Radical Ecological Democracy

Searching for alternatives to unsustainable and inequitable model of ‘development’

Democracy

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BEAUTY & FASHION: CONFRONTING COMMODIFICATION, ADVANCING ALTERNATIVES (Part 1)

“People’s longing to give expression to their individuality has evolved through time and survived the ebb and flow of history, but in these modern times have we done enough to preserve that instinct from getting overawed by the sterile and mechanical functioning of capitalism?” In this first chapter of a three part series, Alessandra Monaco scrutinises the fashion industry to understand its troubled past and its inherently exploitative present to search for an alternative, which blends human creative desires with the societal need for egalitarian cultural standards.

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What if humans aren’t in charge of Earth? A review of Ecocene Politics by Mihnea Tănăsescu (2022)*

As the world slides, inevitably, into a climate induced catastrophe, the society is continually updating its vocabulary to ponder its angst and anguish. Do words like “anthropocene”, “plutocene”, “capitalocene” describe well the Earth era we are passing through? Or, is “ecocene” a better descriptor? Christine Dann reviews Mihnea Tanasescu’s recent book, “Ecocene Politics” in which the author tries to discern the fractured relationship between people and their environment, and rethinks the role politics could play in repairing it. Dann concludes that Tanasescu, while on the right track, needs to dig deeper into the available philosophical discourse on environment as well as the current commentary on, and practice of, ecological democracy to come up with a more convincing and coherent argument.

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Getting out of the hole

As another insane conflict plays out in the Mid-East with all its tragic consequences, the world again has no solutions to offer to the intractable Palestine-Israel strife. Clem McCartney examines why societies freeze in the face of antagonistic disputes, and offers a possible way out of the deep hole that the two protagonists find themselves in.

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Matupi athu Moyo wathu (Our bodies Our lives): Building feminist holistic health and direct democracy in Malawi

In a large part of the world, movements from below are bringing a new sense of purpose and urgency to the pursuit of social transformation, as they channel people’s disappointments with big, unwieldy ideas of change from above. In this uniquely stimulating piece, Salimah Valiani strings together grassroot voices highlighting the struggles and triumphs of women ushering in direct democracy in Malawi.

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Knowing Our Home – a review of “Ecosophies of Freedom” by Milind Wani and Sucharita Dutta-Asane

As a society, how do we better inform our response to the exacting environmental challenges around us? Could an evolved understanding of the world’s ecological philosophies allow us to intervene in the impending climate collapse? Milind Wani and Sucharita Dutta-Asane’s new book, “Ecosophies of Freedon” is an attempt at building on the societal moral, spiritual and ecological underpinnings to help contribute to the evolving socio-political dialogue on environmental sanity and security. Our regular contributor, Christine Dann, reviews the book for RED readers.

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‘Susu’: Ghana’s Informal Economy is a Case Study in Post-capitalist Development

As the world looks for alternatives to neoliberal fundamentalism, many economic and financial systems rooted in tradition are providing renewed hope for restructuring our lives around collective effort and sharing. Caroline Shenaz Hossein and Natalie Holmes explore the Susu System of Ghana to understand its remarkable bottom up functioning and its prudent promise as a replicable model for other parts of the world.

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Earth Uprisings – une histoire

As the pace of environmental degradation and climate change intensifies all around us, how does civil society express its opposition to neoliberalism and plutocracy? Christine Dann scrutinizes the popular movement, the “Earth Uprising”, in France, to discern the evolving design for organizing protest against insidious elite structures all over the world.

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Traditional Governance Systems of the Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand (India)

The lives of the Van Gujjars, the migratory cattle herders of north India, have often been romanticized in folk-lore and literature, but the contemporary challenges being faced by the community have required them to reconfigure their age-old governance mechanisms. Neema Pathak Broome and Akshay Chettri discuss how enduring traditions and modern socio-political strategies are coming together to help a community negotiate the changing times.

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On the Cusp – Reframing Democracy and Well-Being in Korchi

Decentralized governance mechanisms are beginning to question and occasionally replace the orthodoxy of top down systems in many parts of the world. Yet, the process has been painstaking and often unpredictable. Neema Pathak Broome, Srishti Bajpai and Mukesh Shinde analyze the weaknesses of the government introduced initiatives in India, and contrast them with the success of a grass-roots program on local governance in the state of Maharashtra – a worthy template for replication elsewhere in the country.

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‘Emancipate richnesses!’

Hope in hopeless times is a necessary imperative of the human condition, and now a new book by John Holloway articulates that longing through a critique of the contemporary political economy and revolutionary theory itself, pointing a way out of the current socio-political despondence towards reasoned action. In this incisive review of “Hope in Hopeless Times”, Anitra Nelson, an old friend and comrade of RED, takes us through the contours of Holloway’s ideas on reclaiming human richness from the clutches of money “to ensure that capitalism comes to an end before it leads to the extinction of humanity.”

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“Giorgia on our minds”: Exploring “alternatives” as the ultra-right overtakes Italy

As the ultra-right prepares to take power in Italy following the recent elections, a major soul searching is underway among the left and progressive circles on what ails their movement, and how to reconstruct an agenda to appeal to the alienated Italian electorate. Mitja Stefancic probes the recent failures of the Italian left and concludes that progressive politics can only be revived if alternative political movements are accompanied by reliable economic “alternatives” that challenge the top-down neoliberal model.

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Technology and (dis)empowerment: A call to technologists

Could technology become an unambiguous force for social good, and help usher in a more equitable and fairer ecosystem capable of handling challenges of inequality, exploitation, poverty and climate change? Aaditeshwar Seth answers this important question in his recently published book, “Technology and (Dis)empowerment: A Call to Technologists”. In this article, Seth discusses the many ways in which technology could aim to overturn hegemonic and unjust social and economic structures to create an equal and just society, a strikingly bold thread running through his book.

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“Where the mind is without fear”

Earlier this August, India marked the 81st death anniversary of the iconic Bengali poet, writer, educationist and philosopher Rabindranath Thakur. His acclaimed poem, “Where the mind is without fear” has inspired generations of Indians to work for wisdom and wellbeing in the country. Ashish Kothari honors Rabindranath Thakur’s memory inspired by that celebrated poem, introducing an “alternatives” twist to the great poet’s sentiments in a poem of his own.

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Localization: Bringing about Buen Vivir to address climate fluctuations and globalization

In the last fifty years or so of rampant globalization, the decision making processes related to all aspects of people’s lives – food, water, shelter, learning, health, governance – have become restricted to a self-serving collaboration between corporations and international finance, enabled by their nexus with governments all over the world, whether they are openly autocratic or continue to operate under the pretense of democracy. The results now stare us in our faces – runaway economic inequality and increasingly frequent environmental crises. Is there a way out of this quagmire? Christian Stalberg advocates for local control over the means of production and trade, and self-reliance in meeting basic needs from within a human-scale local region. Based on a presentation he made at a session at the World Social Forum earlier this year in Mexico City, Stalberg advances the Andean idea of “Buen Vivir” centered on “localization”, where our choices can be informed by their impact on the earth’s ecology as well as human wellbeing, not just the chimera of convenience and price tag.

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Five axes of transition: Imagining “alternatives” for the post-pandemic future

At some point in the next year or so, we, as a society, may enter the endgame of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, are we, in any way, prepared to deal with the political and economic stresses that will continue to hound us long after? And, how do we even begin to purge ourselves of the pandemic induced detritus that clogs the arteries of our socio-psychological existence? Arturo Escobar, a prominent political-ecologist and an old ally of the Radical Ecological Democracy website, lays out a strategy – what he calls the five axes of transition – needed to come out on the other side of this societal collapse with hope, and to “give impetus to our deepest yearnings for other worlds and worlds otherwise.”

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Carbon commodification in the Peruvian Amazon: The Kichwa People’s Struggle Against Territorial and Climate Destruction

The contemporary model of “fortress conservation” continues to dispossess Indigenous Peoples around the world of their territories to justify the implementation of dubious projects pushing climate change mitigation mechanisms and biodiversity conservation actions. It ignores the ancient rights of communities over their territories, and actively impairs their own local governance systems perfected over time. The resistance to this fraudulent attempt at conservation, however, is gaining ground all over the world. In this article on the emerging issues in Peru, Matias Pérez Ojeda del Arco discusses the ongoing struggle of the Kichwa people to ensure the enjoyment of their traditional livelihoods and the continuation of their territorialities and relationalities with their forests. While the situation is far from perfect, this contestation has allowed for the creation of an “alternative” paradigm where the communities are recognized as key actors for any conservation action undertaken by the Peruvian State to meet its climate commitments.

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A Sisyphean Politics of Desire – Camus’ Philosophy in the Anthropocene

Albert Camus’ outstanding scrutiny of the human condition using the lens of the “absurd” has afforded post-war western society a keen insight into its intensifying socio-psychological ennui and fatigue. Yet, is that somewhat edifying self-reflection enough to discern and intervene in the current unceasing tumble into an environmental and economic dystopia? Adam Cogan examines Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” to weigh the suitability of its message to effect societal mediations, and concludes that a world beyond Camus’ faltering exhortations needs to be fervidly reimagined to contest the “despondency of capitalist realism, and the destruction it condones.”

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“Beautiful Resistance” in Palestine: Challenging occupation by forging inner peace

Resistance is a multifaceted undertaking – it demands clarity of purpose, steady action, regular strategic and tactical innovations, and access to resources. But, most importantly, it needs committed people at peace with their purpose. In Palestine, where the ugliness of occupation, violation of human rights and dehumanizing oppression are a lived reality, how do people respond without succumbing to frenzied violence, particularly its youth who grow up witnessing the unceasing shattering of their future, everyday? Alrowwad, a Palestinian cultural and arts organization uses the philosophy of “Beautiful Resistance” to work with the country’s youth and children to establish a sense of creative peace in their hearts and minds, with the ultimate aim of transmitting that ideal to the rest of the Palestinian society, and to lay the “alternative” pathway to freedom and self-rule. In this article, Abdelfattah Abusrour, the founder of “Alrowwad” discusses the philosophy and the practice of “Beautiful Resistance”.

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Development as Service

Is nature an entity in its own right with intrinsic value to which one owes gratitude and respect, or is it a mere slave of human possession and exploitation? Dorine van Norren answers this question with deep reflection on traditional paradigms which have existed in indigenous cultures for thousands of years, and after having survived the centuries long onslaught of free market fundamentalism, are now providing viable alternatives to the fast crumbling ideas and practices of modern “development”. Delving into the tenets of African Ubuntu, Andean Buen Vivir and the Bhutanese precept of “Gross National Happiness”, van Norren asserts that these paradigms are paving the way toward establishing a society rooted in solidarity with one another and one’s living environment, with an enduring commitment to “development”, which is centered on service or reciprocity.

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Ingredients for a decolonial politics – cooking up a future to delight in

Creating “alternatives” to the political and economic structures that bolster the existing neoliberal order is as much a function of resisting their impact on society as it is to understand and challenge our own co-option into the colonial mindset that perpetuates that oppression. In this article, Eva Schonvled and Justin Kenrick present an inspiring framework for activists, academics, civil society campaigners and radical reformers to create “alternatives to our internalized and cultural habits of domination.”

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