“In Gèsèr Khan’s Land”, Albina Tsybikova, 1982.

full article on Berfrois:

In Southern Siberia, where the Sayan Mountains rise over the heavy chest of confluence of Central Asia, the Buryat peoples have told legends about the ancient lake Baikal and his beautiful daughter Angara. There are 300 rivers that stream into the Baikal, and Angara is alone among them as the only river to flow away. Old man Baikal made sure to keep Angara locked up, so that she would never leave his care. Out of the ancient Sayan, the great river Yenisei heard of the beautiful Angara. The Yenisei was known as a great and proud warrior spirited with wildness, his mighty waters rippling over the land’s most ragged stones, the water like sinew, stretching and coiling to gather strength. The two rivers were seduced by each other from afar. Longing for freedom, Angara escaped her father’s confines, the only river to stream out of the great lake, and flew towards Yenisei. When Angara escaped from Baikal, making a dive north through Irkutsk, the old man pursued his runaway daughter. In a fury, Baikal threw a stone to stop his daughter in her path, which became known as the Shaman-Rock. It is said that if the Shaman-Rock were to fall, it would open the way for the Baikal, who would spill over his banks and recapture the runaway Angara. The waters of the Angara still course with tears of wrath and loss, concealing a prayer for liberation. In those times, the gods heard her cries. The beautiful river spills over her banks into a larger basin at Bratsk, and continues north to Ust-Ilimsk, to curl west on her passage towards the Yenisei. Angara finally reaches the Yenisei at the town of Strelka, “arrow”. The great rivers run together through the unyielding tundra, towards the churning grey and black waters of the Arctic Ocean.



Seeing the economic opportunity in Siberian earth, Texas-based oil company Amoco quickly established an office in Nadym, Yamal following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Portraying the Yamal Region as devastated by decades of pollution by Soviet industries, a 1994 New York Times article titled “In the Defiled Russian Arctic, Hope Is a U.S. Oil Company”, the publication portrayed the Amoco vice-president Garry F. Howe as a kind of saviour descended upon an old world, bringing faith in new industry and economic prosperity to come through ecologically sensitive American drilling of the Yamal. “But Amoco has seen what happened to other companies when the needs of the local people are ignored. Texaco, for example, was stymied with its oil exploration in Ecuador when Indians were outraged about the lack of consultation. And company officials know the public relations value of producing oil in an environmentally safe way.” (The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1994). Attracting American investment in Siberian ‘natural resources’ became a priority for Russian business following the dissolution of the USSR and the conversion towards capitalist market economy, seeing the profitable manipulations of proprietary and land usage regulations, continent-hopping by bloated oil industries, and the ruthlessness of western investors and the World Bank that made it all possible. Even reports that spoke sympathetically about colonial exploitation of lands in Siberian regions – such as Osherenko’s study on the impact of changing property rights on the Nenets of Yamal Peninsula – would orient documentation in a way that would appear to support the preservation of Indigenous cultural and land rights, and self-governance, while somehow still promoting American investment and development of oil and gas fields: “according substantial property and even political rights to indigenous peoples need not constitute a barrier to larger national agendas for development of oil and gas resources” […] “The World Bank aims to enable the Russian oil and gas industry to improve oil recovery, reduce spills, repair broken pipelines, and reduce waste through improved environmental technology.” (Osherenko 1995: 2, 44).

* Osherenko, G. Indigenous political and property rights and economic/environmental reform in Northwestern Siberia. Post-Soviet Geography. 1995.


full article on Berfrois:

The working class of industrialist Québec was integrated into the state project of Canada – the inclusion of a French workforce of “civil servants” in the federalist project – as an act of securing the legitimacy of a unified Canadian state. The federalist vision is dependent on a pacification that is bought by the inclusion of the working class and the poor in the further development of the state, via employment that provides them with marginal benefits that are otherwise not afforded or systemically denied. When there was resistance from Algonquin communities to the development of yet another inaccessible and consumerist project constructed on a sacred site, Windmill seized the opportunity to integrate a “progressive” employment policy that would allow underemployed Algonquin workers a chance to participate in the construction of a “world-class sustainable waterfront community”. In order to employ a quota of Indigenous workers, Windmill and the Gatineau municipal governments have created a special administrative zone to bypass regulations on the certifications, practices and working conditions set in place by the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ). “For tradespeople and construction workers from Kitigan Zibi, it has been almost impossible to work off reserve because of complex Québec construction regulations. Windmill is negotiating to have parts of its site declared a special administrative zone. That would allow Algonquin tradespeople to work there.” [Zibi Press Release, Jun. 30, 2015]. There would be no need for this benevolent creation of a special administrative zone by Windmill and the Gatineau municipal government for the employment of Algonquin workers, if these barriers weren’t already entrenched within systemic practices of discrimination, and absence of required training, certification and employment resources.

Speaking of their collaborators, the Zibi developers write,

“For tradespeople and construction workers from Kitigan Zibi, it has been almost impossible to work off reserve because of complex Québec construction regulations. Windmill is negotiating to have parts of its site declared a special administrative zone. That would allow Algonquin tradespeople to work there. Historically, many people from Kitigan Zibi have gone to the United States to work in construction because they were unable to find work near home.” [Zibi Press Release].



full article on Berfrois:

… Fresh water itself, however, as opposed to hydro-electricity, was excluded from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is currently threatened by renegotiation or dissolution between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It is also significant that under Canada’s second largest trade agreement after NAFTA, the Comprehensive European Trade Agreement (CETA), Canada is currently obligated to treat European companies bidding on contracts in the country equally as Canadian companies.

The result: provincial and municipal governments will have to treat EU companies the same as Canadian ones when it comes to awarding service or procurement contracts […] Jacqueline Wilson, a lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), said that there could be a path to commercialization of water resources. She pointed out sections of CETA (Annex II) that uphold EU companies’ immediate rights to water resources if those water resources are commercialized by a Canadian government.” (Water Canada, How CETA Will Impact the Water Sector, Jan. 19, 2017) …

what can you bring to the board of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation?

Q: You have a strong background in finance, business and cultural and community work. What can you bring to the board?

A: I would say that when I read and did some research about the board, I saw some budget deficits as well which have been experienced by the board in the last few years. So with my background in finance and business, I would say that—I don’t know all the details at this current point, to be honest. But if I know the details, I can also contribute in such a way to see if we can save some wastages with what’s happening and we can divert those. Resources are needed for this board, for sure. Mental health issues are on the increase in this province, so definitely resources are needed. At the same time, we have to wisely and properly use the resources so that the resources are used for the right reason, and to impact positively on the people who need them.

draft: to justify land /7

“Quite simply, the modern canal, unlike a river, is not an ecosystem. It is simplified, abstracted water, rigidly separated from the earth and firmly directed to raise food, fill pipes, and make money.”

 (Worster, 1985)

Section 6 replicates the rhetorics of energy corporations – oil and gas, nuclear, and hydro-electric – who veil their enterprises with the terms of sustainability and renewability. The contradiction at the heart of this willful illusion, however, lies much deeper, as the fundamental premise of capitalism quantifies land and other living beings into exploitable resources. Projects like the hydro-electric dam development and condominium development on the Ottawa River need a more sustained critique of their epistemological basis: how they come to be justified to the public only after the internal pandering among politicians, contractors and their financiers, thorugh the terms of economic prosperity and the necessity of growth – without accountability to what this ‘prosperity’ means, and in whose service are these machinations of ‘growth’. Windmill developer and venture capitalist Jeff Westeinde cites the book Natural Capitalism as an inspiration; this book blatantly reframes the language and logics that construct an ethical justification around the exploitation of land and the ‘natural world’ as an available ‘resource’.

“What is consumed from the environment in not matter or energy but order or quality – the structure, concentration, or purity of matter. This is a critically important concept, because it is a “quality” that business draws upon to create economic value. Instead of focusing on whether physical resources will run out, it is more useful to be concerned about the specific aspects of the quality that natural capital produces: clean water and air; healthy soil, food, animals, forests, pollination, oceans, rivers; available and affordable sources of energy; and more.” (“Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution”. Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins. Little, Brown and Company. 1999. pg. 148)

Windmill Development Group has an “alternative business” branch investing in renewable energy, called Windmill Alternative. The developers represent a point of pride in the speed with which the development project was pushed through: “Although the site was very complex and involved multiple stakeholder groups (two cities, two provinces, NCC, Conservation Authority, Heritage, Brownfields and two First Nations groups), the rezoning was achieved within 6 months.” With a small change of words, business practices gain an untouchability.

“Natural capitalism is one such objective. It is neither conservative nor liberal in its ideology, but appeals to both constituencies. Since it is a means, and not an end, it doesn’t advocate a particular social outcome but rather makes possible many different ends. Therefore, whatever the various visions different parties or factions espouse, society can work toward resource productivity now, without waiting to resolve disputes about policy.” (“Natural Capitalism”.)

As in: “thinking about licensing an entire river system instead of lock and dam by lock and dam” / “to maximize the precious river resource” (Founder of Enduring Energy LLC and Enduring Hydro LLC, and previous undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Kristina M. Johnson.) [HydroWorld, Dec. 6, 2013].  As in “cow-calf operation (producing calves that are sold to a feedlot to be raised for beef)”, “as well as meal for the livestock industry” “supporting the beef industry” [Ottawa Citizen, Sep. 9, 2016]. “the world’s largest pork producer and processor   /   market challenges from a lack of pipeline and related infrastructure”   /   There are, of course, a lot of risks, particularly in today’s commodity world. Nothing is black and white, Suttles said.” [Natural Gas Intel, May 17, 2016]. “Hog producers in Iowa ought to be thrilled … key market for pork producers, as their population grows, in both size and affluence … public relations manager for the Canadian Pork Council” [Financial Post, May 29, 2013].

Marisol de la Cadena wrote extensively on the entanglement of language and cosmology in the Indigenous-led struggle against extractive industry development in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador (“Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes”). She cites the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador on the protection of the rights of nature under the earth-being called Pachamama, and the recognition of the mountains – Ausungate, Quilish and Coyllur Rit’i – as sacred, as entities. As the intimate relationship to the world is understood through language, so the necessity for resistance is created, and interpreted, through the word.

“A reading of the Andean ethnographic record along epistemic lines shows that earth-practices are relations for which the dominant ontological distinction between humans and nature does not work. […] sentient entities whose material existence—and that of the worlds to which they belong—is currently threatened by the neoliberal wedding of capital and the state.” (Cadena, 341-342.)

The rhetoric of liberal environmental “activistism”, in contrast, often maintains the same relationship to the earth as a territory, its sloganeering rapidly and thoughtlessly retaining the rhetoric of land as separate from self, as quantifiable. With this understanding of nature as separate from self, the human directs a moral authority as either the aggressor or the agent of defence, denying the earth and the entanglement of earth-beings of an equivalent, sentient, and encompassing agency. The defense of territorial rights (such as the simplification of human habitation and ancestral responsibility for land to a concept of ownership and nationality) then becomes the locus upon which ethical justification or accountability towards development projects is based. Never is earth left alone, for itself.

Peruvian dissidence against the extraction industry, Cadena writes, can be traced to an understanding of place, an epistemology that is not separate from the self, an inseparable and non-hierarchical network of earth-beings that does not ‘reduce’ nature to a commodity—to be sold or to be defended. What is there to defend? Such an indigenous cosmology is, as Cadena states, ‘less than two’ (‘being other’ – or more accurately, ‘no other’). She writes, “an ecologized nature of interdependent entities that simultaneously coincides, differs, and even exceeds—also because it includes humans—the object that the state, the mining corporation, and environmentalists seek to translate into resources, whether for exploitation or to be defended.”

A condition as physical and geographic as it is emotional, created when the self is at odds with its relationship to space. Ungrounded – without place. To consider space as something outside of the body, and the body as the infallible centre. There is no separateness of nature and self, of individual species and some vague ‘network’ – there is inseparability, interpenetration, reciprocation, mutual responsibility. Simple presence, simple being – a reason in itself, because it draws no distinction, requires no justification. What is there to justify? To justify the ‘sacredness’ of the land would require a validation of this separateness that enables this commodification in theory and practice, and validates the logics that sustain the arguments of development and the compromised languages of environmental defence.

To imagine and work towards an alternative requires an ‘epistemic rupture’, an opposition to capitalism, and an opposition to its manifestations through statehood and corporatism. Algonquin Elder William Commanda spoke of not having to ‘justify’ or to ‘defend’ earth, but that its very existence is reason enough. It is not possible to justify the machinations of ‘natural capitalism’, or ‘green capitalism’ as sustainable, for we will find no end to these ecologically, socially, intimately destructive struggles through languages that already finite, compartmental, and contain the imaginaries of territoriality, capital ownership, and hierarchies of superiority. Political confrontation with extractive and industrial development has negated thought in entirely different languages that need to be reclaimed. Retribution, and reconciliation, requires entirely different ways of existing on the planet and relating to the earth, in which the clever logics of capitalism cannot be conceived, requiring, as Cadena writes, “an insurgence of indigenous forces and practices with the capacity to significantly disrupt prevalent political formations, and reshuffle hegemonic antagonisms, first and foremost by rendering illegitimate (and, thus, denaturalizing) the exclusion of indigenous practices from nation-state institutions.”

To Justify Land /6 Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions!

“Golconda”, René Magritte (1953), painting usually housed in Texas.

To Justify Land /6: Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions! is a project of assemblage and republication without altering the splinters of original text, creating an emergent narrative. The act of re-composing information, or found text, changes the legible context and the experience of reading, assimilating and forgetting information. Journalistic materials and press releases are interpreted outside of their chronological documentation or perceived span of relevance – when the spectacle is discarded and forgotten, and becomes history. This mimics both the parasitic character of most mainstream news sources, as well as spam sites that copy and re-post excerpts or articles in their entirety elsewhere (a venture through the looking glass). By collaging the found fragments, the project also reflects the prominence of particular sources which are most accessible (or simply reflect certain algorithmic affinities and the speed of their discovery), or which reflect the sources that hold the most interest in reporting these events (and thus tend to influence public perception and policy). As with the earlier, related project A Draft for Asinabka, this section of To Justify Land looks at the rhetoric that is used to represent to the public the interests of multinational corporate ‘entities’, the competency of corporate leadership, and the rhizomatic accumulation that leads towards prosperity.

Continue reading “To Justify Land /6 Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions!”

to justify land /5

an experiment in american associations

In April 2016, Honduran activist Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was murdered in connection with the  Indigenous and populist resistance against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam under the ownership of hydro-power company Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA). The dam was to be constructed over Lenca territory. While Finish and Dutch funders withdrew from the project after international pressures and reporting, the Agua Zarca dam continued construction under contract with Canadian hydro-power engineering firm Hydrosys – based in Montreal, Sherbrooke, and Vancouver – who are responsible for the design and construction of the Gualcarque Waterpower Project. Berta Cáceres was representing the Lenca resistance to the construction of the hydro-electric dam over the Gualcarque River because the Lenca community was not “meaningfully consulted about the project, putting the Honduran state in violation of International Labour Organization Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous People, of which it is signatory” (Jackie McVicar, “Indigenous Rights Under Attack: Canadian economic and political interests over human rights“, Canadian Dimension).

Continue reading “to justify land /5”