Posts filed under ‘Social Movements’

The Monsanto Hearings: Iowa City

Flier for Iowa City Monsanto HearingsOn Saturday, April 21, farmers, environmental advocates, veterans, artists, and community members will come together to share testimony and review the record concerning Monsanto’s impacts on eastern Iowa and the world. The event, which will take place from 11 AM – 2 PM in the Boyd Law Building on the University of Iowa campus, is the second in a growing series of hearings intended to raise awareness of the local impacts of the agribusiness giant while asking broader questions about the capacity of existing law to promote social and environmental justice.

As the nation’s top producer of both corn and soy, the state of Iowa is shaped by the practices of Monsanto in countless ways. Iowa produced 20% of US corn crop for 2011, and, with more than 85% of that genetically modified, almost no place in the state is left untouched. While opinion is sharply divided about GMO crops, many of their promised benefits–reduced pesticide use and greater profits for farmers–have failed to materialize, and a mounting body of evidence suggests dangers to human health, damage to our soils, and the development of resistant pests and superweeds. The rapid adoption of GMO crops constitutes the biggest uncontrolled experiment in human history. Some in our communities continue to cope with the toxic legacy of historic Monsanto products such as PCBs, and local veterans, farmers, and farmworkers experience chemical sensitivities due to exposure to pesticides. The evolution of Monsanto from a chemical to a biotech company has entailed a massive consolidation of agricultural infrastructure, and the company grants millions for academic research each year. At every level–from our soils to our universities–Iowa is clearly impacted by Monsanto in countless ways.

The Monsanto Hearings provide a public forum for a community to speak to the harmful effects of these impacts. A trial is a familiar form, a vehicle for evaluating harms, assigning responsibility, and making restitution. At the same time, existing law often limits who has ‘standing’– the right to make claims and be heard — and insists that damages be measurable in dollar value. The Iowa City hearing takes a different approach by considering all living beings as potential plaintiffs. What, for example, what might bacteria in our soil have to say about the pesticide Round Up? Is there a connection between Monsanto and the collapse of bee colonies? The hearing therefore presents creative or artistic testimonies alongside more traditional forms of witness.

The April 21st Iowa City event is the second in an ongoing series of hearings organized in cities across the country. The first took place in Carbondale, IL in January; others are planned later this year in Chicago, IL and Santa Cruz, CA. The Iowa City hearing is sponsored, in part, by the art fair documenta13, the AndAndAnd artist-run initiative, Iowa City SOUP, and the University of Iowa ECGPS.

Download Iowa City Monsanto Hearings Flyer


listening to zea maize

We are a group of writers, teachers, artists, researchers, and farmers. In this hearing, we will use the court as a theater to build public understanding. All people and living beings are potential plaintiffs.

What is the awareness of their technologies in an average community? Is it possible to live for one day without the products of this company? Are there any areas of life not touched by their brand?

Evidence and testimony will be presented highlighting the impact that the Monsanto corporation has on our food, farms, communities, and ecosystems.

YOU are invited to review the research on Monsanto through shared testimonies and argument.

Please join us in this liberating exchange!

WHEN: January 28, 2012, from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
First session 11-12:30: Second session 2-3:30

WHERE: Lesar Law Bldg Courtroom, SIU, Carbondale, IL

WHY: To raise awareness of the research on Monsanto’s existing public record, and to accumulate evidence on the impact of their products and policies on life- within our community, nation, and biosphere.

Monsanto operates within the letter of the law of our land and often in coordination with the State. We ask then, should there be a higher law or moral order?

Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Sponsored by the SIUC Fine Arts Activity Fee and the Student Activity Fee administered by the Graduate and Professional Student Council and supported by AndAndAnd (documenta(13).

Detroit and the 2010 US Social Forum

Compass contributors and friends attended the US Social Forum in Detroit. This visit followed on the heels of several visits and extended conversations with some Detroit-based individuals and organizations over the last year.

Compass proposed and held a workshop (Cartography With Your Feet) at the Social Forum. The workshop presented an outline of our working methodology—a form of embodied, place-based research—that is being developed through our ongoing series of collective and individual “drifts.” This brief presentation was followed up with a participatory mapping activity, prompting ourselves and guests to map (on paper) the geography between our points of origin and the USSF in Detroit. We asked questions about both the literal and political roads taken.

We also held a BBQ across from the historic King Solomon Baptist Church, located around the corner from Hush House. We hung out under the Car Pool tent, created by Adrian Blackwell, and had a wonderful evening of conversations with folks from Chicago, California, and neighbors. Hush House members showed us the meditation garden recently installed by USSF volunteers, and the Hush House museum.

Compass contributors Dan S Wang, Brian Holmes, and Sarah Ross (download a PDF of the Public I newspaper containing the article) have written great reports on our activities there and their own impressions and experiences.

Invitation to a People’s Movement Assembly

Sunday, March 28, 2010
1-4 PM
Mess Hall
6932 North Glenwood

The US Social Forum will take place in Detroit from June 22-26, 2010. It is a multiethnic gathering, an organizers’ conference, an activists’ exchange, and above all, a movement building process. The economic, ecological, and justice urgencies driving the forum process are encapsulated in the belief that Another World Is Possible and the sense that Another US Is Necessary. To that we can only add Another America Is Inevitable, one way or another. We want to do our part in shaping that future, and to connect and cooperate with others who are doing, thinking, and feeling similarly.

The groundwork for a productive USSF is being laid in advance by the many People’s Movement Assemblies taking place around the country. The Assemblies are a malleable form, designed to bring people together for acquaintance, sharing of ideas, and constructive planning. The Assemblies take slightly different shape depending on where they happen, who organizes them, if there is a theme, etc. In Chicago there may be several different PMAs hosted by different groups, all of different nature and emphasis. We see the PMA as an organizing tool and also as a call to put our own efforts in relation to something larger than ourselves.

To that end, the Compass Working Group invite you to participate in a People’s Movement Assembly. We will offer a report-back from several trips to Detroit, outlining what we have learned about existing, long-term social struggles in the city as well as USSF organizing. We will then briefly explain our own ongoing work and invite others to exchange information on their own projects, to engage in some mutual advisement and analysis. We hope to arrive at resolutions for action, which can refer to ongoing projects inside or outside of Detroit. Then we will be on our way, thinking about next steps in moving ideas to realization. The process will be in motion!

Cartography with Your Feet

Screenprint poster for Cartography with Your Feet at the US Social ForumHow can the scattered communities of the Rust Belt and the Corn Belt recognize each other, connect, share resources and build cultures of transformation? The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor is a sign, a vision, an invitation to meet people in cities, towns and rural areas on the roads to Detroit, to learn about local situations and find common issues. Our group of artists and writers, The Compass, is dedicated to exploring the radical roots of better futures for the region. This workshop offers a convergence for caravanistas, bicyclists and walkers to say how they are linking their home environments, projects and struggles to other localities and initiatives. Participants can tell stories of their travels, show images with a projector and trace out routes on a large map of North America, locating the places they found most meaningful. Key themes are environmental and social justice campaigns, alternative food production, cultures of resistance and grassroots institutions. Follow-ups during the Forum will include a walking tour in Detroit in collaboration with local inhabitants. We will also carry out video interviews with participants about the life path that has led them to Detroit, to create a lasting document distributed for free. Everyone paying special attention to the territory they cross on their road to the Forum is invited to share. This workshop can be merged with any similar proposal: the point is to meet people and make the dream of the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor into a reality. Map it with your feet!

Continental Drift Through the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor

From June 4 to 14, 2008, a group of people traveled through Illinois and Wisconsin in search of a Radical Midwest. Starting in Urbana, Illinois and winding our way through Chicago, Milwaukee, rural Wisconsin, and Madison, we visited places where alternate pasts and futures sprout up and grow roots in the stress-fractures of a society built on violence, exploitation, and environmental destruction. We visited community groups fighting power companies for decades of environmental racism; learned about preserving Underground Railroad sites in Chicago; watched a 35-year old film about revolutionary black    street gangs with the man who wrote it; cleaned a flood-damaged bookstore; and passed the time on many, many farms.

The trip was called Continental Drift and extended the seminars of that name organized by Brian Holmes, Claire Pentecost, and the people at 16 Beaver Group. The name proposes a radical geography that thinks place, culture, and economics simultaneously and contends that neoliberal capitalism and American militarism—as well as the interna- tional social movements that counter them — are radically reshaping the world on scales from the interpersonal to the geopolitical. The Midwest gathering doubled this sense of the word “drift.” Through the mobile exploration of the geographies of capital and resistance in a particular place, the seminar also became a derive, favored as an affective, embodied research tool by the Situationists of fifty years ago. In contrast to earlier seminars, this Drift unfolded over ten days, 725 miles, and several rainy nights spent in tents, fostering a level of familiarity, even intimacy among the travelers and those we visited.

(excerpted from the introduction to A Call to Farms)