This is a time of year when we have space to reflect and to make resolutions for the coming twelve months, to stop, dream and reorient ourselves. Similarly, in all the work I’ve done over the last couple of years on the importance of imagination, I keep coming back to how vitally important it is to create space for the imagination, what I call ‘What If spaces’, whether in our own lives, our organisations or our communities. In this article, I want to share some examples of what this can unlock, and some thoughts from people doing this work on the ground on how to do it well. One great example of a successful What If space is the work of ‘Think and Do’ in Camden in London. Think and Do grew out of the work of Camden Council in organising one of the UK’s first Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, in July 2019, the first output from their declaration of a climate emergency a few months earlier.
John Thackara is one of the brilliant irregulars exploring how humankind can make the transition to a climate-friendly, relocalized, post-capitalist world. You can't pigeonhole him in any occupational category or disciplinary tradition because he is so effortlessly transversal. He blends his broadly international and nonsectarian perspective with the many particular projects that are Building the New. This helps explain why Thackara's work is so appealing: It speaks to us as whole human beings where we live, in distinctive local circumstances. While rigorous and empirical, Thackara isn't constrained by the jargon and norms of a particular discipline or theory. Like so many designers, he lives on the messy creative edge where interesting new things are always emerging. (Check out his website at thackara.com.)
The following commentary was written by Marxist economist, politician and former Finance Minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis. He follows the first part of the debate “Ecological Catastrophe, Collapse, Democracy and Socialism” between the renowned American intellectual Noam Chomsky, the Chilean exponent of the new ideology of Collapsist Marxism Miguel Fuentes and climate scientist Guy McPherson. One of the main characteristics of Varoufakis’ comment (who describes himself as a “Libertarian Marxist”) is offering a balanced review of some of the main ideas expressed earlier in this debate. The latter from the perspective of the implications of current geopolitical events such as the Russo-Ukrainian war and what Vafourakis has defined as the beginning of a new Cold War. Varoufakis’ commentary thus constitutes both a necessary update and an informed closure of the first part of this ongoing discussion.
The ManiFiesta 2022 festival, organized at the Wellington racetrack in the Belgian city of Ostend from September 17-18, concluded with a resolve to mobilize for alternatives for the future. The 12th edition of ManiFiesta was organized by the Solidarity magazine and Medicine For the People (MPLP). Over 14,000 people participated. Around 160 events including political discussions, speeches, debates, book fairs, exhibitions, a food festival, and 35 concerts were organized as part of the festival. Raoul Hedebouw, president of the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA), Bolivian Vice-President David Choquehuanca, Chris Mitchell from the Enough is Enough movement in the UK, Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, Holocaust survivor Simon Gronowski, British economist Grace Blakeley, author and PTB leader Peter Mertens...
Marginalized communities and their ability to organize themselves towards a common goal would attest that even amid multiple crises, they can cultivate notable practices that produce and reproduce transformative pedagogies, especially for the young generation of learners. These four (4) cases from Southeast Asia provide a material foundation for dynamic learning processes that amplify the central role of communities in developing emancipatory pedagogies attuned to their situation, context, culture, histories, and capacities. Their ground-based undertakings dare to challenge the mainstream educational paradigm extremely influenced by market and capital.
It is July 20, 1969. The Apollo 11 manned space mission lands on our Moon, and a few hours later, Neil Armstrong takes his first steps on the lunar surface, filling the world with amazement and admiration. With this accomplishment emerges the deep emotion of feeling an intimate union with an Earth that impels us to love and protect it, the home of all the humans we have known and, in all probability, will know. Four years earlier, Aleksei Leonov, the Russian astronaut, made the first spacewalk in history, expressing that the Earth is “our home, small, blue and touchingly lonely,” a point lost in the enveloping cosmic darkness. The preparation, realization, and subsequent follow-up of the first trip to the Moon was a long, expensive, and difficult process, full of achievements, but also many difficulties.
Following the election of a progressive government in Chile earlier this year, the country has been debating a new constitution written under revolutionary conditions: by a convention with gender equality, representation of Indigenous peoples, and with many members from environmental justice movements. As the draft is finalized ahead of a referendum in September, social media across the country has been awash with ‘explainer’ posts and videos in favor of the new texts — and debunking misinformation telling people that their pensions will be expropriated, for example. Most of the pro-constitution posts boil down to a single line: no one is going to take your home away from you. The presence of such worries among the population can tell us a lot about political and economic change: When the time comes to transform revolutionary aspirations into legal infrastructure, we are touched at our core fears: what do we, the people of Chile, have to lose in this process of transformation?
I recently moved back to the United States after over a decade abroad. It’s been an interesting re-acclimation which I believe some people call ‘reverse culture shock’. There is so much about this country, my home, that is comfortable and familiar. A shared language, sense of humor, and customs allow me to flow through this society with ease. However, the thing that has stood out more than anything is that nearly everyone I meet seems to be struggling with some form of anxiety or depression. What’s even more jarring is that they all seem to feel like it’s their fault — telling themselves they just need to work harder, meditate, or exercise more to emerge from this crushing darkness. But if everyone is feeling this way, then clearly there must be something bigger at play.
The organizers of the People’s Summit for Democracy were determined to close out the summit with a lasting impression on the last day, June 10. The People’s Summit was organized in opposition to the Summit of the Americas that was organized by the US-influenced Organization of American States (OAS) and hosted by the US in Los Angeles. The Summit of the Americas has historically been a place for the US to dictate a political agenda to the Latin American countries. The Summit of the Americas has been plagued by difficulties since May 10, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced that he would boycott the Summit in protest against the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the Summit. Following AMLO’s boycott, a host of Latin American leaders announced their own boycotts of the Summit.
Three scientists associated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are discouraged. New Zealanders Bruce C. Glavovic and Timothy F. Smith and Australian Iain White criticize governments for not doing enough about climate change. They are calling upon fellow IPCC scientists to no longer conduct research on climate change. “More scientific reports, another set of charts,” Glavovic exclaims; “I mean, seriously, what difference is that going to make?” Hundreds of IPCC scientists provide the United Nations periodically with reports on adverse impacts of climate change. The most recent report, issued in February, details rising seas, terrible droughts, atypical weather events, thawing permafrost, dying forests, and massive displacement of populations.
Here's a fanciful but almost-real scenario: the bees, squirrels, geese, bugs, trees, and other species of your local park have decided that they've had enough of human aggression and abuse. They're not going to take it anymore, and rise up and demand equal rights with humans. Through a series of interspecies assemblies, a treaty is negotiated to ensure that every living being in the local ecosystem can flourish. This scenario is a "live action role-playing" (LARP) game devised by Furtherfield, a London-based arts collective as part of its stewardship of part of the Victorian-era Finsbury Park. Over the next three years, Furtherfield is inviting humans to don masks and play the roles of each of seven species in negotiating "The Treaty of Finsbury Park 2025" -- the name of the project.