September readings

Illustration by Delcan & Company + Julia Grayson, via The New Republic


Once a month, we put together a list of stories we’ve been reading: things you might’ve missed or crucial conversations going on around the web. We focus on environmental and social justice, cities, science fiction, current events, and political theory. 

We try to include articles that have been published recently but will last, that are relatively light and inspiring, and are from corners of the web that don’t always get the light of day. This will also be a space to keep you up to date with news about what’s happening at Uneven Earth. 

This month, we’re featuring a lot of analysis on climate politics: the climate strikes, climate apartheid, and the rise of fascism along with it. We are also featuring, as usual, many reports and articles documenting the ongoing Indigenous and land rights struggles around the world. We also highlight a debate that started with Jonathan Franzen’s article in the New Yorker, which mixes climate “realism” with a denial of the power of collective power, in favor of individual action.

We continued to collect analyses about the Amazon forest fires and Bolsonaro’s Brazil. A month after the crisis hit the news, articles coming out now are much more measured and well-researched, digging into the connections between global capital, our very own pension funds, and deforestation in the Amazon. 

Finally, analysis and debate about degrowth is picking up again. On the left, there was surprising coverage of the movement in The New Republic and Current Affairs. World-famous scientist and analyst, Vaclav Smil, has just released an authoritative book on the science of degrowth. There was also an interesting debate where Leigh Phillips, author of Austerity Ecology, published an article denouncing degrowth. In four separate replies to his piece, scientists and authors took apart each of his arguments and countered them pretty effectively. We feature the debate here. 



Uneven Earth updates

Last stand on Ménez Hom | Link | At the top of the Ménez Hom, between the earth and the sky, history had displayed the ability to repeat itself. 

Life in flames | Link | On pain and hope in the aftermath of catastrophic fires in Bolivia’s Chiquitanía and Amazon regions 

The vine underground | Link | “The unthinkable had happened. No one plans for the end of their own world.” 

Destructive space-time | Link | How war bombs and resource extractivism compress past, present, and future 



Top 5 articles to read

Indigenous people are already working “green jobs” — but they’re unrecognized and unpaid

Wendell Berry’s lifelong dissent

Rethinking cities, from the ground up – Whose society? Whose cohesion?

The Toxic Valley. How global industry turned a once green Turkish province into an environmental wasteland.

First as tragedy, then as fascism. Ecologist Garrett Hardin’s enduring gift to the nativist right.



News you might’ve missed

From Qatar to Vietnam, global heating is making the workplace deadly for millions

$1m a minute: the farming subsidies destroying the world – report

Suddenly, the world’s biggest trade agreement won’t allow corporations to sue governments

Nuclear cannot help against climate crisis

Jakarta’s sea level prompts a move – at a price. And also, where they are planning to build the new capital, there seems to be a conservation forest in the way… 

‘When is this going to end?’: Indonesians shrouded in toxic haze

The sinking class: the New Yorkers left to fight the climate crisis alone

Surveying archaeologists across the globe reveals deeper and more widespread roots of the human age, the Anthropocene



Where we’re at: analysis

Climate apartheid will only lead to more tragedies in the Mediterranean 

10 ways that the climate crisis and militarism are intertwined 

Open borders must be part of any response to the climate crisis

Naomi Klein: ‘We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism’

Dark crystals: the brutal reality behind a booming wellness craze. Demand for ‘healing’ crystals is soaring – but many are mined in deadly conditions in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Socialism with a bit of greenwash can’t save the planet either

What went wrong with African liberation?

Failed decolonisation of South African cities fuels violence



Bolsonaro’s Brazil

Brazil’s Amazon crisis is rooted in its fascist past

Blackstone CEO is driving force behind Amazon deforestation

Revealed: major banks and investors including Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock are pouring money into global forest destruction

As the Amazon burns, students call on Harvard to divest from farmland holdings

Understanding the fires in South America

Amazon crisis: Warring tribes unite against Bolsonaro plans to devastate Brazil’s rainforests for cash

Amazon fires: Follow the money



Land and water protectors and Indigenous struggles

We can’t ‘drink oil’ Indigenous water activist tells UN 

‘Our water is our gold’: Armenians blockade controversial mine

Eco-protesters fight Moscow’s attempt to ‘trash’ Russia’s north

A Brazilian Indigenous leader shares his climate solutions

Revolutionary socialism is the primary political ideology of the Red Nation. Position paper from the Third General Assembly of the Indigenous organization The Red Nation.

Interactive: Plundering Cambodia’s forests

In 2003, a farmer killed himself to protest globalization. Little has changed.

Thai activists risk murder, abduction in fight for land rights

Communities in Africa fight back against the land grab for palm oil



Climate strikes

Twenty-five years before Greta, there was Severn and we ignored her. Time is running out to make transition to low-carbon future safe, just and inclusive.

The climate strikes are about so much more than green colonialism. Solutions to the environmental crisis won’t come in the shape of a battery – they come in the shape of justice, reparations and equity.

About the climate strike and the dark side of the ‘green new deal’ from Rojava.

Why citizens’ assemblies on climate change work

The potential for art as a vehicle for transformation



Climate de-nihilism versus climate rage

What if we stopped pretending? by Jonathan Franzen sparked an online debate about the merits of and issues with claims that it’s too late to take meaningful climate action. Franzen’s take: “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.” This Twitter thread by climate activist Dr. Genevieve Guenther takes apart Franzen’s article and argues for an activist approach. And Mary Annaïse Heglar writes that Home is always worth it and that “doomer dudes” are “climate de-nihilists.”



Green fascism

The far right’s eco-fascism — greenwashing hate

Ecofascism: When far-right ideology fuses with ecology

The dawn of climate fascism

Why white supremacists are hooked on green living

The regrowth of eco-fascism



Just think about it…

Humanity and nature are not separate – we must see them as one to fix the climate crisis

To decarbonize we must decomputerize: why we need a Luddite revolution

Capitalism ‘solves’ the nitrogen crisis: A brief history

The limits of clean energy

For Rachel Carson, wonder was a radical state of mind

The hellish future of Las Vegas in the climate crisis: ‘a place where we never go outside’



New politics

‘Development’ is colonialism in disguise. A review of the new book, Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.



Cities and radical municipalism

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor says there is no housing crisis: ‘It’s just housing under capitalism’ 

Why are American homes so big? 

Barcelona’s car-free ‘superblocks’ could save hundreds of lives 

How the fight for this immigrant neighbourhood became a fight for all immigrant neighbourhoods

Mutual aid networks go beyond disaster relief. They offer community empowerment.

Notes on process for assemblies

French city of Dunkirk tests out free transport – and it works

What went wrong for the municipalists in Spain?

“Pan-African social ecology” illustrates liberation in direct democracy



Degrowth!

Vaclav Smil: ‘Growth must end. Our economist friends don’t seem to realise that’

‘Mindless growth’: Robust scientific case for degrowth is stronger every day

Önsketänkande med grön tillväxt – vi måste agera. An op-ed by earth-system scientist Johan Rockström of Stockholm Resilience Center cites the article “Is green growth possible?” by Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis. Rockström retreats from his earlier advocacy of green growth and argues that we need to act politically for more far-reaching change—starting with setting a final date for all fossil fuels.

We need a fair way to end economic growth. The recent mainstream endorsements of degrowth ideas might be a good thing, but: “The left should be monopolizing a controlled and deliberate degrowth strategy because if it doesn’t do it, the rich and their authoritarian, ideological vanguard will. And it will be ugly.” And a similar argument from The New Republic: The delusion and danger of infinite economic growth

The sequel: life after economic growth

The degrowth delusion. The critique of degrowth by Leigh Phillips as “unnecessary, unjust, and the end of progress”. 

And the four responses: 

Growing pain: the delusion of boundless economic growth

Is the degrowth movement delusional? 

Why degrowth is the only responsible way forward

In defence of degrowth



Utopia, sci-fi, and the apocalypse

Ursula K. Le Guin’s revolutions. Le Guin’s work is distinctive not only because it is imaginative, or because it is political, but because she thought so deeply about the work of building a future worth living.

We should all be reading more Ursula Le Guin

Latin American film series offers a decolonial look at science fiction



Resources

Minim Municipalist Observatory. A database with links to articles, reports and academic papers on municipalism, and updates on the municipalist movement.

Tracking your plastic: Exposing recycling myths. A CBC news documentary about the plastics recycling industry and its environmental impact in Malaysia.

A guide to disrupting white nationalists in your community

A blueprint for Europe’s just transition



This newsletter is put together by Anna Biren (@annacbrn), Rut Elliot Blomqvist (@RutElliotB), Joanna Pope (@DegrowthMemes), and Aaron Vansintjan (@a_vansi).

Want to receive this as a newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.

February & March readings

Illustration by Paige Wickers.

Once a month, we put together a list of stories we’ve been reading: things you might’ve missed or crucial conversations going on around the web. We focus on environmental and social justice, cities, science fiction, current events, and political theory.

We try to include articles that have been published recently but will last, that are relatively light and inspiring, and are from corners of the web that don’t always get the light of day. This will also be a space to keep you up to date with news about what’s happening at Uneven Earth.

We’ve all been swamped with work and life, so we decided to skip last month’s newsletter and combine February and March into one bigger reading list. It’s ok, because February is so short, right? That said, a lot has happened these past two months. From the Christchurch shooting to the flooding in Mozambique, to Amazon’s defeat in Queens, New York and the growing children’s climate strikes. In this newsletter, we’ve collected some of the best analyses of these events: talking about the need to understand how eco-fascist ideology drove the Christchurch shooter and the significance of local organizing against Internet giants. We highlight some critiques of development discourse, and a bibliography on “post-extractivism” in Latin America. We also include our usual collection of articles about alternative politics, radical municipalism, plastics and waste, and degrowth vs. the green new deal. And, yes, there’s a whole article about why lawns are bad.

 

Uneven Earth updates

Is Heidegger’s philosophy anti-semitic? | Link | Considering the new book, Heidegger and the Jews.

After mass mobilizations, what direction for the Belgian climate movement? | Link | A report from a participant.

 

Top 5 articles to read

Eco-fascism is undergoing a revival in the fetid culture of the extreme right. Some see looming ecological collapse as an opportunity to re-order society along their preferred, frankly genocidal, lines.

In mourning. We must pay attention to who we are not supposed to mourn, to what mourning is under-reported or discouraged.

Why science needs philosophy

Lessons from the history of environmentalism

The case against lawns

 

News you might’ve missed

WWF funds guards who have tortured and killed people

Most Europeans think the environment should be a priority even at the expense of growth

Study finds racial gap between who causes air pollution and who breathes it

SF considers ‘sweeping smart city’ installation of devices with cameras, microphones

China experiences a fracking boom, and all the problems that go with it

West Papua: The genocide that is being ignored by the world

The shells of wild sea butterflies are already dissolving

‘First-of-its-kind’ law will protect Lake Erie from pollution by granting it civil rights

Shipibo women healers on the challenges and opportunities of the Ayahuasca boom

 

Perspectives on well-being and development

The happiness-energy paradox: Energy use is unrelated to subjective well-being

The only metric of success that really matters is the one we ignore. “Regardless of one’s sex, country or culture of origin, or age or economic background, social connection is crucial to human development, health, and survival.”

Workism is making Americans miserable. For the college-educated elite, work has morphed into a religious identity—promising transcendence and community, but failing to deliver.

Well-being: a Latin American response to the socio-ecological crisis

Arturo Escobar: Farewell to development. Over the years, ‘development’ has undergone multiple modifications. All these approaches stay within the conventional understanding of development: they don’t constitute a radical departure from the prevailing paradigm. What we need to do is get rid of ‘development’ itself.

A letter to Steven Pinker (and Bill Gates, for that matter) about global poverty, from Jason Hickel.

 

Where we’re at: analysis

Congo’s miners dying to feed world’s hunger for electric cars   

Cyclone Idai lays bare the fundamental injustice of climate change

Guns, fire and violence in the name of conservation in Loliondo, Tanzania. Exploring the relationship between wildlife conservation and communities.

Why it’s so hard to trace the patterns of unsustainable fossil fuel use

The hidden environmental toll of mining the world’s sand  

What comes after extractivism? Reliance on resource rents keeps Latin American countries stuck in relations of dependency and undermines the core leftist goal of equality. The left must find another way.

Bolsonaro and the death of social housing

Bolsonarism and “frontier capitalism”

The Philippine left in a changing land

How the US has hidden its empire. The United States likes to think of itself as a republic, but it holds territories all over the world – the map you always see doesn’t tell the whole story.

Climate politics after the yellow vests. Far from being anti-environment, the gilets jaunes have exposed the greenwashing of Macron’s deeply regressive economic and social agenda.

How Google, Microsoft, and Big Tech are automating the climate crisis

Good enough to eat? The toxic truth about modern food

 

Degrowth and the Green New Deal

Climate breakdown is coming. The UK needs a Greener New Deal

A Green New Deal must not be tied to economic growth

Growthism: its ecological, economic and ethical limits

A bold new plan to tackle climate change ignores economic orthodoxy

Organizing to win a Green New Deal

“It’s eco-socialism or death”. Cooperation Jackson leader Kali Akuno on the Green New Deal, the need for mass civil disobedience, and the necessity of building an internationalist movement for eco-socialism.

How a Green New Deal could exploit developing countries

An ecosocialist Green New Deal: Guiding principles, from the DSA Ecosocialists.

 

White power and eco-fascism

The Christchurch massacre and the white power movement

Nature writing’s fascist roots. When the Christchurch shooter described himself as an “eco-fascist”, he invoked the age-old and complicated relationship between nature writing and the far right.

 

Plastics and waste

The Chernobyl syndrome. “Chernobyl should not be seen as an isolated accident or as a unique disaster, Brown argues, but as an “exclamation point” that draws our attention to the new world we are creating.”

Mapping USA electronics manufacturing pollution

As pollution gets worse, air-filtering face masks get fashionable

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

Manufacturers beware: The ‘right to repair’ movement is gaining ground

‘Moment of reckoning’: US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

 

Just think about it…

Go home to your ‘dying’ hometown

Caretaking. Helena Norberg-Hodge and Wendell Berry, two giants of the local economy movement, sat down together for a far-reaching discussion.

The Reddit war. How the site became a front in the Syrian civil war.

BirthStrikers: meet the women who refuse to have children until climate change ends

The global South is changing how knowledge is made, shared and used

Indigenous knowledge has been warning us about climate change for centuries

Speak to the shoemaker. Philosophy need not be arcane, argued Aristotle, as he led by example, writing treatises for peers and public alike.

Don’t blame robots for low wages

Anthropocene doesn’t exist and species of the future will not recognise it

Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth

Native American Libertarian Socialism

Capitalism is destroying the Earth. We need a new human right for future generations

Human rights mean nothing unless we defend real, threatened people. “If we allow states to detain, abuse and bar migrants on the grounds that they are not citizens, if we permit authorities to vilify and discriminate against minorities on the grounds that they don’t truly belong, if we accept that governments can arbitrarily revoke citizenship on the grounds that some are politically unacceptable, we not only deny others their rights; we expose the fragility of our rights, too.”

 

Radical municipalism

Bottom-up socialism at a crossroads. Grungy, post-industrial, artsy, and cheap, Montreal has a bit of a “Berlin of the North” feel to it. But what many people don’t know is that it is one of the most politically vibrant cities in North America.

To save urban planners, cities need community organizers

The Green New Deal is already at work in one Portland neighborhood

How poor Americans get exploited by their landlords

To build the cities of the future, we must get out of our cars

The real estate sector is using algorithms to work out the best places to gentrify

The Amazon drama

Amazon’s defeat is local and global

Ownership as social relation: Nonprofit strategies to build community wealth through land

In defense of tenants: An interview with Omaha tenants united

Berlin’s grassroots plan to renationalise up to 200,000 ex-council homes from corporate landlords

 

New politics, hope, and visions for the future

New group looks to unite North America in a cooperative economy. The Symbiosis network is linking cooperative movements offering alternatives to hyper-capitalism.

Where do good organizers come from?

How to seize the means

Voices of Bakur

There’s just one way to confront neoliberalism: democratic ownership

We need to live differently. To end our fossil fuel addiction we need a fundamental technological change — but this cannot happen without changing our social and economic systems.

As the climate collapses, we ask: “How then shall we live?” The first part of a Truthout series that is intended to help us “come to terms, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, with where we are as a species, and how to plunge forward to face our future.”

By reconnecting with the soil, we heal the planet and ourselves

Why the world needs Barry Lopez. His new book, Horizon, is the crowning achievement of a writer whose eyes never stray from the long view.

Thank you, climate strikers. Your action matters and your power will be felt  

Can the imagination save us? Social movements are driven by imagination. I am not prepared to declare the death of dreams.

 

Resources

Enough is Enough: Full film on YouTube. Based on the book by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, this film lays out a visionary but realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth — an economy where the goal is enough, not more.

A video introduction to Elinor Ostrom’s work

Decanonizing anthropology. Reworking the history of social theory for 21st century anthropology, a syllabus project.

Exploring post-extractivism. A library.

Bibliography of critical approaches to toxics and toxicity

 

 

This newsletter is put together by Anna Biren (@acathbrn), Rut Elliot Blomqvist (@RutElliotB), and Aaron Vansintjan (@a_vansi).

Want to receive this as a newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.