It can often be hard to imagine what ‘the alternative’ to extractivism might be given how pervasive it is in the political economy and material culture. But rather than beginning by trying to imagine a completely different global economy, perhaps we can start by recognising that there are already many different alternatives to extractivist mindsets and practises. These are often at the local community level, for example those indigenous or traditional communities which have more reciprocal and caring relationships with the natural world, or those communities which are experimenting with or pre-figuring different ways of organising community life and economies.
Many ideas and case studies have already been shared by those working around regional ideas and movements, such as Sumak Kawsay (or Buen Vivir) in Latin America, Degrowth in Europe, Ecological Swaraj in India. These projects correspond to the Zapatista idea of the pluriverse as “a world where many worlds fit”, and recognise that one all-encompassing way of seeing the world cannot be replaced with another; rather than mono-cultures there should be ecological and cultural diversity and resilience.
When thinking about alternatives it is important to remain wary of ‘false solutions’. Some ideas may seem on the surface to offer a better outcome, but there can be unintended consequences or there may still be the same extractivist mindset at the core. For example, even if natural resources are required for ‘green’ technologies like rechargeable batteries or the construction of renewable energy infrastructures, if the extraction of those resources violently disrupts community or ecological life whilst industries reap economic rewards then extractivism is still being replicated.
This is because the extractive industry is underpinned by extractive logics, or the extractive mindset. This is a dominant or hegemonic way of thinking about the world in many cultures but, as this exhibition explores, despite the pervasiveness and violence of extractivism, there are many alternatives which persist and which resist such logics. Art is an important way of communicating experiences of the things which are other-than-extractivism which, contrasted to extractivism, show why alternatives are needed and outline how these have already taken shape.
Voskoboynik, Daniel Macmillen, and Diego Andreucci. “Greening extractivism: Environmental discourses and resource governance in the ‘Lithium Triangle’.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space (2021): 25148486211006345.
Institutional actors reproduce imaginaries of prosperity and modernisation long attached to oil and mineral wealth, while at the same time introducing a novel association of mining with high-tech industries, ‘green jobs’ and ‘climate-friendly’ extraction, seeking to obscure the social and ecological costs of lithium production. This inaugurates an era of ‘green extractivism’, whereby intensive resource exploitation is framed not only as compatible with climate change, but indeed as necessary to its mitigation.
Dunlap, Alexander. “The ‘solution’is now the ‘problem:’wind energy, colonisation and the ‘genocide-ecocide nexus’ in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.” The International Journal of Human Rights 22, no. 4 (2018): 550-573.
Resistance is Fertile Podcast – https://open.spotify.com/show/3WqU2dZwBaMpEzgAFacuy9
This podcast series by exhibition co-curator Alice Owen explores the places where protests against polluting projects have become living experiments in different ways of organising community life and relating to nature. The places where something worth fighting for is put directly in the path of something worth fighting against. The places where new worlds are being created in the shell of the old. We’ll meet the people who have decided to live in the communities which have grown from protest movements against destructive projects, and explore their alternative ways of living.
Kothari, Ashish, Federico Demaria, and Alberto Acosta. “Buen Vivir, degrowth and ecological Swaraj: Alternatives to sustainable development and the green economy.” Development 57, no. 3 (2014): 362-375.
Kothari, Ashish, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, and Alberto Acosta. “pluriverse.” A Post-Development Dictionary. New Dehli: Tulika Books (2019).
Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary contains over 100 essays on transformative initiatives and alternatives to the currently dominant processes of globalized development, including its structural roots in modernity, capitalism, state domination, and masculinist values. It offers critical essays on mainstream solutions that ‘greenwash’ development, and presents radically different worldviews and practices from around the world that point to an ecologically wise and socially just world.