Global Climate Justice Today

Global Climate Justice Today
UC Santa Cruz
October 13-27, 2015
Free and open to the public (seats on a first-come basis), Parking at UCSC is by permit or meter.

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, it raises ongoing questions of political-ecological urgency for artists and activists alike:

How have new legal orders—such as the rights of nature enshrined recently in the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia—bolstered Indigenous environmental activism, as well as been contradicted by government-supported resource extraction as in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park?

How is climate change being currently addressed within religious communities in the North inspired by Pope Francis’ influential 2015 Encyclical on the Environment?

How does climate change relate to histories of colonial violence and how is this legacy being challenged presently?

What creative ecologies exist within artistic-activist practice that provide resources for addressing climate justice today?

Organized by T.J. Demos and the Center for Creative Ecologies, Global 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 artistic-activist 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.

Ecuador and the Elusiveness of Climate Justice
Flora Lu and Néstor Leonardo Silva
Tue, Oct 13, 4-6pm, UCSC College 9/10 Namaste Lounge

In 2007, President Rafael Correa presented the Yasuni ITT Initiative: in return for $3.6 billion in support from the world community, he would leave the oil in the ground in part of Yasuni National Park, considered one of the most biodiverse forests in the world and home to the Waorani tribe, which includes people in voluntary isolation. A main selling point of the initiative was the gigatons of carbon that would not be emitted into the atmosphere as a result, presenting this program as a creative mechanism to address climate change. President Correa has embraced an environmental and social justice narrative, as exemplified by the 2008 Constitution that accords rights to nature and the champions the concept of Buen Vivir or Sumak Kawsay. Yet a chorus of voices both inside and outside of Ecuador have criticized these claims, pointing to contradictory policies that reflect the elusiveness of climate justice. In this talk, we make two theoretical points in the Ecuadorian case study: (1) how the idea of justice (climate, environmental and social) is highly scale dependent, and (2) the disparity between ideology and practice, between lofty discourse and realities on the ground.

Climate Justice from the Perspective of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
Valentin Lopez
Tues, Oct. 20, 2015, 12:00 – 2:00pm, UCSC College 9/10 Namaste Lounge

Our Amah Mutsun and Awaswas ancestors have lived on these California lands for 12,000 years or more and for well over 800 generations. This talk will discuss how our creation story provides us the path to take care of Mother Earth. We will discuss our environmental practices prior to first contact and the subsequent, and intentional, destruction of our traditional tribal territory by the California Mission system, as well as the Spanish, Mexican and American Governments. We will discuss how climate change is impacting our cultural resources and the path the Amah Mutsun are pursuing to ensure our survival until the last sunrise. Finally, our presentation will discuss the need for healing, not only healing for Mother Earth, but the need for all perpetrators to heal.

American Christians: Deeply Divided about Climate Change
Andy Szasz
Thurs, Oct. 22, 2015, 12-2 pm, UCSC College 9/10 Namaste Lounge

Author of the recent Laudato Si, the globally influential Encyclical on the Environment, Pope Francis believes it is Christians’ duty to address climate change. While recently visiting in Ecuador, he exclaimed: “The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.” In this move toward addressing environmental justice, Pope Francis is joined by leaders of the older, mainline Protestant faiths. Large majorities of American Evangelicals, on the other hand, remain climate skeptics or deniers. In this talk Szasz, will review the evidence about the split among Christian faiths and discuss the implications for the future of climate politics in the U.S.

Over the Ruins of Amazonia: Colonial Violence and De-colonial Resistance at the Frontiers of Climate Change
Paulo Tavares, followed by discussion with Flora Lu, Leila Salazar-Lopez, and T.J. Demos
Mon Oct 26, 6-8pm, DARC (Digital Arts Research Center) 108, UCSC

During the so-called “development decades” of the Cold War, the Earth’s systems experienced the exponential impact of what climate scientists call the Great Acceleration—“the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of humankind.” That transformation was accompanied by, and intrinsically related to, the enforcement of a generalized state-of-exception across the Third World, followed by widespread environmental destruction. This presentation traces the cartography of the modern-colonization of Amazonia, mapping the relations between environmental and political violence that lay at the foundations of the contemporary Anthropocene and unfold to the geopolitical-geophysical conditions of climate change. Rather than the collateral, unintended effect of “growth,” “development,” or “progress,” global climate change, according to this reading, is viewed as the product of colonial violence directed against both human and nonhumans, Indigenous peoples and environments, societies and territories. Remote-sensing archaeological excavations of such forms of environmental violence in Amazonia unearth the history of a territory whose nature is deeply cultural, shaped and reshaped by political conflicts.

Seminar with Paulo Tavares and T.J. Demos
Tue Oct 27, 2015, 12-3pm, Porter College 248

In this seminar, we will address environmental conflicts and rights, connecting contemporary forms of environmental violence and their means of representation and narration to expanding notions of rights (including the rights of nature). We will examine changing “regimes of visibility” that connect to the new multi-sensorial “transparency” of Earth’s spaces with the increasing “appearance” of nature as the locus and bearer of universal rights. Discussion will also include Nonhuman Rights, and projects such as Tavares’ Archaeology of Violence and the recent exhibition Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas (Nottingham Contemporary, 2015).

Select Bibliography

Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares, Forest Law / Selva Jurídica: On the Cosmopolitics of Amazonia (East Lancing: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum / Michigan State University, 2014). Biemann-Tavares-Forest-Law.compressed

CONFLICT SHORELINES RESEARCH STUDIO: Amazonia: A Botanical Archaeology of Genocide”
Research Studio, fall 2015, SoA & PLAS – Princeton. Convened by Eduardo Cadava, Eyal Weizman and Paulo Tavares.
-Including Paulo Tavares, “Stratoshield” in Textures of the Anthropocene, ed. Katrin Klingan et al. (Cambridge and Berlin: MIT and House of World Cultures, 2015), 61-71.

Paulo Tavares, “Nonhuman Rights,” Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. Forensic Architecture (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), 552-571. Tavares-NHR_Forensis

Amazon Watch reports on Ecuador.

Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku, “Ecuadorian Government Violates Human Rights and the Constitution While police massacre indigenous protesters and citizens, the Government of Rafael Correa dances in the Presidential plaza,” August 19, 2015,

Arturo Escobar, “Latin America at a Crossroads,” Cultural Studies 24/1 (January 2010), 1-65. Escobar-Latin-America-Crossroads

Julien Vanhulst and Adrian Beling, “Buen Vivir: Emergent Discourse Within or Beyond Sustainable Development?,” Ecological Economics 101 (2014), 54-6). Vanhulst-Beling-Buen-Vivir

T.J. Demos, “Nature of Rights / Rights of Nature,” in Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas (Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary, 2015). Demos-Rights of Nature-2015.compressed

Rob Nixon, “Introduction,” Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). Nixon_Slow-Violence_intro.compressed

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, “Perspectivism” and “Multinaturalism,” in Cannibal Metaphysics: For a Post-Structural Anthropology, trans. and ed. Peter Skafish (Minneapolis, MN: Univocal, 2014). DeCastro-Perspectivism-Multinaturalism



Paulo Tavares is an architect and urbanist based in Quito/São Paulo. Tavares teaches design and spatial theory at the School of Architecture, Design and Arts of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito. His work has been shown in numerous research-art exhibitions, including Insert2014 (New Delhi), Animism (Beirut, 2013), Taipei Biennial (2012), among other international exhibitions, and he has lectured at different contexts and locations, including Ireland Biennale, Mercosul Biennale, and São Paulo Biennale.

Leila Salazar-Lopez is Executive Director of Amazon Watch. Prior to this position, she served as Program Director, overseeing the organization’s campaigns to defend the Amazon and advance indigenous rights. Her 15+ years of experience working to defend the world’s rainforests includes grassroots organizing and managing international advocacy campaigns as Campaign Director of Rainforest Action Network’s Agribusiness campaign, Organizer for initial Amazon Watch Clean Up Ecuador campaign, and Organizer at Global Exchange. She is a graduate of both the University of California at Santa Barbara and Green Corps. A proud Chicana-Latina and mother of two, Salazar-Lopez lives in San Francisco, CA where she is active in her community.

Flora Lu is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSC and Provost of Colleges Nine and Ten. She earned her A.B. in Human Biology from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, Royster Society Fellow, and Lang Post-Doctoral Fellow, Flora began conducting research in the Amazon while as an undergraduate in 1992. Her longitudinal fieldwork among indigenous communities in the northeastern Ecuador has been featured in two programs on the National Geographic Channel, has been funded by $2.2 million in external grants, and has been published in two books and thirty-five articles in journals such as Human Ecology, Conservation Biology, Current Anthropology, Human Organization, and the Journal of Ecological Anthropology. She is the recipient of the Committee on Teaching’s Excellence in Teaching Award (2011) and the Division of Social Sciences “Golden Apple” Distinguished Teaching Award (2010).

Néstor L. Silva is a PhD candidate in Stanford University’s Department of Anthropology at UCSC. There, he researches the political ecology and economy of oil extraction in Ecuador and Colombia. More specifically, he seeks to understand how state-promoted narratives of development through extractivism, conservation, and sustainability influence, and are influenced by, people living near sites of hydrocarbon exploitation. Of particular academic interest to Néstor are the intersections of natural resource perception and valuation, market integration, and political representation in spaces transforming ecologically and economically through extractivism.

Valentin Lopez has been the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band since 2003, one of three historic tribes that are recognized as Ohlone. Valentin is Mutsun, Awaswas, Chumash and Yokuts. The Amah Mutsun are comprised of the documented descendants of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Valentin Lopez is a Native American Adviser to the University o f California, Office of the President on issues related to repatriation. He is also a Native American Adviser to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Valentin is actively involved in efforts to restore tribal indigenous knowledge and ensure our history is accurately told. Finally, Valentin is working to restore the Mutsun Language and is a traditional Mutsun singer and dancer. As Chairman, Valentin is a standing member on all Tribal committees and Boards.

Andrew Szasz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies. He is the author of EcoPopulism: Toxic Waste and the Movement for Environmental Justice (University of Minnesota Press, 1994) and Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Szasz recently coedited How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change: Social Scientific Investigations (Routledge, 2014). He is the recipient of the American Sociological Association Environment & Technology Section’s Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution Award (2011) and the Section’s Teaching and Mentoring Award (2014). He teaches courses on Environmental Justice, Sociology of Climate Change, the History of the American Environmental Movement, and Sociological Theory.

T.J. Demos is a Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, UCSC, where he is also director of the Center for Creative Ecologies. The author of The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (2013), and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (2013), Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organized Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014. He is currently finishing a new book, entitled Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and Political Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2015).


* The poster image, by photographer Raimundo Valentim, shows the devastating effects of the “once in a century” drought in the Amazon River in 2010. Extreme events like this dramatize the intensification of the basin’s hydrological cycle, which, representing an ecological catastrophe, is increasingly become a normalized condition. Complex interactions between climate change, deforestation, landscape fragmentation and fire are drastically altering the ecological dynamics of the most important biological refuge on Earth. (See 2015 Guardian article).