Environmental Devastation

Dr Astrov blogs

Astrov (Laurence Olivier) and Elena (Rosemary Harris)
in Uncle Vanya

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Wallace Heim writes:

Dr Astrov is a new blog on ‘arts / culture and environmental sustainability’. Ian Rimington is the writer. He works as a Relationship Manager specialising in environmental sustainability and theatre at Arts Council England, but the blog expresses his personal views.

In his opening blog, Ian visits the BritishMuseum with his son, fascinated by the dominating sculptural figure of the Easter Islandstatue Hoa Hakananai’a (Hidden Friend). The Ancestor Cult that produced these figures gave way during a time of environmental devastation and extinctions to the Birdman Cult. On the back of the sculpture, marks have been added from that newer cult, more like graffiti than the monumental face. In the differences between these carvings, Ian finds evidence of the changing relations of art and culture to the environment.

Another Pacific island features in a second blog, as Ian attends a read-through of Pitcairn, a new play by Richard Bean. The play tells of the events following the mutiny on the Bounty after Christian Fletcher and the sailors tried to set up a paradise republic there at the end of the 18th Century. This leads on to how the reason beloved of the Enlightenment falls short against the forces of values, beliefs and intuition, and to how art might produce behavioural changes.

The blog is aptly named. Dr Astrov is the visionary physician-philosopher in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, who presciently grasped the principles of ecology and the ethical relations of humans to nature. His worry that the forests were disappearing forever, rivers drying up and the climate ruined was assuaged by his own planting of sapling birches. In Act III, he shows Elena, who neither understands nor is interested, his maps of the changes in the landscape, the losses of farms, animals, forests. “(Man) destroys everything with no thought for the morrow. And now pretty well everything has been destroyed, but so far nothing new has been put in its place”.

We look forward to following Dr Astrov.

Here is a clip of that Act III scene with Astrov (Laurence Olivier) and Elena (Rosemary Harris) in the 1943 film.

Chekhov, a proto-environmentalist, is one of our playwrights revisited.

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

The Directory has been live since 2000.

Go to The Ashden Directory

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Outlawing ecocide for global peace – why we must all stand with Polly Higgins, the ‘lawyer for the earth’

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook
‘Examples of ascertainable ecocide affecting sizeable territories include the deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest, the proposed expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada and polluted waters in many parts of the world, which account for the death of more people than all forms of violence including war‘ – Polly Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide, 2010, p.63

Polly Higgins and indigenous activist Raven Courtney 2012 working to spread news about ecocide in Canada and North America

Polly Higgins and indigenous activist Raven Courtney earlier this year working to spread news about ecocide in Canada and North America

The above statement is a startling statistic at odds in how we may conventionally view war. Yet acknowledging the enormous and accelerating violence and destruction to humans, non-human species and our sustaining habitats as war is a critical step if we are ever to halt such activities. It is this key concept that drives UK lawyer Polly Higgins in her work to make ‘Ecocide’ legally recognised by the United Nations as ‘5th international Crime against Peace‘. Polly and her organisation are working towards presenting these new laws at the upcoming June 2012 Earth summit and she has recently made an urgent call, particularly to the women of the world, who are often most affected, to understand this concept and to spread it amongst their communities and to bring it to the attention of their political leaders.

Ecocide, as Polly describes in her award winning book ‘Eradicating Ecocide – exposing the corporate and political practices destroying the planet and proposing the laws needed to eradicate ecocide’, is a relatively new term. It was first used to characterise the massive and ongoing environmental devastation that occurred in the Vietnam war with the widespread use of toxic defoliants to destroy local forests. Today it is a term that is growing in agency as the world is beginning to recognise the grave and now imminent global peril that humanity and other species face due to the mostly uncontrolled, unsustainable and ultimately suicidal behaviour of our local and global businesses and corporate industries. Ecocide literally means the killing and destroying of our habitats, and is derived from the Greek word oikos meaning ‘house, dwelling place, habitation, family’ and the suffix ‘cide‘ from the French and Latin words to ‘kill or slay’. For the purposes of international law and building on definitions of ecocide from previous war crimes, Polly defines ecocide as ‘the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished’.

Building on her extensive knowledge of international environmental law, Polly has over a number of years built a very strong, credible case to firstly explain the history and the current situation about why legal compromise, recommended environmental policy and regulation all continue to spectacularly fail in preventing environmental destruction, as seen in the recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She likens the need to legally criminalise ecocide to the effects such similar laws that criminalised and led to the abolition of slavery. Polly’s aim is to eradicate ecocide at its roots, outlawing ecocidal activity in all business activity to the point that business is forced to radically change and move in the opposite direction. As she says ‘ we need business skills to be applied elsewhere and very fast..’

Youtube: Polly Higgins organised a successful mock ecocide trial in London in 2011 with leading human rights lawyers

While I’m often pessimistic about environmental actions and politics in general halting what I see as the unstoppable consequences of a society that promotes unlimited economic growth and profit over everything else, I have been encouraged by Polly’s work and the historical and recent examples she presents where such legal changes have made a difference. There are certainly enormous challenges in getting such legal changes adopted and then enforced. However, it is possible and one country, Ecuador, has in 2010 already enshrined these values into its national constitution. Perhaps this is because it is in Ecuador that the largest criminal prosecution against corporate ecocide, against the ‘big oil’ company TEXACO, has succeeded with a $27 billion of damages awarded to 30,000 Amazonian peoples (the 18 year struggle for this landmark case is the basis of the award-winning documentary Crude (2009)).

So if you have a few minutes, please visit Polly’s website www.thisisecocide.com, packed with information and suggestions on how to spread the word about ecocide and its need for its to be recognised at every level, locally, nationally and internationally as a crime, not just against the environment but against peace. Do share this article , particularly before the June 2012 United Nations Earth Summit at which Polly will be presenting this groundbreaking work.


What follows are Polly’s 10 reasons why Ecocide is a crime against Peace

1. stop ecocide and we stop the mass destruction of the planet;

2. ecocide is proposed as an international law which applies to all people and all nations;

3. which will rapidly become a national duty of care as well when each country has to put in place parallel laws;

4. governments, corporations, organisations, and any person who has rights over a territory will have an over-riding legally binding obligationto ensure their actions do not give rise to damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems;

5. action can be taken against any human person, not the fictional person (the corporation). As an international crime against peace, no-one escapes liability;

6. we already have the international court structure in place to prosecute ecocide. The International Criminal Court was created in 2002;

7. ecocide creates a strong legal burden of responsibility to ensure prevention;

8. restoration will take precedence over simple payment of fines;

9. the Law of Ecocide will ensure a shift from personal interest to public, environmental and society interests;

10. Peace.

Ecocide sends a powerful global message to the world, not just to those involved in business or during war, to take responsibility for the well being of all life.

This article also appears on hercircleezine.com and ecoartfilm.com

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Call for Papers: Under Western Skies 2: Environment, Community, and Culture in North America

This post comes to you from Cultura21

Building on the success of Under Western Skies: Climate, Culture, and Change in Western North America in October 2010, Under Western Skies 2 welcomes academics from across the disciplines as well as members of artistic and activist communities, non- and for-profit organizations, government, labour, and NGOs to address the environmental challenges faced by human and nonhuman actors across North America.

From October the 10th to 13th 2012UWS 2 will take place on Mount Royal University campus in the LEED Gold-certified Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning.

The six keynote speakers can be found listed here.

With its mandate for both interdisciplinarity and community outreach, UWS 2 broadens the geographical scope of the inaugural conference but retains its wide call for contributions from all environmental fields of inquiry and endeavor, including the humanities, natural and social sciences, North American studies, public policy, business, and law.  Artistic, creative, and non-academic proposals are also welcome.  Possible directions may include, but are not limited to

agriculture, food, and food security
alpine and glacial change
animal rights and commodification
borders and transnational issues
climate shock
collaboration between scientific and non-scientific communities
continental “perimeter security”
direct action and activism
ecology or nature?
environmental catastrophe and community
environmental devastation as neo-colonialism
environmental economies
environmental humanities
environmental racism and justice
environmental technologies
feedlots and runoff
forests and forestry
the Great Lakes
historical perspectives
human and nonhuman migration
indigenous environmental kinship
indigenous land, air, and water rights
indigenous worldviews and sovereignties
interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity
invasive species
the Keystone Pipeline and continental integration
law and public policy in North America
literary, filmic, and new media representations
marine ecosystems
national and regional parks
new continental weather patterns
North American bioregions
North American nuclear culture and power after Fukushima
North American studies
oil culture
the politics of meat
resilient communities and solidarity
restoration, reclamation, reparation
the rights of nature
seeds and seed patents
senses of place
technology as social construction
tourism and amenity migration
urban biodiversity
water rights, watersheds, and river systems
the “wilding” of North American cities like Detroit
wildlife and animality
women’s, gender and/or sexuality studies
youth, education, and activism

A selection of papers will go forward for an edited book publication or special journal issue following UWS 2.  (The collection of edited papers stemming from UWS 2010 is forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press as a part of its Environmental Humanities Series.)

Proposals should run no more than 250 words in length and be attached to an email as a .doc or .docx file. Proposals for readings, panels, screenings, displays, and workshops are also welcome.

Direct all proposals, together with brief bio and contact information, to Dr. Robert Boschman atand to Dr. Mario Trono at.

Check for regular updates regarding UWS 2 at the conference website: www.skies.mtroyal.ca.

Closing Date: Monday, January 23, 2012

Reposted from www.skies.mtroyal.ca/cfp/

The Call for Papers is now also available in French on the homepage http://skies.mtroyal.ca/frenchcfp/

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