This post has been written by Kuirme collective* as part of their project funded by the Green Screen Coalition Awards, of which Green Web Foundation is a contributing member.
*The Kuirme collective is composed of Aymara Zonta LLanque, Camila Nobrega and Rub(én) Solís Mecalco
How Kuirme started
A being in transit, nourished by the bridges between worlds, a migrant, mutant, being of many spirits, porous, contaminated with the inspirations of anti-capitalist and anti-racist resistances from both Latin America and a non-hegemonic Europe. This is how Kuirme was conceived, from three bellies fed by roots of Abya Yala (as we recall Latin America from pre-colonial perspectives), but also with feet searching for seeds that can connect by inhabiting borders, yet simultaneously breaking its walls built by colonialism.
Kuirme connects with struggles for the coexistence of ideas and livelihoods, instead of hybrids that propose a total merge, erasing diversity and making power structures less visible. This standpoint makes even more sense in a digitalized society, whose dominant discourse claims ideas of global connections, silencing so many differences behind this image. Therefore, powered by decolonial and anti-colonial feminism that emerge from territorial situatedness, as well as gender and sex-dissidence glasses, Kuirme finds its place between tensions and possibilities of collaborations.
A first space to make Kuirme’s reflections possible was based on a common concern: how to build bridges between organizations defending territories from neo-extractivist policies, both in Abya Yala and in Europe. One of its main aims was to break fictional narratives of separations between physical and digital territories, recovering memories of historical struggles.
Our “Fictions and Frictions” project
For this reason, from March until July 2023, we worked on a project called “Fictions and Frictions: identifying bridges, tensions and possible coalitions towards environmental justice and digital rights”, combining scientific methodologies of research and other formats of knowledge exchange we learned from collective struggles.
From there, sub questions were developed:
- What is the relation between mega-investments/megaprojects in infrastructure for digital technologies and water use in the global south?
- Which other territorial social-ecological transformations can be identified, observing the materiality of the connection between different infrastructure implementations?
- What are the macro-narratives associated with digital technologies and the neocolonial heteropatriarchal relations that occur in territories superimposed on zones of extractivism?
- What are the common experiences of violence to bodies and territories that coexist with areas of extractivism for the global energy and technological transition?
- How could they bring together different experiences of organization and resistance that came from the multiple territorialities both in the Global South and Global North? How could they converge?
Those are big questions with no easy and quick answers, they will guide us through an ongoing trajectory. Nevertheless, this project set a path, starting from understanding the status of the art of the discussion, giving a priority to an active listening/exchanging of thoughts, and unveiling existing gaps, as well as key points of connection.
How to build collective steps and weave thoughts (or our methodology)
For the purpose of answering our main question, we applied a tool for the systematization of secondary information.
After a first step of literature review and identification in clusters based on our main codes of research, this systematization was consolidated in a table composed of two sources of information.
The first containing scientific articles as a result of the application of a search syntax searching for the intersection between digital rights and climate justice. Second, the integration of materials under a snowball sampling approach (Atkinson & Flint, 20011), collecting documents related to: extractivism, territorial defense, feminisms, technologies.
Following this technique of snowball sampling, a phase of interviews began.
According to the traditional snowball method applied to interviews, an initial interviewee provides the name of another potential interviewee, and so on. This sampling strategy is well-known to take advantage of social networks. Nevertheless, here we have a key difference in our way of relating to this step-by-step.
We are not outsiders, not foreigners to our own research. Instead, we are active participants and take clear positions in this exchange.
Therefore, the Kuirme collective itself also shared from our own reflections and practices, as an experience of critical ethnography (Boylom & Orbe, 2020 2; Ellis, 2004), which integrates an active voice beyond translation, towards the co-participation of researchers, alongside the invited collectives (Bochner & Ellis, 2016 3). We use both approaches as complementary tools, but being our background lenses remain decolonial perspectives on anthropology of domination (Curiel, 2021 4) and gender coloniality (Lugones, 2008 5), among many others, including many sources that are not academic, or even do not have written material as the main tool, as the inspirations you will see below.
The first groups interviewed were three collectives in Abya Yala in which at least one of us from Kuirme also takes part. Our aim was to amplify our connection to our networks, opening space not only to collect answers, but to reflect on our own questions and reformulate them, if necessary. Weaving thoughts.
So, we started dialogues with Assembleia Múuch’ Xíinbal in Mexico, Intervozes in Brazil, and Glefas in the Dominican Republic – but with feet spread all over Abya Yala. After that, incorporating new lenses to the first set of questions, we had a second round of interviews, with collectives / political representatives based in Europe: Last Generation collective in Germany, and the Green Party representative in the European Parliament, totalizing five discussion groups.
Besides that, those discussion groups were opportunities to map together territories, look inward, remembering that territories begin within the bodies and they come with a situated subjectivity. This implied a common cartographic challenge, which was to be able to dialogue from spaces and times with our emotions, ambiguity, as well as a mixture of personal and global scales, real and imaginary places, joy, and pain (Caquard & Cartwright, 2014 6).
Complementarily, the dialogue was extended to voices of activists, support organizations, and researchers that took part in a deep dive session on extractivism organized by Kuirme together with the researcher Marie-Therese Png, in the framework of the meeting of the Green Screen Coalition in Costa Rica, in June. Finally, public contributions were collected from the meeting Beyond Equality: Feminisms Reclaiming Life in Berlin, in the dialogue tables on Extractivism, and on multiple perspectives of queerness and sex-gender dissidence.
Below we share summed up findings of the project, but an entire publication will be launched soon.
Invited participants – our main inspirations
Múuch’ Xíinbal Mayan Assembly, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
The Múuch’ Xíinbal Mayan Assembly, comprising over 20 rural Mayan communities in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, was formed in 2018 to defend their territories against multiple megaprojects and extractive practices, including the controversial ‘Mayan train’ project. The assembly seeks environmental justice and fights to protect their cultural heritage, understanding their territories through their rich cosmogonical knowledge.
To raise awareness and communicate with local communities, they have created a unique bilingual (spanish-Yucatecan Maya) podcast, No Radio Múuch’ Xíinbal, delving into various topics and news. Their creative approach includes reaching out to elders with audio messages accessible through their cell phones.
The assembly aims to build horizontal alliances with other socio-environmental struggles globally, learning from indigenous communities’ experiences using digital tools in their own ways and languages. They affirm it is not a position against technology, but resisting its impositions, and seeking the right to decide on the technology they want and how they want to develop it.
The Múuch’ Xíinbal Mayan Assembly serves as an inspiring example of grassroots movements embracing digital platforms to protect their territories and fight for environmental justice on their own terms.
Indigenous territory La Mixteca – Mexico, Pressure from lithium extractivism, Carmen Carino – GLEFAS
The Mixteca region in Mexico, with its significant lithium deposits, has caught the attention of the government and transnational companies seeking to exploit the resource. While the Mexican President supports lithium mining for economic and industrial development, the Mixteca communities are concerned about the environmental impact, especially on water sources, and resist an extractive approach.
They emphasize their historical connection to the land and prioritize unity and cooperation within their community. The Mixteca people strive to raise awareness about the potential consequences of mining and seek to protect their cultural heritage and way of life. Despite the allure of migration, they assert their right to stay and cherish their resources.
The region’s people also draw parallels to struggles in other parts of the world and advocate for solidarity in resisting extractivism. They express a strong desire to make decisions about their land and resources in a manner that benefits their communities.
Intervozes, a Brazilian collective, focuses on the struggle for the right to communication. With 20 years of existence, it seeks to democratize communication in Brazil. It is organized horizontally, with a decision-making structure in assemblies and internal representative bodies. It also works on digital rights and with a critical perspective to the regulation of traditional media.
Recently, they have re-built anti-racist and intersectional perspectives, making visible the overlaps between racism, gender and social class within the debate on the right to communication, both digital and non-digital, understanding both as parts of the same power structures.
The collective raises questions about who is affected by digital monopolies (a book was launched this year by Intervozes, with the title: “Quem controla a mídia: dos velhos oligopólios aos monopólios digitais / “Who controls the media: from old oligopolies to digital monopolies) and how territorial defenses are articulated with respect to technologies.
They consider the need to reflect on who is taking protagonism in the debate on digital rights, questioning the dominant vocabularies that orient the discussion, seeking alliances with other movements that also address issues related to technology and territories. The collective sees its role as a possibility to build bridges between diverse movements that are already reflecting on these issues from multiple perspectives.
Alexandra Lutz, member of the Green Political Party from France in the European Parliament
A member of the Green Political Party representing France in the European Parliament, they raise concerns about the digital transition in Europe and its impact on the environment.
They shared that there is strong resistance to incorporating ecological and environmental considerations into the process. Tensions arise between digital innovation and environmental justice in the continent. The environmental impact of digital technology is being researched by an ongoing commission in the European Union, aiming to shed light on the costs of this transition and dispel the misconception that it is inherently green.
The interview also brought up the lack of proper “impact assessment” for digital transition activities, highlighting the need for better regulation. Despite the push for technological advancement under a greenwashing facade, the EU is striving to produce, for instance, chips within the continent. However, this pursuit has led to exceptions being made for environmental rules in certain areas, such as the energy sector, with examples like intensified carbon extraction in Germany and lithium mining in Portugal.
The representative of the Green Party also expresses concern about the increasing violence against environmental activists in Europe, including the use of face recognition technology and the criminalization of activists in France and Germany. They stress the need for regulations to be implemented in response to these troubling situations. The digital transition’s environmental impact and the safety of environmental activists are crucial issues that demand attention and proper action within the European Parliament.
Social movement, Last Generation, Berlin, Germany
The Last Generation movement in Berlin, Germany, is part of the global Climate Justice movement, focusing on national and local applications of their positionality and struggles. Their main aims include advocating for speed limits on German streets, affordable public transport, and enhanced democratic processes.
The movement utilizes digital platforms like messengers and Twitter for communication and coordination but lacks a specific Digital Rights approach. They face cyber attacks on their websites, highlighting the need for cybersecurity measures.
While Last Generation has international alliances with climate movements in the USA and other European countries, they have not established connections with Latin-American movements defending territories. This points to an opportunity for potential new alliances and information exchange spaces to protect members’ safety and information in the face of increasing institutional repression against environmental and climate justice defenders.
Tensions arise from German government repression against activists, making it clear that conflicts are intensifying. The state’s response to the movement’s actions has revealed a level of helplessness, leading to heightened awareness among the German public about the government’s handling of the situation.
The result of the systematization made it possible to recover both problematic and resistance responses as feminist de/anti/pos-colonial and queer practices in the face of new forms of colonial violence related to the paradigm of development related to the extraction of raw materials and other multiple forms of extractivism, including vertical implementation of digital infrastructures, green washing dynamics, as well as hegemonic perspectives on technologies and amplified forms of communication.
The syntax found scarce information related to intertwined reflections on climate justice and digital rights, and most of the articles found are connected to debates exposed by a cluster of organizations linked to digital rights. This information contains limited data on the effects of digital technologies in territories overlapping with indigenous, Afro-descendant, and peasant communities; meanwhile, it assumes the discussion of digital rights mostly associated with internet access, and access to technologies.
Looking at the results, we collected materials that discuss these issues, with other languages and found that there are narratives on territorial defense and self-governance that are relevant to the most vulnerable sectors in the Global South, and that are not necessarily using digital rights narratives. It demonstrates an information gap on non-dominant narratives in the sphere of digital rights and climate justice.
Besides this, we identified main Problems and Obstacles to collaboration in the topic, as well as Possibilities.
Problems and obstacles to collaboration
Among the Problems we highlight: lack of multiple forms of extractivism as a core of the discussions, especially because the exploitation of the commons for digital development brings direct consequences on the climate.
Most of the interviews also pointed to a lack of protocols/mechanisms for decision-making and territorial consensus on how digital megaprojects of infrastructures are implemented. The macro-narrative was also pointed by the collectives as a colonial continuity.
A further question then comes up: Decentralization of the internet for whom?, as it remains a problem about who are the ones defining the agenda on socio-environmental transformations and justice that go beyond the notion of impacts.
Finally, the problem is not a lack of imagination on the possible futures coexisting in different communities, as territorial organized struggles show communities we heard from know what they need and want.
Possibilities and ongoing actions of collaboration
Technology is understood as a tool to connect struggles between the Global North and South, if more horizontal networks are developed. It is essential to recreate spaces of encounter, building dialogues in response to green colonialism. Living encounters and exchanges are pointed as powerful means of identification of power concentrations and discourses at different levels, based on critical perspectives of domination.
Besides this, shifting the focus on territories, as geopolitical spaces only in the South. Many environmental fights are focused on understanding the livelihoods of traditional peoples. Territories are not only traditional community lands, everywhere is a territory, therefore can be investigated, observed collectively.
There are a lack of spaces of exchange about what is happening in the Global North together with communities in the Global South. On the meaning of territories, there is a dominant perspective on digital rights vocabularies that see communities affected by megaprojects, both digital and non-digital, as areas of extractivism.
A concrete shift on narratives could focus on the understanding of, for example, the concept of Territories of Life (by Carmen Carino, Glefas), meaning territories of wealth, celebration and practicing many forms of recovering and recognizing life and its multiple dimensions. Life at the center, and life is not only human.
Finally, different communities are doing their self-documentation processes. They do not want to be run over. They want to be recognized and respected in the process of building collaborations.
Imaginations “fictions” and contradictions “frictions” enable changes, inventive of an ancestral future loaded with ‘conflicting’ experiences and possibilities towards the future that already exists.
Stay tuned for our first publication with full results and weaving narratives process coming soon.
- Atkinson, R., & Flint, J. (2001). Accessing hidden and hard-to-reach populations: Snowball research strategies. Social research update, 33(1) ↩︎
- Boylorn, R. M., & Orbe, M. P. (Eds.). (2020). Critical autoethnography: Intersecting cultural identities in everyday life. Routledge. ↩︎
- Bochner, A., & Ellis, C. (2016). Evocative autoethnography: Writing lives and telling stories. Routledge. ↩︎
- Curiel, O. (2021). Decolonial feminism in Abya Yala. Multitudes, 84(3), 78-86. ↩︎
- Lugones, María (2008). Colonialidad y Género. Tabula Rasa, 9, 73-101. ↩︎
- Caquard, S., & Cartwright, W. (2014). Narrative cartography: From mapping stories to the narrative of maps and mapping. ↩︎