Blogs

The Future will be handmade?

Artisans House, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai  February 2015
Re-published with contributed comments in lowimpact.org Read there


The Future will be handmade? In the information age, the question has an absurd ring. But I ask after listening to Ashoke Chatterjee at the Artisans House in Mumbai. As a long time President of the Crafts Council of India, Chatterjee tells us that 'The Future will be handmade'. The question mark for this post may be mine but Chatterjee is talking about reality as it is. Which is exactly what we overlook when thinking about the future usually because the people involved are invisible. 

The Hackney Cut

The changing ecologies of clean and dirty. As the river Lea bends and turns in through Hackney Marsh, it leaves a part of the commons known as East Marsh on the other side. This connects to the rest of the marsh through the White House Bridge named after the pub that once stood there before World War 1. With the barriers for the 2012 Olympics all this has been out of bounds. Now after 5 years they have gone and it's possible to cross the bridge again.
The White House Bridge is a pretty spot, hemmed in by trees and the gentle flow of water. There are no ghost traces of times bygone. 

Hackney Marsh Crow

Theories and interventions between Nature and Politics
(and what gets left out)

As the summer ends, the white chalk lines of football fields slowly take over much of Hackney Marsh. The goalposts become a part of the field of vision, like the rectangles from renaissance drawings with their two point perspective and vanishing points that once defined a world view. But now of course the perspective comes from modern space, the universal space that's an extension of all the tools we take for granted in contemporary life. This post is about the place of us and the crows on the marsh in these moving perspectives.

Free School

The changing times of squatting culture
195 Mare Street Hackney London, 18 - 24 November 2013

We are in the front room of the reoccupied 195 Mare Street in open discussion to map out a Free School programme. Three weeks of Sunday sessions brought together activists from all parts of London, sat in a circle on an assortment of reclaimed and recycled sofas. As the temperatures drop with each week, the circle gets a little tighter, and more engaged. 195 Mare Street is a crumbling pile of a Georgian mansion, the second oldest building in Hackney, a local landmark with an illustrious history. 

Hackney Marsh 1 2 & 3

Foraging on the Commons of the past, present and future.

To walk across the Cow bridge, over the river Lea with its jostle of narrowboats, past the trees and bushes is to enter an explosion of space that is Hackney marsh. Some 300 acres of protected Commons. The flat marsh grassland has the feeling of being unpeopled, of belonging to nature. But within its history is a chain of role reversals that unravel in this global age and produce new directions for the Commons land.

Lifeisland

Lifeisland, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Standing on the new Knights Bridge in the Olympic Park looking north. The bulldozers are still at work and the earth is exposed. A few years ago I would have been right there. On old community gardens, the Manor Garden allotments, which would have been stretching south along the river. We have gone from sleepy vegetable plots and allotment sheds made from throwaway doors and disjointed windows to a virgin landscape in which everything looks to have dropped freefall in space.

Westfield Gardens

Westfield Gardens, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Parts of London's new Olympic park are at last open to the public. Families are enjoying the sunshine on banks of beautifully tended lawns. It's hard to think this could be where I would once have twenty waste skips (dumpsters) based at the Bow Midland recycling plant. Memory here can no longer relate the present to the past. The new names in the park, Hopkins Field, Danes Walk, Alfred's Meadow, Millrace Meadow don't help at all. When a familar backyard is dug up and altered to this scale, it unsettles a host of other imaginings. Therefore this post about the new park revolves around names; names that help make sense of an altered reality.

World Social Forum Tunis


In Tunis with thousands of others for the World Social Forum 2013. As with Egypt, the Tunisian Spring is a revolution unfinished, a country without a constitution. Then the assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid barely a month ago. Suddenly there was an air of something providential about the arrival of the World Social Forum, along with a sense of urgency.

Rambler in the Berlin Unité

After a two year association with the Unité D'Habitation in Rezé, Nantes, I confess I went to the Berlin Unité with some preconceptions, in search of another scenario to explore the concrete shell and its relationship with urban ecology. I came away with the realisation that when it comes to architectural styles, it's not so much the clothes in the wardrobe but who wears them that matter.

Altieri on agroecology

Miguel Altieri at the APPG
(the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology) 12 January 2012

If anyone articulates the political potential of sustainable food as a means of social transformation, it is Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at Berkeley, the University of California. Altieri has a simple explanation of what agroecology is "It’s like a stool that has three legs. One that is socially just, one that is economically viable, and one that is ecologically safe. And when one of those legs lags, then the stool falls down". In other words, it's all or nothing. Agroecology thus demands the total transformation of our food system; tweaking it here and there will not do.

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