Many thanks, Brian, for this and the ensuing discussion. Your work is a shining 
light, that raises the issue of optimism as a spiritual imperative – whereas 
it's so much easier to decry it in the face of brute realism.

What is so powerful in this text is its sense of place, of being in that 
particular delta, with all its singularities. Bruno Latour speaks of the need 
to land back on earth ("atterrir"). In our networked, globalised world, we 
somehow have ceased to live on the ground, we have become dis-situated. Even 
though we continue to live in places, they have become mere supports for 
production, divorced from their earthly existence.

By (re)grounding ourselves in the places where we live, observing them and 
their resources (cultural, biological, geographical...) in their complexity and 
beauty at a very local scale, we can find the means and the optimism to 
extirpate them from the juggernaut of "progress" that has turned against the 


> Le 19 août 2022 à 04:02, Brian Holmes <> a écrit :
> 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)
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