Coalition for Climate

The climate change in Poland is a fact which is reported by not only highly engaged ecologists but also private and mainstream media. State’s media swim in self-satisfaction as a result of the schizophrenic image they created of a country concerned with environmental protection. While at the same time, the same country worships the national heritage – the coal. In this difficult moment, we depend greatly on the honesty of media reports to gain an accelerated lesson of social responsibility for the fate of Earth. It depends both on the political policy-makers and all of us.

The official discussion at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice (2-14/12) was accompanied by activists events, which aimed at distorting the mind peace of the politicians and business people. The activists wanted to draw attention to a relatively small number of topics related to environmental protection in worldwide politics and the necessity to transform the capitalist-consumption logic.

The biggest event in terms of media coverage during the Climate Change summit was the March for Climate on the 8th of December 2018. During that march, the organisers wanted to show the most important coalition, uniting people, associations and organisations around the world. Everything was supposed to be done above the national, class and ideological divisions. 3000 people walked under the banner, alongside them there were the organisers: Ewa Sufin-Jacquemart (The Green Zone Foundation), Wojciech Szymalski (The Institute for Eco-development), Maciej Smykowski (Sandy Dragon Foundation), Igor Skórzybut and Joanna Górska (Shard Green Association), Paulina Lota (Kuźnia Kampanierów Foundation), Rafał Górski (The Insitute of Citizens’ Cases INSPRO) as well as Radosław Gawlik (EKO-UNIA Ecological Association), and there were also representatives of such organisations as the anti-capitalist formation, anti-globalists, socialists, ecologists, including Greenpeace Polska, Climate Camo, Employee Democracy, German Ende Gelände, act!onaid and North American Frontline.

Although it is very difficult to imagine a more peaceful manifestation for good cause, it was that march that was stopped by the police. When we take into account blocking it and the fact that ecologists from Belgium were not allowed into Poland, it is rather possible that it was a planned prevention-censorship government action, who saw in the environment defenders the eco-terrorists. As a result of silencing the criticism, nature was excluded from the democratic debate, and the order of the official COP24 representation was disturbed.

The most beautiful catastrophe

The ecologists stress that we have around 20 years to stop the climate catastrophe. We already started experiencing its effects and we will feel it more and more unless we change the system based on the exploitation of people and natural resources. As Herald Welzer noticed the natural resources shall be the reason for wars in the 21st century. The growing number of people, who are troubled with the fate of Earth, seem to be divided into two dramatically different reactions. To simplify a bit: on one hand, we have activists’ actions amongst which there are many voices of an apocalyptic tone, on the other hand, the pressure of time creates space for the painful contemplation of catastrophe’s vision.

photo: Zofia nierodzińska, March for Climate

Activism vs Negotiation: Strategies for the Environmental Movement as a part of the exhibition: The Most Beautiful Catastrophe | Participants: Nils Aggers (Extinction Rebellion, UK), Monika Sadkowska (Obóz dla Klimatu, PL), Mikuláš Černík (Limity Jsme, CZ), Marta Senk (PL), Jakub Gawkowski | 7.12.2018 | CSW Kronika, Bytom | photo: Dominik Skiendziel

The second attitude seems to preside amongst the artists, documentary filmmakers, and people whose basic medium or a starting point for action is a representation. In their eyes, catastrophe often achieves an aesthetic dimension, and the images showing devastated Earth, the work of machines drilling the oceans, or extinction of new animal species sometimes tend to fall on a border of fetishism with an apocalypse.

Both models concern our approach to an imagination of shrank time, which we are left with to act. They are realised in the society of global communication, which – in spite, a turn to the material and sensual – still possesses a visual dominant, linked with the subliming, enlightenment-modern order of mind. Although we try to change it, we still live in a culture in which technology gives us limited possibilities of expressing such emotions as anger, pleasure, sorrow, melancholy or the need to mobilise. This is the source of our anger, which is mediated most of all in a form of an image and word. Even in the face of danger, it may create a distance, lead to suppression. It may paralyse the opportunity for real action.

Both the concern of the activists, which is expressed by the surplus of defeatist information about the fate of the planet, as well as the formal-masturbation model of its processing by the artists tend to situate the people interested in the eco-message in a dead point. The effect of traumatic ‘overstimulation’ with information as well as the contemplation which contains true opposition against the progressive ideals (such as the tempo, growth, acceleration, etc.) leads to the dangerously introverted, indifferent and inertia-like attitudes. On the other hand, the already mentioned attitudes may be seen as some stage in the hatching of the new models of temporality, in which passivity and slowing down denote a conscious refusal to participate in a society of compulsive overproduction.

The eco-sexual turn in ecological movements

The coming change situates the reflection over the pornographication of catastrophe in the gender perspective. The context requires mentioning here the dualisms of Western culture and the traditional structure of representation. Within that, a woman is very often a passive object of aesthetic contemplation. It is there that Earth was identified as Mother Earth – the feeder and giver of natural resources. That logic fed the contemporary images of catastrophe: striptease of the excavations showed in long shots borrowed from the ‘Death in Venice’ by Visconti, a curious peeping of the destruction of Earth, which in the eyes of artists turned out to be suspiciously clean and conventionalised. Or the acts of formalising the industrial landscapes so that they bring to mind modernist images. The acts of highlighting the aesthetic uniqueness masks the more instinctive interest in sludge, dirt and actual suffering, which was traditionally associated with women. The real disappears in the heroic ‘male’ images of the apocalypse from the Anthropocene period.

Annie Sprinkle i Elizabeth Stephens, 'Wedding to the Coal', courtesy of the artists

Eco-sexualism is one of the proposals for the change of participation in the movement for environmental protection. It proposes a change in the paradigm. It is all about a resignation from a pleasure taken in nature enjoyed within an exclusive human group. Instead, it suggests opening up for experiences including such aspects as matter, oxygen and water, etc. Earth becomes in the eco-sexual order a role of a lover, not mother. To court your lover, you need care so that she/he does not leave. Mother, especially in a patriarchal culture, is expected to care.

The representatives of eco-sexual movement in the Western art are Anne Sprinkle and Beth Stephens – they are partners in private and creative life. One of them is a sex-educator, and the other is an academic. They celebrate their love to Earth and each other with huge weddings during which they get married with the Appalachia Mountains, rocks, snow, coal, moon or Kallavesi lake. They promise fidelity, to love, to care and not to part until death. The wedding performances of Sprinkle and Stephens have deep, ecological meaning. The basic artistic strategy of Stephens and Sprinkle remains the erotic anthropomorphisation, which draws our attention to the fact that people are an inseparable part of nature. Our species survival depends on its well-being.

The beginnings of eco-sexualism probably go back to the ecofeminism initiated half a century ago during the wave of cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. It is a movement, which perceives links between a female body and nature, which, in the patriarchal paradigm is subjected to similar dynamics of domination and exploration. The force of that movement, underrepresented in the academic discourse, is its non-western orientation, which steps outside the Cartesian dualisms and latter mechanistic (subjecting) approach to nature. As an inspiration for ecofeminism, we may bring here the divers Ama (which in Japanese means ‘the water women’). They preach synaesthetic and integrating approach to that element ( ‘Under the surface, I hear water flowing through my body, I hear the rays of sun penetrating the water…’). A significant reference can be found in Chipko movement (‘to embrace’ in Hindi), or the peaceful protests of the India women in defence of trees sentenced to being cut down, but also the Kenyan The Green Belt Movement represented by the Nobel prize winner: Wangari Maathai. Ecofeminism in the West was promoted by mass anti-capitalism ecological demonstrations in 1980 in Washington and in 1981 in Greenham Common Missile in Great Britain.

In Poland, we may notice the manifestations of ecological sensitivity in the works of Teresa Murak, who with her germinations of watercress, ‘sculpture for earth’ and ecological performances, has been connecting since the 1970s the seemingly distant areas of culture and nature. Anna Nacher is interested in the theory of ecofeminism and ecological sound space. Nacher is a lecturer and she writes for “Wild Life’.

Teresa Murak, Sculpture for the Earth

In her music project ‘The Magical Carpathians’, which she carries out with her husband Marek Styczyński, Nacher explores the real-time music. They use soundscapes. In the 1990s, Nacher organised the informal meetings discussing ecofeminism. Ewa Charkiewicz, a Polish economist, feminist and a member of the Green Party, above her academic work, she also engages in social movements, for example, The Ecological-Peace Movement ‘I Prefer to Be’, which was active between 1984 and 1993, it used happening, public interventions and protest.

Certainly, putting the equality sign between a woman and nature has its limits. We often do not take into account other exclusions, for example, economic or social, related to race or sexual orientation. Still, the traditional eco-sexualism allows to up-value the feminised social roles and activities such as caring, collecting, gardening or parenting. As a result, the definition of feminism is updated to encompass the practices directed at the natural environment.

The contemporary eco-sexual movement more and more turns towards the queer theory forcing the change in the Earth’s metaphors so that we notice more gender-neutral figures such as ‘lover’. While at the same time, it does not forget about the social sphere. By adding the sexual aspect to ecological movement, which so far has been based on activists’ and theorists’ engagement, eco-sexualism makes complicated holistic postulates more accessible. Through active participation in eco-rituals, as the above-mentioned wedding performances, the receivers become the co-creators of the events, which puts on them a certain amount of responsibility, but also a possibility of co-deciding about the process of the intervention.

The active participation in joint events with ecological meaning gives the basis for functioning in a radically democratic society in which everyone realises the actual influence on the environment in which we live. Our future today is the popularisation of such thinking and acting in the post-humanistic dimension, which includes in the process of re-evaluating our approach to nature and its non-human elements and using the modern technologies to reverse the damages in nature.

Zofia nierodzińska i Ewelina Jarosz

from the archive of the movement: I Prefer to Be, courtesy of Ewa Charkiewicz

from the archive of the movement: I Prepare to Be, courtesy of Ewa Charkiewicz

from the archive of the movement: I Prepare to Be, courtesy of Ewa Charkiewicz


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