5 Principles for Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus

The COVID-19 pandemic demands swift and unprecedented action from the federal government. The depth of the crisis and the scope of the response mean that choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come. As policymakers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, it is imperative that they consider the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, racism, and ecological decline, which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified. This is a time to be decisive in saving lives, and bold in charting a path to a genuinely healthier and more equitable future through a just recovery.

We, the undersigned organizations, call for COVID-19 relief and stimulus packages to contribute to a just recovery by upholding these five principles:


We support the calls of community leaders, public health organizations, unions, and others for free and accessible testing, treatment, and protective equipment; expanded hospital capacity, including in rural areas, territories, and tribal lands; paid sick leave and paid family medical leave for all workers without exception; expanded federal funding for Medicaid; and full funding for Indian Health Service and urban Indian health centers. Critically, the government must ensure such health protections cover all people, including low-wage workers, health workers, independent contractors, family farmers, Black and Latinx communities, undocumented immigrants, Indigenous peoples, people who are incarcerated, people who are homeless or housing insecure, and others likely to be hit first and worst by COVID-19 and the economic downturn.


We support the urgent calls to expand the social safety net by broadening unemployment insurance, vastly increasing food aid programs, extending housing assistance, expanding childcare for working families, relieving student debt, and halting evictions, foreclosures, and shut offs of water and electricity. As with expanded public health measures, these economic measures must be implemented to ensure coverage of workers and communities likely to be hit first and worst by COVID-19 and the economic downturn. In addition, to counteract the economic downturn, the federal government should immediately direct sizable cash payments to every person. Larger payments should be made to lower-income workers and the poor, who are disproportionately exposed to both COVID-19 health risks and heightened job insecurity. These payments should be made swiftly and regularly throughout the duration of the economic recession.


Any financial assistance directed at specific industries must be channeled to workers, not shareholders or corporate executives. Specifically, any federal loans must be used to maintain payroll and benefits, not executive bonuses or stock buybacks. In addition, such funds should come with pro-worker conditions, such as requiring worker representation on the company’s board of directors, company-wide enactment of a $15/hour or higher minimum wage, and compliance with high-road labor standards such as payment of prevailing wages, use of project-labor agreements, adoption of a neutrality policy with regard to union collective bargaining, and adoption of a “ban the box” hiring policy to ensure fair employment opportunities for all.


While we urgently need a large, short-term stimulus to protect the health and economic security of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative that policymakers also plan for a large, medium-term stimulus to counteract the economic downturn and ensure a just recovery. This stimulus should create millions of good, family-sustaining jobs with high-road labor standards; counter systemic inequities by directing investments to the working families, communities of color, and Indigenous communities who face the most economic insecurity; and tackle the climate crisis that is compounding threats to our economy and health. All three goals can be achieved simultaneously with public investments to rebuild our infrastructure, replace lead pipes, expand wind and solar power, build clean and affordable public transit, weatherize our buildings, build and repair public housing, manufacture more clean energy goods, restore our wetlands and forests, expand public services that support climate resilience, and support regenerative agriculture led by family farmers. Critically, no stimulus package should support any corporations whose actions exacerbate climate change - the response to one existential crisis must not fuel another. Instead, stimulus money should reward efforts that help advance climate progress.


People must not be forced to choose between exercising their rights as citizens and protecting public health. The federal government must support states, by providing funding and technical support wherever needed, to ensure that every American can vote safely in primary and general elections. Specific life-saving and democracy-defending measures include expanding vote by mail, online or automatic voter registration, among others. The 2020 Census must be fully supported and resourced to achieve an accurate and safe count under the new and evolving conditions. US Congress, state capitals and city halls should not shut down until they have amended rules to ensure continuity of governance in the case that in-person sessions are suspended.

The Center for Creative Ecologies, directed by Professor T. J. Demos of UCSC’s Department of History of Art and Visual Culture, (HAVC), researches the intersection of experimental art and aesthetic practice, political ecology, and environmental justice. The aim is to develop speculative and useful arts-led interdisciplinary research tools to examine how cultural practitioners—filmmakers, new media strategists, photojournalists, architects, writers, activists, and interdisciplinary theorists—critically address and creatively negotiate environmental and climate concerns in local, regional, and global fields. Embedded in HAVC, the Center supports and enhances its PhD program in Visual Studies, providing a dynamic and nomadic space of interdisciplinary thinking that merges undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels. The Center addresses environmental matters of concern including anthropogenic climate breakdown and global warming, where ecology also necessarily expands to intersectionalist networks that comprise socio-political and techno-economic climates, racial and sexual assemblages, and slow and structural violence. Organizing conferences and symposia, speakers’ series and film screenings, and holding a regular reading group (composed of cross-divisional faculty and grad students), the Center also regularly hosts and supervises international post-docs and researchers, and energizes the formation of the Environmental Arts and Humanities at UC Santa Cruz.

The Center aims to be an inclusive space of dialogue—operating between university disciplines, community groups, nongovernmental organizations, and social movements—welcoming diverse participants to consider ecological conflicts and creative sustainable alternatives, to widen our knowledge society and abilities to respond to environmental transformation, and to assess and contribute to informed approaches to policy-making in the widest sense of the term.

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery and the Center for Creative Ecologies, is proud to present Forest Law, an exhibition by artist-researcher Ursula Biemann and architect Paulo Tavares.

Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares: Forest Law
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, UC Santa Cruz

October 3 - December 1, 2018

Opening: October 3 5-7 p.m.
Extended remarks by art historian and theorist T. J. Demos at 6 p.m.

Forest Law, 2014, is a 38-minute video essay and catalog drawn from research carried out by Biemann and Tavares in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It considers the legal cases which plead for the rights of nature against the dramatic expansion of large-scale extraction activities in the region, including the trial won by the indigenous people of Sarayuku based on their cosmology of the living forest. The project creatively maps the cosmopolitical and ecological dimensions of these trials on behalf of the forest and the people who cultivate the forest, tracing the entanglements and frictions between the ethical and onto-epistemic stakes these cases raise.

Situated at the transition between the Amazon floodplains and the Andean mountains, the Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth and fulfills vital functions in global climate regulation. It is also the home of indigenous nations and a land of great ethno-cultural diversity. Underlying this vast territory are immense deposits of oil, gas, and minerals. This makes it the target of many corporate extractive industries, intent on unearthing the mineral wealth despite the diasterous effects these industries have on the area and its inhabitants. In 2008, indigenous lawyers and experts successfully fought to amend the constitution of the State of Ecuador, establishing fundamental rights of nature for eco-systems to fight this extraction. Nature in Ecuador became a subject of the national legal code, with the governments and corporations abusing and misappropriating it, at least conceivably, to be held accountable.

The Cosmopolitics of Forest Law Revisited: A Conversation with Marisol de la Cadena and T.J. Demos, October 9, 2018

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences and the Center for Creative Ecologies presents: The Cosmopolitics of Forest Law Revisited: A Conversation with Marisol de la Cadena and T.J. Demos.

Traction: Art Talk with Carolina Caycedo, November 13, 2018

Join the Institute of the Arts and Sciences for TRACTION: Art Talk, featuring ecologically-engaged artist Carolina Caycedo. Following the lecture, Caycedo and collaborators will perform Beyond Control, a choreography of movements which evoke the visual and theoretical relationships that exist between the construction of dams, the containment of bodies of water, and the physical, legal and psychological control of the social body.

* Image: Installation view of Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares, Forest Law (still of José Gualinga, leader of the Sarayaku people), 2014, Sesnon Gallery, UC Santa Cruz.

In this November 2017 essay contribution to the CCE Journal, writer and curator Rachel Nelson provides a piercing analysis of Berlin-based artists Angela Melitopoulos and Angela Anderson’s Unearthing Disaster I & II (pictured above), which document socio-environmental injustice in Greece’s Halkidiki Peninsula. During May-June 2017, the Institute of the Arts and Sciences of UC Santa Cruz, in coordination with the 2017 Extraction research project organized by A. Laurie Palmer and T.J. Demos of the Center for Creative Ecologies, presented Unearthing Disaster I & II. Expertly curated by IAS founding director John Weber at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, the double video project examines the destruction of a pristine, mountainous forest region in Northeastern Greece by a Canadian mining company, set within the anti-democratic conditions of EU-imposed Greek austerity, and considers what resistance means. Read more...

In May 2017, Vienna-based artist Oliver Ressler visited UC Santa Cruz and the Center for Creative Ecologies, where he spoke about Everything’s Coming Together While Everything’s Falling Apart, his recent series of films from 2016-17. The three short pieces, each between 12 and 36 minutes, address international climate governance, its challenges and failures, and showcase select artist-activist grassroots movements seeking to transform the ways we live and how we organize society on the most fundamental of levels. Another world is indeed possible. Ressler’s extensive body of moving-image-based work—established over more than two decades of practice at the intersection of experimental art and radical politics—is exemplary for its seeking out viable and collectively organized political-cultural forms of life, which might be termed the arts of living otherwise, that represent radical alternatives to the disastrous course of petrocapitalism. That bankrupt regime is based on corrupt political governance, growing economic inequality, and violent social injustice founded upon the destructive exploitation and transformation of Earth’s natural systems. For Ressler, “The story of this ongoing film project may turn out to be a story of the beginning of the climate revolution, the moment when popular resistance began to reconfigure the world.” Let us hope for just that. Read more...

On the Power of the Humusities for a Habitable Multispecies Muddle”: A Salon Evening With Donna Haraway*

Please join us for an informal dinner discussion with Donna Haraway on the occasion of the publication of her new book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin the Chthulucene (Duke University Press, 2016).

Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 6:30pm

In its pages, Donna Haraway writes of the sustained imperative of our new geological epoch: “we must cultivate “response-ability; that is also collective knowing and doing, an ecology of practices.” In that spirit, the Center for Creative Ecologies—dedicated to exploring precisely creative practices of response-ability and promoting ecologies of interdisciplinary connection —invites guests to consider the significance of the terminological proposals for our time, such as Anthropocene, Capitalocene, and Chthulucene. The latter is Haraway’s own conceptualization for describing and cultivating a post-anthropocentric era of multi-species mutualities, sympoiesis, and creative kin-ful co-becomings. For these may be our best chance of fending off the incursions of the regressive individualism and human exceptionalism of Anthropocenic hegemony and equally the petrocapitalist exterminism of the Capitalocene’s financialization and colonization of all remaining natures. Please join us for what will be a fascinating humusities discussion with Donna—akin to a muddy exchange of organisms, a composting of ideas in the pluriversity of humus—of how we might make life habitable amidst this multispecies muddle.

* Haraway, Staying With the Trouble, 32. One chapter extract, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene” was recently published online at e-flux, where it is freely available.

Becoming Indigenous, Feb 18, 2016

Salon discussion with Jim Clifford, Santa Cruz, Feb 18, 2016. The informal topic of the event is "becoming indigenous," a term mobilized by Clifford in his 2013 book Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century. In addition to proposing ways to think about the multiple meanings of Indigenous becomings in relation to the uncertain postcolonial, media-networked forms of native life today, how might the phrase also relate to the conditions of people living locally with ethico-political consciousness? Can the suggestive phrase also characterize becoming local at a time of global uprootedness, migration (forced and voluntary), and virtual presence/absence, sending down roots when nature, nativity, and nationality--and thus the nature of locality--have all begun to break down, at least as uncomplicated, uncontested words? Does it make sense to think about "becoming local" as an ecological act, linked to solidarity with assorted Indigenous becomings in an era of extractivism, climate chaos, and growing political inequality?

*Thanks to Jim Clifford for the above shot of Paris' Luxembourg Gardens and its mobile indigenizing flora!

Global Climate Justice Today
UC Santa Cruz, October 13-27, 2015

This series of talks at UC Santa Cruz—featuring Valentin Lopez (Amah Mutsun Tribal Band), Flora Lu (UC Santa Cruz), Néstor L. Silva (Stanford University), Leila Salazar-Lopez (Amazon Watch), Andy Szasz (UC Santa Cruz), T.J. Demos (UC Santa Cruz), and Paulo Tavares (Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London/Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador)—investigates the current meanings of climate justice for communities from California to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Climate Justice is built on the realization that addressing environmental change must be accompanied by attentiveness to structural inequalities, and that any solution must prioritize socio-political and economic justice and include the participation of those most vulnerable to environmental impacts. As such, climate justice raises ongoing questions of political-ecological urgency for artists and activists alike.

Organized by T.J. Demos and the Center for Creative Ecologies, Climate Justice Today responds to these pressing questions related to how we address the social, economic, and ecological impacts of our changing environment, and what political recourse and sites of agency remain. Climate Justice Today is generously sponsored by UCSC’s Arts Dean’s Fund for Excellence, UCSC’s Colleges Nine and Ten, UCSC's American Indian Resource Center, and the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Read more and watch videos...

The Center for Creative Ecologies (CCE) hosts a regular reading group for interested faculty and students.

We encourage participants from any discipline or area of interest to join. The CCE Reading Group was initiated in Fall of 2016 and represents an interdisciplinary assembly of academics and graduate students interested in engaging with current texts written at the intersection of art, culture, politics, and ecology. The group meets every two or three weeks during the school year. Meetings are held across the UCSC campus at various locations, usually outside or in non-formal settings. The aim of the reading group is to develop useful arts-led interdisciplinary research dialogue to examine and explore how cultural practitioners critically address and creatively negotiate environmental concerns in the local, regional, and global field. These concerns include anthropogenic climate change and global warming, and relate to factors such as habitat destruction, drought, species extinction, and environmental degradation. We strive to create an inclusive atmosphere to collectively share and explore new avenues of thought and practice.

Recent texts considered: Donna Haraway’s (2016) Staying with the Trouble, McKenzie Wark’s (2015) Molecular Red, Jason Moore’s (2016) Capitalism in the Web of Life, and Glen Coulthard’s (2014) Red Skin, White Masks, and Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey’s Undercommons (2013), among others. Readings are collectively determined and aligned with current events, recent publications, and exhibitions at and around UCSC.

More information can be found at the CCE Reading Group website.

News and Event

Amitav Ghosh
Thursday, February 27, 2020
7:00 p.m.
Music Recital Hall, UC Santa Cruz
Register Here

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Thursday, January 23, 2020
6:00 p.m.
Music Recital Hall, UC Santa Cruz
Register Here

Beyond the End of the World comprises a two-year-long research and exhibition project and public lecture series, directed by T. J. Demos of the Center for Creative Ecologies, bringing leading international thinkers and cultural practitioners to UC Santa Cruz to discuss what lies beyond dystopian catastrophism, and how we can cultivate radical futures of social justice and ecological flourishing. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Culture. For more information visit BEYOND.UCSC.EDU.

T. J. Demos / UC Santa Cruz receives Mellon Foundation humanities grant to explore Earth Futures during 2019-20

Catastrophic environmental breakdown, mass species extinction, financial collapse, racist separatism, global nuclear war…there is much speculation these days that we are living at the end of democracy, liberalism, capitalism, a cool planet, and civilization as we know it. What are our chances for survival? How can we envision the unimaginable, and what will life look like in the near and distant future?

Faculty and students at UC Santa Cruz will explore these urgent issues over the next two years thanks to a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support “Beyond the End of the World”—a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures directed by T J. Demos of the Center for Creative Ecologies.

The project will bring leading international thinkers and cultural practitioners to UC Santa Cruz to deliver a series of public lectures and will include post-doctoral and dissertation-level research. It will culminate in an art exhibition and interdisciplinary conversation titled “Beyond the End of the World: Approaches in Contemporary Art”—addressing the topic from the perspective of the visual arts and providing a venue to connect cross-disciplinary thinking. More info

West Papua Conflict: From Genocide to Ecocide: An Interview with Nabil Ahmed

Nabil Ahmed, Remote sensing analysis of contamination from Grasberg mine, West Papua

Nabil Ahmed is the founder of INTERPRT, an independent project that investigates environmental crime using spatial analysis towards the adoption of ecocide as an international crime. The project is focused on gathering evidence on long term conflicts in the Pacific. He has written for art, science and architecture publications such as Third Text, Scientific Reports, Volume magazine and Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Sternberg, 2014). In this 2018 interview with the Center for Creative Ecologies he discusses his critical mapping project in West Papua with T. J. Demos.

Revolution at 100: A Questionnaire

To the Barricades! Culture and Politics at the Centenary of the October Revolution

As we approach October in the year 2017, we come upon the hundredth anniversary of the momentous event that was the Russian Revolution. Reconfiguring the fundamental conditions of modernity from a radically anti-capitalist perspective, the Revolution realized the potential for a collective form of life according to an emancipatory cultural-political horizon. The Revolution made the seemingly impossible suddenly inevitable, even as its incredible potentiality gradually diminished through its unfortunate unfoldings, ultimately rendering lived communism co-terminus with tyranny. Initiated by T.J. Demos, Amber Hickey, and Chessa Adsit-Morris, the Center for Creative Ecologies invites responses from leading cultural producers, artists, theorists, and activists, to a short questionnaire to see where radical imagination and practice exist in a contemporary world that has entered new levels of unsustainability and injustice.

A Public Conversation with Donna Haraway and Starhawk: Magic, Figuration & Speculative Fiction as Calls to Action

On October 18, 2017, the Center for Creative Ecologies co-sponsored A Public Conversation with Donna Haraway and Starhawk: Magic, Figuration & Speculative Fiction as Calls to Action, an event in collaboration with the Science and Justice Research Center (SJRC)*, bringing together Donna Haraway and Starhawk to dialogue around questions about their lifetimes of activism and writing in a conversation moderated by SJRC Visiting Scholar and organizer of the event, Joan Haran. Chessa Adsit-Morris provides a report-back on the event, which explored the convergences and divergences of Haraway’s and Starhawk’s work, particularly focusing on the role of imagination and science in shaping narratives of the near future.

Book Talk with T.J. Demos, Anna Tsing, and Jennifer González:

Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today

UC Santa Cruz
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 7:00pm
Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) 108
Presented by: Institute of the Arts and Sciences

T.J. Demos, Anna Tsing, and Jennifer González will be in conversation to launch UC Santa Cruz History of Art and Visual Culture Professor T.J. Demos' new book: Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today. Addressing the current upswing of humanities-based, scientific and environmental arts and attention in relation to the recent proposition that we have entered a new human-driven epoch called the Anthropocene, this new book by cultural critic and art historian T.J. Demos presents a critical overview of that thesis, and its limitations in conceptualisation and in practice. Looking at multiple examples of visual culture — including popular science websites, remote sensing and SatNav imagery, photographic documentation, eco-activist mobilizations, and experimental art projects — the book argues that the Anthropocene terminology works ideologically in support of neoliberalism’s financialization of nature, anthropocentrism’s political economy, and the endorsement of geoengineering as the preferred — but likely disastrous — method of addressing climate change, constituting further modes of environmental violence. To democratise decisions about the world’s near future, Demos proposes that we urgently need to subject the Anthropocene thesis to critical scrutiny and develop creative alternatives in our precarious present — which is the ultimate goal of Against the Anthropocene.

Extraction: Decolonial Visual Cultures in the Age of the Capitalocene


During Winter and Spring 2017, T.J. Demos of UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Creative Ecologies in collaboration with the artist Laurie Palmer of UC Santa Cruz’s Arts Department will initiate the Arts-led research project EXTRACTION, co-sponsored by the Arts Research Institute and the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. The project comprises a series of interlinked activities directed toward critically analyzing extraction as an industrial operation of natural resource mining and labor exploitation, investigating its ecological, economic, philosophical, and aesthetic factors and implications. Including a film series and artist lecture program—with guest presentations by practitioners such as the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Subhankar Banerjee, Claire Pentecost, Brian Holmes, and Elizabeth Knafo—the project also entails a number of workshops, a student-faculty reading group, field trips to regional extraction sites, and a two-day conference in May. EXTRACTION will draw together artists and researchers at UCSC, and leading thinkers in the field locally, regionally, and nationally. (View details)

Art and Climate Activism: KZSC, Santa Cruz Radio, Nov. 14, 2016

As the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Marrakesh, Morocco, KZSC spoke to TJ Demos, a UCSC Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture and the Founder and Director of the Center for Creative Ecologies. Demos appeared on KZSC’s Talkabout, and Tamyra Rice and John Sandidge interviewed him about his new book “Decolonizing Nature” as well as the intersections between political protests, art, and ecologies. [link]

What are Creative Ecologies? T.J. Demos answers the question in Take Magazine (Delhi), Spring 2017

“Proposing a notion of creative ecology means decolonising nature—not in the sense of reclaiming some sort of original wilderness or pure nonhuman environment (these represent fictions of a colonised world), but instead releasing the environment from its reduction to “natural resources,” as if it exists purely for human exploitation and consumption.”

Spring 2016: Climate Justice Now! Art, Activism, Environment Today
UC Santa Cruz

As climate change threats grow more severe, and in the absence of government leadership, artists and activists are inventing creative strategies of consciousness-raising, mass mobilization, and ecologically sustainable thinking and living. This class and public lecture series, joined by a diverse array of guest speakers, all leaders in the area of climate justice and cultural politics, will explore current imperatives for making a just transition to a post-carbon future. View recent publicity here. Download Climate Justice Now Poster and class syllabus. And check out the Sonic Climate Justice Playlist, accompanying the course. Videos of lectures are available here.


Cultural Politics of Sustainability at UC Santa Cruz (more here, including videos...)

Fossil Free UC Nov Rally

Funded by the UCSC Sustainability Office, this two-quarter-long project comprises a series of UCSC interdisciplinary symposia and workshops dedicated to the topic of sustainability. Organized in relation to the research and practice of the Arts-based Center for Creative Ecology, the series intends to bring to campus speakers representing expertise in diverse areas of sustainability studies, and with them organize discussions with interdisciplinary members of UC faculty and graduate and undergraduate students on the history, meaning, and conflictual elements of sustainability. The project will also focus on critical discussion of UCSC’s Campus Sustainability Plan.