Encouraging participation in the right places

I decided not to go in order with my report, because I thought that some presentations on the saturday spoke to some issue that had emerged the day after. specifically, I thought that Matt Garcia’s Eco Studio, Marc Böhlen’s WaterBank and Tom Sherman’s videos as an amateur scientist were linked together in many ways.

The Mobile Eco Studio relies on willing citizens to save the neglected and depleted land in Arizona, by distributing restorative seed mixes (mostly cacti) through a mobile installation.

Apparently, 40% of private lots in the Phoenix, Arizona were bought and then abandoned to themselves. the result is a series of empty and completely depleted lots that can only be brought back to life by the community itself


With different goals but still a strong community oriented and collaborative approach, WaterBank  is a complex project aiming to bring clean, drinkable water to the airkami (our water in Indonesia, a term defining the common water) of the population of the district of Terban, Indonesia, through the construction of a water well system. The project is quite extensive if one thinks that in order to realize it, Bohlen had to collaborate with engineers, the health authorities and the university. Importantly, the project had to respect local customs: Indonesians have water wells inside their homes and consider water a shareable item. Bohlen’s website and this scientific paper documents this herculean project.


With his video work, Tom Sherman has been documenting and consistently worked to raise awareness about the risks brought by the industrialization of the fishing industry. overfishing and pollution has produced scarcity and marine diseases, which are apparently tamed by throwing antibiotics in the water. Fishing is continuing though. apparently, the fish is approved for human consumption.


Sherman has produced a number of videos that document this phenomenon with scientific and ethnographic accuracy,  warning about the consequences of this extreme exploitation of the marine population and its ecology. The videos take on a ironic, almost speculative-fiction tones, but the topics are really serious and alarming.

Or they should. This is where corporate interests and citizen science/citizen responsibility collide: unfortunately, many of the people who should fight the fishing industry for its unsustainable and unhealthy practices are employed by that very industry: short term survival doesn’t seem to agree with long term common good. capitalist exploitation now is considered somehow more desirable even though it means destruction later. This is an element that emerged  in Waterbank too: the corporate power to be reached out to the community to turn the water well into a private enterprise that would charge for fresh, clean water. The community, however, refused to abide by this offer. In the case of Nova Scotia, where the water contamination and marine depletion is happening, the protests and oppositions to the status quo don’t seem to be particularly effective. then the question to ask is: why is this happening? is it the instrument used to raise awareness that is misplaced? are the stakes too high? is Nova Scotia not desperate enough/doesn’t see immediate negative effects?  how long before a community based move to re-populate their own territory like the one slowly growing in Arizona occurs?