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Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #42
From priceless nature to mixed-use neighborhoods, finding climate communities at work, owning less but living more, and kincentric ecology
THIS WEEK 🏷️ You Can’t Put a Price on Nature 🏘️ Mixed-Use Neighborhoods 🌱 Workplace Climate Communities 🧳 Own Less, Live More 🌳 Kincentric Ecology
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately, plus some fun extras. Enjoy!
#1 🏷️ You Can’t Put a Price on Nature
A great article uncovering the hidden narratives behind the marketization of nature. ‘Natural capital’, ‘natural resources’, ‘human capital…resources’…. let’s just finally stop integrating everything into a capitalist market logic. This idea of putting a price on nature is another example of dabbling with solutions that fit like puzzle pieces into an unchanged destructive economic system, rather than focusing on designing a completely new puzzle / system (check out the tweet at the end of this issue).
“What’s worth more: an elephant, or a blue whale? How about a forest? A square kilometer of old-growth forest may be home to a thousand distinct forms of life; if you bulldoze it, and plant a square kilometer of saplings somewhere else, is that equivalent? For many of us, these questions are absurd, utterly divorced from the complexity of nature and our environment. But for those who pull levers of power in the global economy – be it politicians, directors of international institutions, or titans of finance – costing the natural world has become a serious, urgent task. […]
As understanding of the severe economic implications of biodiversity loss has grown, private finance and industry have quietly taken up the mantle of environmentalism, enthusiastically advocating ‘biodiversity offsetting’ and new financial products to fund conservation. […] With little democratic scrutiny, the construction of nature as an ‘asset class’ is accelerating, disguised as a pragmatic route to overcoming governments’ supposed inability to adequately protect ecosystems and restore environmental health. […]
Indeed, the ‘natural capital’ agenda may just be the latest in what Daniela Gabor calls the ‘Wall Street Climate Consensus’: a coordinated effort from governments and institutions like the World Bank to market new financial opportunities to investors, and 'escort' private capital into previously undesirable spaces. […]
Efforts to ‘protect’ nature through its commodification are ultimately founded upon continuity with the very economic model underpinning nature’s state of crisis in the first place. They hinge on the belief that despite all evidence to the contrary – markets are the most efficient and effective way to prevent ecological breakdown. […]
There are alternatives: for much of human history, the commons were governed through shared stewardship. Trials of community land ownership have suggested this could be a path to more sustainable agriculture. Indigenous Communities are connected to an astonishing 80% of the planet’s remaining biodiversity despite comprising just 5% of the global population – the legacy of countless generations of stewardship. Rather than the received ‘wisdom’ of the market, this is the wisdom to which we should be listening. In the urgency of saving a biosphere in freefall, we must not lose sight of the fact that climate and environmental justice won’t be found in trades on Wall Street, nor will a tidy pricing model ever reflect the value of a planet whose complexity far exceeds our understanding.”
#2 🏘️ Mixed-Use Neighborhoods
The dying of small businesses and cute, little neighborhood stores seems to hit an emotional nerve, making more and more people realize that the system is broken. I’ve already shared related things in previous Rabbit Holes and on my LinkedIn. The, very entertaining, video below looks at some potential solutions that could help bring back front-yard businesses.
#3 🌱 Workplace Climate Communities
Grist has this series on personal climate action, answering the question ‘how do I make a difference?’, which thankfully goes beyond the distracting sustainable consumption, reduce your carbon footprint discussions and focuses on things like going to court, sustainable big life events celebrations, aid or community work, voting and climate communities at work, which I highlight below.
Most of us spend a lot of time at our jobs. And even if you don’t work in an obvious climate field, just about every sector touches or is impacted by the climate crisis in some way. Grist’s climate solutions fellow Katie Myers explores how unions and other organized groups of workers are banding together over shared concerns, and using their collective power to advocate for greener, safer, and more just practices from their employers. […]
Often, labor unions are associated with opposition to the environmental movement, particularly the green energy transition that would take away already imperiled jobs in coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. But workers — unionized and not — have also been at the forefront of many environmental movements.
Even if we don’t think of our jobs as climate-related, most industries have climate impacts, and workers have used that fact to push their workplaces toward a more responsible relationship with the environment. Among that number are healthcare workers like McLaren, Amazon employees and Uber drivers working to reduce their companies’ emissions, steel workers pushing for a green transition, and many, many more who have seen their workplaces as sites of agitation for climate justice, and as opportunities to create a healthier world. […]
“In order to build the power to be able to take on the fossil fuel industry, we need the labor movement, environmental and climate justice groups, [and] frontline and historically marginalized communities to unite around using climate action to address social inequities,” Ratzloff [the co-director of the Labor Network for Sustainability] says.”
BONUS: check out this Climate Action Venn diagram by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson below. I think often, people like us, people passionate about climate action focus too much on the “what work needs doing” part and thereby ignore the “what are you good at” and especially (!!!) the “what brings you joy” part.
#4 🧳 Own Less, Live More
The sharing economy is finally taking hold by collaborating or integrating with landlords and real estate developers. I like the second-order benefit here, expressed in the article below: the opportunity to connect people more and build community. Consumerism has, for so long, been defined by this individualistic mantra (see my previous issue on this), but sharing can infuse a more communal spirit into consumption.
“Brooke Renteria moved to a studio in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, from California two years ago. […] Ms. Renteria, who is 24 and works in tech, also had access to the building’s Common Goods room, a basement closet stocked with household items that residents could check out for free. Among the dozens of objects: a sewing machine, a Ninja professional blender and a white porcelain dinner service for 12. […]
Common Goods are meant to “support affordability, reduce consumption and enhance residents’ sense of being part of a larger community,” said Joshua Haggarty, the associate developer of asset management at Jonathan Rose Companies, Caesura’s developer. The program was created in the same spirit of sociability as the building’s fitness center, rooftop garden and bike storage room, he said. […]
In his 2021 book “The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism,” Kyle Chayka reported that “the average American household possesses over 300,000 items.” From the dawn of the modern sharing economy, entrepreneurs have wrestled with marketplaces for the short-term use of the kinds of purchases that tend to idle in households: things like power drills, punch bowls, tents and tripods.
What has been learned through the birth and death of numerous start-ups is that convenience and trust are crucial to sharing. Apartment buildings are logical centers for exchange because residents don’t have to go far to borrow an object, and interactions are with the building management or neighbors.
Landlords increasingly see shared goods as a perk for attracting and keeping tenants. And they are experimenting with a variety of distribution methods.
Like Caesura, the new Citizen W10 apartment building, in downtown Denver, buys and maintains goods that tenants can borrow. But its offerings are athletic — bikes, tents, scooters, longboards. Lease holders may borrow up to two items for free: bikes and trolley carts for up to 24 hours, and everything else for up to five days. […]
Other buildings are making use of technology-driven platforms that offer a broad menu of household and entertainment goods and automate the process of borrowing them. Brevvie, founded in Irvine, Calif., in 2017, specializes in product-distribution units that are similar to vending machines. They are stocked with household and recreational goods and placed in apartment buildings, dorms and retail stores. The company, whose name is a contraction of the phrase “briefly rent everything,” selects the objects based on their durability, desirability and location. (Surfboards in California; backpacks in Washington State.) […]
Mr. Kirshenbaum sees the platform as a beacon to a future with reduced carbon footprints and access to high-quality resources for enjoying city life. “Own less,” he said, echoing Tulu’s slogan. “Live more.””
#5 🌳 Kincentric Ecology
This article provides a nice overview of some very interesting books and theories on rewilding. Below is an excerpt mostly focused on the Fresh Banana Leaves book by Jessica Hernandez and the concept of kincentric ecology, but the other books featured in the article are also worth checking out.
“The Book of Wilding is one of a growing number of books that propose practical projects to repair the natural environment and heal our relationship with it. This collection comprises manuals for regenerative agriculture, manifestos for policy change, and tomes that defy easy categorization. Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science,by Jessica Hernandez, challenges many of the foundations of today’s restoration practice, while Wild by Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration, by Laura J. Martin, gives helpful context for understanding how this restorative oeuvre has arisen. […]
Not since the eco-utopian communes of the 1960s and ’70s has there been such an appetite for practical guides to engineering our surroundings to meet the needs of nature. […]
Jessica Hernandez, an Indigenous scholar, proposes a very different vision of land stewardship, shining a light directly into what’s been a major blind spot for much Western environmentalism: those communities that have maintained long histories of living sustainably in biodiverse landscapes. […]
Today, Indigenous communities protect 80% of global biodiversity while holding just over 25% of land. But despite this record, environmental organizations have rarely invited Indigenous stewards or leaders to manage conservation projects. […]
Much of the book is a rebuke of Western concepts that have come to dominate environmentalism, including foundational ideas like “wilderness” and “conservation,” for which she says Indigenous languages have no direct translation. Hernandez instead focuses on “kincentric ecology,” a term coined by the Indigenous scholar Enrique Salmon for “the notion that we are not separate from nature but rather an integral component.” This is increasingly taken as true by Westerners too, but Hernandez is not arguing for finally granting Indigenous people a seat at their decision-making table. “It is time we stop trying to have our knowledge validated and rather build our own tables and be the ones who validate Western knowledge systems,” she writes. […]
The models she proposes are drawn from examples that have worked in the Americas, such as the community-based forest management of Santiago Xiacuí, a town in Oaxaca, Mexico, that has stopped illegal logging and deforestation while supporting a local economy based on wood and natural resources. Further examples come from Indigenous-led marine protected areas, sustainable economies based on artisanal crafts, and networks of mutual aid. Crucially, each emphasizes self-reliance and self-governance, favoring those approaches that promise to grow power from the Indigenous communities’ roots.”
» MIT Technology Review | What “rewilding” means—and what’s missing from this new movement by Matthew Ponsford
📖 What would it look like if the economy loved black people? by Jessica Norwood
💡 Stories for Life: How might our stories help design an economy in service to life?
🎙️ How the green movement lost its way with Max Wilbert & Lierre Keith
📖 The Culture of Shopping by Harald Welzer
👩🎓 Post Growth Entrepreneurship: All 8 lecture videos + a Q&A of this class at the University of Amsterdam held by Melanie Rieback
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week!
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