Environmental Responsibilities: What is our relationship to the natural world?
Our University of the Streets Café public conversations are much like any you’d have with friends or family around a dinner table, except with more people, more points of view, and slightly more structure. Conversations are hosted by a volunteer moderator who is there to welcome everyone and keep things on track. To get things started, there’s a guest, or sometimes two, who get the ball rolling by sharing their ideas, experiences and questions. After that, it's all up to the participants.
There is an increasing presence in the public discourse of expressed commitments to redressing the rampant destruction of lands and waters. Yet, we are still some ways away from the sorts of embedded cultural changes necessary for us a true paradigm shift in our collective environmental responsibility. As a direct and effective investment in redressement remains unexpressed by us and the structures we inhabit, we would do well do question our approach to how we live in, and with, the world. This public conversation will consider our connection to the natural world that surrounds us. Are hierarchized structures of profit systematically opposed to a natural order or can an expressed commitment to sustainability bring about balance? To what extent do social oppressions contribute to apoliticalism in strategies that fail to recognize and meaningfully address root causes of environmental decay?
This conversation is presented in conjunction with Hannah Claus’ installation “earth. sea. sky. constellations for my relations” presented at the MAI from February 15 to March 17. Participants are encouraged to visit the installation ahead of this conversation.
Aaron Vansintjan is a writer and researcher whose work focuses on politics, cities, food, and economics. He is a member of Research and Degrowth and the Barcelona Laboratory for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability. He recently released the book In defense of degrowth and is a co-editor at Uneven Earth, a website focusing on environmental politics. His work has been published by Ricochet, Resilience, CounterPunch, TruthOut, the Institute of Social Ecology, OpenDemocracy, and LowTech Magazine.
Michael Toppings is a text-based artist born in Quebec but who has lived about half of his life elsewhere. He is a text-based artist and has since 1988 created works that blur the borders between the publication, exhibition and installation. Its works are mixtures of varnish and crude, cultural references popular and of social, oscillating realism between the sublime one and the pedestrian one, the factual one and the fictional one. He has worked for about 25 years at the same time in visual arts and the performance in several provinces like Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Toppings is a programmer of queer performance art and is currently the Executive & Artistic Director at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) a pluridisciplinary and pluricultural arts centre, where he has worked since 2009.
Alejandra Zaga Mendez is a PhD researcher at the Institut des Sciences de la Forêt Tempérée at the Université Du Québec En Outaouais - St-Jérôme. Her academic background is in ecological economics and agri-environmental sciences. She is interested in the role of socio-ecological frameworks in the adoption of ecological behaviour. Her research focuses on the ecological and institutional factors that ensure the adoption of agri-environmental practices in intensive agricultural areas of Québec. Alejandra is also an activist for social, feminist and ecological justice.
Bengi Akbulut is an assistant professor at the department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University. Her work lies within the fields of political economy, ecological economics, development studies and feminist economics, and draws heavily on her experience and engagement with social and ecological movements, primarily in Turkey. Her current research focuses on two main lines: while one is related to the political ecology of developmentalism in Turkey, the other is on alternative economies, commons and post-growth/post-capitalist transitions. Most recently she has co-edited a volume on the political ecology of neoliberal Turkey, Neoliberal Turkey and its Discontents: Economic Policy and the Environment Under Erdogan (I.B. Tauris).
Emma Haraké is a visual artist and educator who also collaborates on curatorial projects and events. She is currently pursuing her graduate studies in Concordia University's Art Education Department. Her research interests include autobiographical and arts-based inquiries, memory work, storytelling and oral history. Emma has worked extensively in the non-profit sector and locates her teaching within community-based practices.
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