Last Tuesday the Environmental Justice Research Unit (EJRU) held its first video-speaker event with Professor Frank Fischer joining us from Berlin. Frank introduced his newly published book Climate Crisis and the Democratic Prospect, describing the unexpected turn his research took when it returned to the local from its initial starting point of global climate crisis.
Frank opened his talk by describing the severity of the current ecological crisis, painting a grave picture of the pending doom of 2 degrees warming and beyond. He borrowed his depiction of the future from crises scenarios, which conjured imagery much like the early environmental security literature of the 1990s, including massive hunger, catastrophic storms, new patterns of disease, heat waves, and endless streams of migrating people searching for liveable conditions. Frank’s particular interest in these crises scenarios was in the threat they pose to democratic institutions, which he suggests will “take a back seat” and may even be “put on the shelf” during the period of social and political breakdown initiated by climate crisis.
It is here that Frank is critical of the present focus of environmental theory and its theoretical discussions of participation and more deliberative democracy as the solution, which Frank suggests is removed from imminent political realities. Instead, he calls for a more strategic political theory that can identify possible strategies for saving democratic values for a future time – post-crisis when democracy can re-emerge.
It is with this potential need to revive democracy in the future that Frank hesitantly returned to the local, exploring eco-localist projects, such as the global eco-village movement. He stops to remind us again, this is not where he planned or wanted to end up. Within the eco-village projects, Frank finds instances of democratic and practical struggles to organise ecologically-sound community life. His research uncovers a vibrant movement of alternative theories, that unlike present theoretical scholarship, is orientated towards and situated in participatory governance in action. He finds it is here, within particular eco-village communities that the practical knowledge is being fostered that could help us deal with and emerge from climate crisis…
This was an engaging talk and a great start to the EJRU video-speaker event series. Despite the technical glitches with Skype, all listened intently and asked great follow-up questions, with discussions continuing after Frank had left over our locally-sourced food and drinks.
A recording of the session will be available on our listen again page.
For more on Eco-Villages: http://ecovillagebook.org/
If you would like to participate in our video-speaker series or attend future events please email Hannah (hughesh8 at Cardiff.ac.uk) or Ben (pontinb at cardiff.ac.uk).