“We are not all in this together” – Godofredo Pereira
Some environments are changing faster than others, and the effects of these environmental shifts are impacting some people far more catastrophically than they are impacting on others. In the US for instance, areas with high African American, Latino, and Native American populations have been disproportionately affected by governmental decisions to locate high-pollution industries or toxic waste treatment stations in their vicinity; and indigenous peoples are particularly at risk. In 2016 alone, 201 environmental activists were killed, most of whom were from indigenous groups. Many of these activists groups are women-led, with initiatives like WoMin, Not1More and COPINH (founded by Berta Cáceres) playing a key role in highlighting gender discrimination and violence in environmental disputes.
What distinguishes environmental violence? It is a process; often invisible, slow, remote and indirect (or, to make use of a term by philosopher Felix Guattari, "molecular"). Contaminants such as mercury and arsenic left behind by mining, or pesticides used in the maintenance of plantation monocultures, slowly transform environments. In doing so, these transformations often reinforce forms of racial or colonial violence.
Globally, areas of resource extraction follow a pattern of geographical racial discrimination – whereby, it is the minorities and the worst off communities in society who suffer most from the molecular effects of capitalism: be it directly from oil spills, water contaminations or air pollutants, or indirectly via the transformations these problems impose on their way of living. In the context of today’s environmental transformations – more urgent than designing sustainable futures for a future climate change – is the need to recognise how, for most people, the current situation is already unsustainable, and the issue must be brought firmly into the present.
It is free to participate. Please send an outline (500 words max) of one case study of environmental violence to firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 April. You will briefly present this case in the last section of the workshop.
Dr. Godofredo Enes Pereira is the course leader for the MA in Environmental Architecture and teaches ADS7 Ecologies of Existing design studio at the Royal College of Art, London, where he also leads the Architecture and Social Movements Research group. His doctoral research ‘The Underground Frontier: Technoscience and Collective Politics’ investigated political and territorial conflicts within the planetary race for underground resources. He was a member of Forensic Architecture where he led the Atacama Desert project; and was the curator of the exhibition Object / Project (Lisbon Architecture Triennial, 2016).