Tag Archives: justice

Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock



Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock.

Movie Screening,
Hosted by Chicago 350.

Wednesday, July 26,
7 PM – 9 PM.

Harold Ramis Film School,
230 W.  North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60610

See more information here.

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A Thousand Dead

Timothy LeCain | “A Thousand Dead Snow Geese: The Matter of the Non-Human in the Age of Humans”


See video of LeCain’s informative and moving talk here.

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Filed under Animals, economicss, Environmental Ethics

DePaul Humanities Center Recognizes Standing Rock Community: May 17th


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by | May 11, 2017 · 20:24

The Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice


We are gravely concerned about the lack of just and sufficient action on climate change by the world’s leaders;

We are concerned about the increasing number of disastrous mega storms that are killing people, eradicating species, and destroying ecosystems and livelihoods;

We are concerned about sea-level rise and disappearing land masses, in addition to the serious environmental and human casualties caused by droughts, desertification, ocean acidification, water salination, crop failures, air pollution, oil spills, plastics and other pollution, glacier melt, record warm summers and cold winters, and out-of season cyclones and tsunamis;

We are concerned about all women and the communities and environments in which we live, including those of us from indigenous lands and oceanic societies who have contributed the least to climate disruption but who are suffering the greatest impacts first and most intensely;

We refuse to allow corporate control of our planet, our rights, or sanction a world that prioritizes growth and greed over human rights, decent and equal work, healthy ecosystems and a just distribution of wealth;

We are concerned that governments of the world are moving too slowly, with too little effort, and without the ambition, commitment or financing that it will take to stop and reverse our global climate crisis;

We refuse to allow corporate control of our planet, our rights, or sanction a world that
prioritizes growth and greed over human rights, decent and equal work, healthy ecosystems and a just distribution of wealth;

And we are stunned, upset and outraged that our future, and the future of our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and of all living beings and ecosystems is being abandoned for short-term self-interest and a lack of vision, leadership, and political will;

Finally and critically, as women and girls, we are not only facing severe impacts, but we are central to the implementation of real solutions that produce real results.

Women must be full and equal partners in the fight to combat global climate chaos!

Women of the world have had enough. The time for Urgent Action is now. We are speaking Truth to Power. We are Demanding Change.

Together, we are creating a mass movement for climate justice. Together, we pledge to take action. We call on all women, all girls and all of our allies to join us in this pledge, to join our Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice.

Women and girls will express our concerns and deliver our demands for meaningful and just action on climate change at every level and in all possible arenas – local, regional, national and global.

We will take action everywhere – in our homes, neighborhoods, village squares, agricultural gardens, fishing grounds, sacred places, worship sites, community organizations, workplaces and schools.

We will make our presence known at our Parliaments, embassies and local government buildings; in corporate headquarters of carbon polluters and energy companies; at the ballot box, in the news media, on social media, and at the front doors of ALL those with the power to change the trajectory of climate injustice.

We will talk, sing, shout, stand, and sit. We will lobby, hold vigils, protest, blockade, and barricade. We will take action in the smallest villages, the largest cities, the highest mountains, in the oceans.

More here.

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Filed under Climate Change, Uncategorized, Women

Saturday, November 12th: Chicago in Solidarity with Standing Rock

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Filed under Standing Rock, Uncategorized

Forum on Ethics & Nature: A Cascade of Loss, An Ethics of Recovery


DePaul Professor Liam Heneghan will be a featured speaker.

The following text is quoted directly from the Center for Human and Nature Website:

REGISTER now for the upcoming Forum on Ethics and Nature on Friday, May 2, 2014, a symposium co-hosted by the Center for Humans and Nature and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The year 2014 is the centennial anniversary of the death of “Martha,” the last passenger pigeon. The 2014 Forum on Ethics and Nature will mark this occasion by exploring the topic of extinction in non-obvious ways, balancing information and personal stories with ethical reflection about the possibilities of social and ecological recovery.

What are the new ecological realities in front of us and how do we respond to them with care? Topics include

◦                needed ethical deliberation about recovering species through various means (e.g., the current de-extinction “debate”),

◦                the relationship between species extinction and the destabilization and loss of culture, and

◦                establishing new relationships in order to work toward the recovery of cultural and biological diversity.

Click here to be taken to the registration page.  

Friday, May 2, 2014
Chicago Botanic Garden
Regenstein Center, Alsdorf Auditorium

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Filed under Affect and Ecology, Environmental Ethics, Humanities and Ecology

Of Black Holes and Alternative Universes: A Requiem for the Commons?


By Jeff Tangel

In his 1968 Tragedy of the Commons, [1] biologist Garrett Hardin famously   conflated people with simple machines: self-interested rational economic actors.  Using the example of grazing rights for ranchers he showed that land held in common must eventually be destroyed since it made “economic sense” for each of the ranchers to use as much as possible.  Conservatives cleaved to this work to proffer private property with all the fervency of religious salvation.  We cannot survive the collectivity of the commons, it was said; people only take care of what is theirs, directly.  Sadly, Hardin (and many others besides) was blinded to both the complexity of people and the complexity of their relations.   Although Hardin later qualified his thesis criticizing “the unmanaged commons,” we have yet to recover our ability to see clearly.

Within mainstream economics there was a glimmer of hope in 2009 when Elinor Ostrom won the Noble prize in economics by showing that people do, in fact work together to preserve a common source of their welfare. [2]  Ostrom was the first woman to win a Noble Prize in economic and, interestingly, she is political scientist to boot—although she might better be described as simply broadly curious and able, and perhaps, humble.

Ostrom found numerous cases in which a public commons served the many and did so reliably, resiliently, and sustainably over the long term.  “Economic sense” was not the sine qua non that so many believed.  Importantly she found that self interest and property rights were in fact narrow and restrictive lenses through which to view people and their relations.  Turns out people are more complicated—naturally richer, if you will.  “My motto,” says Ostrom, “is to build enough diversity [into institutions] to cope with the diversity of the world and allow multi-tiered systems at multiple scale so you don’t try to have a uniform top-down panacea that’s predicted to cure everything, but instead of curing it, kills it.”[3] In fact, she found, some have forced others into a simple and restrictive frame with terrible results.  Part of the western colonization of Africa, she offers, was to replace local agricultural custom with a nationalized scheme which resulted in supplanting relative sustainability with ecological decline. [4]  This of course was done to maximize productivity in order to maximize the collection of resources globally and concentrate the derived wealth in the coffers of the rich and powerful.  Hardin and others (she mentions the work of the economist Scott Gordon on maximum sustainable yield[5]) had created “a powerful allegory”, but their mistake, she says, was to think that there is only one way to go about things—in other words, employing one specific system universally.  And perhaps worst of all, “The presumption underlying this theory was that humans couldn’t figure this out themselves” to manage a commons. [6]

Enter Walmart, one of the world’s largest corporations and this country’s largest employer, who didn’t get that way by thinking collectively about anything.  They’re the biggest rancher on the plains.  They got that way by colonizing and creating the market—an act of creation via penetration, all of which is a calculus that denudes people and their commons.  Walmart notoriously pays its employees very little—so little in fact that nearly half of them rely on aid from state and federal governments to make ends meet in the form of food stamps and Medicaid.  Perhaps you’ve seen news reports and opinion pieces about this issue, many of which rightly accuse Walmart (and other large corps/ranchers who do the same, e.g. McDonald’s) of being welfare recipients themselves.[7]  After all their profitability depends on their workers, and so if their workers depend on taxpayer funded programs just to live, then Walmart depends on taxpayer funded programs.  In other words, Walmart is taking from the rest of us.  Never mind the obvious hypocrisy of right-wing thinking—that has become so ubiquitous that something has to make it rare again for it to become interesting.   Let’s focus on understanding this in a broader context: a denuded and debased commons and the creation of an alternative universe.

Walmart’s existence is a takings from the commons—that is what they do—and not with just a snide nose-thumbing at all the other ranchers about.  They are the most highly evolved dominant invader rancher species on the planet, able to draw resources from around the world—human and natural—and pile it all up in their little corner of the world.   Walmart not only sets its employees wages—they force similar wage structures throughout the domestic economy and the world.[8]  How has Walmart become so evolved?  Because instead of matching the complexity of our institutions with the complexity of nature, we have placed unmitigated and undying faith in an “impartial manager” of the commons: Capital. [9]  Walmart is both a simple machine and an intentional being that creates its environment and thrives in it by following the simple and powerful telos of this manager: unlimited reproduction, and the faster the better.  Critically, the process requires the externalization of as many costs as possible.  Thus relying on government support of their workers is built into its structure.  Walmart is not slowed by this contradiction.  Instead it is empowered by it.

Capital obliterates history—congenially referred to as “creative destruction”—and devalues the present in favor of an increasingly profitable future.  As all capitalist firms must.  No “then”, no “now”; only “what’s next.” In such a world there is nothing to be maintained, least of all a commons.  And people need not be consulted for their natural richness of ideas.  This singular system is working just fine.  Sorry Elinor.

Walmart, et al, are Black Holes, the progeny of Capital-as-manager thinking.  Aligning and adapting themselves to that universal, these entities have become vortexes of power that draw in the world’s common resources to create an alternative universe of unimaginable and massively concentrated wealth [10] and, importantly, freedom from responsibility.  The process kills other competitors leaving a moonscape for the struggling survivors, while it recreates itself by legitimizing and proffering a low-wage world in which people can only afford to shop at Walmart, et al.  Yes, it is symbiotic.  And yes, anyone who thinks this through understands that it must end badly: the commons will be history, if it is not already.

This is, of course, exactly what a dominant invader species would do to any ecosystem (though many manifold greater): take and reproduce freely, without limit until it replaces the diversity it had found.  Any species not killed in the process must adapt to this predator and in so doing live an impoverished life.  Live an impoverished life or die—just like Walmart workers.

Until, of course, the whole shebang loses its resiliency and collapses.

And I didn’t even mention the moral abomination that is Walmart.  I’m thinking now that’s where I should have started.  Maybe that’s where we all should start.


Here’s a link to Ostrom’s paper, Governing a Commons from a Citizen’s Perspective


And here’s a bullet outline of her thinking…


 [3] Ostrom, Elinor Sustainable development and the tragedy of commons, Stockholm Resilience Centre TV, in which she outlines the problem and rethinks the commons in 8 minutes. A somewhat cumbersome motto, but a good one! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByXM47Ri1Kc

[4] Ibid.  See also, William Cronon’s Changes in the Land (1983) for an account of the colonization of Native Americans and ecological change.

[6] Ostrom, Sustainable development and the tragedy of the commons.   Stockholm Resilience CentreTV. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByXM47Ri1Kc

[7] Meyerson, Harold.  D.C. Council stands for fair wages and against Wal-Mart, Washington Post. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-07-16/opinions/40610714_1_wal-mart-s-food-stamps-wages  ;  Bucheit, Paul. Apple, Walmart, McDonald’s: Who’s the Biggest Wage Stiffer?, AlterNet.  http://www.alternet.org/labor/apple-walmart-mcdonalds-whos-biggest-wage-stiffer

[8] Ibid.  And see news reports about suppliers’ factory fires, industrial accidents and working conditions, in ultra low-wage and low-regulation countries like Bangladesh, India, and China and so on.  For a solid explication of negative economic impact of “big-box” development, also a product of privileging Capital, see Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis of the Proposed Lowe’s Home Center in South Dennis,   http://notolowes.com/PDF_Files/Economic_Impacts_of_Lowes.pdf  cited in a terrific Grist story, Here’s one smart way to fight big-box stores, http://grist.org/cities/heres-one-smart-way-to-fight-big-box-stores/

[9] Importantly, this is a perversion of any reasonable—read “human”—notion of property rights.  By making property near solely fungible via the common denominator of money, we have effectively handed the right to property over to those with the wherewithal to buy it, exclusively.  This is a far cry from John Locke’s more sensible view of owning what one can use and leaving well enough for another.

[10] Hsu, Tiffany.  Wal-Mart heirs worth as much as bottom 41.5% of American families.  LA Times, July 18, 2012

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/18/business/la-fi-mo-walmart-heirs-20120718  accessed August 7, 2013

Image Source:  Rose Timperley — Group Two http://rosetimperleygrouptwo.blogspot.com/

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Filed under economicss, Environmental Ethics, Urban Ecology