New Metaphors for Sustainability from the Ashden Directory

From the ‘iron curtain’ to the ‘glass ceiling’, metaphors are one of the most powerful ways in which we frame the way we think. Yet one of the key concepts in environmentalism – sustainability –  seems to be remarkably short of vivid metaphors.

So we asked some artists, writers, architects, cultural commentators, environmentalists, activists and scientists to come up with their own metaphors for sustainability.

Their suggestions are now appearing on our blog Ashdenizen

and they are also collected together on the Ashden Directory

along with a film of the first four people explaining their choice of metaphor.

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Ashden Directory & Ashdenizen launch new project to find metaphors for sustainabilty

This post comes to you from Cultura21

By Another Name: New Metaphors for Sustainability from Wallace Heim on Vimeo.

To launch the Ashden Directory and Ashdenizen’s major new project on metaphors for sustainability, a new DVD was just released, devised and directed by Wallace Heim.

“Sustainability is a concept without strong or imaginative metaphors. Over the next months, we’ll ask artists, scientists, activists and cultural commentators to suggest a metaphor for sustainability.”

The first four responses are presented in the embedded video. (The film was shown at the Staging Sustainability conference, York University, Toronto, 20 – 22 April 2011.) Updates from the project will be posted on the Ashden directory:

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)

– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)

– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)

– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21



Space, Land, and Time is the first film to consider the work of the 1970s architecture collective Ant Farm, best known forCadillac Ranch. Radical architects, video pioneers, and mordantly funny cultural commentators, the Ant Farmers created a body of deeply subversive multidisciplinary work predicted much of the technology we take for granted today. Incorporating archival video, new footage, and animation based on zany period sketches, this film is about the joy of creation in a time when there were no limits. (2010, 78 min. Dirs: Laura Harrison and Beth Federici)

A discussion with Ant Farm’s Chip Lord will follow the screening.

ALL HAMMER PUBLIC PROGRAMS ARE FREE. Tickets are required, and are available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVPs not required.

Parking is available under the museum for $3 after 6:00pm.

Avatar and the power of social media

I’m loving the commentaries that have evolved around Avatar’s themes of exploitation of natural resources, imperialism and biological diversity.

Libertarian blogger Stephen Kinsella argues here that it underscores his viewpoint that the movie demonstrates that property rights are the only way to protect the environment. Interestingly this is the logic of the UN’s REDD carbon trading scheme or to give it its long name, the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. This is based – in theory at least – of forests having assigned carbon values and of local people having property rights over those resources. The “owners” are then rewarded for not chopping down trees.

Such solutions aren’t without their problems though. Aside for the more obvious problems of carbon credits – that they allow the industralised world to delay reducing their own emissions -  Global Witness point out in this report [PDF] that was published last October, this is an untested scheme that may well benefit Africa and South America’s kleptocrat rulers more than it does the environment, or the locals to whom this property has been assigned. Assigning property rights, suggests Global Witness, is part of the process of moving from an environment protected from logging, to a “sustainably managed” forest which allows logging to go ahead.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology