Vandana Shiva

Economics of Happiness Conference 2013

This post comes to you from Cultura21

March 15-17, 2013 – Byron Bay, Australia

The not-for-profit organization ISEC (International Society for Ecology and Culture) is, after the success of the first conference held last March in Berkeley, California, hosting the second international Economics of Happiness Conference in Australia. The conference is an annual event of the global grassroots movement whose mission is to promote systemic solutions to today’s environmental, social and economic crises led by ISEC, which has also led to the production of the corresponding documentary in 2011(trailer included in this post).

The interactive program will consist of plenary sessions, workshops, and social and creative time, participants will have a rare opportunity to learn from and share with some of the foremost leaders in the worldwide localization movement. The conference also offers the chance to make new connections, build on current projects and find new inspiration.

The list of speakers includes: Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Donnie Maclurcan, Michael Shuman and Helena Norberg-Hodge.

For more information, the full list of speakers and to register, visit

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

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Synth-ethic vs Vandana Shiva

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition at the Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Synthetic biology is at the scientific cutting edge, but also on the ethical edge.  The works in this exhibition explore that edge.  The curatorial essay starts with the principle that synthesis is one of the fundamental practices within art.  As the exhibition title suggests, when moving from mimesis to synthesising with the living, ethics need to be half the work.

Art has always involved synthesis. Uniting disparate elements, putting them into a collage to create new works, metaphors, sensory experiences, or aesthetic genres, however, is also inherent to a curiosity, present in every epoch, for finding new ways of creating with new expressive media. Those contemporary artists, who in recent years have begun to employ laboratory methods and biotechnology for their own purposes in new contexts and to modify living systems, are particularly “close to life”. Here, it would seem, the newly declared discipline of synthetic biology is well-suited to the task, seeking, as it does, not only to modify existing organisms but to design “life” anew, from the ground up. Yet, this biological science is not concerned with living beings but rather with components, circuits, and systems. The language of engineering has been shifted to biology. These new dimensions to our technical ability to act, however, call for a new ethical engagement concerning the question of how and whether we should act simply because we can. The exhibition synth-ethic offers perspectives on human intervention in biotechnology and the responsibility that arises with it. Artists appropriate these technologies for their own purposes, see through the mania of novelty and beyond the constraints of economics to examine the areas of tension between molecular biology and ecology, architecture and biochemistry, technology and nature, cybernetics and alchemy.


But reading Vandana Shiva‘s text The Corporate Control of Life (Hatje Cantz, 2011) provides a different and significant critical perspective on these issues.  Shiva sets out the activist work of many years challenging the corporatisation of nature.  She articulates the powerful arguments against the application of IPR to biodiversity and the impact on farmers, women and indigenous people.  Underlying her argument is an epistemological position radically at odds with the economically driven epistemology of Western corporate and governmental cultures which she describes as biopiracy.  She says (2011, p8),

The rise  of reductionist science was linked with the commercialization of science and resulted in the domination of women and non-Western peoples.  Their diverse knowledge systems were not treated as legitimate ways of knowing.  With commercialization as the objective, reductionism becaue the criterion of scientific validity.  Nonreductionist and ecological ways of knowing, and nonreductionist and ecological systems of knowledge, were pushed out and marginalized.

The genetic-engineering paradigm is now pushing out the last remnants of ecological paradigms by redefining living organisms and biodiversity as “man-made” phenomena.  Patenting life was transformed into international law through the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In the context of this epistemological critique, artists need to step with care into the field of Synthetic Biology and the work of the Critical Art Ensemble is, amongst others, exemplary for demonstrating the potential for art to position itself as an effective counterpoint to corporate-political cultures.  One must question carefully the ability of artists to appropriate these technologies, and the form of appropriation must manifest the critique.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland