Report from European social ecology meeting




Dan Chodorkoff reports from the recent European social ecology meeting in Greece:

TRISE, the Transnational Institute for Social Ecology held its second annual meeting in Marathon Greece from April 23-27th.    The organization is a primarily European effort to develop and disseminate the ideas of social ecology, with an emphasis on urban issues and the active transformation of cities.  There were folks from Sweden, Finland, Italy, Canada, the U.S. and Greece present.  I was there with my wife Betsy to represent the I.S.E. and to do a presentation on our 40 years of history.  All told about 25 people, many of whom were I.S.E. alums or folks who have attended our summer colloquia, participated in a very full weekend of presentations, discussions and panels.

The first two days were devoted primarily to internal discussion and education, and we heard very interesting presentations from I.S.E. alum Jonathan Kosar on the importance of the city, using many examples from his native Sweden, followed that evening by my slide presentation about lessons from 40 years of organizing and education at the Institute for Social Ecology.

The next day we heard from Frederico Venturini, a Ph.D. student in Human Geography about methodology in research examining social movements drawing on his work with urban social movements in Rio.  He discussed the concept of participatory action research, and used his Brazilian experience as a case study.

The remainder of the first two days was spent on organizational issues like web site development, fund raising and the structure of TRISE.

The following two days saw new people join us for a series of public presentations focusing on the legacy of Murray Bookchin.  Dimitri Roussopoulos discussed his experience applying Bookchin’s ideas in Montreal and introduced Janet Biehl, who read selections from her riveting new biography of Bookchin, soon to be published by Oxford University Press.

That afternoon we had a series of workshops examining topics like participatory democracy in transportation planning, the right to the city, cities and the battle for renewable energy, and community development and alternative technology.

The final day things finished up with a lecture on the subversion of politics.

The conference was a great opportunity to meet old friends and meet a new group of social ecologists.  An underlying theme that ran through the weekend was the current Greek crisis (Official unemployment is close to 30%), and the relevance of social ecology in the face of the hopelessness that many Greeks are feeling.  The praxis of social ecology, rather than pure theory was emphasized, and I left feeling invigorated and hopeful by what I learned.