The Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI) is organizing an international conference on the theme of “The Future of Consumerism and Well-being in a World of Ecological Constraints” on June 12-14, 2013, at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. The conference seeks:
To improve our understanding of the complex driving forces underlying prevalent consumerist lifestyles in the wealthy parts of the globe;
To generate insights about fostering a necessary transition toward alternative ways of pursuing individual and societal well-being in a technological society cognizant of ecological limits;
To build on recent developments to establish a vibrant global research community focused on sustainable consumption.
Proposals are invited for conference sessions, individual papers, and posters based on theoretical and applied research. Especially welcome are interdisciplinary contributions that address consumerism from different perspectives; alternative visions and framings of post-consumerism; and emergent contours of post-consumerist society.
Prospective participants are encouraged to visit http://www.scorai.org for more complete information,including details on the submission of session proposals and paper and poster abstracts. Information is also available on target dates, registration and fees, and accommodations.
The deadline for the submission of session proposals/paper and poster abstracts is October 1, 2012.
Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.
Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.
The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:
– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)
Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21
Among the bevy of shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe about Hitler, adolescence, Macbeth and stage spiritualists, there is a remarkable number of dance and physical theatre pieces with ecological themes. Consumerism and happiness, oil and politics, the Japanese earthquake, undercover policing, urban architecture and fear of the woods are among the ideas and sensibilities these shows are expressing.
Theatre shows number highly this year, too, with around 70 that have ecological themes varying from the strongly activist to the bucolic. Shows about animals, food and an apocalypse always feature. This year, there are three shows walking to Edinburgh; shows about abattoirs, about the Deepwater oil spill and the Fukushima nuclear leak; and shows about a swamp, plastics, population and the price of milk.
“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)
ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.
Gideon Kossoff, in the event last Monday evening at UWS, was attempting to articulate a theoretical framework for transition design, design approaches intended to move towards resilient communities that can address peak oil and environmental, social, existential crisis. This is an important area for theoretical development as well as practical activity. I’m offering these observations from memory, so apologies for any mistakes or misunderstandings.
This project is understood to be undertaken in the context of current design theory, in particular ‘wicked problems’ and ‘user-centred design’. I have reservations about the current assumption that design, in whatever configuration, can solve all the world’s problems. It seems to me that we might offer an alternative argument along the lines that education could solve all the world’s problems. Ascribing solutions to any single discipline or practice is inherently problematic in itself. Graham Jeffrey has argued that any articulation of ‘design’ needs to have a parallel and complementary articulation around ‘performance’. This construction is likely to be more fruitful.
Kossoff framed the complex challenges that are interacting with each other, challenges that we are all familiar with – climate change, food security, existential crisis, pollution, peak oil, etc. At root he argued that, whilst the externalisation of environmental impacts may be one problem, another is the way in which our needs are met externally or within our homes, communities or regions. At the core of his argument is a critique of neo-liberal consumerism.
He set the stage for the idea of sustainability and resilience in terms of basic needs, but he defined these more broadly than work, housing and shopping. His definition included spiritual, creative, security, communality, etc.
Core to Kossoff’s theoretical framework is a developed understanding of holism which he unpacked in detail. Holism is nested and exists at the domestic, community, regional and city level, and there are historical examples of these, but holism at the global level remains something to be understood. He did differentiate between holism encompassing diversity and holism as uniformity (Nazism).
His idea of holism becomes operative when related to holistic therapies: he hinted at, but didn’t explore the role of intervention in holistic therapies – a subject that perhaps Aviva Rahmani is currently exploring in her work on Trigger Point Theory from an ecological perspective.
But the constant juxtaposition with modern and pre-modern, pre-industrial cultures, developing the contrast between mass production of bread with local production of bread, romanticised the pre-modern in ways that we know are deeply problematic.
Gavin Renwick’s work with the Dogrib in the Canadian North West Territories, in which he highlights the Elder’s rubric “strong like two people” is significantly richer and more provocative. The Elders are acknowledging the necessity of young people operating in the western culture, whilst also valuing and understanding traditional culture. This is a richer and more productive construction which does not romanticise the pre-modern, but rather values it for what if offers to life now. Renwick also highlights a correlated idea which is “being modern in your own language”, an idea which is strong in Scottish writing of the 20th Century including the likes of MacDiarmid and others.
Kossoff’s articulation lacked a strong practical articulation of ways that the ethical can be woven into the fabric of life – I’ve elsewhere talked about Eigg’s move to renewable energy and the importance of the ‘cut-outs’ built into the system ensuring that no one person can be greedy at the expense of others.
Finally in the discussion the issue of technology was raised. Our extensive dependence on digital devices is a problem for Kossoff’s construction of the ‘good life’. If holism is about the satisfaction of needs within nested structures, what is the role of the internet, mass communications, social networking, etc? I’m not sure I have an answer, but I was very struck by the argument made by James Wallbank of Access Space in Sheffield. He said that their organisation will offer anyone a free computer, but they have to come and learn to build it themselves. Buying a computer off the shelf is buying ignorance. Like the example of social justice embedded in the renewable energy system on Eigg, the example of Access Space is one which addresses resilience whilst also embedding learning and empowerment in the satisfaction of everyday needs.
I’d really like to revisit the conclusions that Kossoff offered as well at some point.
ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
‘Junkitecture’ is a clever term, combining design and ‘waste’. But what if the materials used for buildings, for sets, for props, for puppets, for the vehicles and floats of parades, were thought of simply as ‘materials’? Of course, they would have a special value or feel if they had been used for something else. But to call them ‘junk’ is to share the attitude that separates the ‘new’ from what we think of as ‘waste’. What is happening with the use of materials in the arts that have a history can often be more of a valorisation of consumerism and excess, a celebration of trash as ‘trash’ or salvage, than a critique of waste or an affirmation of recycling.
What if no special claims could be made for using reclaimed or recycled materials because it was commonplace? Then, what would be remarked on would be the design, the space or object itself, and the qualities that the materials brought to it.
The Jellyfish Theatre building was enchanting for its design and for its transiency, a theatre space in a symbolic shape, assembled from what was to hand, played in, and then dispersed, the theatre becoming again the material that it was, maybe to be used again, having acquired another layer of history.
The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA) has awarded the first CSPA Fringe Award for Sustainable Production at the Edinburgh Fringe to The Pantry Shelf, a comedy produced by Team M & M at the Sweet Grassmarket venue. The award, which debuted earlier this year at the inaugural Hollywood Fringe Festival , was designed to reward sustainable practice in the production of a fringe performance, in addition to content that encourages audiences to incorporate sustainable changes into their own lives
The Pantry Shelf is a satirical comedy that takes place in any ordinary pantry shelf. Characters are food items most of us have readily available. The story follows the addition of a revolutionary new snack to the shelf: Queenie, a quinoa, date and bark bar. Queenie discovers that her healthy branding doesn’t accurately represent what’s actually inside. The comedy explores branding, consumerism and the corporate control of our diets. It’s also a “love story between a quinoa bar, a bag of Scottish porridge and a sexy block of dark chocolate,” about staying true to yourself.
“We chose The Pantry Shelf as the award winner based on its comprehensiveness,” comments Ian Garrett, Executive Director of the CSPA. “The show raised valid questions that are relevant to everyone’s daily lives, without being heavy handed. Team M&M took great care to ensure the production was produced as environmentally sustainable as possible, and the content of the play was both entertaining and informative.”
The CSPA Directors, Ian Garrett and Miranda Wright adjudicated the award, along with select CSPA affiliates. The recipient was chosen based on their submission of a questionnaire about how the show was produced along with audience response. For the Edinburgh Fringe, Mhora Samuel and Tim Atkinson from The Theatres Trust’s European Regional Development Fund-backed Ecovenue project have helped the CSPA adapt the criteria for a UK audience, providing guidance on UK equivalents to US name brands, as well as providing insight on measuring conventions and policy. The award simply would not have been complete with out their assistance.
“The CSPA is not just another ‘go green’ organization,” says Wright. “We hope to gather and distribute information that aids in the sustainability of the earth, the sustainability of our communities, and the sustainability of our art. And so, the purpose of this award is not to recognize the greenest production. Our objective in offering this award is to ask questions of ourselves, as theater artists, about the greater impact of our work on the world around us. The winner of this year’s award not only limited material waste in production, but asked audience members to consider sustainability in their lives.”
In addition to offering an award for Fringe performances, the CSPA also presented a panel on sustainability in theater at Fringe Central in Edinburgh on Monday Morning, August the 16th. Panelists included Garrett and Wright, Sam Goldblatt (author of Greener Meetings and Events), Dr. Wallace Heim of the Ashden Directory, Mhora Samuel of theTheatres Trust, and Bryan Raven of White Light. A full video of the session can be found on the CSPA website and at http://cspa.blip.tv.
Wright continues: “We’ve been working since we started the CSPA on how to provide resources and guidelines for sustainable production to the theatrical community. Both Ian and myself come from theatrical backgrounds and it is important to us. The fringe festival model provides an ideal platform to introduce these ideas and the award due to the expectations and scale of the shows. It is easier to start the conversation at a fringe level of production than Broadway. By involving ourselves with the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest and oldest fringe in the world, we are looking to create the greatest visibility and excitement around the introduction of ideas of sustainability to the largest number of theater artists at home and away.”
“Even more so than we want someone to score perfectly on the questionnaire we use to evaluate shows, we want theater artists to look at the questions and think about how it helps to guide their thinking about sustainability in the their art. There may be questions asked in ways they hadn’t thought, and we hope they ask these questions of their next project and the project after that,” adds Garrett.
Ian Garrett and Miranda Wright founded the CSPA in early 2008 after individually working on each of the programs that now make up the multi-faceted approach to sustainability separately. The organization provides a network of resources to arts organizations, which enables them to be ecologically and economically sustainable while maintaining artistic excellence. Past and Present partnerships have included the University of Oregon, Ashden Directory, Arcola Theater, Diverseworks Artspace, Indy Convergence, York University, LA Stage Alliance and others. www.sustainablepractice.org