I took TJ Demos on a bike ride with me; he talked, and I listened and pedalled. He spoke via the multi-layered avatar of a downloaded PDF, (the introduction to Decolonising Nature), read aloud via the Voice Aloud Reader app on my phone, delivered via Bluetooth to my in-helmet headphones. Demos talked about the way in which we apprehend nature impacting on how we assign responsibility for climate change, as we travelled over and alongside the motorway, passing manicured parks and rambuntious mixed-species urban thickets.
I breathed the rank air of the cars, and the soft air of trees with a momentary waft of roast potatoes as Demos promised catastrophic circumstances. I inhaled mudflat, and post-rain sewage as Demos evoked the plethora of voices speaking with him through the litany of thinkers and writers listed in numerical order in the notes accompanying each page, read out in full detail by my reader.
He spoke of the complicity of big industry as the cycleway crossed over a train yard and ended in an industrial park. We turned for home with the setting sun in our eyes and the possibility that we might, together, move beyond anthropocentrism.
The next time I did this ride I took my recording devices with me and recorded what the bike saw, what I saw and what we heard.
what he said:
“Political ecology necessitates engaging with these inequalities of our neocolonial present, just as centuries of colonialism initiated climate change.32 Accumulation by dispossession occurs when the fossil fuel economy in so-called developed nations creates the atmospheric pollution that, in causing global warming, now threatens the existence of small island nations, such as Kiribati and the Maldives, creates havoc in the Bangladesh’s delta, and melts perma- frost in Alaska. Or when agents of “green capitalism”—which grants post-1970s cor- porate practice a cosmetic environmental guise—buy tracts of rainforest in the Brazil- ian Amazon in order to plant eucalyptus monocultures (green deserts that contain no life) for biofuel that forces Indigenous and Quilombola (Afro-Brazilian former slave) communities from their once-biodiverse, natively managed land. What are these cases if not contemporary corporate colonialism?33 “
32. In this regard, Eyal Weizman is right in arguing that climate change is the telos of colonial modernity. See Eyal Weizman and Fazal Sheikh, The Conflict Shoreline: Colonialism as Cli- mate Change in the Negev Desert (Göttingen: Steidl, 2015).
33. For more on this argument see Ashley Dawson, “Putting a Human Face on Climate Change,” in Climate Change and Museum Futures, ed. Fiona Cameron and Brett Neilson (Lon- don: Routledge, 2014), 207–18; and Santiago Navarro F. and Renata Bessi, “Green Neocolonialism, Afro-Brazilian Rebel- lion in Brazil,” trans. Miriam Taylor, Truthout, December 28, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28232-green- neocolonialism-afro-brazilian-rebellion-in-brazil.
Demos, T.J. Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology. Sternberg Press, 2016. p 17