Offsetted: On the Rights of Trees,” Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe (Cooking Sections), Mari Margil, and Elizabeth Yeampierre; moderated by Felicity D. Scott

On the occasion of the opening of Offsettede-flux held a discussion on environmental justice and the rights of trees, featuring Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe (Cooking Sections) in conversation with Mari Margil (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) and Elizabeth Yeampierre (UPROSE), moderated by Felicity D. Scott (Columbia GSAPP). 

678,183 street trees in New York City currently provide $109,625,536.06 in “environmental services” to the city every year. These services correlate to a tree’s biological functions, which are calculated in dollars—a mitigation scheme that positions trees as instruments to offset man-made ecological degradation. Rather than address the actual source of emissions, wastewater, or energy over-expenditure, the quantification of the performance of trees into tradable assets implicitly accepts the continuous production of waste and pollutants. Offsetted seeks to launch a critical debate on the financialization of the environment—from the scale of a city tree to an ecological reserve—and on current forms of environmental justice. Throughout the duration of the namesake exhibition at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia GSAPP, Cooking Sections will continue to explore the ways that value is extracted from trees in the city and global forms of green gentrification. This public discussion will further develop the project by considering procedures for the de-financialization of the environment and the stakes of such actions. Challenging the imposed obligation on trees to perform as speculative assets in real estate development and environmental mitigation, participants will discuss legal strategies to support the right of trees not to serve as carbon offsets, allowing them to just be trees.

“Offsetted: On the Rights of Trees” is held in conjunction with the exhibition Offsetted at the Arthur Ross Gallery, Columbia University running between February 22—June 8, 2019.

Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe) is a duo of spatial practitioners based in London. It was born to explore the systems that organize the world through food. Using installation, performance, mapping, and video, their research-based practice explores the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture, and geopolitics. Cooking Sections participated in the U.S. Pavilion exhibition at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Their work has also been exhibited at Manifesta 12, Palermo; Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; the 13th Sharjah Biennial; and Serpentine Galleries, London. They have recently been shortlisted for the 2019 Future Generation Art Prize and the Visible Award. They currently lead a studio unit at the Royal College of Art School of Architecture, London.

Mari Margil leads the International Center for the Rights of Nature of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF has assisted the first places in the world to secure the Rights of Nature in law, including in Ecuador’s Constitution, and is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Mari is working in Nepal, India, Australia, and other countries, as well as with tribal nations and indigenous peoples, to advance the Rights of Nature. Mari received her Master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is a co-author of The Bottom Line or Public Health(Oxford University Press) and Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence (Wakefield Press).

Felicity D. Scott is professor of architecture, director of the PhD program in Architecture (History and Theory), and co-director of the program in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP) at Columbia GSAPP. Her work as a historian and theorist focuses on articulating genealogies of political and theoretical engagement with questions of techno-scientific, environmental, and geopolitical transformation within modern and contemporary architecture, art, and media, as well as upon the discourses, institutions and social movements that have shaped and defined these disciplines, sometimes evidently, sometimes less so. Her most recent publications are Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counter-Insurgency (Zone Books, 2016), and Disorientations: Bernard Rudofsky in the Empire of Signs (Sternberg Press, 2016). She is also a founding co-editor of Grey Room, a quarterly journal of architecture, art, media, and politics published quarterly by MIT Press since Fall 2000.

Elizabeth Yeampierre is an internationally recognized Puerto Rican attorney and environmental and climate justice leader of African and Indigenous ancestry born and raised in New York City. A national leader in climate justice movement, Elizabeth is the co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. She is Executive Director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. Her award-winning vision for an inter-generational, multi-cultural and community-led organization is the driving force behind UPROSE. She is a long-time advocate and trailblazer for community organizing around just, sustainable development, environmental justice, and community-led climate adaptation and community resiliency in Sunset Park. Prior to assuming the Executive Director position at UPROSE, Ms. Yeampierre was the Director of Legal Education and Training at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, Director of Legal Services for the American Indian Law Alliance and Dean of Puerto Rican Student Affairs at Yale University. She holds a BA from Fordham University, a law degree from Northeastern University.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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