During the 8th International Degrowth Conference in August 2021, we held an interactive workshop with Despite Extractivism exhibition contributors and conference attendees. Together we explored how growth and extractivism are conceptually and materially related, and how degrowth and alternatives to extractivism might already exist in the extractive contexts we are each familiar with.
With members of the Extracting Us Collective having also been involved in the organising of the Degrowth Conference themed around ‘’Caring Communities for Radical Change’, the ideas behind the Despite Extractivism exhibition were in many ways inspired by the conceptual merging of these projects. In the online Extracting Us exhibition, several artists portrayed instances of care, community, creativity and/or radical alternatives which existed on the frontlines of extractivism, sometimes as acts of resistance and sometimes as more everyday forms of defiance or non-acceptance. In this way, perhaps those resisting extractivism are also already offering examples of what degrowth looks like.
In the workshop, and in the new exhibition, we further unpack this phenomenon of care, community and alternatives which persist or come to exist despite extractivism. In the exhibition, we will collectively explore how extractive frontlines can be the context in which everyday forms of care, solidarity, and connectivity with human and other-than-human communities can persist or flourish. This can include, for example, traditional and indigenous the ways of being in the world that persist despite extractivism, new communities of resistance, and creative responses to extractive contexts which foster care and solidarity.
The main activity in the workshop was a counter-mapping exercise, where participants were invited to draw, write or collage on a shared interactive world map. By using the map in this way, the idea was to subvert what is typically a tool of abstraction, used to make natural resources knowable and available for extraction whilst obscuring other kinds of connections to and ways of seeing the landscape. Workshop participants were given the following prompt:
Think of an extractive context you are familiar with, either from your own experience or that you have heard about.
Despite extractivism, what kinds of ways of caring for the environment and for the community persist?
Perhaps these are traditional practises, or perhaps they are new initiatives and alternatives which have started because of the confrontation with extractivism?
Perhaps care is shown through ‘activism’, or perhaps there are more everyday ways of resisting?
Perhaps care comes from beyond the immediate extractive context, as expressions of solidarity?
Perhaps care is practised through creativity?
Perhaps you have a creative practice which you consider in itself to be an act of care?
Let’s fill the world map with these expressions of care and alternatives to extractivism.
Together we explored the map we had created and discussed the questions that this raised for us. You can explore these on the board: