Strategies for change and epistemologies of ignorance

“Your parents must be ashamed of you,” a police officer tells me. I’m at a BlackLivesMatter protest, too close to other people. It’s the first day the lockdown in the Netherlands has relaxed, two weeks after the murder of George Floyd, the cafes and restaurants are tentatively open again. Everyone is supposed to always keep 1.5-meter distance, but thousands of people are gathering at the Dam square in Amsterdam. I’m wearing a yellow safety vest with ‘1.5meter’ and ‘BlackLivesMatter’ on it. It’s my task to make sure people keep the government required distance from each other. It’s impossible. Instead of the expected five hundred, maximum thousand people we expected, the whole Dam square is filled with more than five thousand people. “This is a slap in the face of our nurses, our doctors, our hospitals. …

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Making sense of who the ‘us’ is we’re talking about when we talk about ‘our’ future.

When I think of climate change, I struggle to make sense of the world and the people around me. Scientists have called the next century ‘the century of hell’. ‘Status quo’, ‘business as usual,’ or, in less fuzzy terms, ‘situation normal, all fucked up.’ I sometimes feel as if it were better to try to feel at home. But only sometimes. More often, I’m convinced that there are many ways in which our shared home, our world, can be different. When I chant: ‘We are unstoppable, another world is possible’ on a march, I assume that this other world is more just, sustainable, greener, more affective and empathetic. A world, in which it all simply feels better. Recently, the coronavirus has shown us that things do not have to go as they usually do. In essence, it shows us more solidarity but also magnifies the existing inequalities. …

Capitalism sucks, so does corona and so does not seeing your friends or getting paid shit for your vital job.

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Maybe,’ my partner says, ‘maybe this is less of a shock to us because we always knew capitalism would end in crisis?’ We’re walking in an overcrowded Vondelpark. Lots of people walking around the green trees, the air seems to be already purer than a week before, the sky is blue, the weather is perfect for a spring walk, and we’re 1.5 meters apart. I’m guarding our distance carefully – my mom is in chemotherapy and I’m quite sure that is a risk group. Both of us are involved with the climate justice movement, we love to complain about neoliberalism, we laugh when an angry white man gets extra angry when we call him white, and we don’t want kids because they’re precocious little beings that you want to protect and that’s a thing we both know we can’t do the upcoming decades. …

Zweden stootte in 2018 63.8 miljoen ton co2 uit. Die uitstoot komt niet door vliegen, maar voornamelijk door structurele investeringen en subsidies in de fossiele industrie. Zo wil bedrijf Swedegas een importterminal bouwen voor fossiel gas in de haven van Gothenburg – wat inhoudt dat er een zogenaamde ‘lock-in’ van fossiele brandstoffen gecreëerd wordt. Het land is dan de komende veertig jaar afhankelijk van fossiele brandstoffen. …

‘Groene schaamte’ is de term voor de schaamte die je ervaart als gevolg van de impact van je handelingen op het klimaat. Schaamte voor de plastic boodschappentas, de reis naar Thailand, en, wie weet, in mijn omgeving gaat het ook wel eens over het egoisme van de wens kinderen te krijgen. Wat ik interessant vind is de term die Shakespeare bedacht voor jaloezie: het groene monster.

Groene schaamte en het groene monster. Emoties met een gelijke kleurcodering– hoewel er getwist wordt onder wetenschappers of jaloezie een emotie is, of een mengsel van verschillende emoties. Jaloezie en klimaat zouden ook iets met elkaar te maken kunnen hebben: mensen meten zich vaak af aan anderen – en willen dan net iets meer. Een betere auto, mooiere vakantiekiekjes, meer in plastic verpakte komkommers uit de supermarkt. …

Wat betekent het om zonder angst te zijn?

Dit is een verslagje van het panel Rebels Klimaat, waar verschillende groepen die zich bezig houden met het strijden voor klimaatrechtvaardigheid met elkaar in gesprek gingen. Het is voor een groot deel een zo letterlijk mogelijke weergave van wat er gezegd werd door de panelleden.

Harriet: ‘Ik doe onderzoek naar emoties, sociale verandering, en klimaatontwrichting – en soms snap ik niet of de mensen om me heen zo goed hun leven leiden omdat ze zo dapper zijn, of juist omdat ze zo laf zijn. Ik ben Harriet Bergman, werkzaam bij de Universiteit Antwerpen, actief in verschillende sociale bewegingen, en in de avonduren beschikbaar als moderator of spreker. …

Recap of David Harvey’s lecture at the99vanAmsterdam

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All over the world there is protest. If we would zoom out and look at earth from above, with a small light in every place where there is protest, we would see the whole earth lighting up. In Chile, in Equador, in Teheran, Beirut, France…

Harvey recognizes that all these places have something in common. The people rising up in these places all sense that the dominant economic model is not working well for them. How our relationships are organised works very well for top 1, or even top 10 percent of the people – but not for the masses. …

There is a joke I sometimes make to self proclaimed free-market adepts. In the middle of the conversation, I agree with whatever argument they’re making, and give as further proof for their argument that smart people only brush their front teeth. The toothpaste will trickle down. I enthusiastically explain how this saves both time and money.

Ted Howard made a convincing plea that this way of brushing your teeth will hurt you in the end – and that there are many and real alternatives to ‘carbon based casino capitalism.’ Today at the 99 van Amsterdam conference, at the Mosque in the Bijlmer, he gave a short presentation about Community wealth Building and the work of his own organisation the Democracy Collaborative.

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It is clear to almost everyone who neither belongs nor believes to become part the 1% of the world’s wealthiest people that trickle down does not work. Giving companies the opportunity to grow, make profit, and let capital go unrestrained, does not mean that normal people will flourish – or even survive.

This is clear if we look at tourism in Amsterdam: de Groene Amsterdammer researched that the income generated by tourism does not flow back at all to ‘normal Amsterdammers.’ It’s expensive hotel chains, foreign owned airbnb’, the tech moloch itself, and chinese souvenir manufacturers who benefit from the flood of suitcases on wheels that terrorises the city centre and the ever growing circle around it. What trickles down in my city is the waste, the noise, the vomit of brittish bachelor parties and growing hindrance from the expansion of the airport. The problem of trickle down is that it does not trickle, and it does not go down. It vaporizes up. …

I have studied loss and grief long enough now to know about different stages, about acceptance, about acknowledgment. Yet, as with many things, knowing is not the same as feeling. I do not feel I know. I don’t understand what is happening on an emotional level. I register what is going on around me, but it doesn’t reach me emotionally.

This morning, I went to the hospital with my mother. You are a big girl now, said my aunt, using a phrase that would normally transport me back to my youth. …


Harriet Bergman

PhD on discomfort & climate change activism. Fighting for climate justice with FossilFreeCultureNL. Serious and less serious blogging. Twitter: @harrietmbergman

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