Not everyone has the privilege to wash the hands: Covid–19 and unequal access to water in Latin America

By Anna Heikkinen

Santiago de Chile, February 2020. Chile is experiencing a severe mega drought for the tenth consecutive year. Marginalized urban neighborhoods across Latin American megacities are extremely vulnerable in front of Covid-19 as water scarcity deepens. Photo: Anna Heikkinen

Water has become a vital weapon in the battle against coronavirus. Since the prorogation of Covid-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced “washing your hands frequently” as a principal protective measure to slow down the transmission. Unicef further instructed to wash the hands throughout under running water with soap for at least 20 seconds – the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.  Social media feeds soon went viral on videos of singing people, obeying their civic duty to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile in Latin America many people have been asking – how to follow these protective measures if there is no water? 

According to Inter-American Development Bank (BID), 34 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean lack access to potable water and 106 million have deficiencies in basic sanitation. In 2017, the countries with major pitfalls in basic sanitation were Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. 

The conditions to follow hygiene are not equal for everyone even within the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. A UN/WHO joint program report shows that there is a deep gap between basic drinking water services and sanitation between urban and rural regions. In 2015, 68% of the rural population lacked safely managed sanitation and 75% had deficient potable water services. Moreover, poor urban neighborhoods in Latin American megacities often suffer from severe difficulties in access to adequate quality and quantity of water. 

In Peru’s capital of Lima, 700,000 people living in the poorest regions of the city are facing the coronavirus without proper access to clean water. In the absence of municipal water services, residents of the peripheral districts must buy water from tank trucks. The cost of tanked water per cubic meter can be up to ten times higher than in the wealthier parts of the city connected to the municipal water network. In January 2020, the investigative journalism platform, Ojo-Público, ordered a quality analysis of tanked water in one of the remote districts of Lima. The analysis revealed high quantities of fecal bacteria, lead and other substances posing risks for health. 

Besides water pollution, climate change is posing further pressure on water supplies in Latin America. Prolonged droughts and other extreme weather events have become more common, deepening water scarcities in many parts of the continent. In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, Mexico announced a state of emergency due to extreme droughts.  Meanwhile Chile is struggling with mega droughts for the tenth year in a row. Currently in Mexico over 10 million and in Chile thousands of households lack daily access to potable water. Rural and poor urban populations and indigenous people are in the most vulnerable position in losing access to clean water as the droughts intensify. 

While climate change is aggravating water scarcity across Latin America amidst coronavirus, the roots of the problem lie elsewhere. In many Latin American countries water is distributed highly unequally between different sectors and groups of society. Water use is often prioritized for economically productive activities such as extractive industries, export agriculture and forestry or prosperous urban neighborhoods. This means that during crises like climate change or coronapandemic, there will always be water for those who can afford to pay for it. 

Latin America is one of the most unequal regions in the world. The income gaps and access to basic services between different groups of people are steep. Covid-19, together with climate change, have shed light on these deeply rooted inequalities, including unequal access to water. Now for many, luxuries such as following the hygienic guidelines of washing the hands to prevent spread of infectious diseases, are out of research. Without thinking of new ways for more just and equal water management – the coronavirus risks leaving Latin America with an even more profound water crisis. 

Bio: Anna Heikkinen is a doctoral researcher in Development Studies at the University of Helsinki. Her current research focuses on water governance, climate vulnerabilities and socio-environmental conflicts in Peru.

The historical and current issues at stake during COVID-19 epidemic in Brazil

By Mariana G. Lyra

“The romanticism of the quarantine is a class privilege!” Photo source: unknown from the Internet

Brazilians are fighting COVID-19 by facing current and historical issues. The numbers of registered cases and deaths are not so high, compared to the world ranking or considering that Brazil has a population of more than 220 million inhabitants. At the moment I am writing this piece, there are 2,024,675 COVI-19 cases around the globe, 615,406 only in the United States, followed by Spain with 177,633 cases. Brazil appears on the 14th place, with 25,758 people infected. The devil, however, is in the details.

The Washington Post editorial from the 13th of April is emblematic: Brazil currently has the worst leader in the world to deal with the pandemic. According to the editorial, Mr. Bolsonaro is putting the Brazilian population at risk by having a recurrent discourse that is, at the same time, minimizing the effects associated with the pandemic and misleading how Brazilians should prevent contamination. Critics on how the Brazilian president is dealing with the COVID-19 situation have been signaled before by The Guardian editorial, remembering that Facebook and Twitter have deleted Bolsonaro’s posts about the pandemic due to its harm to the overall users. The posts were about unproven remedies and attacking the practice of physical distancing. The NGO Human Rights Watch considered that Bolsonaro is sabotaging the Health Ministry and the Governors’ regional efforts to manage the pandemic, putting the Brazilian at grave risk.

The historical context of social inequality in Brazil, also reflected in other Latin American countries, deepens the risk. For example, in times of remote learning and access to information, 42% of the households in Brazil have no computers. Almost half of the population has no access to proper sanitation or water. More than 10% of the population is unemployed and 38.4 million Brazilians have an ‘informal’ job, the ones which are the first to face the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Adding to this context, while the USA and Europe are fighting with each other to buy more and more health supplies and equipment such as masks and breathers, poorer countries in Latin America and Africa are left out queuing for a few months to get those items. In Brazil, it has been hard to grasp the real dimension of the problem due to the lack of tests. Brazil is testing 296 people per million inhabitants, while the USA is testing 8 866 people per million. In other words, the actual numbers in terms of infected people would be up to 15 times bigger than the official ones, and projections are estimating Brazil to be the second most infected country in the world, behind the USA.

The exponential rise of infected people in Italy, Spain, and the USA teach other countries how fast health systems can collapse. Brazil has in average one hospital bed per 10 000 inhabitants in the public system. The lesson from Italy and China indicates the need for 2.4 hospital beds per 10 000 people in the epidemic peak, more than double of the Brazilian capacity.  With cuts on the annual budget, the health system in Brazil has a perilous capacity to deal with COVID-19, and units are lacking equipment, supplies, and even soap and water in some cases.

Without top-down clear directives, the citizens are self-educating themselves on how to fight the pandemic and organizing independent initiatives to help marginalized communities. Groups are providing water bottles and liquid soap to the most vulnerable ones, such as homeless and regions of big cities with a notorious incidence of drug trafficking and drug use in public. The following weeks will reveal progressively how severe the situation in Brazil is. Most likely the future will repeat the lyrics of that Chico Buarque’s old song – another unfortunate page of our history.

Mariana Lyra is an environmental policy researcher and doctoral student at the University of Eastern Finland. Her main research interests are extractive industries, local conflicts, and social movements. In particular, she is interested in shedding light on the groups fighting for social and environmental justice.

ESDLA Blog Special Issue: Latin America and the Caribbean in times of Covid19

Latin America and the Caribbean and the Covid19. The screenshot is taken from the “COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)“.

The novel coronavirus pandemic (covid19) has caught the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region in a very particular moment of its entangled history. Since last fall, mass protests and demonstrations were springing in the whole region, most of them in South American countries. Regardless of political ideologies, the common denominator of the protests was the reaction of several sectors of the society against accumulated grievances and overt inequalities, besides the restriction of democratic rights that were revindicated by workers, environmental, feminist, peasant, indigenous and afrolatinx movements through the rural and urban continuum. However, there is no such thing as a unique “Latin American experience”. Each nation-state, place or circumstance shows different societal and ecological challenges.

This special issue from the ESDLA blog brings different perspectives on the current juncture of the Covid19 pandemic in the LAC region. This set of perspectives does not pretend to establish a final word of what is happening all over LAC. Far from that. Instead, the issue brings some reflections on issues of environment, society, and development amid the pandemic by Latin American scholars or with interest in the LAC region, based in Finland.

The special issue will have the following contributions mostly reflecting on cases in Brazil, Peru and Chile, Colombia and Mexico: 

Mariana G. Lyra: The historical and current issues at stake during COVID-19 epidemic in Brazil

Anna Heikkinen: Not everyone has the privilege to wash the hands: Covid–19 and unequal access to water in Latin America

Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz: When urban and ecological injustices meet pandemic: The Covid19 in urbanized Colombia

Violeta Gutiérrez Zamora: The “forgotten” essentials: Mexican and Central American farmworkers during the covid19 pandemic 

Anna Heikkinen: Rural communities in the Peruvian Amazon are confronting the coronavirus on their own 

Paola Minoia: Ecuador: The Covid-19 health emergency cannot be a justification for making public education for the economic crisis

Violeta Gutiérrez Zamora: The COVID-19 pandemic and socio-ecological crises: What is the future for community forestry?

Mariana G. Lyra: Mobilizing in times of social distancing: activism and protests in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic

Nadia Nava Contreras: CoVid-19 in Cuba: Reflections on Inequalities, Scarcity, and Alternatives

More contributions will come soon.

[Last updated: 6.11.2020]

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We hope that these contributions and reflections allow a broader view of the constant and changing challenges posed by the Covid19 pandemic in the LAC region.

ESDLA-Blog Team and contributors, Finland, April 2020.

[RE-POST] Pachamama is crying – Climate Change in the Peruvian highlands

Hi!

This time we share a research experience from the field. “Pachamama is crying – Climate Change in the Peruvian highlands” is a re-post from ‘Mondanna’-blog, authored by Anna Heikkinen, who kindly allowed us to re-posting her blog in our ESDLA’s blog. Kiitos Anna!

Anna is a Ph.D. researcher in the Doctoral Programme of Political, Societal and Regional Change, in the discipline of Development Studies at the University of Helsinki. Her main research interests are water governance, water conflicts, climate and social vulnerabilities and climate change in Latin America. Anna’s research has mainly focused in the Andean region of Peru.

We encourage you to visit Anna’s website “Mondanna” to know more about her research and interests.

Here is the blog’s re-post:

Pachamama is crying – Climate Change in the Peruvian highlands

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Children sitting in front of the glacier Huaytapallana in the Natural Reserve of Junín, in the Central Andes of Peru.

By July, the Mantaro River Valley had turned all yellow. The transition had happened slowly. One morning I was standing on the terrace of my appartment in Huancayo, looking at the surrounding mountains. All that had been covered with different shades of green when I had arrived few months ago, had now transformed into dry, lifeless colors of yellow.

It had not rained for weeks. Last time it rained, it came down as a furious thunderstorm. In the mountains, the thunderstorm feels so powerful. It seems to be born behind the mountains, crawling slowly on the top of the mountain peaks and then spreading its anger down by the slopes to cover all the valley. The sound of the thunder runs through your bones. The concentrated energy in the air makes your body shake. At the peak of the thriller – the sky breaks down and bursts out an outrageous rain that can last for hours.

The thunder scenery is magical and scary at the same time. You feel so tightly connected to the power of nature and realize that at the end, it will always be superior to you.

In the Andean cultures, it is believed that humans, animals and nature are all one and that there are no divisions between these Earth Beings. If Pachamama, the Mother Earth is hurt, all the beings will go through its suffering. When you go walking to the highlands, before taking off you make a short ceremony for Apus, the mountain God. It is considered as a kind gesture to ask Apus for its permission to visit its mountains and for its protection for your journey. Nature, with its all different Earth Beings are valued and treated with respect.

In the Andean cultures, it is believed that humans, animals and nature are all one and that there are no divisions between these Earth Beings. If Pachamama, the Mother Earth is hurt, all the beings will go through its suffering.

On a one crispy Saturday morning in July – an expedition crew consisting of me, Dr. Armando Guevara Gil and our friends Don Cirilo and Don “Chalaca” from a nearby local community of Santa Rosa de Ocopa – was heading to explore highland lakes feeding the Achamayo River.

The red shades of sun were rising behind the mountains as our car was slowly climbing uphill on a rocky serpentine road. As we got higher, we could see the grass covered with white sheet of frost and feel in our lungs how the air had become freezer to breath.

A clear sun light was shining on our path as we began our walk surrounded by the sceneries of endless puna. The frozen grass was shuffling under our feet and the small mountain flowers growing tightened to the ground were waking up. We could hear echoes of dogs barking somewhere far away. Cirilo told that they came from the alpaca-herds’ camps.

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Expedition crew in the highland punas of the Achamayo River Valley.
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By the lake Taptapa with Don Cirilo and Don Chalaca. Photo: Armando Guevara Gil.

We had sat down by the lake Chaluacocha to have some snacks when suddenly the sky turned all grey and a snappy gust of snow began to whip the ground. Our local friends said teasingly that Pachamama had gotten angry because we had been so eager to head to the punas that we had forgotten to make the payment to Pachamama.

In the middle of the snowstorm, we decided to make a short ceremony, sharing some of our fruits and bread with Pachamama. Don Cirilo gave a short speech to ask for good weather and thank Pachamama to permit us to visit its lands, lakes and mountains.

Ten minutes later the sky started to brighten and the snow was gone.  We were joking that our presents had managed to calm down the anger of Pachamama.

“Rationally thinking” our little ceremony probably did not have the power to change the weather. But it forces you to reflect upon, how we tend to forget that after all, we are all just shortly passing visitors in our common home – the Earth. And the least we should do is to show respect and gratitude to our host.

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Having a rest in between walking with Don Cirilo. Photo: Armando Guevara Gil.

Drastic changes in weather is not something uncommon in the highland punas, located in the altitude of 5,000 m above sea level. In the highlands, the flow of air is influenced by the mountains. This can cause rapid changes at micro scale. Though, Don Cirilo and Don Chalaco told us that it was quite rare that it would rain or snow at this time of the year.

In the Peruvian Andes, there have typically been very marked shifts between rainy and dry periods. Usually it rains regularly between December and April whereas from May onwards until November the rain remains almost absent.

For centuries, the farmers in this region have been used to live, sow and harvest according to these shifts. Now the regular climate patterns are changing. The highland farmers that  interviewed, told me that they didn’t know anymore when they should sow or harvest. In recent years, their yields had often been destroyed due to lack or excess of rain. Last year in many parts of Mantaro River Valley, the farmers had lost their entire harvest due to harsh night frosts. As one farmer put it: “farming in the highlands has become a risky business.”

The way people in the highlands describe their environments and farming practices is often almost poetic. They would often tell me how “my little corn is suffering from the burning sun” or “our poor river is dying”. When I was asking, what does water mean for the communities, a very common answer was as the following one: “without water we cannot live, neither our cows, without water everything dies.”

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A farmer and the cattle in the community of San Jose de Quero.

These conversations reveal the relationship the highland communities have with the nature. Natural resources bring literally bread to their table. But nature for them is more than just a livelihood. It is a way of living and a way of being in a coexistence with and by the rules of the nature.

Last year in many parts of Mantaro River Valley, the farmers had lost their entire harvest due to harsh night frosts. As one farmer put it: “farming in the highlands has become a risky business.”

Unlike us – sipping our cappuccinos comfortably in a cozy café and speculating the latest scientific findings about rising temperatures or melting glaciers somewhere far away – for the Andean farmers, climate change has become an everyday reality. They feel the burning sun on their faces while working the whole day in their chacras, sowing corn, potato or quinoa. They wait desperately for the rain for their plants to grow. And hope that the unexpected rains won’t burst to ruin their harvests left on the fields to dry.

Besides the changing climate narratives of the local people, physical studies show that the climate in the Mantaro River Valley has changed in the last decades. Just as people told me about “plants burned by frosts or sun” or “the insane rains” – the climate studies indicate clear evidence of declining rain, rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

Scientists have also found that climate change is deepening the inequalities between the poor and wealthy nations. Countries in the so-called global south, that have contributed least in global warming are the ones who are now suffering the biggest economic losses caused by it. At individual level, the poor are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to lack of resources or living in ecologically and politically fragile regions.

It is paradoxical, that those who least exploit the nature are the ones that must bear the heaviest consequences. In the worst case, the farmers have no other options than leave their homes. In his book Environmental Refugees: Climate Change and Forced Migration ,Professor Teófilo Altamirano writes that the number of current climate migrants around the world is approximately 50 million and by 2050 the number is estimated to rise up to 150 million.

Countries in the global south, that have contributed least in global warming are the ones who are now suffering the biggest economic losses caused by it. At individual level, the poor are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to lack of resources or living in ecologically and politically fragile regions.

Altamirano reminds that most of migration due to climate is not voluntary. For example, in the rural Andean societies, there often exists a spiritual and emotional bound to the living environment and the community. The land, the animals, the fields and the surrounding nature have a strong religious and cultural value. When climatic conditions force one to leave, these cultural, symbolic and spiritual dimensions of life must be left behind. In the cities, the migrants often face discrimination due to their rural or ethnic backgrounds – making the vulnerable populations even worse off.

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Don Cirilo telling Dr. Armando about “the untouchable pond”. One of the community members had seen a dream that a bad spirit lives in the waters. Ever since water of the pond have not been used for any purpose. “There are waters that simply cannot be touched”, Don Cirilo explains.

The past week was an official Climate Week. The young and ambitious climate activist, Greta Thunberg, has given emotional yet serious speeches in New York, urging politicians around the world to act upon climate emergency. Thousands of people around the world, from Helsinki to Sydney, were marching on the streets to express their concern on the miserable state of our Planet and the insufficient rehabilitation actions.

It is empowering to see, how the global community requiring for a change in status quo is expanding. Most importantly, these people are giving a voice for the most vulnerable populations in front of climate change – the ones who bear most of the climate weight but who are seldom heard.

 

Ethical notions in environmental and development research: an interview with professor Diana Ojeda

In ESDLA we are committed to sharing different perspectives towards the environment and development issues research. Especially, if it is research concerned with ethical practice and responsible social and political engagement. This is an important concern not only for research on Latin America but for elsewhere. Also, this is precisely why we interviewed Diana Ojeda for our blog.

Diana is a professor and researcher at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (PENSAR) at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, in Bogotá, Colombia. She is interested in political ecology and feminist geography and holds a Ph.D. in Geography from Clark University in the United States.  Beyond her academic credentials and high-quality scholar contributions, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Diana’s trajectory is how her research work has engaged with society and everyday research practice, favoring genuine collaboration with oppressed communities. Likewise, to use other means to disseminate knowledge and reach larger audiences, for instance, convert a full body of participatory research in a graphic novel. In sum, Diana’s work can show how research can perfectly address ongoing socio-ecological inequalities and contribute to public debates on local and global challenges. Although we did this interview in May, we were waiting to publish this in the best moment taking into account current debates on the planetary crisis. Environmental concerns about Latin America, and particularly in Diana’s case in Colombia, can also contribute to global discussions.

Most of Diana’s research contributions such as papers, books, interventions, and the graphic novel “Caminos condenados” (co-authored with Pablo Guerra, Camilio Aguirre, and Henry Díaz), can be found on her Academia.com website, or just drop her an email and surely she will be happy to reply to you!

Below is the 11 minutes interview. We apologize for some video quality issues in the interview, but we did our best taking into account the available means and resources! We must thank a lot to Diana for her time and generosity 🙂

https://media.uef.fi/Embed.aspx?id=45245&code=dc~RnO4chdQF9Q2NkgmRPjCGkyHrO73

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PS: We invite you to the next call for the Ph.D. programs in Social and Cultural Encounters, and Past, Space and Environment in Society under the subject of Environmental Policy at the University of Eastern Finland is open until October 31st.

Please check these links for more information:

http://www.uef.fi/en/web/dpsce/how-to-apply

http://www.uef.fi/en/web/dppses/how-to-apply 

 

Development Days 2019, Helsinki 27.2.-1.3. Repositioning global development: Decolonial thinking and bringing forth systemic alternatives

In this post, we have a report from ESDLA member Laura Kumpuniemi, about a summary of some discussions held in the most recent Development Days Conference in Helsinki, past 27.2-1.3. 2019.  

Laura is a Ph.D. researcher in the doctoral programme of Social and Cultural Encounters at the University of Eastern Finland. Her research is about solidarity economy in Bolivia.

 

The Development Days conference is an annual event organised in Helsinki by the Finnish Society for Development Research. This year’s conference focused on development strategies suggested as alternatives to globalisation and the dominant development model that have been linked with pressing global inequalities, the ecological crisis, and the rise of extremism and populism.

In this summary, I will present some conference discussions that can be of interest to people dealing with development issues. These presented ideas were brought up by two of the key speakers of this year’s conference. Ashish Kothari is an environmentalist from India and is working on development, environment interface, biodiversity policy, and alternatives. Another keynote speaker was Rosalba Icaza Garza from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and she is interested in decolonial thinking and the ‘international’, academia’s role in the promotion of autonomy, learning as liberation/liberation of learning and plural feminisms for plural liberations.

The bulldozer of development and its bandages

According to Kothari, development has not been the best solution to the challenges it has tried to confront. He refers to development as a bulldozer that rather destroys what was there instead of building on things that already exist. The solutions offered through development, like the Sustainable Development Goals or the green economy, are just bandages and more radical (means to go to the roots) changes would be needed. The focus needs to be more on what makes us happy and what supports wellbeing instead of discussing what Kothari refers to as the “oxymoron of sustainable development”.

Icaza Garza focused on decolonial thinking in her speech. She painted a picture of development as an articulation of modernity’s movement of representation and appropriation and the tendency of dividing the world into opposite sides where the poor and the earth are seen as the other. According to Icaza Garza, development’s baseline has been the assumptions of anthropocentrism and the economy’s basis in growth through which nature has been and still is treated as an object and a resource.

Also, Icaza Garza pointed out that decolonisation will not take place through altering development. There has been a discussion about different modifications that try to tweak the system and create things like socially responsible capitalism, sustainable capitalism or capitalism with a human face. In a working group about alternatives to development, a Ph.D. researcher and activist Marta Musić pointed out that these modified versions of capitalism are not real alternatives. A thorough decolonialisation needs to deal with the ethnocentric and anthropocentric basis of development thinking. Decolonial approach to development is about unlearning modern colonial subjectivities, questioning dominance and the processes of negation of alterities. Icaza Garza suggests replacing the ways of working and learning resulting from modernity with practices of conviviality – learning together without teachers, professors, and disciplines. (More on conviviality, see The Convivialist Manifesto 2014.)

Marta Musić showed an example of different versions of capitalism suggested as fake alternatives. Photo: Laura Kumpuniemi.

Alternatives to development

Kothari highlighted the many alternatives that are trying and creating more just and sustainable futures and confronting the structural roots of unsustainability and equity and different forms of oppression (capitalism, patriarchy, the concentration of power, racism, among others). Essentially, these are alternatives to development and, to a certain extent, to capitalism. As such, these alternatives are forms of resistance based on different worldviews and different ways of being mostly taking the form of grassroots movements that aim for structural change through practising contextually adequate measures for problems people and the environment are facing.

One of the examples, eco-swaraj, is an approach rooted in India and is based on radical ecological democracy. The aim of eco-swaraj is to achieve human well-being through empowering citizens and communities to participate in decision-making, ensuring socio-economic equity and justice and respecting the limits of the earth. In eco-swaraj, the community serves as the basic unit for organisation instead of the state or private corporations and responsibility for others is considered an essential element of community.

Kothari showed how the systemic alternatives (need to) consider five interlinked spheres of transformation: radical democracy, economic democracy, social justice and well-being, cultural knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience and wisdom including the rights of nature. One dimension in these alternatives is the radicalisation of people’s economic thinking to cover more than just the profit and competition as a basis for the economy. The alternatives also have common characteristics in the values they share from diversity, collectivity, and dignity to pursuit of happiness, and from autonomy, solidarity, enoughness, and ecoregionalism to non-violence.

Kothari also presented an interesting initiative, the global tapestries of alternatives, that is meant to gather together these different alternatives to discuss and act together, thus, creating a greater political mass. This is what is needed to bring about real change instead of fighting different fights in isolation from the other fronts.

Ashish Kothari speaking about sustainable alternatives at the Think Corner, Helsinki. Photo: Laura Kumpuniemi.

Ending with self-care

At the closing ceremony of the conference, we heard recaps from many of the working groups that had taken place during the two days. One of the working groups had taken practical steps in the lines of Icaza Garza’s ideas to decolonise academia. The group had started their session with a meditation to encourage self-care and bringing the focus into the session at hand by trying to get out of the stress cycle that is present in many people’s lives constantly. It was interesting to hear that the academic world can let in some glimpses of other, less rigid ideas and approaches and embrace the idea of caring for the self. This is forgotten all too often and it would be welcome to also give more attention to other, alternative dimensions of the academic minds than just the intellectual. This could contribute to decolonising the academic practice through a healthier working environment in the pressure of competition and focus on achievement.

 

 

Erratum 1: [14.5.2019]

Reference on picture 1 has changed by request of the blog’s author:

Marta Musić showed an example of different versions of capitalism suggested as fake alternatives. Photo: Laura Kumpuniemi.

In the original text, the reference on picture 1 was:

Rosalba Icaza Garza showed an example of different versions of capitalism suggested as fake alternatives. Photo: Laura Kumpuniemi.

Erratum 2: [14.5.2019]

This part was changed by request of the blog’s author:

There has been a discussion about different modifications that try to tweak the system and create things like socially responsible capitalism, sustainable capitalism or capitalism with a human face. In a working group about alternatives to development, a Ph.D. researcher and activist Marta Musić pointed out that these modified versions of capitalism are not real alternatives.

In the original text, the reference to Marta Musić was missing:

There has been a discussion about different modifications that try to tweak the system and create things like socially responsible capitalism, sustainable capitalism or capitalism with a human face. These are not real alternatives, however. A thorough decolonialisation needs to deal with the ethnocentric and anthropocentric basis of development thinking.

 

Activities Winter-Spring 2019

Hi! Moi! ¡Hola! Olá!

After a break in our blog site, we are back reporting about relevant academic activities regarding the environment, society, and development.

Let’s begin with a research seminar that kicked off the year with a pertinent topic, which is the relationship between scholars, research, and civil society action. The past 29 to 31 of January, it was held at the University of Eastern Finland, in Joensuu, the research seminar “Science & activism: The role of environmental movements in transformations to sustainability”, organized by the Institute for Natural Resources, Environment and Society (LYY) University of Eastern Finland (UEF), the project Collaborative remedies for fragmented societies – facilitating the collaborative turn in environmental decision-making (CORE), and ALL-YOUTH Strategic Research project (2018-2023). The aim of the event was to share ideas and discuss the role of activism, in its various forms, in transformation towards sustainability. The seminar covered a broad perspective on activism. Within the context of sustainability transition, the seminar approached challenges and benefits of combining activism and science, the role of environmental movements, citizen engagement in policy processes and scientific research, co-production of knowledge, analyses of the driving forces behind resistance and conflicts. You can see more detail information, abstracts, and paper presentation from key-note speakers and presenters in the LYY network webpage.

Three keynotes were commissioned for the seminar. Maija Faehnle, senior researcher in the Programme for Sustainable Urbanisation at Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, opened the seminar with her presentation about solving complex problems where activism is seen as a challenge and opportunity for collaborative governance. The second keynote was on charge of PhD Mariana Walter, postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) in Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), who presented a perspective on radical transformations to sustainability, covering resistances, movements and alternatives, and related with the network of scholars and activists for environmental justice ACKnowl-EJ, including the Environmental Justice Atlas initiative. Finally, in the third keynote Marta Conde post-graduate research associate at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Associate Researcher in UAB, who presented experiences of counter-expertise and co-production of knowledge in the interface between science and activism. Likewise, there were held presentations covering experiences from Finland, Catalonia, France, and Bangladesh, which as such covered different intersections between science and activism. Members of the ESDLA group at UEF, Mariana Galvão Lyra and Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz, also took part with presentations in the seminar addressing the main topics of the event and related with their doctoral research projects, in Brazil and Colombia, respectively.

A spot from Mariana Walter’s keynote at the Science&Activism seminar in Joensuu. (Photo credit: Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz)

At the end of a long and intense two-day seminar, some of the participants took part in a “world café” on environmental collaboration and conflict resolution focus on young people was led by the ALL-YOUTH Strategic Research project team. In the third day, Mariana Walter and Marta Conde gave open lectures on the Mining, environment, and society –course at UEF, covering as well items such as The Environmental Justice Atlas as a tool for activism and research, and initiatives in resistance to mining projects. The seminar finished with a visit to Koli National Park, where participants had the chance to meet one of the most iconic Finnish national landscapes.

Coda: ESDLA group suggests taking a look at the blog of the CORE project.

Sosiologipäivät ESDLA session

Sociology Days conference’s logo (Caption from http://sosiologipaivat.fi/2019-annual-conference/)

ESDLA group is hosting a session on Sosiologipäivät 2019 in Turku, the next March 29th. Postdoctoral researcher Tuula Teräväinen and Professor Juha Kotilainen are coordinating the Working Group #39: Environmental governance and social inequalities. Researcher and doctoral student, Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz, will be also there presenting. More information about the conference and working groups here: http://sosiologipaivat.fi/2019-annual-conference/working-groups/

ESDLA contribution to ENTITLE blog

Caption from https://entitleblog.org

Our ESDLA group member, Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz, was recently invited to report on his latest research paper in the Collaborative Writing Project on Political Ecology ENTITLE. The post is titled: “Political ecologies of urban nature in Bogotá, Colombia”. The referred publication was published in the Journal of Political Ecology.

 

First post and a short report from the 10th NOLAN Conference, Norway

¡Hola! Oi!

This is our first post on ESDLA group’s blog, and we are hoping to stay posting each time we can. There is no better way to start our blog posting doing a short report about the participation of some of the group members in the 10th Nordic Latin American Research Network-NOLAN- Conference, in Oslo, Norway, the last October. In fact, the group organized a thematic panel called: “Environmental conflicts and socio-ecological transformations: identities, values, and practices in contemporary Latin America”. Although this conference held every two years is not explicitly about environmental issues, is by no means that there is no space to discuss such issues nor social, political, and cultural concerns are not environmental as well.

(Photo: Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz)
The Mayor of the city of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, addressing to the participants of NOLAN’s conference at a reception held in the City Hall.

This 10th version of the NOLAN conference was framed in the topic “Epochal shifts in current Latin America” (for more info about the conference click here). Our panel had the “full house”, and about 20 attendants listened to our presentations, offering their insights and feedback. All the UEF members’ paper presentations were related to their ongoing doctoral projects in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia respectively: Violeta Gutiérrez Zamora (panel convener), Mariana Galvão Lyra, and Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz. The rest of the members of the panel were Anja Nygren (panel chair) and Anna Heikkinen from University of Helsinki, and Gard Frækaland Vangsnes who is an independent scholar from Norway.

People attending the panel organized by ESDLA (Photo: Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz)

Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Perú, were the countries in the panel. From territorial conflicts, mining, water vulnerability, and urban nature, the presentations in the panel fitted very well with the main ideas along the conference. Issues such as disputes, conflicts, identities, and democracy were in common along the presentations regardless of their different topics or approaches.

Latin American complex realities and experiences can also bring learnings to current planetary challenges on democracy, climate change, and humanitarian crisis. Although social justice claims in Latin America are nothing new, environment and climate change are mobilizing old and new struggles for life, dignity, and other ways of social and economic development. In such struggles, there is a pursuing desire on democracy, which such, at the same, it is at stake because of new forms of exploitation (rural and urban) driven by social and environmental injustices, corruption and crime, escalating violence, and the uprising of authoritarian regimes.

Unfortunately, Latin America is the deadliest region for environmental activists, and according to Global Witness almost four environmental defenders a week were killed in 2017. Despite this desolating panorama, the realities in every day tend to have more nuances that deserve a deep scrutiny from researchers and research activists. In so doing, it can provide not only denouncing social and environmental injustices but stories of hope and innovation towards sustainability transitions.

It is very important that research in such frame transcend its place of privilege, and that may be is the greatest learning from NOLAN. For instance, along the conference were highlighted concerns such as the new chapter in the history of dependency of the exploitation of natural resources in the region, the multiple obstacles and threats to peacebuilding in Colombia, humanitarian crisis faced by Venezuelan and Central American refugees, impunity of violence in Mexico, or the outcomes after “the marathon election” of this year in the region upon a recent weakening of left-wing and progressive forces.

One of the keynote speakers: research Professor Monica Serrano (Photo: Violeta Gutiérrez-Zamora).

In fact, participants signed a call for solidarity with democratic forces in Brazil at the eve of the last presidential elections, where the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was finally elected as a new president on past October 28th.

In sum, the experience in NOLAN was fruitful for ESDLA group, and it is a fist but strong step to strengthen ties between and among researchers interested in Latin America and its democratic challenges, which are after all environmental.

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If you are interested in contact us or publish in our blog, please, send us an email to  german.quimbayo@uef.fi  or just click here.