Towards the creation of concrete utopias that change life and re-engage the world : can we affirm a political ecology, that is social, decolonized and feminist ?

At the dawn of the 21st century, as citizens, as human beings we are faced with colossal challenges and a new world order : runaway climate change, over exploited natural resources, polluted water systems, unprecedented production of waste, alarming rates of air pollution[1], etc.  However, we continue to mismanage the natural ecosystems that our very lives depend on, and this while perpetuating our system of economic development.

The dominant economic model of today – based on an ideology of growth, on mass consumption, as well as the mass extraction and industrial exploitation of natural resources – literally devours the planet’s resources, provoking major environmental, health and social catastrophes. [2]

Industrial agriculture is the most significant example of this model of development that is collectively leading us to a deadly impasse. It simultaneously destroys water resources, biodiversity and the fertility of the soil. It threatens the security of our food system as well as the health of the population that consumes these products. This model represents the enormous economic, human, environmental and social costs. It drags farmers down into a never-ending spiral of debt and pushes them to suicide.

In the North like in the South, extraction of raw materials, minerals, rare earth metals and hydrocarbons has never been so elevated[3] due to the over consumption that characterizes our Western lifestyle, as with our modes of production which are voracious in their use of natural resources.  Moreover, the re-opening of mines in France was placed on the government’s agenda, a government that promotes the concept of “responsible mining.”

In the South as in the North, national and translational natural resource extraction firms – notably mining corporations – often with States approval, are waging a veritable “low level war“[4] against indigenous people to chase them from their land in order to exploit their coveted natural resources, which leads to environmental,[5] social, health and economic catastrophes.

In a context of intense violence, indigenous populations – in particular women – are leading the fight to protect their territories/land that is necessary for their survival, while at the same time denouncing the sexual violence that they are subjected to along with their children[6].  For to install “dams, open pit mines, roads or tourist areas close to environmentally protected areas,”  indigenous populations are threatened, raped, killed, and forcefully displaced.

These fights against natural resource extraction demonstrate the extent to which “the ecological question is a question of social justice and the ever present consequences of more than 500 years of colonialization, as well as a fight against the process of re-colonialization connected to neoliberal “extractivism”.” [7]

Destroyed habitats and unsanitary homes, the installation of highway off-ramps, industrial waste sites, and industries that pollute placed close to their living environments: in the South like in the North, poor and racialized populations are the first to be affected by environmental injustice, with harmful effects on their health. Due to the sexual division of labour, women and children have suffered the most.

Thus the major environmental problems now confronting us and the possible survival of life on our planet, are far from being isolated concepts. They appear interrelated, even overlapping, not only to economic problems linked to the dominant neo-liberal “extractivist” model, but also to social problems and issues. The environmental problems are also linked to a neo-colonial vision about populations and territories, racialized representations of people, as well as gender issues.

Faced with the overlapping and interrelated nature of these different issues and problems, we must articulate and propose projects and political actions that are ecological, social, decolonized and feminist.  All of this is essential for our current and future struggles and our initiatives should aim to realistically construct the better world we envision.

Faced with the ecocide that threatens all life on planet Earth, faced with the colossal challenges that are presently imposed on us, we refuse this “quiet certainty of the worst”[8]; just as we will not cede to the notion that “there is no alternative.”[9]

Because we are on the move, all around the world and we have been for a long time.

We are the women of the Niger Delta who are fighting to end the petroleum extraction that is polluting the resources we need to survive.

We are the Indian farmers fighting against G.M.Os and the patenting of living things by the transnational agro-food and seed-production corporations.

We are the indigenous women and men of Peru fighting against the mineral extraction that is poisoning the earth and the water sources, and threatening our survival.

We are the African-American women and men that live in the ghettos of Detroit, cultivating gardens to offer healthy food to thousands of families.

We are in the “Zones à Défendre” and we are fighting against large useless expensive projects.

We are the inhabitants of Grande-Synthe, and we are organizing in solidarity to help welcome the refugees who are fleeing raging wars and who have come to Europe’s doorstep.

We are in the “Terres de liens” supporting the farmers that want to settle and develop organic agriculture.

We are in the Colibris movement and we are developing initiatives to transform agriculture, the economy, energy production, etc.

From South to North, we are showing every day, by our actions, that ecological and social justice fights are fundamental to our well being, and for our lives on the planet Gaia. From South to North, we are inventing, elaborating, putting in place, constructing, piece by piece, multiple alternatives that will change the world, here and now.

Because we want to live in a world where each person can develop to their fullest potential : we choose solidarity in the face of contempt for the weak ; we choose cooperation instead of competition ; we choose generosity instead of egotism.

To those who plant seeds of hope, I say it is time for us to gather in new ways, to coordinate, to consult, to help each other and to experiment.

It is time to abandon the deadly power games so that we can mobilize our ability to act. For as Audre Lorde states : “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. [10]

It is time to open the doors wide. We are the wind that is rising and nothing can stop us for we are utopias on the march.

 Magali C. Calise

English translation : Tip o’ the nib to Kike Roach on Twitter : @kr1speaks


 [1] The World Health Organization, in their 2014 report, estimates that approximately 7 million people have died prematurely in 2012 due to air pollution, which is the primary environmental risk to human health.

[2] The national and transnational corporations that extract these resources also intensively rely on a precarious and racialized work force.

[3] Silence, “Extraction minière, ni ici ni ailleurs” no. 445, mai 2016.

[4] The low level war is similar to a subterranean war in peace time : it instills terror and aims at social control of populations. Sociologist Jules Falquet has analyzed this phenomenon for a long time in Latin America.  Currently, she shows how this daily war – that targets primarily poor and racialized populations, notably women – articulates itself in “extractivism” and the transformation of production within neo-liberal globalization. Jules Falquet, 2016. Pax neoliberalia, Editions de l’Ixe.

[5] Every year, the mining industry around the world spills 180 million tonnes of toxic waste in the rivers, lakes, and oceans, which represents more than 5.7 tonnes of toxic waste per second.

[6] Lorena Cabnal, 2015. “Corps-territoire et territoire-Terre: le féminisme communautaire au Guatémala” interview (collected by Jules Falquet) Cahiers du Genre N. 59, p. 73-90.

[7] Sandra Laugier, Jules Falquet et Pascale Molinier, 2015. “Genre et inégalités environnementales: nouvelles menaces, nouvelles analyses, nouveaux feminisms (introduction)” Cahiers du Genre, N.59, p.15.

[8] Benasayag Miguel et Charlton Edith, 1991, Cette douce certitude du pire,  Editions la Découverte.

[9] There Is No Alternative ou TINA (“Il n’y a pas d’autres choix” in French): a slogan attributed to Margaret Thatcher while she was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it signifies that capitalism, globalization, liberal politics, and deregulation are necessary and beneficial: privileging other voices leads to failure.

[10] Audre Lorde, 1993, Sister Outsider