IGF 2021 – Day 2 – Lightning Talk #43 Creative strategies to tackle the intersection between digital technologies and the climate emergency

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> We all live in a digital world.

We all need it to be open and safe.  We all want to trust.  And to be trusted.

>> We all despise control.

>> And desire freedom.

>> We are all united.


Thank you for that presentation I guess some people are already joining this lightning talk.  So you'll start sharing.

  You see this all right.


>> DANAE TAPIA: All right.  Well, thank you for being here in this lightning talk at the IGF 2021 in Poland.  Unfortunately, we are not able to be there in person, we'll do our best here in the virtual world.

Please use the chat write some questions that we might discuss in our ‑‑ a couple of minutes at the end of this presentation.

Well, this is our talk in order to advance our reflections on why do we need urgently creative ways of thinking and acting within the climate Cruise, the climate emergency we are facing at the moment.

This session will be hosted by me and Paz.  You can see her on the screen as well.  And I'm a researcher, I'm an artist as well, I teach hacking at the Willem de Kooning Academy here.  For many years you've been working in justice and the Latin American region and globally.  And past as a researcher, intersection of technology and social justice and together, like a couple of years ago, in a beautiful evening in Tunisia, we decided to start with the Gato.Earth.

So welcome to our talk.  This is my cat.  I always want her in matters related to cats and climate.  Paz, go ahead.

>> PAZ PENA: Gato.Earth, an activist project born in 2019 from the urgent need to understand and document the relationships between technology and the climate and ecological crisis we live in today.  Over time, we have realized that our project started from two services, one true and one false.  The true assumption was that the traditional field of digital technology and human rights have ignored the political discussion about the environmental efforts of knowledge.  It is quite right considering it informed such a thing were to be popular until very recently.

The false promise which is also related to the true one, was that this policy, activity discussion was somehow orphaned.  Meaning there was little attention in general to the material environmental efforts of the technologies from policy activist perspective.

The research and the work under the umbrella under Gato.Earth proved us wrong.  We have been able to document how research and activism regarding the material effects of digital technologies, particularly towards the environmental and the climate Cruise have indeed been part of the environmental justice activist Johnson & Johnson.  You can see historic tradition of critical thinking, such the critique of extractists, capitalism, colonialism that produced sacrifice zones at the service of richer economies and how environmental advice is a part of the digital economy industrial complex.

Thus, we have come across fascinating projects.  For example, the MOSACAT.  It means communities, social environment movement for water and territory.  MOSACAT has led a struggle against excessive use of water resources, a new data center that Google will install in the City of Santiago, Chile, with the purpose of water use for human consumption in one of the areas most affected by the mega drought that the country is suffering due to climate change.

The struggle is also related to the one led by several local communities in the United States, with large technology industries, and the insulation of data centers that further stress the territories with drought.

We have also witnessed the protests that link two opposing places, Serbia on the one hand and the so‑called lithium triangle in South America between Argentina, Bolivia and Chile., the pay all the costs of energy transition and digitization with massive lithium extraction that generates your repairable, social cultural and environmental damage and takes the wealth out of the same countries.

Over the growing opposition to rare earth mining projects involving countries such as Chile, Guatemala, not only  left toxic mining of this type poses to their territories, but also question the extractivist development model that continues to prevail in the energy transition and digitization.

Now we can see that for years, the environmental justice movement has better understood the environmental efforts of digital technologies from the digital rights movement itself.  These facts make us wonder what if then the rule of the human rights technology and agenda in this scenario.

More to the point, can the digital rights agenda and methods themselves even affect the emergency we are experiencing, Danae.

>> DANAE TAPIA: This context can lead us to the central part of this presentation, which is about the creative strategies that we need to develop in order to face and fight the very difficult context.  So we like to think of our work as work that adopted multilateral strategies.

It is a major topic, the climate emergency, that cannot be addressed only from a policy perspective, only from a perspective of laws, even though all these things have to intersect at some point in this thing, it is something that needs to be tackled from different disciplines.

This is part of how we envision the addressing of planetary distress.  This is not a normal crisis.  It's a global emergency, with pervasive effects, and thus it's affected planetary distress in all regions or geographic.  A scientific challenge in which science needs to adopt other perspective.

I used this photograph of Bjork, the Icelandic artist.  She, for example, is working a team of Morton on matters related to the climate and addressing it from a perspective of art, of a perspective of philosophy, and it's very related to one approach that we have highlighted a lot in our work, in this project, which is the post‑human approach.

This means this is ‑‑ this comes from a large tradition ‑‑ not large, semilarge tradition of philosophy in which the main point is to promote nonanthropocentric ways of knowledge.  That means not necessarily in this crisis a human one who has to be at the center.  This is a crisis in which we have to think of maybe nature, the nonhuman animals, et cetera.  That's why we also decided on this newsletter, which is Gato.Earth multi dispatch that we consider a use of creative nonfiction.  We thought it was necessary to avoid traditional logics that we see too much in the digital rights space.  We avoid social media logics and want to promote a different register, which is epistolary and works as a testimony of what's happening, for the upcoming generations, as well.

Since our approach is multilateral, we also executed research projects, already mentioned by us, such as matters of surveillance against communities, activists, indigenous communities.  We also investigated the problem of the lithium chain and the geopolitical implications of this extract of in the lithium triangle.  We did our report on what happened, also trying to move out from the traditional policy‑making approach.  This is what we call a multilateral strategy.

Something that we want to mention at the end of this talk, we already ending, this is so fast, lightning talk, is that ‑‑ now we want to share some guidelines to move forward with this discussion beyond our own experience with our project.

But still the guidelines are informed by the project we have been doing in the recent years.  Crucial thing is that we do not have time, then we cannot adopt an approach of producing reports, discussing governance, those things we do in the digital rights spaces, we come from this space, we know what we are talking about.  We realize these techniques truly make no sense environmentalist circuits, groups at the front lines, groups who are land defenders, they already have used techniques of policy, they went to these instances.  We think we should think of strategies mindful of this urgency we are living.  Some things we learned from activity groups involved in environmental usuals, is for instance, something that was not really adopted into the rights circuits, where tech giants and liabilities are hardly addressed in instances of multistakeholder advocacy.  In the case of environmental activists, they are able to name shell, British petroleum as central perpetrators of the ecological destruction, I think we should also name Tesla and their interventionist attempts in Bolivia.  Because of the water, their data center needs, something that Paz mentioned before, Google.  Maybe you can continue with guidelines.

>> PAZ PENA: A question from many donors and activists ask is whether the digital rights should take into the environmental concerns of digital concerns.  Danae and I have been changing our minds regarding this point as we have seen evidence of how the environmental justice movement responds to these needs and requires very specific support from the digital rights activism.  You know, digital security, the anti‑surveillance activists or climate change disinformation on the Internet.  Also, the complexity of the environmental and climate crisis, which needs a wide range of multidisciplinary specialists and scientists makes us wonder whether it is necessary to force the agenda such as the digital rights agenda in new limits in the face of the hurry we face if we want to avoid raising the planet warming.  Moreover, in geographical places like late up America, for example, the environmental struggle cannot be understood without the activist women, indigenous, that come from their own practices and traditions which open a range of agendas that exceed the classic human rights spaces.  These opportunities also be used to talk about technologies, environmental effects.  Perhaps this is where we need to be creative and think of grouping a different agenda.  Not to stretch an agenda that accommodates everyone, even if but force, but to create a new, that brings together the movements from different traditions, that already work on the environmental effects of technologies in different aspects.  And let their experience develop their own methodologies, actions, agendas and reflections better suited to the climate emergency.

It does not mean the traditional agenda of human rights in the digital environment has no place in the environmental discussions, but particularly concerning climate change.  We believe, for example, that the crisis of the U.N. mechanisms in terms of climate change, should encourage a cross‑cutting movement of reform and imagination.  Of reform in the sense of compelling multistakeholder, including business, governments, technical sector, academia and civil society that wants to accelerate the human commitment in both digital and environmental rights.

We cannot continue to let the same hegemonic powers delay the survival of the weakest.  We can no longer wait for decisive climate action.  The human rights movement in the digital context has a big space to push for clear, fair and urgent commitments.

A movement of imagination, because in the face of the most significant governance crisis, we have ever faced, with both the environmental and digital rights movement, we must think about how international institutions that already exist will respond to the enormous challenges of oppression and future coping with climate disaster, or with all we confront climate immigration, system crisis, new pandemics due to environmental rearrangements, et cetera, et cetera?

And we have to start to wonder how the existing institutions using technologies and data for peace, justice and human rights can tackle those challenges and how we can support them.

>> DANAE TAPIA: All right.  Thank you.  This is our last slide, which is ‑‑ we wanted to invite you to contact us through this e‑mail, miau at Gato.Earth.  If you want to share thoughts, write a letter to us, and share the experience from your region, your communities regarding climate.  Also you're super welcome to subscribe to our newsletter.  The address is there, Gato.Earth, and you will receive once a month a very ‑‑ a dispatch made with lots of love, and with very analytical perspective regarding this topic that we are happy to saw that is now unofficial track in the Internet Governance Forum.  Paz, I don't know if you have any words to finish with, we don't have messages in the chat.

>> PAZ PENA: We don't have much time, we have only 20 minutes for the lightning.  Please go ahead, contact us, let's start this conversation, and, you know, beyond the IGF.  Thank you very much for being here.

>> DANAE TAPIA: Yes, thank you bye‑bye.