Important question and answers on the campaign
This document contextualises our efforts as an attempt to ensure an as healthy, honest and materially constructive engagement as possible, just as with any physical space we would hold together. Given the collaborative, adaptable and ever changing context our work, this is a living document.
- What do you mean with colonialism - isn't this a thing of the past?
- Accountability, what does it mean for you?
- Why this campaign name?
- What do you think is "Nature" ?
- Why are you doing this, wouldn't it be better to simply support BiPoC instead?
- The texts on the website are pretty complex and not so easy accessible for people without an academic background. What is your position on accessibility/classism/ableism?
- What's your Decolonization processes in the communities?
- How does this campaign connect to the demands/principles of XR?
What do you mean with colonialism - isn't this a thing of the past?
Yes, and no.
Yes: In this campaign we mainly address European colonialism and the ways it took shape since roughly the 16th century. Setting such a starting point is not unproblematic since it provides only a limited framework of understanding. Some have highlighted, for example, that early European pilgrimages and crusades already constitute an act of colonialism.
On the one hand, colonialism can be understood as an overarching system which conditions our thinking and practice, although to different extents. This understanding is reflected in totalizing statements which emphasize hegemony or systems thinking.
On the other hand, colonialism is and has always been contested. Not recognizing this resistance instills colonialism as even more powerful, since it renders lots of multi-front anti-colonial struggles invisible.
No: Until today, we are conditioned by the colonial frameworks which emerged over the last hundreds of years. This is reflected in Western/Eurocentric stories, for example, to assume nation-states are the most "advanced" and favourable way of organizing as societies. This legacy lives on and is linked to popular myths surrounding an alleged "social contract" to deal with the "tragedy of the commons" or the legitimation of capitalist economies to counter the dystopic fiction of truck-and-barter.
In this campaign, we try to challenge and dismantle one such myth, namely that of an anthropocentric divison of "nature" and "humans". Majority societies in Europe have to address the ways we are conditioned via colonial frameworks as intimate and communal issues. Otherwise, our "well-meaning" intentions will continue to reproduce colonialism, such as already seen in renewable energy industries, conservation, or efforts to protect biodiversity.
Accountability, what does it mean for you?
We who are part of this campaign recognize our privilege in learning about colonialism and doing mistakes as we strive to do anti-colonial work. Being transparent with this process is important for us, because it allows people to understand our motivations and the relationships we nurture through our work. We see this campaign as a way of holding us and the communities around us accountable concerning the ways we reproduce colonialism, including the possibility to provide feedback and the commitment form our side to adequately address this feedback. Accountability means for us also that we strive to create interventions which are meaningful for the BIPoC communities we are working with.
As people from colonial societies we are critially aware of the mistakes we do when engaging in decolonization processes. We, therefore, also want to use this text to highlight some of the mistakes we made and the ways we tried to own up to them by changing our campaign accordingly. For example:
Damage Centred - While there are plenty of amazing BIPoC led initiatives that practice decolonial ways of nurturing reciprocal relationships with lands, waters, flora and fauna, our campaign's initial focus on destruction and problems was reproducing a victimizing image. This is problematic on many levels, for example, because it shows a one-sided image of BIPoC communities which denies agency and provokes a "white-saviour" mentality. Accordingly, we decided to re-write our entire text and create an additional video, the first video as a recognition of how climate and environmental movements lead by colonial societies create dystopias, and 2., to highlight the resistance and new relations that BIPoC create.
To learn more about "white saviourism" we highly recommend the No White Saviors podcast, an advocacy campaign lead by a majority female, majority African team of professionals based in Kampala, Uganda: https://nowhitesaviors.org/
Why this campaign name?
The campaign name was subject of debate among us. The working title was "Decolonize Nature" for a while, but an important feedback made us aware of the possible dangers of appropriating the term "decolonization" without following decolonial practices at the same time.
The members of this group identify predominately as white and are (in varying degrees) relatively new to the process or "the work" surrounding decolonization processes: the self-reflection on our position in the racist/colonial system and how each of us as part of various communities thinks/acts to dismantle it and to support existing movements to nurture different relations.
In general, the group is committed to actively learn and implement decolonial thinking and practices and be less harmful with our words and deeds. Still we are mostly in the beginning of this process and are critical for the ways we continue to center our own agendas and needs.
Decolonization is much bigger than this campaign which, given our own background, has a strong focus on biodiversity/conservation and notions of "Nature" (particularily colonial notions). As BIPoC have previously expressed, decolonization is neither a metaphor nor a blueprint that can be defined with one right process. It's a map and points to question, where of what and to whom for whom.
We also recognize that decolonization does not in itself provide a path into decolonial futures, in contrast to f.e. Indigenous- and Afro-futurism or Indigenous resurgence.
We'd like to point out possible issues with the current campaign title here as well:
"#NatureNeedsJustice" without context can perpetuate a western/white understanding of "Nature" as separate from humans. Our understanding of Nature explicitely includes non-human nature and human nature, the imagined division is rooted in western thought which we are critical of.
Still - by only defining Nature as human and non human life altogether *and* claiming justice for it, we would also invisibilize the structures of power and control of white supremacy behind the concept of “human“.
"#NatureNeedsJustice" as a slogan can also feed into a narrative of "nature needs help", Nature again as an object separated from humans, an object without agency and in need of "white saviors". As already mentioned, to us humans are not separate from nature. We as a group trying to implement practices to de-center western and colonial thinking are asking for a justice that does not patronize. An important part of this kind of justice/equity/conviviality is unlearning of what we think is right, always listening to and working towards the real needs of human and non-human nature by supporting them instead of "helping".
What do you think is "Nature" ?
To re-group the complexity of our relations with people, lands, waters, flora and fauna under one concept such as „nature“ is also a tendency within colonial frameworks.
So only the act of re-defining nature in that way does not acknowledge, tackle or dismantle the power structures of white supremacy/coloniality that lead to concepts like “conservation“, “human" etc. Conservation is a colonial extractivist concept, and it does not go away by "just" re-defining nature as human and non human life - without first acknowledging the power relations behind "human" and "nature".
Why are you doing this, wouldn't it be better to simply support BiPoC instead?
Anti-colonial work is nothing we as colonial societies can merely empathise with. Instead, we have a responsibility to solve colonialism for the intimate and communal issues they are. Where do we see our place in this world and why? How can we nurture reciprocal relationships grounded in trust, consensuality and transparency?
The texts on the website are pretty complex and not so easy accessible for people without an academic background. What is your position on accessibility/classism/ableism?
Colonialism is indeed very complex, especially for those of us who can chose not to be confronted with it's many manifestations (including the people behind this campaign). While setting up this campaign and the texts, there were many occasions in which we realised our failure to comprehend and talk about colonialism. Consequently, we believe that creating more accessible and decolonial forms of expression are part of our process to take responsibility for decolonization. If you want to help us along this process, feel free to reach out!
What's your Decolonization processes in the communities?
We understand this campaign as a starting point, an attempt and desire to follow decolonial practices and to nurture processes in colonial societies which problematize, complexify, and de-centre our intentions and impact.
How does this campaign connect to the demands/principles of XR?
The society's central goal in the future is to stabilize the Earth's climate and ecosystems so that it provides a safe home for all people and all species. (translated from German)
"A healthy, beautiful world, where individuality and creativity are supported, and where people work together, solving problems and finding meaning, with courage, power and love. This will be underpinned by cultures rooted in respect for nature, genuine freedoms and justice.”
The campaign is looking at possible solutions for a just conservation, that is protecting humans and the biodivirsity in general.
"Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action. Learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences."
The campaign is engaging in a deeper analysis: How have colonisation and racism led to the climate and ecological crises? Which role do they still play today – for example when huge land areas are fenced off in the name of "biodiversity conservation" and Indigenous peoples are kicked off their lands?
"We recognise that in order to change the world, we must change the way we think about and form relationships with those we work and ally ourselves with. The world is currently defined by multiple hierarchies of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. For those lower down these hierarchies, much of the world isn’t a safe space. To create safer spaces we need to work actively to continuously build understandings of how these hierarchies operate, so that we can challenge them and build inclusion through making our spaces more accessible."
In this campaign we want to critically reflect on our own internal dynamics. We will ask ourselves questions about the equal integration of various perspectives and, in the course of the campaign, will deal with “critical whiteness” approaches. We will look at how we reproduce colonial traditions in our work and activism - and how we can meaningfully support marginalized voices in our campaign, in a way that is helpful to these communities. Working towards a more equal integration of perspectives of the Global South and support of environmental justice movements originating in those regions is one of the aims of this campaign.
"We ground our work in dialogue, healing, collective transformation and justice." ... "Our media messaging includes issues and voices that are normally ignored (e.g. the link between climate change and immigration detention centres). However we are mindful of not trying to speak on someone else’s behalf."
The demand for climate justice is common place in the climate movement - this campaign is aiming to look at conservation justice as well. Therefor, we invite experts from the Global South to discuss with us and learn.