Thank you for this report on your environmental activism and network building! 

Sent from my iPhone

> On Aug 19, 2022, at 8:00 AM, Claire Pentecost <> wrote:
> thank you Brian!
> this is a powerful nutrient!
>> On Thu, Aug 18, 2022 at 9:02 PM Brian Holmes <> 
>> wrote:
>> At night on the Parana, the stars still shine. The boatman cuts the motor; 
>> we drift silently under the light of a full moon. This is the end of a four 
>> thousand kilometer-long river, it's the "Delta front." The low islands to 
>> the east extend fingers of land into the Rio del Plata estuary, and those 
>> forested fingers grow about 70 meters longer every year, catching the last 
>> of the sediments carried from the Andes and the Brazilian jungle. To the 
>> southwest, the lights of Buenos Aires glitter on the horizon. Someday in the 
>> future - quite soon, in geological time - the Delta front will reach the 
>> city. Every month it's six meters closer. The mutability of this territory 
>> makes my head spin. The stars, the moon, the lights, the islands and the 
>> uncanny mirror of the river all come together like a wheel spinning 
>> weightlessly in infinite space, or maybe it's a whirlpool, a cosmic gyre. A 
>> homegrown joint makes its way from hand to hand, through the calm of a 
>> winter night that is windless by good luck, and warm by devastating climate 
>> change. The journey is well underway.
>> With Alejandro Meitin of Casa Rio we're making tactical media in the 
>> wetlands, along a meandering path that leads from Punta Lara, south of 
>> Buenos Aires, all the way north through the Pampa and the arid reaches of 
>> the Grand Chaco to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. I wrote the paragraph 
>> above a week ago; now we're at the halfway point. Our aim is to reach out to 
>> riverside communities and build ecological awareness, while also helping to 
>> accelerate the process of information-sharing among a network of ecological 
>> NGOs called "Humedales sin fronteras" or Wetlands Without Borders, whose 
>> member organizations are located in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. 
>> My contribution as an artist-cartographer is an online map and multimedia 
>> platform that can display text, scientific information, photography, video, 
>> audio and social networks (it's FLOSS, built by Majk Shkurti to my specs, 
>> see info below). The color scheme and iconography of the map has been 
>> designed by Dani Lorenzo of Casa Rio, and most of the videos you'll find 
>> inside were done by Andres Irigoyen. Lots of others are involved, it would 
>> be long to list every one of them. As for Alejandro Meitin, he's an artist, 
>> lawyer, environmental activist and jack-of-all-trades who's been doing this 
>> kind of thing for thirty years, first with the artists' group Ala Plastica, 
>> and now with the broader community-based constellation of Casa Rio. We've 
>> taken similar journeys before, stretching back to 2014 when Critical Art 
>> Ensemble generously invited me to come along to Argentina for a roving 
>> seminar organized by Ala Plastica under the name "Watersheds as Laboratories 
>> of Governance." In 2019 we brought an exhibition called "The Earth Will Not 
>> Abide" from Chicago to the riverport city of Rosario, and Casa Rio published 
>> quite a beautiful book with that material. Now we're in full-on activist 
>> mode, meeting network members all along the river, pushing for a Wetlands 
>> Law in Argentina, for a halt to dredging, sand extraction and dam-building, 
>> and for the development, from below, of what we are calling "Biocultural 
>> Corridors."
>> The notion of bioculturalism is grasped intuitively by all the people we 
>> meet: It refers to the changes in orientation and behavior that arise when 
>> human beings begin to see and feel themselves as participants in a web of 
>> ecological relations, such that "an injury to one is an injury to all" - 
>> whether it's insect, plant, animal or homo sapiens. The corridor part is 
>> somewhat trickier. Many are aware of biological corridors, which are 
>> designed by conservation specialists as safe passageways between small 
>> islands of habitat which, on their own, are insufficient to sustain bird and 
>> animal populations that range widely across the changing seasons. 
>> Biocultural corridors, however, are not planned or instituted by experts. 
>> They arise in areas where groups of people who might be engaged in 
>> agroecological farming, traditional crafts such as willow weaving, 
>> small-scale fishing, land defence and indigenous lifeways all come together 
>> in mutual recognition and support, building the consciousness of what might 
>> someday become truly sustainable productive practices. Like the 
>> Bioregionalists of North America in the 1970s, we are inviting communities 
>> to use our map in order to draw and describe the components of their own 
>> biocultural corridors, which someday, we hope, will extend all the way up 
>> and down the great uninterrupted fluvial corridor reaching from the 
>> headwaters of the Brazilian and Bolivian Pantanal down to the Rio del Plata 
>> estuary. For once, we're not necessarily kidding ourselves. Ideas based on 
>> grassroots solidarity spread rapidly in Latin America. All along the vast 
>> Parana Delta in Argentina you can see walls painted with the slogan "Pass 
>> the Wetlands Law already!" (It's a bit more terse in Spanish: "Ley de 
>> Humedales Ya!"). We are also promoting the idea of biocultural festivals, 
>> where people can share and celebrate the changes that they are making right 
>> now, in their own environments with their own hands. The fact is, many of 
>> the people we meet are already doing something similar under other names, so 
>> this transformation is definitely happening.
>> The reception of the mapping project is overwhelmingly positive. There may 
>> be a bit of initial suspicion and resistance toward a Yanqui with a magic 
>> box, but Alejandro speaks very convincingly and people get it: This is 
>> sophisticated technology that can be seized by grassroots groups and used in 
>> political struggles as well as popular education processes, in the face of 
>> complex problems where all the legitimate expertise is typically on the 
>> other side. The editing tools developed by Majk Shkurti make it possible to 
>> place points and draw lines or polygons with ease, and then fill out a data 
>> template that yields structured text and audiovisual content - stuff that 
>> young people can learn in an afternoon. It's GIS on the easy and the cheap, 
>> it can transmit knowledge and enthusiasm, and it can be put to political 
>> work when it's time to stand up against municipal councils, provincial 
>> governments and national legislatures. The idea this time is not just to get 
>> spontaneous contributions from individuals - because we've already done that 
>> in an earlier mapping project that's still being filled out, mainly with 
>> denunciations of abuse. Instead, before they start drawing on the map, we 
>> are asking existing community groups to engage in some collective reflection 
>> about Casa Rio's three basic questions: Who designs the territory? For whom 
>> is it designed? And what would a collaborative design of territories look 
>> like? This is how the "laboratory of governance" idea becomes a full-fledged 
>> social experiment.
>> Just two days ago I met an old fisherman who in the early 1990s had played a 
>> decisive role in stopping a US-backed dam project, with no resources except 
>> a good friend, a canoe and a pile of photocopied flyers. A regional hero, 
>> exactly my kind of hero. He, too, seemed a little suspicious at first. As a 
>> media maker I was profoundly moved when he later came up to me and told me 
>> how vital our work would be to the educational project and wetlands 
>> observatory that he's now coordinating with a local social movement. What 
>> they've already done is to convince the city (it's actually called Parana 
>> city) to pay for a bunch of wood, and then in three months time the movement 
>> built a dock on a small island, a welcome center and an elevated boardwalk 
>> about half a kilometer long through the swamp, where they bring boatloads of 
>> schoolkids who live right next to the river and have no contact with the 
>> water or the islands. Next they want to put their interpretation center in 
>> the middle of a huge wetland on the city's edge, which without a watchful 
>> eye is likely to be taken over illegally by gated communities, factories or 
>> other profitable enterprises. You can imagine they have a different 
>> interpretation of what this land is good for! These are people who know 
>> their environment through generations of intimate experience - and today 
>> that's something many others want to learn. With any luck, we're about to 
>> discover a whole lot of local knowledge taking form inside our magic box, 
>> and being shared along the entire wetlands corridor.
>> Today's environmental conditions are helping with this good reception - 
>> unfortunately. In the context of a three-year drought and the arrival of 
>> increasingly large herds of cattle, the traditional islander practice of 
>> burning dry winter brush to stimulate the growth of fresh spring grass has 
>> morphed into an emergency situation of uncontrolled fires in the Delta, 
>> choking populations in urban centers with heavy smoke and even causing 
>> freeway pileups due to loss of visibility. For two years in a row, while 
>> lockdowns and pandemic anxiety reigned, a plunge in water levels revealed 
>> vast sandy deserts where the Parana once flowed, causing many to fear that 
>> the river would never come back again (thankfully it did this year). Sure, 
>> it's always hard to attribute local phenomena to climate change - but the 
>> best Brazilian science says that the atmospheric rivers arising from the 
>> evapotranspiration of the Amazon jungle (aka flying rivers, "rios 
>> voladores") are now drying up due to massive deforestation, leading to a 
>> loss of rainfall at the headwaters of the Parana, way up there in the (for 
>> me) mythical Pantanal wetlands. At the same time, it's well known by 
>> everyone in the region that over a mere thirty years, industrial 
>> monocropping (aka GMO soybeans doused in Round-Up) has devastated the 
>> ecology of South America at continental scale, ruining entire drainages, 
>> pushing cattle from bulldozed pastures into the wetlands, and provoking all 
>> the above-mentioned disasters, at least as far as we can tell - with a big 
>> push from rising CO2 levels, for sure. Now, horror of all horrors, the 
>> government of Paraguay is calling on the US Army Corps of Engineers for 
>> "help" in managing the Paraguay river, which is the major tributary of the 
>> Parana, directly connected to the Pantanal headwaters. In case you don't 
>> know, the Army Corps are the folks who destroyed the ecology of the 
>> Mississippi river system with a straightjacket of dams and levees. Along 
>> with the oil industry, the Corps is responsible for most of the land-loss 
>> crisis in Louisiana - not to mention what happened to the Columbia River, 
>> etc. Common people don't need the kind of "help" such agencies bring.
>> To increase awareness and spread more precise knowledge of all these 
>> converging dangers, we have given our map of biological corridors a dark 
>> side, which is a topology of the extractive corridors that are threatening 
>> the Paraguay-Parana watershed. Here, instead of lush organic green traversed 
>> by mud-brown water, what you see is a dessicated cinder, like the leftover 
>> coals of some immense and gruesome barbecue - the frightful, yet 
>> increasingly predictable and literal culmination of the centuries-old 
>> colonial process. We focus on the heavily dredged Hidrovia, or Water 
>> Highway, which is what the transnational capitalist groups see when they 
>> look at the Paraguay-Parana River. IIRSA, which is the South American 
>> banking complex behind the design of the Hidrovia, has for decades wanted to 
>> extend their favorite transnational canal all the way to Amazonas and 
>> beyond. What Eduardo Galleano called the "Open Veins of Latin America" are 
>> in fact the waterways, which the European colonists used to carry away the 
>> treasures of the continent, resulting in the denomination of the Parana 
>> watershed as the "Plate Basin" or Silver Basin - the Moneyshed, you might as 
>> well say. Well, the only thing that has changed is that the major cargo is 
>> now GMO soybeans, and the chief destination of the ships is China, followed 
>> closely by the EU of course. What Marx once called the "metabolic rift" 
>> between the city and the country has now opened up between South America and 
>> Eurasia. It's a process of alienation in every sense of the word, at the 
>> largest possible scale. There is a tremendous amount to be learned about all 
>> this, and we are currently multiplying our research collaborations into the 
>> global political economy of extractivism, while also engaging discussions 
>> about how to bring the many specialized reports authored by members of 
>> Wetlands Without Borders onto our more popular and intuitive map of 
>> extractive corridors. The whole project is a work in progress with lots of 
>> gaps and question marks, but it's live on the net right now, and I expect it 
>> to remain under active development for the next couple years.
>> Life does not happen elsewhere, in some ideal garden to which you could 
>> escape on vacation. Life happens right here and now, in a double world with 
>> an inhuman and more-than-human face. I have always felt most alive amid the 
>> struggles of this double world, in collaboration with all kinds of people, 
>> of all races and classes and stations and professions, whenever and wherever 
>> they are finding their own ways of resisting alienation and contributing to 
>> a better life - some soft and affective, some local and productive, some 
>> political and confrontational, or even better, political and constructive. 
>> We live in a time when the so-called middle classes are finally realizing 
>> that their seemingly higher station - their literally higher ground, in 
>> river terms - will not protect them. The storms, floods, droughts and fires 
>> of global ecological change are coming for them, or rather, for *us*, as I'd 
>> put it from my own middle-class position. The big question is this: Do the 
>> middle classes - including industrial workers attached to states and large 
>> corporations - go fascist under the pressure of rising threats to their old 
>> lifestyles and identities, or can we find shareable biocultural pathways 
>> toward reparative socio-ecological worlds, and through collaboration with 
>> other classes and cultures and races, create neo-ecosystems that can ramp 
>> down the causes and mitigate the effects of climate change? Please don't 
>> explain to me that such a swerve away from ruling norms is impossible, due 
>> to human nature or economic law or historical destiny or some other 
>> bullshit, because such self-serving explanations have long been part of the 
>> problem. For a metamorphosis to occur, everyone has to bring their own 
>> skills and dreams into play somehow - preferably right now, because tomorrow 
>> is always a little hotter.
>> Therefore my dear friends, here I am in South America with some good old 
>> tactical media.
>> All the best from -
>> Brian
>> ***
>> Corridors Map:
>> Casa Rio:
>> Humedales sin fronteras:
>> Project repo:
>> Installation guide: 
>> The Earth Will Not Abide:
>> (Feel free to contact me if you want some tips about deployment and use of 
>> the software)
>> -- 
>> You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
>> "DeepTimeChicago" group.
>> To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an 
>> email to
>> To view this discussion on the web visit 
> -- 
> Claire Pentecost (she, her)
> Professor, Department of Photography
> The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
> I acknowledge and honor the original peoples of the Chicagoland area – the 
> Three Fires Confederacy, Potawatomi, Odawa and Ojibwe Nations, as well as 
> other Tribal Nations that know this area as their ancestral homeland, 
> including the Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Miami, Peoria, and Sac and Fox. 
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
> #  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> #  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
> #  more info:
> #  archive: contact:
> #  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject:
#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact:
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject:

Reply via email to