: their position, their physiology, the microclimate in which they evolve. For a long time, the scale and scope of animal mobility on the planet has been underestimated. ICARUS could fundamentally transform our understanding of mobility on our changing planet (The New York Times, 12/01/2021).
– “Weaving together the culture of struggles and the culture of the living”. A vibrant text by the philosopher Baptiste Morizot who invites us to weave together “a culture of struggles against what destroys the habitability of the world” and “a culture of the living that finally makes us able to feel who lives with us in this world, and to know who we are”: we are “living among the living, unique in our powers and interdependent — like so many other forms of life”. A quote that I find tasty: “Since it is so difficult to be Marx, let us be moths: let us eat the carpet of the destructive neoliberal productivist extractivism that is blanketing the world. If we don’t have the genius, we will have the workforce, the realizing energy, to divert this heritage from a culture of leisure, free time and generalized education phagocytized by consumption and digital isolation, to the joyful and collective struggle to defend the fabric of life” (Socialter, 05/01/2021).
– A professor of air and space law invites us to recognize the existence of a human heritage in space. Recently, the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act became law: it is a first legal recognition of the extension of the human species in space. The scholar calls for a broader protection of the legacy constituted by the landing sites on the Moon and other celestial bodies, as universal human achievements. Time is running out because, within a few years, the human presence will be permanent on the Moon and the traces of previous missions (such as the boot prints of Neil Armstrong) could be erased. (The Conversation, 12/01/2021).
– Just published: Alexandre RIGAL, Habitudes en mouvement. Vers une vie sans voiture (MétisPresses, 2020). In order to move towards a post-automobile society, the sociologist “starts from a simple premise: if we can get used to the automobile, we can also get rid of it”. He suggests focusing on moments such as youth or moving house in order to disaccustom oneself to the car and to train in new modes of travel (bicycle, train, bus) to create new habits. The “symbolic and ritual value of the driver’s license” could also be weakened by a “mobility license” that would mark the passage to adulthood through broad access to active and soft mobility (la vie des idées, 13/01/2021).
PHILOSOPHY, SOCIOLOGY, ANTHROPOLOGY & OPINION
– “Materiality of the Anthropocene”: a conversation with Pierre Charbonnier (France), philosopher, Jedediah Purdy (USA), professor of Law, and Michel Lussault (France), geographer. A discussion on the material basis of capitalism, the impact of this ideology of extraction and exploitation on the planet and the prospects for redirecting the relationship between political and economic actors, the inhabitants and materials extracted (A l’école de l’Anthropocène, 27/01/2021).
– “Are we all vulnerable?”: a conversation with Frédéric Keck (France), philosopher and anthropologist, Eric Klinenberg (USA), sociologist, and Joy Sorman (France), writer. A discussion on human and non-human vulnerability, that of human organizations and humans in the face of major epidemics, but also on psychological vulnerability, a distress that is spreading in our contemporary societies (A l’école de l’Anthropocène, 26/01/2021).
– The historian Laurent Vidal, author of Les hommes lents: résister à la modernité (XVe — XXe siècle) (Flammarion, 2020), draws a link between the Great Acceleration and an ever closer world. He sees in the injunction to the promptness of Christian modernity, from the 15th century onwards, the philosophical elements preparatory to the Great Acceleration, born with the exponential industrialization after 1945: condemnation of laziness and waste of time. “Industrial capitalism has imposed the principle of acceleration as a social norm, and information capitalism has imposed that of instantaneity” at the price of huge destruction: “colonization, Atlantic slavery, exploitation of natural resources…” The transportation revolution gives the illusion of a closer world by reducing travel times. However, in the West, “this opening up of the world has resulted in its exoticization, namely the invention of an alterity in line with one’s own expectations. In becoming exotic, the distant has been decontextualized and reduced to a mere periphery of the modern world”. The author calls poetry to the rescue of our world to articulate the rhythms of ecosystems between the end of the month of the ordinary day and the end of the world of the Anthropocene (AOC, 03/02/2021).
– Webinar series by Kenan Institute for Ethics de Duke University : « Facing the Anthropocene », a series led by theologian Norman Wirzba, an expert in philosophy and agronomy, who interviews leading scholars in political economy, history, anthropology, theology, philosophy, environmental humanities, and law, in order to examine the conditions for a harmonious cohabitation between humanity and the environment (Kenan Institute for Ethics, 21/01–15/04/2021).
– Anthropocene, the Iron Age? Iron, the second most exploited mineral in the world, saw its extraction and transformation (iron and steel) increase sharply after the 2nd World War and particularly from the 2000s onwards. The processes linked to its cycle (from extraction to end of life) have led to long-term environmental and stratigraphic changes, revealing physical, chemical, biological, magnetic and sequential markers of the Anthropocene (The Anthropocene Review, 30/12/2020).
POLITICS & GEOPOLITICS
– “What politics for the climate?”: a conversation with Mark Alizart (France), philosopher, Holly Jean Buck (USA), geographer, and Yasmine Bouagga (France), sociologist, mayor of the 1st district of Lyon. Should ecology be a band-aid, an urgent action that tries to repair, or the dawn of a real “new world”, which proposes general changes, promotes the emergence of new responsible technologies and puts progress at the service of “green” innovations? (A l’école de l’Anthropocène, 30/01/2021).
– Op-ed that goes back to the roots of the relationship between the State and bodies, in order to better understand the reasons behind the current security imperative and the foundations of political modernity. The strong comeback of the State in the wake of the pandemic is expressed mainly through “surveillance of and by bodies”: “tracked, monitored, measured”, they have become “a national and international obsession”. Our security has become “above all corporeal”. Charlotte Epstein, professor of political theory, reminds us that in the 17th century, the body offered a solution to the religious wars that had been tearing Europe apart for more than 100 years. By introducing “the biological body into the reflection on the political body”, Thomas Hobbes evacuated “the soul as a possible place for the exercise of power” and thus as a motive for war. “Other scientific and institutional developments came to strengthen this reconfiguration of power towards the body, in particular public anatomy lessons, this great institution that was one of the birthplaces of the State”. When the pandemic is over, it will be up to us to reclaim the protection of liberties, another mission of the State that has now become secondary in the face of the health and security imperative (Le Monde, 14/01/2021).
– Interview with the geographer Andreas Malm on the link between the pandemic and capitalism. He believes that the debate on the ecological dimensions of the pandemic has been sidelined to foster the illusion of a possible return to business as usual and due to a lack of knowledge of zoonosis by a larger public, which has not allowed a militant appropriation of the issue. He insists on the intrinsic inability of capitalism to set or respect limits: “Capitalism tends to bring out these new diseases because it is unable to renounce the exploitation of natural ecosystems. It is bound to invade these ecosystems and turn them into a source of profit”. In his latest book, Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency. War Communism in the Twenty-First Century (Verso, 2020), Andreas Malm promotes an “ecological leninism” that tackles the drivers of our permanent state of ecological catastrophe: “to end the catastrophe, we must target the dominant classes, who have a vested interest in the continuation of the catastrophe” (Reporterre, 14/01/2021).
– « Longing for Space »: a talk on the research cycle “Perseverance Valley”, an alternative exploration of Mars, by the artists Clément Postec (France), filmmaker, and Pauline Julier (Swiss), artist, filmmaker. Followed by a conversation with Alice Gorman, space archeologist, and Lucas Tiphine, geographer, which addresses the multiples issues of space junk, colonialism, and aboriginal and indigenous peoples rights (A l’école de l’Anthropocène, 31/01/2021).
– “Mobilizing the past to shape a better Anthropocene”: the role of archaeology in meeting the challenges of the Anthropocene. The mobilization of data from the past offers practical and resilient solutions, generally free of fossil fuels and tested over the long term, for example in the fields of agriculture or food security. Ancient technologies and infrastructures, such as terraces and irrigation systems have, in some cases, been used and adapted for centuries or even millennia. Past failures also teach us a lot about unsustainable solutions and vulnerabilities. The authors call for greater interdisciplinarity and a permanent dialogue with all the actors involved in political decision-making (nature ecology & evolution, 18/01/2021).
– What is the link between the pollution of plastic microparticles in the Arctic and my favorite tee? Scientists have been studying the circulation of microplastics in the Arctic to better identify their source and their trajectory: polyester from textiles represents 73% of the synthetic fibers analyzed and microplastic particles are 3 times more abundant in the Eastern Arctic than in the Western Arctic. Scientists deduce that textile fibers, coming from domestic wastewater discharged from washing machines in Europe and North America, are transported to the Eastern Arctic Ocean by the Atlantic Ocean and/or atmospheric transport from the South (nature, 12/01/2021).
– The pandemic, an opportunity to reinvent tourism? “Since the end of the 20th century, tourism has been undergoing the avatars of hypermodernity, synonymous with permanent overbidding. And nothing seems to be able to stop this inordinate conquest of the four corners of the planet — except, perhaps, the global pandemic. As the world’s leading industry, tourism symbolizes the dysfunctions of our world. The author calls for “reinventing the ordinary in tourism” with the inhabitants and to establish “new forms of management by and for the land” (The Conversation, 11/01/2021).
– The unlikely encounter between the Iron Age and the Plastic Age: the excavation of 2 Iron Age roundhouses, at Fort Castell Henllys in Wales, reveals the remains of 30 years of activity (late 20th and early 21st century) of this major tourist and educational site. It completes, through archaeological methods, the studies on the omnipresence of plastic in every corner of the planet. The excavation brings to light a worrying quantity of plastic waste for a heritage site whose waste was systematically evacuated in order to preserve the illusion of an Iron Age environment. This study corroborates the hypothesis of plastic as one of the markers of the Anthropocene and gives an alarming glimpse of the archaeology of the future. It also points to the significant contribution of children to plastic pollution due to the marketing of sweets and snacks targeting them: brightly colored plastic packaging, wrapped snacks and small beverage cartons with plastic straws wrapped in plastic film are specially designed and sold to parents for take-away snacks (Antiquity, 07/01/2021).