November readings

Brett Gundlock/the Globe and Mail


Once a month, we put together a list of stories we’ve been reading: news you might’ve missed or crucial conversations going on around the web. We focus on environmental justice, radical municipalism, new politics, political theory, and resources for action and education.

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.

Don’t tune out yet: the year 2020 is still full of great, much-needed analysis. This month, we are featuring work that is deeply challenging: against the idea that providing good jobs and protecting the environment are in opposition to each other; highlighting the moral depravity of for-profit, industrial agriculture; and on the revolutionary demand of giving Indigenous land back. Aside from this, there were several essential analyses of current anti-racist movements, and anti-black racist movements in particular, pieces on the power of Indigenous wisdom, and guides on organizing with tenants

A small note that the articles linked in this newsletter do not represent the views of Uneven Earth. When reading, please keep in mind that we don’t have capacity to do further research on the authors or publishers!



Uneven Earth updates

Work | Work is drudgery for a lot of people, but it can be different and meaningful, if radically reorganised

Political ecology | Like a toolbox to unpack and understand the complexity of the socio-ecological crises we live in, political ecology is dedicated to a more just and inclusive world

Development | For development to truly deliver on its promise—the betterment of life for all—it must engage a multidimensional understanding of poverty



Top 5 articles to read

The industrial exploitation of pigs

Exiting the false “jobs versus environment” dilemma

A history of true civilisation is not one of monuments

Recovering antiracism

Traditional skills help people on the tourism-deprived Pacific Islands survive the pandemic



News you might’ve missed

Denmark to cull up to 17 million mink amid coronavirus fears

1% of farms operate 70% of world’s farmland

Why are Kashmiri Muslim nomads being evicted?

Africa′s debt crisis grows amid COVID-19 pandemic

Advertisements harm the planet, researchers say

The Maya built the Western Hemisphere’s first water filtration system



Where we’re at: analysis

Hoping for a return to normal after Trump? That’s the last thing we need

Joe Biden’s garbage career: A timeline, and Biden’s corporate cabinet: A breakdown 

Let a thousand fiefdoms bloom

No easy answers: a response to Alex Heffron and Kai Heron

Haemorrhaging Zambia: Prequel to the current debt crisis

Europe’s Green Deal offshores environmental damage to other nations

Climate populism & its limits

Andreas Malm’s corona, climate, chronic emergency



Just think about it…

It is time to revolutionise how we talk about the weather

Ecologically and culturally rich deserts, swamps and grasslands must not be labelled ‘wastelands’

Carbon dioxide removal sucks

Mixed farming beats intensive agriculture methods

How hundreds of small ‘Gardens of Eden’ guard against total deforestation in Ethiopia

Lithuania’s trade-in program is swapping people’s old cars for new e-bikes

Skywoman falling



Black Lives Matter

Cars, riots & Black liberation

Life, war, and politics: After the George Floyd rebellion



Indigenous struggles: #LandBack

What is the Indigenous landback movement — and can it help the climate?

Hunting the hunt

Land Back: The matrilineal descent of modern Indigenous land reclamation

‘Land Back’ is more than a slogan for a resurgent Indigenous movement



Degrowth

Sufficiency: the missing ingredient for sustainable digitalisation

Outgrowing growth: why quality of life, not GDP, should be our measure of success

Escaping the growth and jobs treadmill



New politics

Winning back the Internet by building our own

Why the Green New Deal needs mobility justice

What is libertarian socialism?

An economy that works for everyone

A caring economy: What would it take? The November-December 2020 New Internationalist issue asks: With the world in the midst of a deepening crisis of care, accelerated by Covid-19, what would it mean to have an economy that valued them and the people they care for?

Indigenous languages as cures of the Earth. This article is part of the #CuraDaTerra essay series, focused on Indigenous perspectives and alternatives to industrial capitalism.

Interrelations. Julian Brave NoiseCat has called eight expert witnesses to a tribunal to examine capitalist and colonial relationships to the land and one other. These testimonies endeavor to understand what has gone awry in our human societies, as well as to inquire into what other forms of knowledge, values, and interrelation might form the basis of a more just and reciprocal relationship between land and people.



Cities and radical municipalism

Barcelona launches 10-year plan to reclaim city streets from cars

Ontario is mass evicting tenants, in as little as 60 seconds

This is what energy transition looks like: L’Amassada eviction one year later

L.A. tenants union rejects legislative compromises, affirms dual power

Barricades, boulders, and how LA’s public space became a battleground for the commons

Democracy is in decline. Here’s how we can revive it

‘Covid created an opportunity’: Lisbon to turn tourist flats into homes

New Foundational Infrastructures: economic policies for a radical municipalism?

Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need



Food politics

Joel Salatin’s unsustainable myth

When beef testing is surveillance, sacred cows are tools of the state

Incubated futures



Resources

Wealth, shown to scale 

A copy editor’s education in Indigenous style

How to organize your building



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Work

Source: William Morris

by Ekaterina Chertkovskaya

Work is drudgery for a lot of people, whether physically or mentally, as they have to work a lot to make a living. Despite this, the work we do defines how we are perceived in society, while precarity of work has become the norm. A lot of work in capitalist growth-oriented economies is also environmentally and socially destructive. However, work can be different and meaningful, if radically reorganised. In what follows I will introduce the word, then proceed to addressing the problems with work, and finish by sketching how work could be transformed.

If you look for a general definition of work, it would usually be presented as an activity that involves physical or mental effort. Such a definition includes work of different kinds, for example, wage labor, unpaid care work or subsistence farming. It is the former, however, that we usually associate work with – i.e. work as a means to earn income, taking the form of wage labor. It is this kind of work that many have to do in a capitalist economy, whether they want to or not, and despite other kinds of work co-existing with it. 

What work looks like today: from modern slavery to alienation

The etymology of the word ‘work’ has negative connotations in some languages, including ‘torture’ (e.g. French) and ‘slavery’ (e.g. Russian). This is unfortunately the way work is experienced by many, metaphorically and literally. 

Work is extremely unjustly distributed within and across societies, defined by class, race, gender and other divisions. The hardest and most dangerous work is today done by people in the Global South – including children – in inhumane conditions. The earnings from this work are often not enough to live on, and yet this work creates wealth for global economies and powerful corporations. Mining for minerals in Congo to make modern technological devices possible, making cheap disposable clothes for renowned brands in Bangladesh or manually recycling plastic waste in Thailand are all examples of such work. 

Severe exploitation of people for commercial gain via, for example, forced labor and debt bondage, is called ‘modern slavery’. According to the ILO, about 16 million people were in forced labor in the private economy in 2016, with 51% of these being in debt bondage. Modern slavery is particularly present in agriculture, mining and extraction, construction, and some forms of manufacturing, as well as unregulated or poorly regulated service industries. New service-oriented sectors that have been expanding rapidly and relying on digital technology – epitomised by companies like Foodora and Amazon – also come with new forms of extremely tough, controlled, accelerated and low-paid work, some of which can also be characterised as modern slavery.

When work is done in safe environments and in more decent conditions, with better salaries and shorter working hours, it still remains alienating: it leads to deskilling and lacks meaning for many. As David Graeber observed, capitalism has been good at creating a lot of ‘bullshit jobs’ – the kinds of jobs that do not need to exist. Corporate rhetoric, in turn, has worked hard to promote work as attractive to potential employees. For example, glitzy graduate brochures pay attention to the employer’s brand, adventures, consumption and endless training opportunities that will come with work, rather than work itself. However, even the most prestigious and glamorous jobs often turn out to be mundane, boring and complicit in the problems of our times. 

Even the most prestigious and glamorous jobs often turn out to be mundane, boring and complicit in the problems of our times.

In response to this, we see a revival of the interest in work as craft, which is laborious but fulfilling – baking, beer brewing, small-scale agriculture, running a zero-waste store. People leave their work in corporate spaces to do something both for themselves and the society. However, these interests are often restricted by the very structure of the capitalist market, with interesting work being difficult to live from.

Work has become precarious over the past thirty years, with job security having been substituted by employability in labor market policies. Zero-hour and short-term contracts become never-ending for some, and even those in permanent positions can be made redundant fairly easily. This is expected to be exacerbated by the rise of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, which will substitute many jobs done by people. Employers today can hire and fire people to adapt to the situation on the market, while state employment agencies help one to search for work, rather than to actually get it. In other words, the responsibility for one’s situation with employment has been shifted from governments and employers to people themselves. 

Despite this precarity of work and many not identifying with what they do to earn a living, most societies are characterised by a culture of workerism, where people’s worth is defined by the status of the work they do. To receive financial support from the state, those who are unemployed have to engage in the often humiliating and disciplining process of proving that they are searching for work, for example, sending a particular number of job applications per week. The kind of work unemployed people have to apply for, however, is often far off from what they want to be doing.

The value of work

Beyond the ways that work is changing today, there is a fundamental problem with how and which work is valued. Wage labor is a key feature of capitalism. Most people have to engage in wage labor to survive. Following Marxist theory, what appears as value created by investors or entrepreneurs is actually built on workers’ labor. For example, a worker at a shoe factory makes the shoes, but doesn’t own the shoe she ends up making nor does she own the machines she uses to make it with. As a result the owners of “the means of production” (e.g. the shareholders and bosses) cash in on any surplus value created, while she only receives the minimum wage the bosses are required to provide. This separation of workers from the means of production drives both capitalist surplus value and alienation from work. Because of this, Karl Marx calls work the “hidden abode of production”, i.e., the source of capitalist value which is often made invisible. 

As further stressed by social reproduction theory, workers also need to be sustained in spaces outside production in order to continue working. Thus, capitalist surplus value relies on yet another “hidden abode” – a vast range of reproductive activities, which are, however, invisible and are not recognised in capitalist value creation. These activities, such as domestic labor, can be paid but are largely unpaid, and mostly fall on the shoulders of women. 

When products are sold, however, their exchange value comes across as independent from productive and reproductive activities – Marx referred to this as commodity fetishism. Furthermore, the capitalist system is oriented towards financial gain, rather than satisfaction of human needs, and work that brings higher profits is recognised much more than work that contributes to well-being and welfare.

As vividly demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, work that is most essential for the daily functioning of societies – care work, nursing, driving public transport, garbage collection, etc – is valued least. At the same time, economic sectors that are destructive or churning out bullshit jobs – financial and housing market speculation, advertising that pollutes public spaces or creating distractive social media technology – enjoy extreme levels of financial gratification and social status. They are able to create jobs, employ people, and pay them well. Moreover, some industries are directly responsible for environmental destruction and health deterioration. Bue Rübner Hansen calls work in these sectors ‘batshit jobs’, to denote the madness of the contradiction when making a living is also part of unmaking life. The fossil industry, which some of the world’s richest and most powerful companies belong to, is a case in point. It gives jobs to many people, but drives destruction. Such industries have to be phased out, but the workers in those industries would also need to be ensured a just transition to meaningful jobs in sectors that would be needed in the economy of the future – care, repair, and environmental regeneration.

Abolish work or liberate it? 

In response to the problems with work, anti-work theses have become popular, arguing, for example, for the abolition of work. Some believe that technology will help to liberate us from work, if only it could be reclaimed from the hands of capital and used in public interest. However, reliance on massive technological interventions requires a lot of energy and materials, and will likely create a lot of waste, too—thus bringing further environmental devastation. It is also likely to come with hierarchical systems of control and, ultimately, its own forms of injustice. For example, as Barbara Muraca and Frederike Neuber argue, complex technologies like BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) will not be possible to manage in a decentralised way, while any side effects of these technologies – such as leakage of CO2 – will directly affect local communities. Furthermore, a lot of work, often hard, time-consuming, or unpleasant, is required for the daily life of societies – such as childrearing, caring for the sick, cleaning, and provision of services. Thus, work – done by humans – is here to stay. However, it needs to be transformed. 

The problem with work is not confined to ‘work’ only, but is structural. Capitalist economies are oriented towards continuous capital accumulation, economic growth, and profit by all means. So transformation of work should be part of a general reorganisation of societies and economies away from capitalism and towards socio-ecological transformation. This reorganisation would decentre work from the social pedestal it enjoys today and put life at the centre instead. As part of this transformation, we need to collectively rethink which work is essential for societies and contributes to well-being and environmental regeneration, and how much of it is needed. 

We need to liberate ourselves from work, but also liberate work itself.

As Stefania Barca argues, we need to liberate ourselves from work, but also liberate work itself. In general, we should be working less, at a slower pace, and have time for many things outside work – reproductive, social, political, but also rest, idleness and contemplation. There also needs to be a more equal distribution of work within and across societies, with everyone contributing to socially necessary work and also having spaces for more craft-based, creative and intellectual work. 

To liberate work itself, it should be organised differently. Collective forms of ownership and organising –  such as cooperatives and commons –  are key to the transformation of work. So are workplace democracy, non-hierarchical organisational structures and participatory decision-making. With such organisation of work, even work that is not pleasant in itself can acquire a different meaning. There are many ways to push for the transformation of work, starting from grassroots initiatives where work is organised differently, to institutional changes such as reduction of working time, job guarantee, universal basic income, and universal basic services.

Further resources

Critiques of work

On modern slavery

Crane, A. (2013) ‘Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation’, Academy of Management Review, 38: 49-69.

International Labor Office (ILO) (2017) ‘Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labor and forced marriage’, Geneva: ILO.

On other problems with work: Boredom, lack of meaning, environmental destruction

Costas J. and D. Kärreman (2016) ‘The bored self in knowledge work’, Human Relations, 69(1): 61-83.

Graeber, D. (2018) Bullshit jobs. London: Penguin.

Hansen, B.R. (2019) ‘“Batshit jobs” – no-one should have to destroy the planet to make a living’, Open Democracy, 11 June. 

Hoffmann, M. and R. Paulsen (2020) ‘Resolving the “jobs-environment-dilemma”? The case for critiques of work in sustainability research’, Environmental Sociology, doi 

On discourses and qualities surrounding work: Consumption, employability, precarity

Chertkovskaya, E., Korczynski, M. and Taylor, S. (2020) ‘The consumption of work: Representations and interpretations of the meaning of work at a UK university’, Organization, 27(4): 517-536.

Chertkovskaya, E., P. Watt, S. Tramer and S. Spoelstra (2013) ‘Giving notice to employability’. ephemera: theory & politics in organization 13(4): 701-716.

Standing, G. (2011) The precariat: The new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Towards alternatives

Reclaiming work, visibilising social reproduction

Fraser, N. (2014) ‘Behind Marx’s hidden abode’, New Left Review, 86: 55-72.

Schleuning, N. (1995) “The abolition of work and other myths’, Kick it Over, 35 (Summer). Libcom.org.

Articulating and doing work differently (from critiques to alternatives)

Barca, S. (2019a) ‘An alternative worth fighting for: Degrowth and the liberation of work’, in E. Chertkovskaya, A. Paulsson and S. Barca (eds.) Towards a political economy of degrowth. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Chertkovskaya, E. and K. Stoborod (2018) ‘Work’, in B. Franks, L. Williams and N. Jun (eds.) Anarchism: A conceptual approach. Routledge.

Kokkinidis G. (2015) ‘Spaces of possibilities: workers’ self-management in Greece’, Organization, 22(6): 847-871.

New roots collective and 2000+ signatories (2020) ‘www.degrowth.info/en/open-letter’, degrowth.info, 13 May.

On organised labour as a transformative actor

Barca, S. (2019b) ‘The labor(s) of degrowth’, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 30(2): 207-216.

Barca, S. and E. Leonardi (2018) ‘Working-class ecology and union politics: A conceptual topology’, Globalizations, 4: 487-503.

Ekaterina Chertkovskaya is a researcher in degrowth and critical organisation studies based at Lund University, with interests in the themes of alternative organising, work and technology. She co-edited Towards a political economy of degrowth (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and is a member of the editorial collective of ephemera journal.

Thanks to Aaron Vansintjan for his caring editing of this text.

Make life, not work: democratizing, decommodifying and remediating existence

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

by Stefanie Gerold, Ernest Aigner, Maja Hoffmann and Louison Cahen-Fourot

In May this year, a group of well-known academics launched an initiative to reform work in light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the environmental crisis. The manifesto, Work: Democratise, Decommodify, Remediate, has so far been published in newspapers around the world, and signed by more than 6,000 people. Referring to the essential contribution of workers to society and the economy – made ever more apparent during the pandemic – the manifesto argues that employees should be involved in decision-making processes in firms. It further raises the problem of leaving key human needs such as health to market forces, and therefore demands publicly funded job guarantees. In light of the environmental crisis, the manifesto calls for conditioning state bail-outs on certain environmental standards and on the presence of democratic principles within firms. It considers democratically governed firms best suited to achieve a transition towards sustainable business.

We hope that this initiative stimulates the much-needed public debate on the role of work in society. We fully share the demands to democratize firms, decommodify work, and remediate the environment in principle. However, certain suggestions point in the wrong direction and fall short of the progressive potential in current debates on work. The authors also draw an uncritically positive picture of work and are surprisingly silent about the many problems associated with work.

Democratization. The letter rightly points to the exclusion of workers from most decision-making processes in firms. Extending the principle of democracy into the realm of work is long overdue, and implementing co-determination in firms is therefore important. This does not, however, change the major purpose of privately-owned businesses: generating profit for capital owners. Placing workers’ interests at centre stage requires different business models altogether, such as cooperatives that are owned and self-managed by their workers.

Nonetheless, the implied vision of a future where you need a job in order to have a say in economic decision-making is exclusionary and fundamentally undemocratic. It leaves out large parts of the population and continues to marginalize unemployed persons and unpaid (care) activities. A true democratization of work needs to go much further and encompass the democratization of the entire economy, whereby society as a whole decides on what is being produced, how and for whose benefit.

Collective deliberation about, for example, the purpose of the financial sector, or the necessity of jobs in the weapons industry, might also question the rising number of ‘bullshit jobs’ that are considered useless, or even destructive, for society. The Coronavirus pandemic has clearly revealed the rather limited list of jobs and sectors that are essential for meeting society’s basic needs.

Decommodification. The second claim of the letter demands that work be partly exempted from market mechanisms. We fully agree that essential areas of life should be taken out of the realm of markets.

However, “ensuring that all people have access to work” would potentially exacerbate, rather than solve, the problem. The pandemic has clearly shown our dependency on work in order to make a living. Regardless of whether our job is useful to society or grants dignity, we are required to sell our labour in order to earn money to meet our needs.

A “right to work” scheme, as proposed by the letter, might indeed tackle the unemployment issue, and it might also help to ensure that basic social needs are met. However, implemented in a society equating work with personal achievement and access to social rights, it would also reinforce people’s material and cultural dependency on work. To be truly emancipatory, a “right to work” scheme needs to be mirrored by a “right to live well” that is granted to all – independent of one’s capacity to work, and independent of economic or health crises setting large parts of the labour force free. A “right to live well” scheme would make access to social welfare institutions independent from work and provide the necessary infrastructure to live a meaningful life independent of work. Such a scheme could take the form of an in-kind universal basic income providing health, education, housing, energy, transportation and food through full socialization of these sectors.

Moreover, the idea of grounding “citizenship in firms” because “one’s mind and body, one’s health – one’s very life” is invested in work, seems a rather dystopian vision of the future, whereby the wage relation becomes ever more central to social life. We believe an emancipatory and desirable vision would instead limit the personal and societal relevance of work, so that it is one aspect of life but does not determine life entirely.

Environmental remediation. The letter rightly argues that any response to the Coronavirus-induced economic crisis needs to include environmental considerations. It finds that democratically led firms are best able to achieve such a transition.

Although this is true in some cases, fractions of organized labour have also repeatedly opposed needed changes. Especially in inherently unsustainable industries, such as coal, steel, or aviation, workers’ rights for participation would most likely not result in the required changes – namely a significant downsizing of these industries and therefore the phasing out of most jobs.

It is important to understand that work, whether in industry or services, is always a process that consumes energy and resources, and currently at clearly unsustainable levels. As scientific studies have pointed out, we need to reduce the overall amount of work in order to stay on trajectories compatible with ecological limits. Why should we try to come up with new tasks to keep everyone busy? Instead, we could reduce work hours and redistribute the remaining necessary work more evenly across society, accompanied by a broad, democratic debate about the usefulness and harmfulness of work.

Democratizing and decommodifying work, and remediating the environment are essential to sustain life on this planet. However, this cannot be done through limiting ourselves to well-worn social democratic thinking. Nor can it be done through uncritically considering work as inherently positive, or without reflecting on the role of work in contemporary capitalism. Societies, rather than markets or firms, should decide what kind of work is done and considered useful and valuable. Emancipation from labour requires us to democratize and decommodify the economy as a whole, to transform it to become sustainable, and to enable us to live well independent of work. It requires us to democratize, decommodify and remediate our very existence.

The Work: Democratise, Decommodify, Remediate manifesto was further developed into a book. The French version of this book was released on October 1, 2020.


Note: a French version of this commentary on the manifesto was published on May 23, 2020 in Le Monde online. A German version was published on July 24, 2020 as a blog article in Der Freitag.

Stefanie Gerold is a researcher at Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin), Ernest Aigner, Maja Hoffmann and Louison Cahen-Fourot are researchers at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna).

June readings

A Latvian ecovillage based on The Ringing Cedars of Russia. (Santa Zembaha/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

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.

Not Afraid of the Ruins is back! In June, we launched the second season of our series of science fiction with an environmental justice twist. And we have two excellent new articles for you, one on women’s organizing against extractivism in southern Africa, another continuing the debate on utopia and science, by Max Ajl. We also highlight more articles criticizing Fully Automated Luxury Communism, and feature a discussion on the merits of and problems with utopian thinking. Finally, we are featuring an older article by Peter Staudenmaier on fascist environmentalism—something every ecologist should be aware of. 

 

Uneven Earth updates

The right to say no | Link | Women organizing against extractivism in southern Africa

All the water | Link | “Everything was on autopilot; the only thing the operator had to do was push a virtual button to engage the missiles.”

Dispatch from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec | Link | What it will take to build alliances with our neighbors to the South

How much will the US Way of Life © have to change? | Link | On the future of farming, socialist science, and utopia


Top 5 articles to read

Ecofascism / fascist ideology: the “green wing” of the Nazi Party and its historical antecedents

Social collapse and climate breakdown

Climate change, dust bowls, and fishery collapse: metabolic rifts of capitalism and the need for socialism

“Batshit jobs” – no-one should have to destroy the planet to make a living

Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable


News you might’ve missed

State projects leave tens of thousands of lives in the balance in Ethiopia

Dam in Ethiopia has wiped out indigenous livelihoods, report finds

Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues

Climate change-fueled valley fever is hitting farmworkers hard

340+ organisations call on the EU to immediately halt trade negotiations with Brazil on the grounds of deteriorating human rights and environmental conditions.

Faces of war: Kurdistan’s armed struggle against Islamic State

Carbon emissions from energy industry rise at fastest rate since 2011

African city heat is set to grow intolerably

To stop destruction of Liberia’s rainforest, he put his life on the line. Alfred Brownell had to flee Liberia after challenging the powerful palm oil and other extractive industries that were clearing its forests. But he remains committed to seeing that the West African nation’s biodiverse lands be developed sustainably and the rights of its indigenous peoples respected.

Public concern over climate crisis reaches record high in UK



Indigenous struggles

Old neighbors, new battles

White allies, let’s be honest about decolonization

The shoreline still provides dinner, despite climate change and private property



Utopia, sci-fi, and the apocalypse

Change is divine: How sci-fi visionary Octavia Butler influenced this Detroit revolutionary

Utopia isn’t just idealistic fantasy – it inspires people to change the world

The end of the world will be a non-event

The empty radicalism of the climate apocalypse



Where we’re at: analysis

The Great Wheel.  A 2015 article debating accelerationism vs. autonomism. 

The dictatorship of the present

Touted as ‘development,’ land grabs hurt local communities, and women most of all

Largest animal epidemic in history is due to industrial farming

US military is a bigger polluter than as many as 140 countries – shrinking this war machine is a must

The significance of the Sudanese revolution

One hundred years after World War I, are we heading back to the abyss?

Connecting the dots: Insane trade and climate chaos

The roots of the French far right’s rise

The European far right’s environmental turn

How to truly decolonise the study of Africa

A Chernobyl guide to the future

Who owns tomorrow?



Just think about it…

Will climate change kill everyone — or just lots and lots of people?

Ancient water-saving can help modern Peru

Decentralized microgridding can provide 90% of a neighborhood’s energy needs, study finds

Carmageddon: it’s killing urban life. We must reclaim our cities before it’s too late

Why ‘Game of Thrones’ was about ecomodernism

The mindfulness conspiracy. It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism.

Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes

The easy way out: How the pursuit of convenience produces new forms of inconvenience

How a ‘repair economy’ creates a kinder, more caring community

How ‘maintainers’, not ‘innovators’, make the world turn. “The vast majority of technologies that surround us and underpin our lives are not innovations, and the vast majority of labor in our culture is not focused on introducing or adopting new things, but on keeping things going.”

The Chinese government should support small scale agriculture for a green China

Think prairie grasslands are just “boring grass”? Think again

As climate change worsens, some people might decide to DIY a solution

The reason Australia doesn’t have nuclear power: the workers fought back

Steven Pinker is selling Reason™, not reason



Fully automated luxury communism—and its critics

Fully Automated Luxury Communism

Artificial stupidity

Gee Whiz! Communism is sure gonna be keen!

A utopian vision of communism’s techno-future



New politics

To free ourselves, we must feed ourselves. Leah Penniman on bringing people of color back to the land.

Building the new left economics: public-commons partnerships and new circuits of ownership

We don’t just need a Universal Basic Income, we need a Universal Basic Services System. Here’s what it would look like.

Agroecology: a systems approach. How scientists propose that we feed the future… and solve a host of other problems at the same time.

Modern Monetary Theory: meet the economists fighting the economy

Paper straws won’t save the planet – we need a four-day week

I work in the environmental movement. I don’t care if you recycle. Fight the oil and gas industry instead.

The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism

Why I’m no longer Vegan™. A video essay on why vegan activism needs to be anti-capitalist.



Radical municipalism

Is Strong Towns NIMBY, YIMBY, or what?

Every NIMBY’s speech at a public hearing

What if a city decides it can live without a freeway?

How a Montreal working-class neighbourhood’s activists changed Quebec and Canada 

Tenants won this round

From green gentrification to resilience gentrification: An example from Brooklyn

Berlin senate approves a five-year rent freeze

Follow the carbon. The case for neighborhood-level carbon footprints.



Degrowth and the Green New Deal

Is it time to end our fixation with GDP and growth?

Economic growth: a short history of a controversial idea

The Green New Deal: whither capitalism?

10 pillars of the Green New Deal for Europe

New study dismisses green growth policies as a route out of ecological emergency

Degrowth: a call for radical socio-ecological transformation

The “do more” mindset is ruining the planet. A video explainer.



Plastics and waste

We might not have enough materials for all the solar panels and wind turbines we need

The economy of wastefulness: the biology of the commons

The feminist, anti-colonialist scientific approach to micro-plastics and pollution

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret

Boom goes the plastics industry

Humans have made 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950. This is the illustrated story of where it’s gone



Resources

An alternative economics summer reading list

Against militarism on Mother Earth. A collection of readings.

Caring labor. An archive of resources.




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May readings

Illustration by Annie Xing Zhao

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 highlighting a few articles on the work of activist organizing, the work of gestation, and… on doing less work. There’s also been a flurry of conversation about futurism on the left, spurred on by the release of Aaron Bastani’s new book, Fully Automated Luxury Communism. We highlight several critiques. From the recent setback to the municipal movement in Barcelona, to urban environmental justice struggles, we once again feature lots of pieces on radical municipalism. And, our section on the Green New Deal and Degrowth has basically become permanent, as the debate between them rages on.


Top 5 articles to read

Spadework. On political organizing.

The radical plan to save the planet by working less

Aaron Bastani just released his book, Fully Automated Luxury Communism. Read two critical reviews of the book: Cookshops of the future and Climate, communism and the Age of Affluence?. And two previous articles on the subject by our co-editors Aaron Vansintjan and Rut Elliot Blomqvist here: The shitty new communist futurism, Where’s the ‘eco’ in ecomodernism?, and Pulling the magical lever.

How a beloved Bay Area bakery is tackling the housing crisis

Labor does you



News you might’ve missed

Let’s be clear, says Mexico environment minister, ‘parasitic and predatory neoliberalism’ to blame for climate crisis

The rise of the superbugs – and why industrial farming is to blame

Sudan protesters plan general strike as talks falter. And an update. And another (bad news).

The Yellow Vests of France: six months of struggle

MPs make history by passing Commons motion to declare ‘environment and climate change emergency’

New Zealand’s world-first ‘wellbeing’ budget to focus on poverty and mental health

Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment

Corporate trade tribunals used by mining companies against communities and governments

The West has been dumping tens of millions of tons of trash in Southeast Asian countries for more than 25 years – now they want to send it back



Indigenous struggles

The long read: bullet ants and stolen land

The Yurok nation just established the rights of the Klamath river

Brazilian Indigenous peoples propose boycott

Native knowledge: What ecologists are learning from Indigenous people

Dam violence against environmental defenders

The Zapatista women’s revolutionary law as it is lived today



Where we’re at: analysis

The ruin of the digital town square

The price of meat. And Two amputations a week: the cost of working in a US meat plant.

Far-right identity politics and the task for the Left

Time’s up for capitalism. But what comes next?

The problem of the Left is its reactive position in politics

It may not be fully visible, but we’re in the final years of the American Empire

The reason renewables can’t power modern civilization is because they were never meant to

Favelado’s diary. “The criminalization of poverty is the strategy to keep the system functioning against black populations in Brazil and in the world, because if the favela exists and is marked by the stigma of social violence, it does not come free or without interest.”



Just think about it…

The Blackfoot/Maslow connection. How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was stolen from Indigenous Blackfoot spirituality.

New Yorkers’ poop will soon be used to fuel their own homes

How to make wind power sustainable again

Psychedelic socialism

Loving a vanishing world. I want to move this away from the instrumental question of what you can do about climate change, important though that is, and back to the intrinsic value of what it means to love the world.

Why green pledges will not create the natural forests we need

International Relations Theory and ‘Game of Thrones’ are both fantasies

AirPods are a tragedy. If AirPods are anything, they’re future fossils of capitalism.

Could you give up flying? Meet the no-plane pioneers

When climate change starts wars. Rising temperatures are bringing ethnic tensions to a boil in Central Asia.



New politics

For the love of winning: An open letter to Extinction Rebellion

How to build a sustainable food system

Solidarity economy: Case studies from Rojava and Jackson, Mississippi

Cymru burns, but Northern Syria may help us douse the flames

‘Now is the time of monsters’: The future at a crossroads in Rojava

Inside the growing Indonesian anarchist movement

Water democracy. Farmers in New Mexico have banded together to protect scarce water resources from developments that could end their way of life. Their collective activity is a model for grassroots politics in the age of climate change.



Radical municipalism

Can Barcelona rekindle its radical imagination? Barcelona En Comú narrowly lost the popular vote, and possibly the city government. But there is much more to life than governance.

Why America can’t solve homelessness

NYC’s segregation was carefully planned. Its integration must also be.

Dozens died from heat in Montreal, yet zero in Ontario. Here’s why

How parks help cities adapt to climate change

How communities are contesting green inequities

Rebel Cities 24: How Catalonia’s CUP party is helping reclaim towns, cities and nation

Mobile home residents are trying to save affordable housing

Why councils are bringing millions of pounds worth of services back in-house

Which US cities have concrete strategies for environmental justice?



Degrowth and the Green New Deal

A ‘Green New Deal’ needs to be global, not local

Plan, mood, battlefield – reflections on the Green New Deal

A Green New Deal beyond growth (II) – Some steps forward

How the Green New Deal happened: the view from 2030

Our obsession with growth is ruining the planet. A Green New Deal can save us

An Indigenous critique of the Green New Deal

The ‘green new deal’ supported by Ocasio-Cortez and Corbyn is just a new form of colonialism. And a prior companion piece: A Green New Deal must deliver global justice.

Between ecosocialism, extractivism, the future and the Left in power

Time for Europe to stop growing and grow up

Debate between Giorgos Kallis (Degrowth) and Ted Nordhaus (Ecomodernism)



Resources

Elements of the democratic economy

History from below: a reading list with Marcus Rediker

Global tapestry of alternatives. An initiative seeking to create solidarity networks and strategic alliances amongst radical alternatives to the dominant capitalist, patriarchal, racist, statist, and anthropocentric regime on local, regional and global levels.



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