Film Review: Ecosophia

Film Review: Ecosophia

Ecosophia by Peter Charles Downey – Film Review

By Elisabeth Robson

The film Ecosophia is a tour through many of the issues facing humanity: our addiction to growth, energy, and materials, and our devastating use of “surplus energy” to extract and consume—and thus destroy—the very system that sustains us. The narrative of the film is told through a series of short interviews, interspersed with reflections by the filmmaker, Peter Charles Downey.

Each interviewee brings a slightly different perspective on the predicament we are in: a completely unsustainable industrial civilization that is causing ongoing collapse of the living Earth; a global civilization that will soon collapse under its own weight.

The film begins by describing the fundamental problem: infinite growth on a finite planet. Tim Garrett describes what exponential growth means—the doubling over the next 30 years of the total energy and raw materials used by humanity in the past 10,000 years. Sid Smith explains that, no, renewables will not save us. Ian Lowe reminds us that we are right on track to match the predictions of the Limits To Growth—that is, collapse somewhere between 2030-2050 of civilization as we know it now. Climate change is highlighted but correctly understood and described as just one symptom of the overarching problem we’ve created for ourselves.

A little history: as soon as we learned how to store surplus, we were in trouble. This “storing of surplus” is often associated with the beginning of agriculture, but as John Gowdy describes, it actually happened before agriculture. Just one example: Pacific Northwest Native Americans learned how to smoke salmon and store it over the winter. This led to hierarchy and inequality, the inevitable outcomes of stored surplus, as the tribe who could best store salmon would gain priority over the best salmon runs, just like kings and emperors created hierarchy and inequality by storing surplus grain, thus creating slavery and the need for soldiers to protect the grain. The ability to store surplus is what allowed us to grow far beyond the carrying capacity of Earth to sustain us.

We are torn between Stone Age instincts and space age technology and we don’t know how to cope. As Bill Rees describes, we now have the capacity via fossil fuels and technology to grow exponentially, breaking the bounds of the constraints most species face—disease, resource shortages, etc.— which kept our population in control until about 10,000 years ago.

We learn about one third of the way into the film that Ecosophia means the passing on of knowledge over many generations about the specifics of place; of how to live well in a place, deeply understanding the climate, soil, and natural communities of that place. This localized knowledge is what allowed us to live sustainably on the land as a species for thousands of years before we went astray.

From here, the film moves from describing the problem into describing how we got here: a fundamental disconnection with ourselves, with the natural world, with that localized knowledge and respect for place. The interviews cover this disconnection well; Stuart Hill, a permaculturist, describes how our theistic religions come with spiritual beliefs that are limitless, but that nature has limits, and this spiritual disconnection from the reality of the natural world is a crisis for us as a species because we are utterly dependent on that natural world.

My favorite part of the film is perhaps the interview with Stephen Jenkinson, who is known for his work on Orphan Wisdom. “Exercising dominion is a surrogate for belonging,” he says, which is such a wonderfully concise and precise way to describe what we are doing to the Earth. We are orphans from the natural world, he says, not in the sense that our parents are dead, but rather that we cannot get to our parents (the natural world), and so, we don’t know how to belong. He says, “This is not a recipe for shame or class action guilt, despite the regime for social justice.” I strongly resonated with this, because of the extreme shame and guilt that are so pervasive in the critical social justice movement that is currently sweeping the Western world, and which seems so wrong-headed.

We orphans—and all of us who watch the film and read this review are orphans—will have to do the work to reconnect because we no longer inherit belonging through our ancestors, the ones who knew how to live well in a place. We are orphans because we can no longer access that generational knowledge in a modern culture that has all but destroyed it; we must do the work to recreate it ourselves. That is a multi-generational task. Are we up to it? As Stephen asks in the film, “How bad does it have to get before we question the utility of persisting?”

It’s clear in the film that the filmmaker recognizes the narcissism of focusing on self-improvement over taking responsibility for what we have done, what we are doing. Interviewee Alnoor Ladha describes this as “retreat consciousness.” He identifies that our loss of belonging makes us feel victimized, because we are “brought into a world that doesn’t belong to us” and our coping mechanism is to try to get as much as we can “on the sinking ship, to have a first-class cabin on the Titanic.”

Yet the message we are left with at the end of the film is profoundly disempowering. The last interviewee, John Seed, who is in the deep ecology movement, concludes that if we—humanity—are destroying the Earth, then we are the Earth destroying herself, because there is no separation between us and the Earth.

On the one hand, yes, that is true. We humans are nature. And on the other hand, to describe the cruelty and psychopathy of what humans are doing to the Earth as “the Earth destroying herself” is to utterly misunderstand the Earth and at once assign too much, and too little agency to the natural world.

The film has laid out the problem of the physical and spiritual crises we face, encouraged us to do the first steps—the work on ourselves to understand the problem and cultivate the desire to do something about it, and to relearn and recreate the wisdom for how to live well in a place—and then completely diffuses any energy and passion this might have inspired in the viewer by giving us an out.

At the very end of the film, the filmmaker moves into full-on human supremacy mode, saying that we humans are perhaps “special” and “unique,” because we haven’t found evidence of “any other intelligent life-form in the universe.” He says that what makes us special is that we evolved a passion to learn about ourselves, and that if we are indeed unique in the universe, that we might want to “keep this going.”

What’s shocking about this conclusion—that we are unique and rare and special, that we are the only “intelligent life-form in the universe”—is that it is so obviously untrue. Throughout the film, I enjoyed the many wonderful clips of animals and natural communities. Why is the filmmaker not able to see that this is the intelligence he thinks is missing out there in the Universe? It’s right here with us.

The Earth may indeed be unique in all of the universe in her capacity to support life, but we humans are not alone: we are surrounded by intelligence and love in the ecosystems and many species with whom we share this amazing planet. To listen to all of these interviews, to be able to appreciate the many life-forms on Earth, and yet conclude that humanity’s utter destruction of what might be the only planet capable of sustaining life in the entire universe is “the Earth destroying herself” and that this is part of nature is disappointing, to say the least.

In conclusion, I recommend the film, but caution viewers: there is another, better ending to envision. Yes, we must understand the problem. Yes, we must do the work on ourselves. Yes, we must listen to people who still understand ecosophia: that living well in a place with humility and respect for the natural world is the only way for us to live sustainably on the Earth.

And then we can take action. We can fight back against the forces that push us further into disconnection from reality each and every day. This is what the Earth herself wants us to do, if we’d only listen. Fight back!

Thank you to Peter Charles Downey for access to the preview of the film Ecosophia.

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Surprise Discovery of Wind Farm Project in Philippine Reserve Prompts Alarm

Surprise Discovery of Wind Farm Project in Philippine Reserve Prompts Alarm

Editor’s note: Wind farms are not a solution to ecological destruction, especially not when built in protected reserves. Singapore-based company Rizal Wind Energy Corp. (RWEC) is drilling illegally in wildlife sanctuary and ecotourism area Masungi Georeserve.

For this massive construction it is bulldozing forest to make roads. It needs diesel for the trucks and lube oil to run the wind turbines. Local environmentalists have protected the Masungi Georeserve over generations through educating local people and engaging in struggles against land grabbing.

This important work is dangerous: park rangers are shot, the army arrests workers and the government sends their agencies with legal threats.

Despite having considered giving up, conservationists won’t surrender: “If we abandon it, who will look after the wildlife?”

Everyone who is able to get active in these times of ecocide should ask themselves this same question.


Surprise Discovery of Wind Farm Project in Philippine Reserve Prompts Alarm

By

In late 2023, conservationists monitoring the Philippine’s Masungi Georeserve were surprised to encounter four drilling rigs operating within the ostensibly protected wildlife sanctuary. The construction equipment belongs to a company building a wind farm within the reserve, which claims to have received the necessary permits despite the area’s protected status. Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Inc. (MGFI), the nonprofit organization managing the site, has launched a petition calling for the project to be canceled, saying that renewable energy generation should not be pursued at the expense of the environment.

Drilling for windfarms without permission

Conservationists have expressed alarm over the surprise discovery that a Singapore-based company has started construction of a wind farm inside the Philippines’ Masungi Georeserve.

The Masungi Karst Conservation Area (MKCA), declared a strict nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary since 1993, is home to more than 400 wildlife species. The site is located in Rizal, a province about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the Philippine capital, Manila.

Drone images from late 2023 captured by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Inc. (MGFI), the nonprofit organization that manages the site, showed that Rizal Wind Energy Corp. (RWEC) was behind the construction, drilling to build 12 wind turbines as part of a renewable energy project. RWEC is owned by Singapore-based energy developer Vena Energy.

“This development entails widespread road construction and raises significant concerns for local wildlife, particularly threatening birds and bat populations,” the foundation said in a statement on Feb. 12. The group estimates that 500-1,000 hectares (about 1,200-2,500 acres) of the MKCA could be affected by the project, as it would require extensive road networks that may lead to forest clearing, vegetation damage, and visual disruption of the natural landscape.

The MKCA, previously commercially logged and barren, has been undergoing forest restoration since 1996 through a joint-venture agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Blue Star Construction and Development Corp., owned by the founder of Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. In 2016, when the foundation was formally established, Masungi also opened to the public as an ecotourism site, generating revenue to support ongoing restoration efforts in the area.

Green greed disturbs protected zone

Of the more than 400 flora and fauna species that call Masungi home, around 70 are endemic to the Philippines, including the Luzon tarictic hornbill (Penelopides manillae), which is nationally listed as vulnerable, and the Luzon mottle-winged flying fox (Desmalopex leucoptera), one of the world’s largest bats and internationally categorized as vulnerable.

In an online signature campaign against the construction of the wind farm, the group said this “misguided energy development” is the latest threat to Masungi, which already faces illegal logging, land grabbing, quarrying, and violence against its forest rangers. These challenges exist even though Masungi is part of the 26,000-hectare (64,500-acre) Upper Marikina River Basin that was declared a protected landscape in 2011.

The Masungi management said this venture “marked a disturbing violation” of a 1993 administrative order by the DENR prohibiting industrial or commercial uses of Masungi. The organization added that the wind farm project also shows a “blatant disregard” for the area’s designation as a strict protection zone in its own management plan.

As per the Philippine environmental impact statement system, projects that plan to operate in ecologically sensitive zones like Masungi need to obtain an environmental compliance certificate from the DENR prior to commencing activities.

wind power

Wind farm in the Philippines

Over four years of developing the Rizal wind farm, Vena Energy said that, “being mindful of its environmental impact,” it has secured various Philippine government permits, including an environmental compliance certificate, protected area management board clearances, and a certificate precondition, following an environmental impact assessment study and consultations with Indigenous peoples.

“Vena Energy assures the public that it continues to maintain open dialogue with stakeholders and is always willing to work with concerned parties to achieve the common good,” Angela Tan, the company’s corporate communications chief, told Mongabay in an emailed statement. The company has not responded to a request to verify its permits.

Coincidental discovery

MGFI says it was never formally informed of the project, which is reportedly nearing commercialization. Instead, georeserve staff discovered the project during routine monitoring of the site. MGFI advocacy officer Billie Dumaliang and her team periodically fly a drone over the reserve to monitor land changes, whether these are caused by fires, clearings, or new structures. In late 2023, they said, they were shocked to see four drilling rigs.

Zooming in on the photos, they discovered that RWEC was behind the drilling. “We immediately searched for their contact so that we can reach out to them and find out more about the project before reacting,” Dumaliang told Mongabay in an email on Feb. 21. “Nonetheless, we were surprised because as designated caretakers of the area, we were not informed of any wind development underway within the Masungi Karst Conservation Area.”

Hoping to persuade the company to relocate, MGFI did not publicize the issue until Feb. 12. This was after two meetings with company representatives where MGFI told them “they are on the wrong track.” According to MGFI, though, the company remains determined to build the wind farm inside Masungi, claiming it will undertake “‘mitigation measures.”

“However, mitigation is superficial if the site selection is wrong in the first place,” Dumaliang said, further expressing disappointment over what she describes as the company’s failure to adhere to emerging environmental, social and governance principles in the alternative energy industry.

“There are many other places to build colossal wind turbines — why do it inside a sensitive karst ecosystem and wildlife sanctuary which cannot be replaced?”

Touching interviews about the activists protecting Masungi Georeserve.

Wind power push

The Philippine government has promoted wind energy development to help meet its target of increasing the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix from 32.7% in 2022 to 50% by 2040. As of 2022, the country’s wind installed generating capacity stood at 427 megawatts, projected to rise to 442 MW by 2025. Since the enactment of a renewable energy law in 2008 up until November 2023, contracts have been awarded to 239 wind power projects. This includes RWEC’s 603 MW (potential capacity) project spanning Rizal and Quezon provinces, listed by the country’s energy department as in the predevelopment stage.

MGFI said wind energy development shouldn’t be pursued at the expense of the environment. “The transition to renewable energy and nature-based solutions such as reforestation and biodiversity conservation should go together. There should be no conflict between the two if the transition to renewable energy is done in a responsible manner,” Dumaliang said.

“If renewable energy development falls under the usual trappings of greed and capitalism, then we risk doing more damage than good.”

The group, along with 30 other civil society organizations, has demanded the revocation of RWEC and Vena Energy’s permits in the MKCA “on scientific grounds and the lack of public consultation.” It’s also seeking outright rejections for similar applications in this wildlife sanctuary, which is meant to be off-limits to industrial and commercial activities.


 

Cooling the Earth by Reflecting Sunlight Back to Space

Cooling the Earth by Reflecting Sunlight Back to Space

Editor’s note: As humanity, we’ve come so far as to consider – after having wreaked havoc on a perfectly functioning ecosystems on a flourishing planet – that producing clouds from seawater is a good idea. It sounds too bizarre to be true and even hilarious – but it’s deeply sad.
There are indeed scientists who get paid for researching not in a laboratory but in real life situations, how millions of aircrafts and ships can bring tons of aerosols into the sky to prevent the sun from doing what she does: shining to provide sunlight.
It seems as if some start-up youngsters with a hangover after pulling an all-nighter came up with that idea. But no, the proponents are adult scholars and they mean it.
With this sci-fi scenario we witness a degenerate humanity completely in denial over what is actually happening. A cut from the living and breathing world around us, inducing the immersion into minds of madness, who try to techno-fix us into oblivion.
It’s like hiring a beautician to put makeup on a person that is bleeding out, while the doctor stands there doing nothing.
It’s like calling a friend when you’re in an emergency situation instead of calling the ambulance.
It’s like breathing in while being under water.
Can we please stop rivaling the sun? Thanks.

 


Not a Bright Idea: Cooling the Earth by Reflecting Sunlight Back to Space

By James Kerry, Aarti Gupta and Terry Hughes/The Conversation

The United Nations Environment Assembly this week considered a resolution on solar radiation modification, which refers to controversial technologies intended to mask the heating effect of greenhouse gases by reflecting some sunlight back to space.

Proponents argue the technologies will limit the effects of climate change. In reality, this type of “geoengineering” risks further destabilising an already deeply disturbed climate system. What’s more, its full impacts cannot be known until after deployment.

The draft resolution initially called for the convening of an expert group to examine the benefits and risks of solar radiation modification. The motion was withdrawn on Thursday after no consensus could be reached on the controversial topic.

A notable development was a call from some Global South countries for “non-use” of solar radiation modification. We strongly support this position. Human-caused climate change is already one planetary-scale experiment too many – we don’t need another.

A risky business

In some circles, solar geoengineering is gaining prominence as a response to the climate crisis. However, research has consistently identified potential risks posed by the technologies such as:

Here, we discuss several examples of solar radiation modification which exemplify the threats posed by these technologies. These are also depicted in the graphic below.

A load of hot air

In April 2022, an American startup company released two weather balloons into the air from Mexico. The experiment was conducted without approval from Mexican authorities.

The intent was to cool the atmosphere by deflecting sunlight. The resulting reduction in warming would be sold for profit as “cooling credits” to those wanting to offset greenhouse gas pollution.

Appreciably cooling the climate would, in reality, require injecting millions of metric tons of aerosols into the stratosphere, using a purpose-built fleet of high-altitude aircraft. Such an undertaking would alter global wind and rainfall patterns, leading to more drought and cyclones, exacerbating acid rainfall and slowing ozone recovery.

Once started, this stratospheric aerosol injection would need to be carried out continually for at least a century to achieve the desired cooling effect. Stopping prematurely would lead to an unprecedented rise in global temperatures far outpacing extreme climate change scenarios.

Heads in the clouds

Another solar geoengineering technology, known as marine cloud brightening, seeks to make low-lying clouds more reflective by spraying microscopic seawater droplets into the air. Since 2017, trials have been underway on the Great Barrier Reef.

The project is tiny in scale, and involves pumping seawater onto a boat and spraying it from nozzles towards the sky. The project leader says the mist-generating machine would need to be scaled up by a factor of ten, to about 3,000 nozzles, to brighten nearby clouds by 30%.

After years of trials, the project has not yet produced peer-reviewed empirical evidence that cloud brightening could reduce sea surface temperatures or protect corals from bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy. Scaling up attempts at cloud brightening would require up to 1,000 machines on boats, all pumping and spraying vast amounts of seawater for months during summer. Even if it worked, the operation is hardly, as its proponents claim, “environmentally benign”.

The technology’s effects remain unclear. For the Great Barrier Reef, less sunlight and lower temperatures could alter water movement and mixing, harming marine life. Marine life may also be killed by pumps or negatively affected by the additional noise pollution. And on land, marine cloud brightening may lead to altered rainfall patterns and increased salinity, damaging agriculture.

More broadly, 101 governments last year agreed to a statement describing marine-based geoengineering, including cloud brightening, as having “the potential for deleterious effects that are widespread, long-lasting or severe”.

Balls, bubbles and foams

The Arctic Ice Project involves spreading a layer of tiny glass spheres over large regions of sea ice to brighten its surface and halt ice loss.

Trials have been conducted on frozen lakes in North America. Scientists recently showed the spheres actually absorb some sunlight, speeding up sea-ice loss in some conditions.

Another proposed intervention is spraying the ocean with microbubbles or sea foam to make the surface more reflective. This would introduce large concentrations of chemicals to stabilise bubbles or foam at the sea surface, posing significant risk to marine life, ecosystem function and fisheries.

No more distractions

Some scientists investigating solar geoengineering discuss the need for “exit ramps” – the termination of research once a proposed intervention is deemed to be technically infeasible, too risky or socially unacceptable. We believe this point has already been reached.

Since 2022, more than 500 scientists from 61 countries have signed an open letter calling for an international non-use agreement on solar geoengineering. Aside from the types of risks discussed above, the letter said the speculative technologies detract from the urgent need to cut global emissions, and that no global governance system exists to fairly and effectively regulate their deployment.

Calls for outdoor experimentation of the technologies are misguided and detract energy and resources from what we need to do today: phase out fossil fuels and accelerate a just transition worldwide.

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity, and global responses have been woefully inadequate. Humanity must not pursue dangerous distractions that do nothing to tackle the root causes of climate change, come with incalculable risk, and will likely further delay climate action.


James Kerry is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University, Australia and Senior Marine and Climate Scientist, OceanCare, Switzerland, James Cook University.

Aarti Gupta is a Professor of Global Environmental Governance, Wageningen University.

Terry Hughes is a Distinguished Professor, James Cook University.

Building Social-ecology Under Attacks in Rojava

Building Social-ecology Under Attacks in Rojava

Editor’s Note: The Kurdish people of Rojava have been building a grassroots democracy based around self-organizing communes, valuing relationships with nature and women’s liberation. To a large extent, these communes aim for what we believe the world should be: localized food systems, ecological living, and non-hierarchical societal structures. However, they face many challenges from neighboring states. We have covered this previously in many of our posts and podcasts. The following is a part of the report by Make Rojava Green Again. You can find the full report here.

For more on the communes of Rojava, please watch this video:


“We Will Defend This Life, We Will Resist on This Land”: Building Social-Ecology under Attacks in Rojava

By Make Rojava Green Again

The revolutionary process in Rojava, based on the pillars of grassroots democracy, women’s liberation and social-ecology, is progressing while at the same time is threaten by the continuous war carried on by the Turkish state. The Turkish army is not responsible only for killing civilians and political representatives but for a planned ecocide and attacks on basic civil infrastructure.

Rojava is one of the four parts in which Kurdistan has been divided with the creation of nation states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Rojava is the Syrian part.

The history of the Kurdistan, the ecological way of life of the people, the effects of the attacks, and the methods of resistance, are intrinsically related. In order to make them more understandable, we focused on the area of Koçerata. This region, its people and civil infrastructures in particular, were heavily targeted by Turkish airstrikes in winter 2023-2024.

Ecocide is a warfare of the Turkish fascism against the people. Long-term effects continue to harden the life of the people and will do so for the time to come. Still the people as well as the autonomous administration are focusing on finding creative and collective methods.

The creation of a new life on the basis of old heritages

Koçerata, the “Land of the Nomads”, is a plain land with some hills and, due to the Tigris’ river, very fertile. For hundreds of years Kurdish nomads have moved in the region, until the construction of nation states borders. Not being willing to give up on their ancestors’ way of life too fast, a lot of the people continued to move in the plain until around 1945, when Syrian state was built up. Syria wanted to create an urbanized, industrialized society. In this framework intensive monoculture practices were imposed. Koçerata in particular became of high interest because of the rich oil deposits, and until now represent one of the main pillars of energy suppliance for the region. One of the biggest power plants of North-East-Syria is also based here, in Siwedî. It was built in 1983 by a French company, and was the main gas and power station of whole North-East-Syria, serving between 4 and 5 million people, until the winter attacks.

Rûken Şêxo, spokesperson of the peoples council in the village Girê Sor describes the life of the people and the creation of social-ecology in the region: “The life of the Koçer [kurd. Half-nomads] is very simple and beautiful. We don’t need a lot from the outside. In every house you will find a small garden, where the families are growing vegetables, herbs and plants, for example tomatoes, onion, salad. Some will also raise cows, chicken and turkeys”. “We make things ourselves, especially yogurt, cheese and milk. From our childhood onward we learned to create everything by ourselves, from the things we have. This is also what we are going to teach to our children.”

Today the people of Koçerata are living mostly in villages, organizing their life as a part of the self-administration of North-East Syria. Still carrying on cultural heritage, the life is rather humble and self-contained. A life close to nature and communality has passed on through generations. People of Koçerata mostly rely on agriculture and also shepherding still plays a role.

While the communes are the foundation of the organizing of the everyday life on the village level, the peoples council are solving regional problems. The communes are the cells of the society and the councils are its body. Both of them elect two co-chairs, a woman and a man to apply decisions. At the same time, the Municipalities, which are responsible to organize infrastructural needs in the region, such as water and electricity supplies are under the control of the Peoples Council. The level of organization in the region is very strong, based on the long-time ties between the people and the freedom movement, as well as the lively communal culture. Connecting heritage and local culture with grassroots democracy and popular self-defense, the people of the region of Koçerata have set strong foundations for developing social-ecology.

Turkey’s war against Rojava: An attack on the development of social-ecology

Even though, in November 2022, heavy attacks were executed, targeting in particular the infrastructure for basic life needs (water and electricity), the most recent bombardments, from October 6th 2023 to January 18th 2024, mark the worst escalation since 2019. In this period the Turkish army carried on more than 650 strikes (with drones and fighting jet), hitting more than 250 places, many of them being hit several times. In this huge operation, 56 people have been killed (among which two children, 10-11 years old), while at least 75 people have been injured. Among them, workers at their work site or collecting cotton in fields. The airstrikes have mainly targeted essential infrastructure, 18 water stations, 17 electricity plant, sites for cooking gas, and oil, but also schools, hospitals, factories, industrial sites, agricultural and food production facilities, storage centers for oil, grain and construction materials and medical facilities, villages.

The purpose of destroying the basis of people’s life became even more explicit and clear. Beside the physical destruction, these attacks aim to harm society’s psychological status and destabilize the region, in order to stop the democratic process that is going on within the Autonomous Administration.

One of the most critical infrastructural targets have been the electricity plant of Siwedî. “Being the main gas and power station of whole North-East Syria, when there is problems within the plant it effects the whole region” told us Rûken Şexo, spokesperson of Girê Sor village. “After that shelling almost 4 to 5 million people have been affected”, and, in Cizîrê region, where 50% of the regular electricity comes from this plant, two million residents have been left without municipal services, electricity, power, and water.

Due to the cut of water from Turkey, the water situation was already very heavy. The rivers flow that was allowed to cross into Rojava decreased severely obviously affecting all aspects of life, drinking, hygiene and health, agriculture and food production, animal’s life, economy, education and gender dynamics. In addition, the Turkish state has also altered the water quality, releasing contaminant sewage residues in the few water still flowing into North-East Syria.

“The shellings are hurting the people of Koçerata, in all aspects of life” told us Xoşnav Hesen from the village of Girê Kendal. “These are from the attacks” he said, while showing us the deep cracks on the walls of his house. Without electricity the water pumps that secure the water supplying from the ground can’t work, the water can’t be extracted from the wells and distribute to the villages. While this is in general a fundamental problem for human’s life, in the region it is even more crucial due to the agriculture-based life of the people.

“Most of the people live from the products of the earth and the animals that they raise themselves.” told us Rûken Şexo, spokesperson of Girê Sor village. “Without water, the plants are dying and the animals can not drink. The cultures are affected, the animal’s life is affected. The base of people’s economy, of families’ economy in the region is based on this. Now the families are having economic problems, because they used a lot of money to plant and now everything is gone, the animals are dying because of lack of water”. These military operations aim to create fear and frustration. “Creating, building up, is not a problem, the problem is war. You work so much, create so much, invest so many resources, and then, in one second it gets destroyed” said Delal Şêxo from the village of Hamza Beg.

“We don’t leave our land, we organize ourselves” – Resistance of the people on their land

The current attacks led by the Turkish State must be understood in the broader context of war and ecology. The Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria encourages the establishment of cooperatives, agro-ecology, like the production of organic fertilizers, and eco-industries based on the cooperative system and on a circular approach to production and consumption. Plans regarding the use of different source of energy (solar, biogas from animal manure and organic wastes or wind energy), recovery of soil and groundwater characteristics, are made. However, these could not develop on a large scale due to the systematic destruction of basic infrastructure. This attacks forced the administration and the whole economy of North-East Syria to devote themselves toward continuous works of reparation and rebuilding, in order to reply to emergency and immediate consequences of war. The embargo also represents another significant obstacle to the development of ecological projects.

In spite of all these hardships attempts are made to foster the ability of people to organize their own forces. Despite external factors such as embargo and war creating obstacles for the progress of social-ecology, the strength of the social network resists the enemy’s attempts at displacement and psychological warfare.

People are showing a strong solidarity, the determination to stay on the lands and the population has develop its ways to withstand collectively the hardships. The municipality visits the different Communes to inform them, share evaluations about the situation, listen to their needs, try to find solution together, and to organize collectively the whole society, make every one taking responsibility for it. The people of Koçerata pull their resources in times of difficulty. Neighbors share generators and water pumps during electricity shortages, or collect funds for the installation of local generators. Some villages deliberately limit their electricity for hours to support others. Certain families combine financial resources to afford a communal water pump system independent from electricity. During the airstrikes in late December, the Koçerata community mobilized to create human shield to protect the Siwedî power plant. While the priority is to set up an emergency plan, for their long-term strategy towards social-ecology the force of solution is already here: initiative from the base, self-organization, and decentralization.

The ecological crisis and the increase of global conflicts, often for the sake of natural resources and their exploitations, are showing every day more how solutions cannot be found neither in State politics or in technology alone. Especially in times and areas of conflict, the social-ecological problems tend to be seen as second rank of importance. Opposite to this approach, the attempts made by the autonomous administration emphasize how, even in times of attacks, social-ecology can represent an answer for both the problems. As we witness, against wars and environmental destruction, social-ecological models, self-sustainability and decentralization can really constitute a solution for a lasting peace in the region. In this framework, the reality of Koçerata must be known as a meaningful and inspiring example of resistance. This is not just an example of theory but it is, in first place, an example of practice of resistance and self-organization. Against the current centralized, urbanized and mono-culture global system, based on exploiting human-land relationships, Koçerata can suggest sustainable ways of living, working and producing. This region is at the same time unique, for its history and specificity, but not alone. Every place, every community can recover its democratic heritage, and, on this basis, build strong communities and a life in harmony with nature. Values of resistance, connection with the land, communality and freedom are not limited to one geography but parts of our life, of our being part of humanity, being part of Nature. Telling about Koçerata also creates connection with many other struggles, carried on by people around the world to defend the land and build a democratic life. Understanding that the resistance in one place, however important, cannot be really successful alone. Local solutions and global changes, toward a social-ecological model, are both needed. The example of Koçerata wants to be a source of strength, hope and inspiration to think also about how we can resist and defend our territories, how we can build alliances with struggles in other geographies, communities and free life.

Nearly Half of Migratory Species Populations Decline

Nearly Half of Migratory Species Populations Decline

Editor’s Note: Since main stream media gives so much attention to COP28 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a lot of people are familiar with it. Climate change is posed as the main environmental issue that we are facing right now. While DGR believes that climate change is a threat, it is by far not the worst. Other pressing issues, like biodiversity loss, are often sidelined by mainstream media. As a result, many people do know what COP14 UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is. Biodiversity preservation requires habitat restoration, hardly something that anyone could gain profit from. Climate change, on the other hand, has provided many opportunities for corporations, in the name of “green” energy transition. We believe that climate change is a symptom of industrial civilization. Continuation of the process via “renewable” energy will only worsen all the ecological crisis that we are facing now, including climate change. Ending industrial civilization, protecting species and restoring habitats is the only way to actually address these issues.


Nearly Half of Migratory Species Populations Decline

By Climate and Capitalism

Overexploitation and habitat loss pose extinction threats for migratory fish, birds and others, worldwide

How Long Has Humanity Been at War With Itself?

How Long Has Humanity Been at War With Itself?

Editor’s note: When debating with people about how to create a society without war, the argument always comes up that “back in the stone age humans were also violent” or “back to nature doesn’t work”. Yet historical research shows that even if we shouldn’t romanticise being a cave man or woman, in prehistory humans probably lived the most peaceful life they ever have on earth.
 

As this article by Deborah Barsky describes, how early Homo species hunted in vast lush territories and formed clan-like groups. They had to stick together against storms and times of hunger, because they knew they were interdependent on each other and on wild nature.

There’s no proof so far for bellicose violence until it comes to the Neolithic age around 12,000 years BC. Only from the times people became sedentary and had unequal access to ressources, archaeologists discovered ancient remains of weapons of war.

That’s somehow good news, because the narrative of humans being evil by force of their genes can likely be false, which means we can liberate ourselves from the excuse of being “only humans” and instead actively abolishing a culture of war and terrorism to create a new world where we’d be inspired by our ancestors and sitting calmly at the fire.

This article was produced by Human Bridges.


How Long Has Humanity Been at War With Itself?

By Deborah Barsky/Independent Media Institute

The famous American astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” But can we ever know the history of human origins well enough to understand why humans wage large-scale acts of appalling cruelty on other members of our own species? In January 2024, the Geneva Academy was monitoring no less than 110 armed conflicts globally. While not all of these reach mainstream media outlets, each is equally horrific in terms of the physical violence and mental cruelty we inflict on each other.
Do massive acts of intra- or interpopulational violence conform with Darwinian precepts of natural selection, or is this something we do as a competitive response to the stresses of living in such large populations? Looking back in time can help us find answers to such questions. Evidence preserved in the archeological record can tell us about when and under what conditions the preludes to warlike behaviors emerged in the past. Scientific reasoning can then transform this information into viable hypotheses that we can use to understand ourselves in today’s world.
As archeologists continue to unearth new fossil evidence at an increasing rate, so too are they piecing together the human story as one of complex interactions played out by (a growing number of) different species of the genus Homo that lived during the tens of thousands of years preceding the emergence—and eventual global dominance—of our own species: Homo sapiens. In fact, scientists have recognized more than a dozen (now extinct) species of Homo that thrived over the millennia, sometimes sharing the same landscapes and occasionally even interbreeding with one another. Millions of years of hybridization is written into the genomes of modern human populations.
Although we know very little about what these paleo-encounters might have been like, progress in science and technology is helping archeologists to find ways to piece together the puzzle of interspecific human relationships that occurred so long ago and that contributed to making us who we are today. In spite of these advances, the fossil record remains very fragmentary, especially concerning the older phases of human evolution.
First consider Homo, or H. habilis, so-named because a significant increase in stone tool-making is recognized following its emergence some 2.8 million years ago in East Africa. The evidence for the beginnings of this transformational event that would set off the spiraling evolutionary history of human technological prowess is relatively sparse. But such ancient (Oldowan) toolkits do become more abundant from this time forward, at first in Africa, and then into the confines of Eurasia by around 1.8 million years ago. Throughout this period, different kinds of hominins adopted and innovated stone tool making, socializing it into normalized behavior by teaching it to their young and transforming it into a cutting-edge survival strategy. We clearly observe the positive repercussions of this major advancement in our evolutionary history from the expanding increases in both the number of archeological sites and their geographical spread. Unevenly through time, occurrences of Oldowan sites throughout the Old World begin to yield more numerous artifacts, attesting to the progressive demographic trends associated with tool-making hominins.
Tool-making was a highly effective adaptive strategy that allowed early Homo species (like H. georgicus and H. antecessor) to define their own niches within multiple environmental contexts, successfully competing for resources with large carnivorous animals. Early humans used stone tools to access the protein-rich meat, viscera, and bone marrow from large herbivore carcasses, nourishing their energy-expensive brains. The latter show significant increases in volume and organizational complexity throughout this time period.But were these early humans also competing with one another? So far (and keeping in mind the scarcity of skeletal remains dating to this period) the paleoanthropological record has not revealed signs of intraspecific violence suffered by Oldowan peoples. Their core-and-flake technologies and simple pounding tools do not include items that could be defined as functional armaments. While a lack of evidence does not constitute proof, we might consider recent estimates in paleodemography, backed by innovative digitized modelization methods and an increasing pool of genetic data that indicates relatively low population densities during the Oldowan.
Isolated groups consisted of few individuals, organized perhaps into clan-like social entities, widely spread over vast, resource-rich territories. These hominins invested in developing technological and social skills, cooperating with one another to adapt to new challenges posed by the changing environmental conditions that characterized the onset of the Quaternary period some 2.5 million years ago. Complex socialization processes evolved to perfect and share the capacity for technological competence, abilities that had important repercussions on the configuration of the brain that would eventually set humanity apart from other kinds of primates. Technology became inexorably linked to cognitive and social advances, fueling a symbiotic process now firmly established between anatomical and technological evolution.
By around one million years ago, Oldowan-producing peoples had been replaced by the technologically more advanced Acheulian hominins, globally attributed to H. erectus sensu lato. This phase of human evolution lasted nearly one and a half million years (globally from 1.75 to around 350,000 years ago) and is marked by highly significant techno-behavioral revolutions whose inception is traced back to Africa. Groundbreaking technologies like fire-making emerged during the Acheulian, as did elaborate stone production methods requiring complex volumetric planning and advanced technical skills. Tools became standardized into specifically designed models, signaling cultural diversity that varied geographically, creating the first land-linked morpho-technological traditions. Ever-greater social investment was required to learn and share the techniques needed to manipulate these technologies, as tools were converted into culture and technical aptitude into innovation.
In spite of marked increases in site frequencies and artifact densities throughout the Middle Pleistocene, incidences of interspecific violence are rarely documented and no large-scale violent events have been recognized so far. Were some Acheulian tools suitable for waging inter-populational conflicts? In the later phases of the Acheulian, pointed stone tools with signs of hafting and even wooden spears appear in some sites. But were these sophisticated tool kits limited to hunting? Or might they also have served for other purposes?
Culture evolves through a process I like to refer to as “technoselection” that in many ways can be likened to biological natural selection. In prehistory, technological systems are characterized by sets of morphotypes that reflect a specific stage of cognitive competence. Within these broad defining categories, however, we can recognize some anomalies or idiosyncratic techno-forms that can be defined as potential latent within a given system. As with natural selection, potential is recognized as structural anomalies that may be selected for under specific circumstances and then developed into new or even revolutionary technologies, converted through inventiveness. Should they prove advantageous to deal with the challenges at hand, these innovative technologies are adopted and developed further, expanding upon the existing foundational know-how and creating increasingly larger sets of material culture. Foundational material culture therefore exists in a state of exponential growth, as each phase is built upon the preceding one in a cumulative process perceived as acceleration.
I have already suggested elsewhere that the advanced degree of cultural complexity attained by the Late Acheulian, together with the capacity to produce fire, empowered hominins to adapt their nomadic lifestyles within more constrained territorial ranges. Thick depositional sequences containing evidence of successive living floors recorded in the caves of Eurasia show that hominins were returning cyclically to the same areas, most likely in pace with seasonal climate change and the migrational pathways of the animals they preyed upon. As a result, humans established strong links with the specific regions within which they roamed. More restrictive ranging caused idiosyncrasies to appear within the material and behavioral cultural repertoires of each group: specific ways of making and doing. As they lived and died in lands that were becoming their own, so too did they construct territorial identities that were in contrast with those of groups living in neighboring areas. As cultural productions multiplied, so did these imagined cultural “differences” sharpen, engendering the distinguishing notions of “us” and “them.”
Even more significant perhaps was the emergence and consolidation of symbolic thought processes visible, for example, in cultural manifestations whose careful manufacture took tool-making into a whole new realm of aesthetic concerns rarely observed in earlier toolkits. By around 400,000 years ago in Eurasia, pre-Neandertals and then Neandertal peoples were conferring special treatment to their dead, sometimes even depositing them with other objects suggestive of nascent spiritual practices. These would eventually develop into highly diverse social practices, like ritual and taboo. Cultural diversity was the keystone for new systems of belief that reinforced imagined differences separating territorially distinct groups.Anatomically modern humans (H. sapiens) appeared on the scene some 300,000 years ago in Africa and spread subsequently into lands already occupied by other culturally and spiritually advanced species of Homo. While maintaining a nomadic existence, these hominins were undergoing transformational demographic trends that resulted in more frequent interpopulation encounters. This factor, combined with the growing array of material and behavioral manifestations of culture (reflected by artifact multiplicity) provided a repository from which hominin groups stood in contrast with one another. At the same time, the mounting importance of symbolic behaviors in regulating hominin lifestyles contributed to reinforcing both real (anatomic) and imagined (cultural) variances. Intergroup encounters favored cultural exchange, inspiring innovation and driving spiraling techno-social complexity. In addition, they provided opportunities for sexual exchanges necessary for broadening gene pool diversity and avoiding inbreeding. At the same time, a higher number of individuals within each group would have prompted social hierarchization as a strategy to ensure the survival of each unit.

While much has been written about what Middle Paleolithic inter-specific paleo-encounters might have been like, in particular between the Neandertals and H. sapiens, solid evidence is lacking to support genocidal hypotheses or popularized images of the former annihilating the latter by way of violent processes. Today, such theories, fed by suppositions typical of the last century of the relative techno-social superiority of our own species, are falling by the wayside. Indeed, advances in archeology now show not only that we were interbreeding with the Neandertals, but also that Neandertal lifeways and cerebral processes were of comparable sophistication to those practiced by the modern humans they encountered. Presently, apart from sparse documentation for individual violent encounters, there is no evidence that large-scale violence caused the extinction of the Neandertals or of other species of Homo thriving coevally with modern humans. That said, it has been observed that the expansion of H. sapiens into previously unoccupied lands, like Australia and the Americas, for example, coincides ominously with the extinction of mega-faunal species. Interestingly, this phenomenon is not observed in regions with a long record of coexistence between humans and mega mammals, like Africa or India. It has been hypothesized that the reason for this is that animals that were unfamiliar with modern humans lacked the instinct to flee and hide from them, making them easy targets for mass hunting.

If large-scale human violence is difficult to identify in the Paleolithic record, it is common in later, proto-historic iconography. Evidence for warlike behavior (accumulations of corpses bearing signs of humanly-induced trauma) appear towards the end of the Pleistocene and after the onset of the Neolithic Period (nearly 12,000 years ago) in different parts of the world, perhaps in relation to new pressures due to climate change. Arguably, sedentary lifestyles and plant and animal domestication—hallmarks of the Neolithic—reset social and cultural norms of hunter-gatherer societies. Additionally, it may be that the amassing and storing of goods caused new inter-relational paradigms to take form, with individuals fulfilling different roles in relation to their capacities to benefit the group to which they belonged. The capacity to elaborate an abstract, symbolic worldview transformed land and resources into property and goods that “belonged” to one or another social unit, in relation to claims on the lands upon which they lived and from which they reaped the benefits. The written documents of the first literate civilizations, relating mainly to the quantification of goods, are revelatory of the effects of this transformational period of intensified production, hoarding and exchange. Differences inherent to the kinds of resources available in environmentally diverse parts of the world solidified unequal access to the kinds of goods invested with “value” by developing civilizations and dictated the nature of the technologies that would be expanded for their exploitation. Trading networks were established and interconnectedness favored improvements in technologies and nascent communication networks, stimulating competition to obtain more, better, faster.

From this vast overview, we can now more clearly see how the emergence of the notion of “others” that arose in the later phases of the Lower Paleolithic was key for kindling the kinds of behavioral tendencies required for preserving the production-consumption mentality borne after the Neolithic and still in effect in today’s overpopulated capitalist world.

Evolution is not a linear process and culture is a multifaceted phenomenon, but it is the degree to which we have advanced technology that sets us apart from all other living beings on the planet. War is not pre-programmed in our species, nor is it a fatality in our modern, globalized existence. Archeology teaches us that it is a behavior grounded in our own manufactured perception of “difference” between peoples living in distinct areas of the world with unequal access to resources. A social unit will adopt warlike behavior as a response to resource scarcity or other kinds of external challenges (for example, territorial encroachment by an ‘alien’ social unit). Finding solutions to eradicating large-scale warfare thus begins with using our technologies to create equality among all peoples, rather than developing harmful weapons of destruction.

From the emergence of early Homo, natural selection and technoselection have developed in synchronicity through time, transforming discrete structural anomalies into evolutionary strategies in unpredictable and interdependent ways. The big difference between these two processes at play in human evolution is that the former is guided by laws of universal equilibrium established over millions of years, while the latter exists in a state of exponential change that is outside of the stabilizing laws of nature.

Human technologies are transitive in the sense that they can be adapted to serve for different purposes in distinct timeframes or by diverse social entities. Many objects can be transformed into weapons. In the modern world plagued by terrorism, for example, simple home-made explosives, airplanes, drones, or vans can be transformed into formidable weapons, while incredibly advanced technologies can be used to increase our capacity to inflict desensitized and dehumanized destruction on levels never before attained.

Meanwhile, our advanced communication venues serve to share selected global events of warfare numbing the public into passive acceptance. While it is difficult to determine the exact point in time when humans selected large-scale warfare as a viable behavioral trait, co-opting their astounding technological prowess as a strategy to compete with each other in response to unprecedented demographic growth, there may yet be time for us to modify this trajectory toward resiliency, cooperation, and exchange.