When governments (and companies) officially recognize that the realms of ecology and economy intertwine in increasingly disastrous ways, they promote ostensibly “sustainable” measures, but in fact advance mostly variants of the dominant capitalist mode as solutions to these problems.
However, isn’t said economic mode key to the problem? Does deploying it as part of the supposed solution not only reinforce and sustain disastrous tendencies? Thus, shouldn’t organizing transitions into a better world be inseparable from fundamentally questioning the dominant economic mode organized around the pursuit of endless growth, energy-hungry profit coercion, and, last but not least, resource-devouring extractivism?
Wishing to explore these questions, the BG 2022 project proposes we learn from the last big transition – the post-Cold War transition from “communism” to capitalism – and raise the question of transition justice. This means tackling what is usually denied in official accounts of post-1989 transitions: class struggles and the immense, long-lasting political, social, and, ultimately, environmental costs of transitions.
The detailed outline of the BG 2022 project – conceived and published before Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine – is available in German and English. Written by Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki, the organizers of the project, this text is indebted to the collective findings from previous BG projects, including “More World” (2019), “Silent Works” (2020), and “Black Box East” (2021). It serves as an introduction to the text series that BG is developing in this context in cooperation with activists, researchers, and cultural workers. Read more about it in the column on the right.
In short, the BG 2022 project proposes combining just transition claims with claims for environmental justice. Conceived thus, transition justice last but not least echoes indigenous concerns and makes room for the interests of laborers not (yet) represented by unions, e.g., migrant workers or social reproduction workers. Consequently, raising the question of transition justice in the face of man-made natural disasters (such as pandemics or the climate catastrophe) and greenwashed neoliberal responses to it means calling for accountability and responsibility for ecocide, as well as demanding that transition measures must not reproduce existing power structures (which have caused the destabilization and outright destruction of lifeworlds in the first place), but rather forge new paths into a just world.
Undoing the power structures in question when, e.g., working towards an energy transition and other climate catastrophe adaptation measures requires decolonizing climate production and removing it from capitalism’s grip. Such a multi-layered endeavor can crucially contribute to transition justice for our planetary inter-species community. The BG project 2022 challenges activists, scholars, and cultural workers to research, think, and imagine how we might go about this in solidarity.
The BG has created a space for the project within its online newspaper. Here, around 50 essays, reports, and interviews will be published in the course of 2022. While the texts are appearing in German in the BG, English (and other language) versions are being published in cooperation with the BG’s international media partners. If you would like to contribute a text (1,500 words) and/or subscribe to our newsletter, mail us at info(at)berlinergazette(.)de
The text series is tentatively partitioned into three sections (as detailed in the project outline): Ecological-Economic Complex, Green Capitalism, and Transition Justice.
The BG conference “After Extractivism” took place on October 13, 14, and 15, 2022 at the Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (House of Democracy and Human Rights). Workshops enabled activists, researchers, and cultural workers to cooperate. The evenings were dedicated to public talks, addressing overarching concerns and linking them to local debates. Look at the photos of the event in our flickr album.
The onsite event is extended on this multimedia website. Here, results from the workshops are presented in the Projects section. The recordings of the public talks are presented in the Audios section. All written contributions to the “After Extractivism” series are bundled in the Texts section. Accessible and inspiring video lectures – presented in the Talks section at the top – are aimed at a broader, international audience, and will spark curiosity about the other materials on the site.
1989 | 2147
Connecting post-1989 worker struggles in Romania’s coal mining region with Captain Power and a group of guerrilla fighters who oppose the machine forces that dominate Earth in the 22nd century following the so-called Metal Wars, artist, author, and curator Stefan Tiron inquires in his contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism” into the political potential of science fictional transitioning in the 1990s.
After the Gulf boom propelled the growth both of the region and of oil-devouring economies in the West, new realms of capitalist expansion are being developed along the lines of green capitalism’s smartness mandate, ultimately reproducing the lasting systemic crisis of which Dubai is somewhat representative, media theoretician Özgün Eylül İşcen argues in her contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism.”
While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a global shortage of sunflower oil, propelling palm oil to rise again, a critical look at the global history of the palm oil industry reveals both the imperial violence of extractive capitalism as a system of human sacrifice and the challenges for a transition into a just world, social thinker Max Haiven argues in his contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism.”
While ecological and economic systems are collapsing, a battle for white supremacy is raging; it is not least a class war for (controlling) access to the shrinking living space on the planet. It is high time to counter this development with a radical politics of earthcare, as feminist researcher, facilitator, and artist Manuela Zechner argues in her contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism.”
Climate and Debt
Fighting for debt cancellation and environmental justice in the Global South, the question is how we can wager our future on the legacies and claims of those who – then as now – have been plunged into existential hardship by the ecological-economic complex. In his contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism,” economic anthropologist Julio Linares is looking for answers in Latin America.
The suffering caused by extractive capitalism has people looking back to Yugoslavia’s modernization project. While aiming to dominate nature, it also created cooperative platforms for social togetherness, enabling sustainable ways of living and organizing economy. In her lecture for the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism” researcher Katarina Kušić discusses this as a source of inspiration for current struggles.
European Green Deal
The case of Bulgaria reveals: what is sold as the ultimate way out – namely, the “green” transition – opens new spaces for accumulation. The cost of this is to be borne by society, especially by workers in old industries. Thus, the challenge is to advance post-capitalism, as environmental justice activist Stoyo Tetevenski argues in his contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism.”
At the edges of big cities, the world’s often unnoticed energy centers are arising to supply the lifeblood of economies that have subjected themselves to the “compulsion to grow.” But alternatives and lived counter-designs are also cultivated in the so-called energy periphery, priming the transition to a better world, as scholar-activist Andrea Vetter shows in her contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s video talks series “After Extractivism.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not the first aggression by a major power since the end of World War II, but it is probably the first time that an alliance of major powers has opposed it with an unprecedented, all-encompassing economic war. All of this has serious consequences – not only for Ukraine and Russia, but for practically all globally interconnected economies. The unsettled security of supply (supply chains for energy sources and food are interrupted) also affects international climate protection, because money and coordination efforts in this area are now being poured into supply security. In the course of this, coal and oil are experiencing a comeback, and are being reframed as “future raw materials,” even in countries that had shown commitment to climate goals. What challenges do environmental justice movements face in light of this? What does it mean to act, campaign, or journalistically raise awareness? What does it mean, if necessary, to strategically readjust the environmental justice agenda?
Juan Francisco Donoso, Jade Lindgaard, Nina Pohler, Sotiris Sideris, Lira Ramadani, Stoyo Tetevenski, and Manuela Zechner looked for answers to these questions. The resulting workshop project is accessible here.
“One big war, and all the climate goals we have can be scrapped.” “One big war, and the algorithmic control of social networks could strengthen totalitarian tendencies.” In recent decades, we’ve heard both warnings from experts again and again. Today, it is important to think them together. The showdown between carbon and post-carbon capitalists is coming to a head in the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This battle for supremacy in capitalism is also fought as a battle over the socio-political perception of the ongoing climate catastrophe: last but not least as an algorithmic class struggle from above for the collective consciousness of users of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technologies, social media, and the Internet at large. How is this algorithmic struggle over collective consciousness centering our attention on wrong misleading questions, arresting us in the false present of opportunism, and preventing us from questioning capitalism as such rather than just one form versus another? How is this stealing “the future” from us?
Aslı Dinç, Katrin Kämpf, Michal Kučerák, Julia Molin, and Cristina Pombo looked for answers to these questions. The resulting workshop project is accessible here.
Disarming Resource Wars
“Resource wars,” “energy wars,” and “climate wars” on the peripheries of empires are all expressions of the fact that economic and ecological crises are becoming increasingly devastatingly intertwined, fueling each other. Needless to say, diplomacy must be preferred to a “hot” war at any time in the face of this. But this is not enough for a true bottom-up peace movement. As Rosa Luxemburg already knew in 1911, we must be able to do more than urge capitalist states to negotiate the terms of their business deals, because if we focus only on that, we undertake basically nothing more than the defense of capitalism and imperialism – that is, yesterday’s forms against today’s or tomorrow’s. Hence, struggles for an internationalist politics of peace in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and all other forms of imperial military aggression across the globe should also, if not primarily, be conducted by challenging capitalism and imperialism. How can we advance eco-socialist alternatives to the capitalist economy? How can we create commons-based caring economies as a peace strategy that disarms “resource wars” and the like?
Sabrina Apitz, Max Haiven, Julio Linares, Mirko Nikolić, Andrea Vetter, and Gabriele Schliwa looked for answers. The resulting workshop project is accessible here.
Climate and Tech Politics
Whether helping refugees, those threatened by racial violence, the hungry, or those injured in war – mutual support and grassroots coordination on the web are crucial in solidarity initiatives responding to a humanitarian crisis. However, technology is not a panacea, but a tool that must be chosen and used strategically. This also becomes clear when facing the climate catastrophe. Hence, the claim in this context must be two-fold: climate and tech activism. The first has slowly entered public consciousness, but the latter is usually dismissed, as digital technologies are considered “clean.” The high energy consumption of running data centers, manufacturing smartphones, streaming videos, etc. is underestimated and ignored. So, what does it mean to politicize digital technologies in the face of mutually fueling crises without letting their use become part of the problem or even detrimental to its solution? What can we learn from the algorithmic policing of racialized communities who are hit hardest by the climate crisis?
Alistair Alexander, Katharina Höne, Ela Kagel, Claudia Núñez, Jaron Rowan, Alexandra Ștefănescu, and Niloufar Vadiati looked for answers to these questions. The resulting workshop project is accessible here.
The conversation on eco-socialist alternatives to the capitalist economy could learn from the post-socialist countries of Eastern Europe. After all, by rebelling against authoritarianism and impoverishment, various social movements in many of these countries radically challenged the prevailing system when they hit the streets at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. Although the resulting transition was catalyzed by neoliberal shock therapies and nurtured new forms of authoritarianism and pauperization, it is nonetheless remarkable that both the sense and the impetus for resistance and solidarity within the populations could not be suppressed. Moreover, rediscovering the legacies of the “communist” and socialist past, there are ambitious attempts (including among younger generations) at repurposing for the present potentially useful elements such as cooperativism and collectivism. What do confrontations with the economic-ecological complex look like in Eastern Europe today? What can we learn from the social movements in the region?
Ivana Dražić, Adriana Homolova, Holger Kral, Katarina Kušić, Zoran Pantelic, Christin Stühlen, and Mihajlo Vujasin looked for answers to these questions. The resulting workshop project is accessible here.
Empire & Ecology
Efforts to label some forms of imperialism ‘good’ or ‘evil’ (or even the ‘lesser evil’) all too often miss the larger point: they share their origins in capitalist drives towards growth and domination, destroying the environment we all must share. If we trace the entanglement of empire and ecology back through its earlier moments of industrialization and colonialism, how can today’s conflicts come into view as opportunities to reimagine political and economic relations towards a horizon of peace, accountability, and responsibility?
Searching for answers, Max Haiven, Julio Linares, and Aleksandar Matković gave talks at the opening panel of the “After Extractivism” conference hosted by Claudia Núñez. Recorded at the Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte, the talks can be listened to by pressing the play-button below.
The space of political imagination and action that has emerged in this era of multiple crises needs to be harnessed towards a better and just world. Indeed, a radical transition is needed: If the common denominator of the multiple crises is extractive capitalism, then the question is how ‘we,’ whoever we are, could reclaim the economy and rebuild everything from within networks of solidarity, cooperation, and, ultimately, care. Mobilizing lessons from past and present, the challenge is to forge truly planetary caring economies.
Responding to this challenge, Katarina Kušić, Andrea Vetter, and Manuela Zechner gave talks on the second evening of the “After Extractivism” conference hosted by Stoyo Tetevenski. Recorded at the Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte, they can be listened to by pressing the play-button below.
The essayistic experimental documentary “Stone of Hell” (dir.: Tekla Aslanishvili, Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze) follows the extraction, processing, and distribution of manganese. Considering this raw material the foundation for different modes of production (binding cultural, extractive, and arms industries together and powering technological advancements), the film exposes how the post-Soviet mining town of Chiatura, in west Georgia, is globally interconnected and how these entanglements are feeding into current conflicts – political, economic, and social ones.
The artist talk – hosted by Magdalena Taube – took place on the closing night of the “After Extractivism” conference. Recorded at the Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte, the proceedings can be listened to by pressing the play-button below.
Berliner Gazette (BG) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists, and coders, analyzing and experimenting with emerging cultural and political practices. Since 1999 we have been publishing berlinergazette.de under a Creative Commons License with more than 1,000 contributors. In dialogue with our international network we create annual projects, exploring the issues at hand not only in the form of text series but also conferences and books. Our latest projects include Black Box East (2021), Silent Works (2020), More World (2019), Ambient Revolts (2018), Signals (2017), A Field Guide to the Snowden Files (2017), Friendly Fire (2017), Tacit Futures (2016), UN|COMMONS (2015), BQV (2012), and McDeutsch (2006).
The curators of the AFTER EXTRACTIVISM project are Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki. Magdalena is editor-in-chief of the internet newspaper Berliner Gazette and professor of Digital Media and Journalism at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. She is the author of “Disruption des Journalismus” (2018) published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam and co-editor of numerous readers, including “Invisible Hand(s)” (2020) published by Multimedijalni institut, Zagreb. Krystian is a critic, photographer, and the co-founder of Berliner Gazette. Exploring the common(s) at the intersection of globalization and digitalization, he has created books that blend writing and photography, including “After the Planes” (2017), “Fugitive Belonging” (2018), and “Undeclared Movements” (2020).
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