Donna Haraway is an activist. Her activism takes the form of thinking, writing, tracing and insisting on the webs of complex connections that reveal our environment and the ways we are stitched into it – like the story of horse urine and hormones that made up chapter 5 of Staying with the Trouble. The Yes Men are also activists. Their projects remind me of Haraway’s string figures as their webs(ites) are handed back and forth between hoaxers and hoaxed, news media and local communities. Today we consider the intersection of media, activism and environmentalism. As usual browse the page, follow links, watch videos, spend time where you find you are most interested.
- Does any of this media call to mind Haraway’s concerns with oddkin, sympoeitics, tracing and telling complex stories, making connections?
- How does the media (webpages, videos, images) use affective, cognitive and emotional registers?
- What mind frames do you detect? Are there contradictions? Does the form contradict the content?
- Who is making this media? Where does their authority lie?
Artist Groups plus Direct Action as News Event –The Yes Men are an example of a group that leverage the news media in order to to influence public opinion. Their strategy is to create a newsworthy event through hoax, stunts, theater, performance. The event has 2 audiences, first a local audience that takes part in the event, second an audience that learns about the event through the news media.
- This kind of art activism is know as Tactical Media – check this link for a definition and quick overview.
- Another art group that uses this approach is Critical Art Ensemble: their 2018 Eco art project, “Environmental Triage: an experiment in democracy and necropolitics” which deals with the concept of triage is very applicable in these time of corona virus. Take some time to look at the project.
Direct Action Groups who use Media – some activists and activist groups use direct action and civil disobedience to attempt to stop activities that damage the environment, or to bring attention to environmental issues. Their actions may have an immediate impact on the situation, but they are often designed to get picked up by news media. The groups involved also use internet and social media outlets to organize and publicize their actions. Usually the direct action is non-violent. If violence is used it’s used against things not people. Typically these activists are willing to break the law and risk arrest & imprisonment for their beliefs.
- Direct Action and TREES: some examples
- 2008 – story about the last Redwood tree-sitters to leave after saving a forest, an action and story that rumbled on for 20 years.
- 2020 – The UK is planning a High Speed Train Route (HS2) , (1 min anti-HS2 video). Tree sitters tried to block the felling of ancient woodlands in its path. They were removed and on April 3rd 2020 the High Court in the UK gave the go-ahead for the felling. IMAGE
- Direct Action and PIPELINES:
- In October 11, 2016, 5 activists shut down a tar sands pipeline (video above). Ken Ward was arrested, tried but not found guilty by a jury.
- Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock (2018), led by Native American Activists, Indigenous Environmental Network
- After years of protest, construction has been halted on the Keystone XL Pipeline , voices pro and con.
- Direct Action and Marches & Beyond : In April 2019 members and supporters of Extinction Rebellion blocked areas of London and handcuffed themselves to railings so they couldn’t be removed. Spend some time with the links here.
- Individual Direct Action In Pandemic times.
- Climate First’s peaceful and short action against JPMorgan Chase Bank–the #1 bank in the world as far as financing fossil fuels. — on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2021
- Direct Action and Animals – TRIGGER WARNING distressing images
- Here the direct action was to gather the footage for this video and a major tactic was leveraging a celebrity to give the message.
- PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
- TRIGGER WARNING – images and videos on this site are disturbing
- Here the action is online petitions: change.org end factory farming
- versus global trends in meat eating, scroll down to interactive map.
Eco-Heroes, Eco-Martyrs, Eco-Terrorists – activists have been imprisoned, killed and accused of terrorism.
- Environmental Activists, Heroes and Martyrs – from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara U.
- Berta Cáceres Honduran environmentalist murdered in 2014 a week after opposing a hydro-electricity project.
- A Globalwitness.org produce annual reports on the killing of land and environmental defenders.
- Groups accused of eco-terrorism include the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Earth First!
Environmental activists v. workers
- In her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate,” (2014) Naomi Klein makes the point that livelihoods of loggers, fishermen, miners, oil and tar sand workers are often pitted against environmental goals. You saw evidence of this kind of conflict in the pipeline section above.
- But to end today, here is a hopeful story from 2017 of environmentalists/potential loggers working together:
- Heroines of the Rainforest podcast, Costing the Earth, BBC Radio 4, 30 mins.