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The Riverside Meetings take place every 3 weeks at river–sides, in bars, or during excursions to river landscapes. Participants of the meetings discuss and gain a deeper understanding of selected key literature related to conceptual and methodological topics relevant to the River Commons and Riverhood projects; learn about relevant historic and ongoing scholarly debates, with special attention to disruptive theorization (beyond mainstream); get familiar with water management approaches in the Netherlands and other countries; learn from multi-stakeholder/grassroots movements about co-learning practices and processes. The meetings are meant to provide PhD candidates with literature, knowledge, thoughts, and questions that are helpful and enriching for their individual research projects.
“The unbearable lightness of climate populism” with prof. Erik Swyngedouw
22 September 2022 | Grandcafé Loburg, Wageningen
On Thursday, September 22, the Riverhood and River Commons team met for a PhD-Masterclass with Prof. Erik Swyngedouw (Professor of Geography, University of Manchester) at the Grandcafé Loburg in Wageningen. In his talk, prof. Swyngedouw discussed how his life-long interest in processes of politicization —that is, the processes through which we socially organize to change our socio-ecological conditions— led him to interrogate the irreconcilable gap between “knowing” and “acting” in our current climate crisis. How is it that we know so much about climate change, greenhouse emissions, and CO2, and yet our actions don’t seem to lead to the “desired” socio-ecological transformations? Departing from the recognition of this gap, prof. Swyngedouw invited us to reflect on the performative effect of political ecology’s (and other disciplines) critical insights. If, he argued, critical knowledge does not self-evidently translate into transformative action, what are we actually doing? Is it possible that critical theory is subconsciously attached to the very problem it sets itself to solve? Is it possible that we find enjoyment in sustaining the status quo? These thought-provoking questions led to a discussion on the role of critical knowledge in our current socio-ecological crisis. If we —as political ecologists, as activist-researchers— are committed to transforming the plurality of power relations that configure the present socio-ecological conditions, we need to question the belief that knowledge itself will achieve this.
Following this invitation to self-reflect on the articulation between critical knowledge and political transformative action, the discussion posed a few central questions for our current research endeavors: How do we account for the resistance that emerges from those places where the “climate apocalypse” has already happened? How do we shift our vantage point to change the master narrative of the disaster-to-come? What other socio-ecological systems are possible and necessary for us? How do we articulate them? And what are the political imaginaries that could orient “us” to achieve this?
For the second part of his visit, prof. Swyngedouw presented the public conference “The unbearable lightness of climate populism (the depoliticization of the environment)” based on a homonymous recently published paper. Mobilizing a Lacanian psychoanalytical perspective to address what he calls “climate populism”, prof. Swyngedouw posed a series of critical arguments around the current climate discourses. Grouped around the consensus that the climate emergency is the utmost urgent problem of our times, these discourses — both mainstream and radical, left and right— are also trapped within the cognitive dissonance between “knowing” and “acting”. Considered “too big or too threatening to be symbolically articulated” (Swyngedouw, p.2), our current socio-ecological crisis leads to the displacement of our desire to build a politically egalitarian, ecologically sensible and socially inclusive world into a manageable “small” entity called CO2. In this sense, CO2 operates as a “fetish object”. It allows us to deny the Real problem, and build fantasies, apocalyptic future scenarios and promises around it (“We need to tackle CO2, and then everything will be solved”), that then mobilize a complex apparatus of techno-managerial solutions to address “the problem”.
Discussing the four forms of discourse through which such climate populism and techno-managerial apparatus are structured, opened up new interrogations on our role as critical and politically committed activist-researchers. Revolving around the Master-discourse that frames climate change as a problem-to-come for which there is an existing solution within the current structural parameters, our “hysterical” critical discourse requires self-scrutiny. According to prof. Swyngedouw’s analysis, even if we are invested in questioning, criticizing, and uncovering the Master’s narratives’ mechanisms, we are also potentially reproducing “the existing power configurations that produced the problem in the first place” (Swyngedouw, p.14).
This conversation motivated additional pressing questions for our riverine investigations: How do we learn, then, from the failures and limitations of critical theory to overcome the Master-discourse, the fetishization of CO2, and climate-apocalyptic narratives? How do we undertake our research from the acknowledgment that the climate catastrophe has already happened? How do we re-politicize our imaginaries to open up “different political-ecological trajectories” (Swyngedouw, p.15)?
Swyngedouw, E. (2022). The unbearable lightness of climate populism, Environmental Politics, vol. 31
By Carolina Cuevas | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
A debate around “Dams, Rivers and Rewilding Dams”
30 August 2022 | Impulse, WUR
Contestations around water infrastructures shape many debates around water governance and cut across our river research projects. The 7th riverside meeting was a fruitful space to share ideas on how water infrastructures, which embody specific visions and projects about development, can trigger diverse social movements and forms of resistance in different geographies.
The debate around “Dams, Rivers and Rewilding Dams” took place on 30 August 2022, at the Impulse Speakers Corner of Wageningen University. Dr. Barbara Hogenboom opened the session with a presentation of two books by postdoc researchers, Dr. Juan Hidalgo and Dr. Bibiana Duarte. Both authors analyse the power-water-technology nexus and how utopian ideas seek to order society through water management. Hidalgo’s work focused on three dams built in Ecuador in different political moments: developmentalism, neoliberalism, and progressivism. His work sought to unravel the impact of power dynamics on design decisions and how continuities and discontinuities in political dynamics affected the development of the dams. Duarte’s work explored how utopian dreams impose a universalising world-view, which in the two cases she investigated (Guadalhorce river in Spain and Middle Magdalena in Colombia) resulted in a rupture of the social fabric and large dispossession of local communities. These books triggered diverse questions: how to address uneven interests and positions regarding water infrastructures within local communities and how to position ourselves as researchers in such a myriad of interests and perspectives?
The second speaker of the session was Frank Westerman, who presented his recently published work “Too true to be good”. His book talks about the removal of two hydroelectric dams on the Selune river, namely, the Vezins (36 meters) and the La Roche Qui Boit (16 meters), within the re-wilding effort to have a free-flowing river and restore the riparian ecosystem according to the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive. The author reflected on how the removal of these dams encountered robust social resistance from residents of the Sélune and Vezins. They have lived around the reservoirs all their life and disagreed with such massive intervention in their villages. Citizens organised themselves in a group called “Amis des barrier”, to challenge the dam removal operation, arguing that the damns were not only part of their landscape but also a key source of income. Westerman also adopted a critical position toward the dam removal initiative, opening the debate about who has the authority to define what nature is and how to restore the landscape to its previous state if there are no memories of how it looked before the construction of the dams. These thought-provoking points lead the audience to reflect on the dynamics around grassroots populist counter-movements and how to balance social demands with nature protection and new legal figures such as rights of nature.
Finally, Dr. Lena Hommes presented her recently defended PhD dissertation “Infrastructure Lives”, which studied water and territorial transformations in Turkey, Peru, and Spain. Dr Hommes analysed how material and symbolic identities shape political processes and contestations around dam construction and removal. An essential element within her analysis is how imaginaries evolve through the different time stages of infrastructure: design, development, and removal. In this regard, defining when infrastructure is obsolete has become a contested issue, as exemplified by the Torranes dam case. Although the dam was no longer producing energy, local irrigators used it for irrigating their orchards. For them, this infrastructure was still alive. As with the case of the Sélune river, the social resistance against dam removal in Torranes highlights how debates around water infrastructures embody broader societal discussions on legitimacy and social justice: What are the vested interests in maintaining or removing a dam? Who decides the prevalence of environmental values over cultural ones? Who has the legitimacy to decide what nature is worth protecting? How do we overcome nature-society binaries?
The closing discussion between the PhD researchers and the speakers revolved around how to re-think nature-society relations overcoming the myths of utopian development on the one hand and pristine nature on the other. Although apparent tensions and contradictions between the so-called red (social) and green (environmental) demands, it is key to consider those aspects as interdependent. Therefore, when criticising mainstream and elitist environmentalism that does not reflect on systematic injustices, we must be careful and “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. For many years, environmentalism movements, especially those led by historically marginalised populations, have called attention to the intersectionality between the environmental crisis and other forms of oppression, such as colonialism, classism, and racism. Besides, factors such as climate change and biodiversity loss made it clear that we need to transform our relationships with ecosystems and other living beings on the planet. A central challenge for our research is to promote future conversations and alliances in that direction: establishing new ways of relating, being, and dreaming of the nexus of nature-technology and society.
By Ana Maria Arbelaez-Trujillo and Sarita Bhagat | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
“Commons relations: CONFIANZA” and “A counter geography of water”
30 June 2022 | CEDLA, Amsterdam
During our 6th Riverside Meeting on June 30, we discussed the importance of ‘confianza’ with Prof. dr. Michiel Baud, and explored the possibilities of counter cartographies with Prof. dr. Edward Huijbens.
As a rhizome, we explored the multiple and non-hierarchical relations and conceptualizations of ‘confianza’ as a way of commons-relations, as principle in itself and as an expression of solidarity networks with all its connecting implications.
The second part of the session was focused on territorial transformations through cartography as a contested practice, understanding different ways of how mapping can be a political declaration and an act of resistance to create alternative cartographies based on other ways of understanding the world.
Finally, we put in practice the discussed counter-mapping insights by walking around a section of the Amstel river and looking at the urban-cultural landscape through different lenses: How would the state represent the river? How we could represent commoning values through a map? What would be important to visualize for workers, feminist or minorities?
Gieseking, J.J. (2013). Where We Go From Here: The Mental Sketch Mapping Method and Its Analytic Components. Qualitative Inquiry, 19(9) 712– 724
Oslender, O. (2021). Decolonizing cartography and ontological conflict: Counter-mapping in Colombia and “cartographies otherwise”. Political Geography 89: 102444
By Catalina Rey Hernandez and Laura Giraldo Martinez | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
Water, power & technology
06 June 2022 | Forum, WUR
Infrastructure concerns all of us, we are surrounded by it and rely on it daily. It is also an important topic in the diverse riversides studied by the Riverhood and River Commons projects. Therefore, on Thursday June 2, PhD students and project staff met to further dive into this topic and ‘open the black box of infrastructure’.
One of the central points that came out of the readings (Pfaffenberger, 1988; Dajani and Mason, 2018) was the importance to understand technology and infrastructure as intrinsically shaped by social relations. These social relations are often disguised by artefacts’ visibility and materiality, and associated claims about artefacts being ‘just artefacts’ (Pfaffenberger calls this the “fetishization of objects”).
However, we need to consider technological artefacts as the materialization of power relations, morality and ideas about how society should be and behave – what is good, what is bad. Discussed examples for that were the famous bridges of Long Island (which were constructed so low that busses – that were commonly used by lower income groups – could not pass and thus could not access the area); and benches in urban environments that are designed in such a way that people will sit down but homeless persons won’t have the possibility to sleep there.
Beyond the morals and power relations, we also discussed how technology and infrastructure often carry powerful meaning beyond their technical function only. For example, infrastructure projects and the inaugurations thereof are instrumentalized by politicians to gain votes and to show that they are doing ‘a great job’ to the benefit of the people. Of course, this can be highly problematic, leading to conflictive projects that might gain political votes but might, at the same time, have detrimental effects for people and the environment. This makes it even more central to critically deconstruct technologies and infrastructures, their meaning, uses, sustaining discourses and political relations that give shape to them. Last but not least, we also debated about how technology is material and stable, but at the same time dynamic: it is being contested, redefined, and adapted.
This discussion session was only the start of conversations and critical reflections about infrastructure: how infrastructure shapes hydrosocial territories, what environmentally and socially just infrastructure would look like, and how the new water justice movements studied by the Riverhood and River Commons projects engage with riverine infrastructures.
Pfaffenberger, B. (1988). Fetishised Objects and Humanised Nature: Towards an Anthropology of Technology. Man, 23(2), 236–252.
Dajani, M. & Mason, M. (2018). Counter-infrastructure as resistance in the hydrosocial territory of the occupied Golan Heights. In: Menga, F. & Swyngedouw, E. (eds) Water, Technology and the Nation-State. Routledge
By Qinhong Xu and Lena Hommes | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
Rijn River Walk
28 April 2022 | Wageningen
By Carolina Cuevas | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
Climate change adaptation under multiple interpretations of reality
16 March 2022 | Orion, WUR
In this Riverside meeting, we met to share, discuss and reflect on future imaginaries of rivers based on Lotte de Jong’s (PhD Researcher/River Commons) research proposal titled “Climate change adaptation under multiple interpretations of reality”. Lotte argued that climate change adaptations have influenced river management and that diverse future imaginaries co-exist and are contested in the discourse and political activity of water governance (Davoudi & Machen, 2021). She will work on the Meuse River (The Netherlands) and the Magdalena River (Colombia). During the presentation, the researcher discussed provocative ideas regarding numerical models, infrastructures and negotiations of different imaginaries in participatory modeling practices. Finally, Lotte closed her presentation highlighting the importance of deconstructing river models to identify the power relations that are embedded in these processes.
Several ideas, concepts and questions emerged from the presentation. From the discussion, I will highlight three aspects that I consider the most relevant: the criticism of the models used on climate change adaptation projects, the role of the future, and the reflections on the fishing communities of Magdalena River. Regarding the models, we discussed that they bring with them knowledge claims that justify and validate infrastructure interventions. Although the models are presented as objective tools, they are formulated with concrete interests and are part of power-knowledge relations. Climate change models are ideal tools for understanding or studying the future, i.e., the projections, dreams, and ideas that decision-makers have about the future and the hegemonic discourses that are imbricated in such projections (Marien, 2010). Finally, we discussed the case of the Magdalena River and the fishing communities that are of special interest to the researcher, in order to analyze imaginaries that contest hegemonic visions about the river and the future (Jaramillo & Carmona, 2022). Specifically, we discuss the complexity of the fishing communities, their micropolitics, and the social intersections of the different social groups that compose such communities. We conclude that it is necessary to not essentialize communities and to be open to understanding them from their disparities, differences, and internal particularities.
Jaramillo, P., & Carmona, S. (2022). Temporal enclosures and the social production of inescapable futures for coal mining in Colombia. Geoforum, 130, 11-22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2022.01.010
Davoudi, S., & Machen, R. (2021). Climate imaginaries and the mattering of the medium. Geoforum. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2021.11.003
Marien, M. (2010). Futures-thinking and identity: Why “Futures Studies” is not a field, discipline, or discourse: a response to Ziauddin Sardar’s ‘the namesake’. Futures, 42(3), 190-194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2009.11.003
By Juliana Forigua Sandoval | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
Lecture with Professor Ana Mariella Bacigalupo
25 February 2022 | Lumen, WUR
The second Riverside Meeting took place on 25 February on campus at Wageningen University, with a lecture from Professor Ana Mariella Bacigalupo. The presentation and discussion that ensued focused on Bacigalupo’s latest article, “Subversive Cosmopolitics in the Anthropocene: On Sentient Landscapes and the Ethical Imperative in Northern Peru” (Bacigalupo, 2021); and an additional reading for the meeting included Adriana Paola Paredes Peñafiel’s and Fabiana Li’s “Nourishing Relations: Controversy over the Conga Mining Project in Northern Peru” (Peñafiel and Li, 2019). Both the articles and the lecture and discussion intersected with one of the four central ontological dimensions of the Riverhood and River Commons projects – that of river-as-subject. In particular, Bacigalupo’s lecture raised interesting questions among the audience about different topics, like the plurality of existing ontologies about Nature and about the role of humans in relationship with Nature. Namely, questions and reflections focused on lively and sentient conceptions of natural entities such as mountains (here represented in the figure of the Apu, according to Peruvian shamans that Bacigalupo engaged with during her research). Some also focused on the role of researchers (anthropologists or otherwise) and their own beliefs and/or practical involvement in the kind of subjects that they are researching on, especially when such subjects may touch upon the borders between – for instance – science and spirituality. This Riverside Meeting was overall an interesting and enriching opportunity to reflect on the abyssal lines (Santos, 2014) between different forms of knowledge; different understandings of the relations between nature and (human) society; and the potential tensions and contradictions that lie not only between divergent worldviews, but also between varying ways of conducting research and producing scientific or academic knowledge.
By Carlota Silva Houart | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
27 January 2022 | Renkumse Beekdal, Renkum
A central point of the Riverside Meetings discussions has been the concept of ‘commons’ as the notion of self-governance arrangements of collective goods/resources that are not privately held and can be tangible or intangible (De Moor, 2011). Therefore, for our first Riverside Meeting we went on a field visit to the Renkum valley (Renkumse Beekdal) to learn and get insights from locally involved actors that have redesigned and reorganized the river’s ecology, territory, and governance under the concept of ‘commoning’.
The Renkum valley has a history of afforestation, industrial and agricultural land use which has led to a process of biodiversity loss due to a desiccation and degradation of its stream ecosystems (Reis Oliveira et al, 2020; Witte et all, 2019). As nowadays the valley has lost its industrial and agricultural value, pressure from society helped to get (semi) self-governing initiatives to order the sociological-ecological space of the valley (Slijkhuis, 2021). Hence, multiple local commoning and municipal river valley restoration actions are being developed for nature conservation and to create an attractive environment for recreation (Jongman, 1990).
During our visit to the valley, volunteers from the “Informatiecentrum Renkums Beekdal” guided us through the landscape and its ‘sprengen’ (artificial brooks) that have been restored, and that under constant maintenance can have water flow again. Through our walk, we were able to get insights of the historical evolution of this ‘human-made’ landscape, its maintenance and protection; and how different competing users claim to organize, use and govern the water flows in the area.
To finalize the excursion, we gathered under the trees of the valley to discuss our insights and debate how the conception of commons can help us to enrich our knowledge to manage resources collectively and in a fairer way, not only for humans, but also for other beings that are an essential part of the landscape and its ecosystems.
De Moor, T. (2011). From common pastures to global commons: A historical perspective on interdisciplinary approaches to Commons. Natures Sciences Sociétés, 19(4), 422–431. https://doi.org/10.1051/nss/2011133
dos Reis Oliveira, P. C., van der Geest, H. G., Kraak, M. H. S., Westveer, J. J., Verdonschot, R. C. M., & Verdonschot, P. F. M. (2020). Over forty years of Lowland Stream Restoration: Lessons Learned? Journal of Environmental Management, 264, 110417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.110417
Jongman, R. H. G. (1990). Conservation of brooks in small watersheds: A case for planning. Landscape and Urban Planning, 19(1), 55–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/0169-2046(90)90035-z
Witte, J. M., Voortman, B., Nijhuis, K., van Huijgevoort, M., Rijpkema, S. & Spek, T. (2019). Met het historische landschap verdween er water van de Veluwe. Stromingen, 33(1), 91-108.
Slijkhuis, H. (2021). Waarom Voeren de veluwse sprengen en beken steeds minder water. From https://www.henk-weltje.nl/verdroging-op-de-veluwe/waarom-voeren-de-veluwse-sprengen-en-beken-steeds-minder-water-af-slijkhuis-2021
By Catalina Rey Hernandez | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
River Commons will implement a long-term international Master students exchange programme. The INREF-collaborating WUR chairgroups and study programs, CEDLA/UvA, WNM-Netherlands and different NGOs around the world will jointly set up this collaboration that focuses on participatory action research, education, and awareness-raising.
The goal of the programme is to foster cross-cultural training and exchange for students from the social and natural sciences. It does so by accompanying students before, during and after their MSc thesis research and providing tools for intercultural communication.
- Preparatory activities include intensive online preparation and in-person interaction where topics such as intercultural communication, community engagement and critical self-reflection are discussed. The aim is to equip students with tools and insights to learn from and with different cultures in creative and inspiring ways.
- Exchange: After the preparation, students will conduct field research abroad for about three months. They will engage with local communities, NGOs and other stakeholders to jointly study innovative river commoning approaches and methodologies. From a participatory action research Students will support and collaborate in riverine grassroot initiatives aimed to protect and restore rivers.
- Networking and conscientization: Upon return, students are expected to communicate and raise awareness on inter-cultural insights to audiences in their home country, for example through experience-discussion meetings on social equality, sustainable water governance and environmental justice.
The main geographical focus will be on Colombia, even though also cases in other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America can be studied depending on the students’ interests and available host organizations. Students will join in the River Commons and Riverhood PhD projects and experience cross-cultural training and exchange, inspired by community empowerment and knowledge co-production.
Who is involved?
The programme is directed at Master students from WUR, UvA and partners who are interested in studying river co-governance initiatives and processes in a participatory manner.
- WNM (Weeknederlandsemissionaris), WUR Postdocs and CEDLA student/staff, Fundacion Alma and other NGOs will organize workshops and lectures for the preparation phase.
- Casa Migrante (is a non-profit organization that supports Spanish-speaking immigrants who live in and around Amsterdam) will work as a encounter space for intercultural exchange between Latin-American immigrants and students from the north.
In total, there are 48 scholarships available for the coming 4 years (2022 – 2025): 40 scholarships for students from Dutch partner universities and 8 scholarships for Colombian MSc students to conduct research in the Netherlands
If you are interested in participating, please contact the coordinator Bibiana Abadia Duarte. Applications will be received at any time and should include CV and motivation letter. Selection will be made on the basis of the application and a following admission interview.
Bibiana Abadia Duarte (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For more information, see: “RIVER COMMONS Inter-university student and grassroots exchange programme”
Example of a Master’s dissertation that is part of the exchange programme
Provisional title: “What is common? A case study of artisanal fishermen around Canal del Dique”
Student: Niek Schasfoort
Supervisors: Bibiana Duarte-Abadía & Jaime Hoogester
Niek Schasfoort is conducting fieldwork around the Canal del Dique in the North of Colombia. In this area, Niek is talking to artisanal fishermen about the possible impact of the PPP project of the canal on their livelihoods. Through these interviews, he aims to define the areas of the commons for the artisanal fishermen and how they may be affected by the project. Although the project is framed by the designers as an ecological restoration project that will benefit the fishermen, there is a lot of fear and mistrust among the fishermen in the true intention of the project: “ANI commented to us that the project is 90% environmental, 7% infrastructure, and 3% navigability. But I stood up and told them that it is 90% navigability, 7% infrastructure, and 3% environmental” (Fisherman Soplaviento). With this research, Niek’s goal is to shine more light on the people of this area and their concerns and to discuss ways in which the people organize themselves to have their concerns heard and addressed by the government.
- Crossing borders to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from ten years of the Wageningen University Interdisciplinary Research & Education Fund (INREF)
- How can we make sure there will still be tuna in our seas in the future? How should we tackle Panama disease, which threatens the banana as we know it? And how can palm oil producers in Indonesia and Thailand make a living in a sustainable way? These are just some examples of subjects investigated in the Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund (INREF) of Wageningen University. All are linked to the major global issues concerning health, energy, food and water, captured by the UN in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This publication presents a selection of projects funded by INREF, including River Commons, which aim is to support the equitable co-governance of rivers.
- REPORT – Summer School River Lives and Living Rivers: Towards a transdisciplinary conceptualization (2022)
- World’s rivers are fundamental to social and natural well-being but profoundly affected by mega-damming and pollution. In response to top-down and technocratic approaches, in many places, riverine communities practice forms of ‘river co-governance’, integrating ecological, cultural, political, economic and technological dimensions. In addition, new water justice movements (NWJMs) have emerged worldwide to creatively transform local ideas for ‘enlivening rivers’ into global action and vice versa. The Summer School aimed to provide PhD students who conduct research on these ‘river commons’ and NWJMs with transdisciplinary concepts and approaches for studying their emerging ideas, concepts, proposals and strategies. The different sessions thereby focused on conceptualizing river systems in all senses, and capacity-building for (understanding and supporting) river knowledge co-creation and democratisation from the bottom up. Click here to download the Summer School Report.
This video presents the River Commons project, an integrated research programme aiming to explore the opportunities of river co-governance.
Justicia Hídrica/Water Justice is a international alliance, working on research, capacity building and action. Its objective is to contribute to more water justice, meaning more democratic water policies and more sustainable development practices that promote a more equitable water distribution. It consists of a combination of thematic conceptual work with case studies in Latin American countries and in other continents.
The International WaTERS is an inclusive network and partnership to connect, improve knowledge and build capacity related to water security and governance challenges, especially in the global south. While originally funded by SSHRC in Canada, and led by researchers at the University of British Columbia, we aim to continue to build our network to be inclusive and adaptive in ways that will allow us to evolve and grow in relation to new opportunities.
International Rivers are a global organization. They work with river-dependent and dam-affected communities to ensure their voices are heard and their rights are respected; help to build well-resourced, active networks of civil society groups to demonstrate our collective power and create the change we seek; undertake independent, investigative research, generating robust data and evidence to inform policies and campaigns; remain independent and fearless in campaigning to expose and resist destructive projects and engage with all relevant stakeholders to develop a vision that protects rivers and the communities that depend upon them.
The EJ Atlas collects stories of communities struggling for environmental justice from around the world. It aims to make these mobilization more visible, highlight claims and testimonies and to make the case for true corporate and state accountability for the injustices inflicted through their activities. It also attempts to serve as a virtual space for those working on EJ issues to get information, find other groups working on related issues, and increase the visibility of environmental conflicts.
RIVERS engages with one of the most pressing questions of this century: the relationship between humans and “Nature”. RIVERS has two intertwined core objectives: (1) analysing different ways of knowing and relating to water and life among indigenous peoples and their understanding of its (potential) violation by extractive projects; (2) discussing the contributions, challenges and pitfalls of inter-legal translation of differing water natures in pluri-legal encounters at domestic and international levels.
Not so long ago, most of our rivers were drinkable. Now, almost none. When we will have drinkable rivers again, it means that the watershed, and all natural life in it, is healthy and in balance and all actions contribute to this. We believe that drinkable rivers could be used as a guiding compass for societies, as a replacement of our current focus on economic growth. To achieve this, Drinkable Rivers mobilises people in watersheds to care for their rivers. We engage with government officials, educate children and undertake research with citizens.
NEWAVE is rooted in the conviction that the rising threats of future water crises and hydro-social challenges, present an urgent need to enhance the global capacity to reflect critically on the current water governance trajectory. The NEWAVE project aims to point the way forward in the global debate about water governance and it does so by developing research and training for a new generation of future water governance leaders, and by equipping them with the transdisciplinary skills to better tackle water challenges.
The UNESCO Chair “Fleuves et Patrimoine – River Culture” (headed by Karl M. Wantzen, University of Tours, France) works on the harmonization between human activities and bio-cultural heritage in riverscapes of the Global South and North. Together with the UNESCO Water Family and a global network of academics and stakeholders, studies on on human-river-relationships and sustainable river management are made in the context of the River Culture Concept, including 6 ongoing PhD theses (in India, China, Congo DR, Senegal and Brazil) and a book on “River Culture – Life as A Dance to the Rhythms of the Water”, to appear soon at UNESCO publishing.
The Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) in Western Australia has sustained Indigenous peoples and their societies for millennia. A research project led by scientists at the Australian Rivers Institute, and designed with Traditional Owners of the Martuwarra, has developed powerful new insights into different ways of knowing and valuing water. In addition to generating conventional research outputs, the project used art and storytelling works to depict Indigenous and western scientific ways of understanding and managing water flows. These differences need to be understood and respected if water planning is to have any chance of protecting the Living Waters of the Martuwarra and the life they sustain.
Ríos to Rivers inspires the protection of rivers worldwide by investing in underserved and indigenous youth who are intimately connected to their local waters and support them in the development as the next generation of environmental stewards. Founded in 2012, Ríos to Rivers exchanges’ have connected 196 underserved and indigenous students from 17 endangered river basins in six countries. The programs have included students and community leaders from 12 indigenous nations. Each student participates in two, three-week-long international exchanges. In their first exchange, they are hosted and in the second they become hosts
The Global Water Forum was established in 2010 as an initiative of the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance at the Australian National University. In 2016, it expanded to partner with Oxford University. The GWF is an online resource presenting evidence-based, accessible, and freely available articles concerning freshwater science and governance. The site acts as a hub for education resources, and as a forum for the discussion of water challenges and solutions. The central objective of the site is to build the capacity of students, policy-makers, those working in the water sector, and the general public to understand and respond to complex freshwater problems.
Voices of Rivers is a collaborative project of A4C — Arts for the commons (www.artsforthecommons.wordpress.com) launched in occasion of its participation to the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, “rīvus” (2022) — https://www.biennaleofsydney.art. The website is part of the work “Vilcabamba-De iura fluminis et terrae”, a video and audio installation on the rights of rivers. The project collective is composed by a artists, academics, researchers and activists in Latin America, USA, Europe and Australia. A4C dedicates this work in honor and support of water defenders, indigenous peoples, Aboriginal and local communities protecting rivers worldwide.
LANDac is a partnership between Dutch organisations and Southern partners working on land governance for equitable and sustainable development. It was formed in 2010 as one of the IS Academies, a series of five-year programs designed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strengthen the role of knowledge and research in sustainable development, poverty alleviation and international cooperation. The LANDac network brings together actors, conducts research, and distributes information, focusing on new pressures and competing claims on land and natural resources.
- Review: Encuentros de Saberes “Pensar con los Ríos en Colombia”
- El pasado 05, 12, y 19 de agosto de 2021 se llevaron a cabo de manera virtual los encuentros de saberes: “Pensar con los ríos: Transición energética, culturas ribereñas y conservación socioecológica”. Desde el año 2018, el Grupo de estudio Ecología Política y Justicia Hídrica de Colombia (GEEPJH) en alianza con varias organizaciones y colectivos viene organizando encuentros de intercambio y de diálogo entre los movimientos ecoterritoriales, la academia y la sociedad civil sobre distintas problemáticas ambientales. Este año el espacio centró su atención en los ríos, tomando como caso la cuenca del río Magdalena en Colombia, y participaron como co-organizadores el Grupo de investigación Territorio de la Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana sede Medellín, Colombia y el Grupo de Trabajo Ecología(s) política(s) desde Sur/Abya Yala del Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales -CLACSO-.
- Book: Hidro-políticas y Territorios Hidrosociales en Rosario y el Río Paraná (Gabriela González, Gustavo Fernetti, Carlos Salamanca Villamizar, Francisco Astudillo Pizarro)
- En esta obra fascinante e inspiradora sobre los territorios hidrosociales en Rosario y el río Paraná, Carlos Salamanca Villamizar, Gabriela González, Gustavo Fernetti y Francisco Astudillo Pizarro han logrado expresar y visibilizar la certeza y complejidad de este entendimiento cardinal de una manera fenomenal. Tal como ellos escriben, “las distintas concepciones en torno al agua son el fundamento de una pluralidad de prácticas y dinámicas sociopolíticas que se despliegan en conflictividades, negociaciones, normalizaciones y alianzas creativas (Pag. 7).
- Opinion piece: Miel II, siguiendo el manual de errores de Hidroituango (Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo)
- En esta columna de opinión la abogada y especialista en derecho ambiental, Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo, explica cómo el proyecto Miel II, que se desarrollaría en el departamento de Caldas, podría afectar la disponibilidad del hábitat y afectar el transporte de sedimentos de los ríos.
photo by Laura Giraldo-Martinez