In philosopher and theoretician Donna Haraway’s book published in 2016 ‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’, a central concept appears: “think we must; we must think.” In Haraway’s perspective, there is no whether-or. We must cultivate our capacity to think as our first response-ability.
Recently, we have seen an influx of human-made disasters from climate crisis to systematic racism which have become increasingly urgent, demanding our attention while questioning this response-ability. Through-out 2020 the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic have ground everyday life as we know it to a halt, and we are witnessing the economic, social and political systems we have created cracking under the pressure. Simultaneously, this pandemic has proven that it is possible, in just a few weeks, to put an entire economic system on hold across the world. At least here in Europe - or for the Western society in general – it has reminded us that we are a part of nature, forcing us to acknowledge that we are neither invincible nor immune. Nature can take us over at any time, and disrupt our habits, shaking commonly held beliefs in a very short amount of time.
We should “stay with the trouble”, as Haraway writes, brought on by this pandemic. A trouble exasperated by cracks in a neoliberal economic model based on the concept of unlimited growth. These cracks are real and affect our reality on multiple levels, from personal, to environmental, from social, to political and on an economical scale. The current system provides no solution to the environmental and social crisis we have wrought. It cannot help us to organize social alliances, common interests or even develop long-term prospects. It’s outcomes no longer appeal. We can no longer find temporary or alternative solutions for continuously increasing prosperity and ever-growing populations. The lack of a holistic point of view, will make life impossible for human’s and other species.
We live in critical times, exceeding the limits of our planet and the species that inhabit it. What kind of models can we develop that respect limitations, both social and planetary? In a world where many economists think only about endless growth and economic value, what will our futures look like?
We can’t fix our problems with the same approach we used when we created them. A far more multidisciplinary thinking, holistic awareness, and intuition are needed, if we are to grasp the complexities we are intrinsically part of. This current stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm our most vital causes, it’s time to let in some fresh air. We should support a broader participation in the debate about what is necessary and what is possible.
If (or perhaps when) Planet Earth becomes an inhospitable place for human’s, what will we do? The ‘promised land’ of Mars, as depicted by Elon Musk and his space exploration and transportation company Space X, won’t be easy to reach. Rather than using emerging technologies to escape when the time comes, as Musk proposes, it is a matter of reimagining our landscape, all species included.
When we talk about landscape, we are actually talking about the biosphere, also known as the ecosphere. Earth itself is a biosphere, with all life forms living in a closed and largely self-regulating system. This is the place we cohabit with other species, and the natural resources are limited. In this biosphere the logic of unlimited growth is not sustainable anymore. We live in a critical zone where the future is unknowable, but the past is revealing.
In the mid 1970’s, the evolutionary theorist and biologist Lynn Margulis co-developed the Gaia hypothesis with the chemist James Lovelock. Together they proposed that Earth, with all life and physical environment combined, functions as a single self-regulating system. More specifically, starting from a study on bacteria, Margulis opposed competition-oriented views of evolution and stressed the importance of symbiotic or cooperative relationships between species. Could our economy mirror nature, a closed system that grows, flourishes and decays? She proposed that most of the resources that we needed to do this are already in our hands, and all around us.
The question for now is how to move towards new definitions of economic paradigms? What if new economies could be inspired by self-regulating mechanisms, typical of natural ecosystems? Could we develop an economic system that resembles nature, that grows, flourishes and decays, where flows of matter, lives and energy feed each other and balance out at the same time?
Soylent Green, a 1973 American dystopian science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer, is set in 2022 in New York City where more than 40 million people live. Dying oceans and year-round humidity due to greenhouse gases has resulted in police brutality, pollution, poverty, euthanasia, scarcity and depleted resources. One corporation, Soylent Industries, controls the food supply of half of the world, selling artificially produced wafers. Everybody wants the one made from ocean plankton, Soylent Green, but it is short in supply and as a result, the hungry masses regularly riot.
Forecasting the destruction of the Earth's resources, through the film we see the possible consequences of valuing (corporate) economic growth as the ultimate goal both for society and the environment.
Acknowledging different notions of value could change our perception of growth and development as a society, on a personal and collective level. Could a shift in value perception, save us from environmental crisis and make us happier and more fulfilled?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, those who have the possibility to do so, have been asked to work from home. Increasingly, “home office” is having important consequences for the future of work. Some companies are now realizing that the same work previously conducted in office buildings can be done from the homes of workers. Same profit, less expenses. Where does labor take place: in office building’s or on the servers?
In the 1960’s, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine Hugh Hefner moved his office to his now famous circular bed. He built a whole universe around it, outfitted with all sorts of work, entertainment and communication devices. There was no reason for Hefner to leave his home, or precisely his bed, only on rare occasions.
Redefining the notion of work has major consequences for our daily lives, affecting things like the way we spend money and how our days are organized. Work is one of the infrastructures of our economy, next to, for example health, transportation, taxation and welfare. These infrastructures are the building blocks of our economy.
When dealing with a complex system, it is important to understand its already existing elements. Rather than start from scratch, existing mechanisms can be re-assembled. Could re-designing infrastructures trigger a bigger change on a societal level?
Economia and Baltan Laboratories
Baltan Laboratories from July 2020, took the initiative to continue Fictional Journal. Fictional Journal 04. Responsibility is part of Baltans Economia – The Limited Edition, an online festival on economy without the economists (on stage). The festival presents unexpected and playful approaches looking at the foundations of our economy, establishing a fresh point of view on the notion of value and economic growth. The program consists of online lectures, workshop/game sessions, a conference, an exhibition and a publication. Selected artworks will be part of the Economia exhibition during the Dutch Design Week (17-25 October 2020) at Baltan Laboratories, Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Fictional Journal 04. Responsibility is powered by Joanknecht and kindly supported by Creative Industries fund NL, Provincie Noord-Brabant, Stichting Cultuur Eindhoven and the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
Please find the application form here.
Fictional Journal’s Open Call 04. Responsibility welcomes finished contributions by designers, artists, writers, sociologists, researchers, visionaries and thinkers, who constructively approach the economy and explore ways in which transforming our economy can restore balance in our relationship with nature and help us on our way towards a more equal and just society.
Fictional Journal is looking for reflective, experimental and speculative approaches, but also practical contributions are very welcome. New thoughts are encouraged, but existing works are also considered. A contribution can be a physical artwork, a video work or an essay (1000-2000 words). Physical artworks and video works must be a final contribution upon submission. For an essay an abstract (max 300 words) will suffice.
Selected contributors will be paid €300.00 (+VAT if applicable) for their contribution. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions you may have.
Deadline for final submission is September 6, 2020. The Issue will be launched in October and featured as part of the Economia exhibition during Dutch Design Week (17 – 25 October) at Baltan Laboratories, Eindhoven, The Netherlands.