Burning Futures: On Ecologies of Existence

is a lecture and discussion series by HAU Hebbel am Ufer,

curated and moderated by Margarita Tsomou and Maximilian Haas

Podcasts are available from Podigee, Spotify, Apple

#Too little, too late

A look at the state of our planet gives every reason to worry – and to think. The speed and extent of the environmental disasters looming over us with climate change, species extinction, extreme weather events, pollution and overuse of land, air and water, etc. are unprecedented and as real as they are incomprehensible. The slow violence of these transformations has accelerated to a staccato of events. The series of lectures and discussions at HAU Hebbel am Ufer, "Burning Futures: On Ecologies of Existence", initiated by Magarita Tsomou (HAU) and curated by Maximilian Haas, looks at the escalating and indeed apocalyptic discourses of the coming catastrophes against the background of ever-growing ecological crises and debates ways and aims of political action. While we can still discuss these issues in a relatively safe and sound environment, in the global South and elsewhere the ecologies of human existence are already being destroyed by rising sea levels, hurricanes, floods, droughts and fires. Yet it is primarily the way of life and production of the industrialized West, based on the destructive exploitation of resources, human and other, that has led to this situation, from which it is still quite well shielded today. The ecological question is therefore closely linked to economies of extractivism, racial capitalism, patriarchal oppression and colonial exploitation, and thus cannot do without critically addressing them. For these reasons, this discussion series is not intended to be an expert debate on ‘nature’, but to take an intersectional perspective on ecological issues and make economic and cultural contexts explicit.

#1 Facing Extinction

with Franco Berardi Bifo, Marcela Vecchione and Antonia Majaca

The environmental disasters that we are currently facing have already had fatal consequences for many individuals, groups and species. And they deepen the inequalities along race, class and gender lines. The least responsible suffer the most. How do we deal with the fact that we are too late to reverse them? What would it mean to think from the end and deal responsibly with the coming disasters? And what exactly is ending: the world, humanity, biodiversity or faith in the Western way of life? Theorist Franco Berardi Marcela Vecchione, professor at the Institute for Advanced Amazonian Studies, and feminist theorist Antonia Majaca discuss these ecopolitical questions with respect to anitcapitalist, decolonial and feminist struggles.

#2 Fossil Economies, Degrowth Ecologies

with Andreas Malm, Andrea Vetter and Tadzio Müller

The second edition of the podcast series documents a live discussion at the HAU theatre, which focusses around the questions: Why are we so dependent on fossil fuels? What role do they play in our growth-centred economies? Can there be green, environmentally sustainable growth? And finally: Is it too late to initiate a transformation to prevent a climate catastrophe? Andreas Malm (“Fossil Capital”, “The Progress of This Storm. Nature and Society in a Warming World”), Andrea Vetter (“Degrowth/Postwachstum. An Introduction”) and Tadzio Müller (political scientist, climate justice activist) discuss the relation between fossil capital, economical growth and degrowth ecologies.

#3 Big Farms Make Big Flu, The Political Ecology of Epidemics

with Rob Wallace

In search of explanations for the spread of the coronavirus, the discussion is increasingly turning to the relationship between industrial agriculture and livestock farming, ecological degradation, and viral epidemiology. In “Big Farms Make Big Flu”, Rob Wallace, evolutionary biologist and writer, investigates how endless human intervention in nature causes the spread of deadly infectious diseases. In his lecture for “Burning Futures”, he will combine his arguments on the political ecology of epidemics with the theoretical and practical consequences of Covid-19.

#4 Coexistence, Planetarity and Uncertainty

with Patricia Reed

The situation of our present can be seen as an historic consequence of emphasizing “existence” over “coexistence” – a picturing of the human motivated only by securing its own existential material wants. In her lecture, artist, designer and writer Patricia Reed examines the term “planetarity” (coming from Earth System sciences) as a demand for a perspectival shift to coexistence, in order to be able to access different scales of reality – including more-than-human interdependencies. How does “planetarity” recondition our understanding of the “local”, how do picturings of the human change when upheld relationally, and how are linkages to be built between scientific knowledge and socio-political responsibilities?

#5 Beyond The End Of The World?

with T.J. Demos and The Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun)

Art theorist T.J. Demos, author of “Against the Anthropocene” and “Decolonizing Nature”, engages in this podcast edition of “Burning Futures” in a discussion with the artist collective The Otolith Group, founded by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun. Taking their recent film “INFINITY Minus Infinity” - that we show at HAU 3000 - as point of departure, the discussion touches on genocide and ecocide at the origins of what is now called the Anthropocene, the biopolitics of citizenship and deportation, and the loss around which the Black Lives Matter movement assembles, as well as on art as a means to imagine eco-fictional and afrofuturist futures that go beyond the end of the world. Until 28 July, you can watch the film “INFINITY Minus Infinity” here: https://www.hebbel-am-ufer.de/en/podcast-burning-futures-5/

#6 What makes people sick? Racial capitalism and the politics of suffocation

with Françoise Vergès and Edna Bonhomme

The current environmental crises are rooted in racial capitalist exploitation of both humans and nature. The basic elements of life such as water and fire are violently turned into ‘cheap’ commodities and weaponised against unprivileged communities. “I can’t breathe” , echoed by Black communities around the planet, speaks to a politics of suffocation that works both through social oppression and environmental devastation. Activist and theorist Françoise Vergès engages in a discussion with writer and science historian Edna Bonhomme around the feminist and decolonial aspects of the question of what makes people sick, the racially differentiated exposition to environmental risks, the relation between cleaning and care, and the revolutionary potential of dreaming.

#7 Becoming Land

with Angela Melitopoulos and Barbara Glowczewski

In her work, artist Angela Melitopoulos questions the ways we observe and perceive landscapes. Unlike the colonial legacy of anthropology and the positivism of natural sciences, she advocates an understanding of the earth's surface as a 'speaking landscape', an agent of a statement. In this podcast issue of “Burning Futures: On Ecologies of Existence”, Melitopoulos and anthropologist Barbara Glowczewski look into the method of affective cartography as well as resistant cultures of the perception of land – including those of the indigenous cosmologies central to Glowczewski's activist and scholarly work for the past 40 years. In the face of ecosystem destruction through extractivism and climate change, they ask how to accept and appreciate heterogeneity and the revitalisation of existential territories.

#8 The Micropolitical Combat

with Suely Rolnik

Consciousness of the fact that we are part of an ecosystem does not guarantee that this condition will guide our actions. Our access to this condition tends to be blocked in the dominant mode of subjectivation under the colonial-racializing-capitalist unconscious regime, which allows life to be turned away from its ethical destiny in our own actions, to be placed instead at the service of capital accumulation, economic as well as political and narcissistic. Resistance to this depends on a subtle labor to dismantle the colonial-racialising-capitalistic unconscious regime that conducts our subjectivities, a labor that leads to transforming ourselves, which implies the whole weave of our relationships, not only with humans. In this process, the borders between art, therapeutics and politics become permeable. Suely Rolnik is a Brazilian psychoanalyst, writer, sometimes curator.

#9 Future Ecologies: Compounds, Breakdown, Reparation

with Maria Puig de la Bellacasa and Dimitris Papadopoulos

Burning Futures enters into conversation with Maria Puig de la Bellacasa and Dimitris Papadopoulos, two people who have focused their research and work on ecological philosophy and transformative practice between natural history and techno science for years. In her much read book “Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds”, Bellacasa examines the feminist tradition of care work in planetary dimensions while Papadopoulos brings together new green chemical innovations with the formation of social movements in “more-than-human-worlds”. In the podcast, they discuss the tension between ecological collapse and the reparability of the world with Maximilian Haas and Margarita Tsomou.

#10 Regenerieren statt Erschöpfen

mit Maja Gpel & Eva von Redecker

Burning Futures bringt die Politökonomin, Expertin für Nachhaltigkeitspolitik und Transformationsforschung und Mitbegründerin von Scientists for Future Maja Göpel und die Revolutionsphilosophin und Feministin Eva von Redecker ins Gespräch. Beide haben in jüngster Zeit ihre Stimmen prominent für tiefgreifende Veränderungsprozesse im Kontext von Kapitalismus, Wachstumslogik, Nachhaltigkeit und Autoritarismus erhoben. Neben ihrer beider Kritik an der Verteilung und Funktion von Eigentum entwickeln sie Visionen von Zukünften – ob durch politisch-ökonomische Transformation bei Göpel oder durch die Kraft einer “Gemeinschaft der Teilenden” der jüngsten Protestbewegungen bei von Redecker. Sie diskutieren über ihre gemeinsamen, aber auch differierenden Vorstellungen für einen notwendigen Wandel, der im Regenerieren statt im Erschöpfen von Ressourcen, Naturkulturen und Menschen begründet sein muss.

#11 Climate Crisis, Planetary Justice and the Problem of the Capitalocene

with Jason Moore

With the concept of the Capitalocene, Jason Moore formulates a revolutionary thesis against the discourses of the Anthropocene: it is not humans per se that are responsible for environmental destruction and global warming but rather the capitalist mode of production – that only some humans profit from. Ever since Columbus's invasion of the Americas, global extractive capitalism has been turning the planet as a resource into ‘cheap nature’ and into a global waste dump. The Capitalocene is, according to Moore, a world ecology of power, production and reproduction, carried out through the exploitation of the ‘web of life’. But this logic is reaching its natural limits. The Capitalocene – including class rule, colonialism, patriarchy and fossil-fuelled production – will not survive climate change. Can we therefore hope for a moment of epochal political possibility, for a new ‘planetary justice’?