Radical Ecological Democracy

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

New Politics

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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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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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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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From Growth, through Degrowth, to a Pluriverse of Flourishings

A new debate is emerging within the larger discourse on systemic change – what role would the global south with its much greater diversity of ways of living than the North, and with its modern history of pluriversal destruction driven by concentrations of power and privilege from/in the North, play in the unfolding of the idea of degrowth? Is that possible role in any way impeded by degrowth discourse’s own coloniality, which probably is an outcome of its self-definition in opposition to the Eurocentric developmentalist discourse of growth? Does the pluriverse become interesting to degrowthers only if it meets their degrowth criterion? Is the pluriverse of thousands of still surviving biocultural ways of living/knowing on earth and more than seven thousand languages, being subordinated to the degrowth agenda? In this astute and sharp article Saurabh Arora and Andy Stirling of the University of Sussex flesh out this pertinent debate, helping us untie the knots on growth and degrowth, and clarify the promise of the pluriverse beyond.

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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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“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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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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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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Gustavo Esteva Had a Vision

All through his uniquely inventive life, Gustavo Esteva conceived and established trailblazing initiatives, opening up fresh possibilities to fashion new worlds, and he did so with an ever-expanding group of spirited and thoughtful collaborators, particularly in his native Mexico. In this tribute, David Barkin, one of Esteva’s long-time comrades, recounts the enormous impact his ideas and initiatives had on the quest for societal transformation.

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“Hola, Gustavo!”- A personal tribute to Gustavo Esteva

The struggle for progressive “alternatives” suffered a great loss last month when one of its prominent standard bearers, Gustavo Esteva, passed away at the age of 86 in Mexico. In his remarkable and revolutionary journey spanning over six decades, Esteva redefined the very idea of “societal transformation”, and charted a unique course of praxis and theory for the realization of his vision. In this personal tribute, Ashish Kothari recounts Esteva’s enormous contributions, and their collaboration in the quest for meaningful “alternatives”.

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Is Italy’s new vision for environmental protection a real commitment to carbon neutrality?

As the need to address climate change and other environmental crises becomes increasingly critical, many countries have found it necessary to amend their national constitutions to strengthen existing provisions for environmental protection, and even introduce new ones. This past February, the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament passed legislation to amend two crucial Articles in the Constitution to align the country with the rest of Western Europe’s progressive vision on climate intervention. Fausto Corvino and Mitja Stefancic discuss the promise and challenges inherent in this significant move, particularly as the energy fallout from the on-going Russia-Ukraine conflict causes complex and worrying problems for Italy.

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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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Is post-capitalism post-money?

If money is the lynchpin of the contemporary capitalist order then it is imperative that an alternative to that world is imagined and crafted outside the constraints of money. In her path-breaking new book, “Beyond Money, A Post-Capitalist Strategy”, Anitra Nelson lays the ideological foundation of a post-money society based on real, non-monetary, social and ecological values that define a new order committed to fulfilling people’s basic needs. In this exclusive article for RED, Nelson provides an insight into her revolutionary ideas essential for designing a world without socio-economic inequality and crippling environmental stresses.

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Marketing the planet: The financialization of nature

As pressure increases on corporations to transform their business models to address climate change, their response has been a stealth move in the shape of a project, which aims to financialize nature. The power elite recognize that as ecological services regulating climate, and providing food, water, soil stabilization and cultural values become scarce and gradually degrade, they become more attractive to financial markets as economic assets for speculation and trade. Helena Paul discusses why this attempt at deflecting attention from the real need to change our current economic system based on perpetual growth would prove disastrous, and how “alternative” ideas and practices are contesting this nefarious design to perpetuate the neoliberal order.

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