The Environmental Performance Agency (EPA) is an artist collective founded in 2017 and named in response to the ongoing rollback of Federal environmental policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Appropriating the acronym EPA, the collective’s primary goal is to shift thinking around the terms environment, performance, and agency – using artistic, social, and embodied practices to advocate for the agency of all living performers co-creating our environment, specifically through the lens of spontaneous urban plants, native or migrant. Current EPA Agents include Catherine Grau, andrea haenggi, Ellie Irons, Christopher Kennedy, and spontaneous urban plants. Learn more
New EPA Show at the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art (Ent Center for the Arts), October 1 – 29, 2021
Undesirable Plants Declare* brings the Environmental Performance Agency’s work to the unceded territory of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho Peoples, to investigate the diverse multispecies lifeways and teachings of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds). Asking “In a time of ongoing pandemic crisis, how do we revalue what care means for all living beings?”, the exhibition shares and extends the EPA’s Multispecies Care Survey, a public engagement and data gathering initiative that aims to cultivate the co-generation of embodied, localized plant-human care practices. Launched during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the Survey is an interactive web platform (multispecies.care) featuring a collection of participatory methods for attuning to vegetal perspectives and working with spontaneous urban plants as guides, collaborators, and mentors while social distancing. In the exhibition’s archive space, visitors can view video documentation of entries collected during the 2020-21 Survey cycle, explore the survey directly, and actively participate by engaging in a new protocol developed for this exhibition.
In the entryway to the gallery, visitors are introduced to a delegation of EPA weedy plant experts from New York City, and invited to assist the EPA in assessing the capabilities and wisdom of local “undesirable” plant expert Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). Through this Public Review with Knapweed, the EPA asks: What are the qualities, perspectives, skills, and relations that Knapweed can bring to the EPA? Participate in public fieldwork by listening, observing, and moving with urban plants, then share your sensorial experiences and Knapweed knowledge on the collaborative Public Review Diagram in the gallery.
The EPA will ultimately use this research in drafting a new piece of policy, The Multispecies Act. This Act aims to offer a set of embodied, actionable principles for centering spontaneous urban plant life as one means (among many) of contending with the failure of our environmental regulatory apparatus to deliver policy that promotes reciprocal relations between human and nonhuman life.
* The term “undesirable plant” comes from the Colorado Springs Code of Ordinances, section “9.6.314 Undesirable Plant Management,” which identifies Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens), Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) as undesirable weeds located on public, private or city land, and subject to control or eradication (In accord with Colorado Revised Statutes section 35-5.5-108). “Control” means preventing an undesirable plant from forming viable seeds or vegetative propagules. Those who harbor or maintain undesirable plants are declared to be a public nuisance.
NYC Delegation: Plant Expert Biographies
The EPA’s Multispecies Care Survey is featured in a new online exhibition organized for Broto’s Art-Climate-Science annual conference which provides an online community for artists and scientists tackling aspects of climate change. The exhibition entitled “Agency” features work by a group of international artists exploring issues of climate and environmental justice. The show’s curator Margaret LeJeune asks:
What exists at the intersection of empowerment, the climate crisis, and radical empathy? What does agency look like in a post-human world? And, can it be ascribed to non-human species, rivers and/or ecosystems?
Move into the new season with intention, as you meet and get to know a tree neighbor with the aid of human friends!
Winter Buddies: Building a More-than-Human Community for Spring is the fourth iteration of a series of protocols developed for the Multispecies Care Survey — a public engagement and data gathering initiative meant to provoke and articulate forms of environmental agency that de-center human supremacy and facilitate the co-generation of embodied, localized plant-human care practices.
Following a series of protocols developed throughout the pandemic for spring, summer, and fall 2020, this protocol invites you to immerse yourself in winter by building a community of relations and exchanges with a tree and an extended support network of friends – together exploring care practices to sloooowly emerge into spring while shaping a future of more-than-human communities. The multi-step protocol encourages a series of exchanges and multiple visits with one tree. Offering this example by EPA agent andrea haenggi and majestic oak for reference, the protocol will invite you to document your exchanges and share a report by the end of March. Visit the Multispecies Care Survey website to get started.
Winter Buddies: Building a More-than-Human Community for Spring was created in collaboration with EPA guest agent Georgia Silvera Seamans. Some of the concepts animating the process of building the protocol are explored in her article “The Risks and Rewards of Being Black in Nature.”
The EPA is participating in NODE Forum for Digital Arts, exploring artmaking and creative practice in times of ecological crisis.
For the festival, the EPA is developing a series of four new Multispecies Care Survey protocols to engage NODE participants and organizers. This season of the survey will focus on informal greenspace, like street verges and tree pits, exploring how relationships of care and control play out among the lifeforms who inhabit or interact with these interstitial spaces. Participants will engage in outdoor activities and multisensorial data collection prompted by the Multispecies Care Survey protocols and deepened through virtual embodied workshop gatherings and discussions. Together we will ask, what do the spontaneous plants in your community know, and how can we learn to listen to them? Along the way we will address and investigate how land use, management and maintenance policies at the state and city level impact questions around multispecies solidarity and ecosocial justice throughout the world.
Plus join us for the following panel discussion on October 7, 2020 | 3 – 4:30pm EDT.
Making Kin: Resilience through Multispecies Care and Co-Existence
Both the pandemic and the climate crisis are lessons on human hubris—our failure to recognize planetary interdependencies and that we’re not above but a part of the biosphere. Ecofeminist icon Donna Haraway reminds us that “if we appreciate the foolishness of human exceptionalism then we know that becoming is always becoming with, in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake.” Building more resilient futures will require a new multispecies perspective that is grounded in kinship and connection. We need to challenge delusions of separation and open up the frames of what matters to us, in part by recognizing what matters to others. But how do we expand our circle of empathy? How do we develop hybrid, embodied, and multi-sensorial languages to communicate across species boundaries? And how can we engage and mobilize the general public around issues of multispecies care and coexistence?
moss Summer Camp for Social and Environmental Justice is an invitation to reimagine the role of multispecies care across urban and rural settings, following the guidance of moss (Bryophyta sp.). Participants are invited into an embodied experiential approach to knowing and learning from moss, one of the first plants to arrive on land approximately 4.7 million years ago. Our current moment—a global pandemic, widespread uprisings for racial justice, and increasing climate chaos—asks for fresh ways of being with and relating to our surroundings. moss Summer Camp offers a path to immersion with neighborhood mosses, asking: What if we make the “language of moss” part of the decision-making process as we work to build diverse and equitable multispecies communities where all living beings can thrive?
moss Summer Camp asks participants to complete four moss Protocols (01- 04) that encourage deep engagement through visiting a particular moss who shares the ecosocial habitat of your street or neighborhood. Each moss protocol asks for a response (visual, oral, and/or written) to be uploaded to the EPA’s Multispecies Care website. The last protocol asks participants to contribute a letter to moss’ library. Hosted by the EPA and hydrated by your letters, moss’ library is a library of cir-cu-la-tion. As it grows, moss’ library will merge topics across land rights, reparations, and food systems, with a focus on resources and texts that center BIPOC communities and moss practices.
The Environmental Performance Agency is pleased to present the Multispecies Care Survey — a public engagement and data gathering initiative meant to provoke and articulate forms of environmental agency that de-center human supremacy and facilitate the co-generation of embodied, localized plant-human care practices. This continues the EPA’s work in response to the dismantling of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the 2016-2020 presidential administration.
With this project, the collective asks for public input: In a time of pandemic crisis, how do we re-value what care means for all living beings? An online survey and series of protocols, as well as facilitated Multispecies Community Care Circles, will integrate the need for social distancing with the encouragement of new discoveries, connections and understanding of diverse nonhuman life along the margins. With the data gathered through this survey, EPA will ultimately work towards drafting a new piece of policy, The Multispecies Act. This Act aims to offer a set of embodied, actionable principles for centering spontaneous urban plant life as one means (among many) of contending with the failure of our environmental regulatory apparatus to deliver policy that protects and values life both human and non-human.
Developed for the exhibition Regeneration in Place at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn.
October 27, 2020 | EPA Cancels LGBTQ Pride and Diversity Trainings
October 22 2020 | EPA eases the permitting process for modifications made to polluting facilities
October 15, 2020 | EPA allows use of radioactive material in some road construction (The Hill)
September 23 2020 | E.P.A. Rejects Its Own Findings That a Pesticide Harms Children’s Brains (NY Times)
August 31, 2020 | EPA Relaxes Limits on Toxic Waste from Coal Power Plants
August 13, 2020 | EPA rollback on oil and gas methane emissions standards
July 30, 2020 | EPA CANCELS E&E NEWS SUBSCRIPTION
June 1, 2020 | E.P.A. CHANGES THE RULES ON HOW TO APPLY THE CLEAN WATER ACT
April 16, 2020 | MERCURY CONTROLS WEAKENED
April 2, 2020 | COAL ASH DISPOSAL RULE MOVING FORWARD
- Proposed Rule for Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities; Federal CCR Permit Program (Press Release)
- Sierra Club Petition
- EPA Virtual Public Hearing on the Proposal: Federal CCR Permit Program (April 15, 2020)
- EPA Ceases Rules on How Coal Ash Waste is Stored in US (Washington Post)
March 27, 2020 | AIR QUALITY AND AUTO EMISSION ROLLBACKS
US EPA announces changes to how gasoline will be mixed in the face of potential shortages, which will likely result in more air pollution nationally.
- Press Release: EPA Announces Steps to Protect the Availability of Gasoline during COVID-19 Pandemic
- Trump Administration, in Biggest Environmental Rollback, to Announce Auto Pollution Rules (NY Times)
- Trump to roll back Obama-era clean car rules in huge blow to climate fight (The Guardian)
March 26, 2020 | OPEN LICENSE TO POLLUTE
The US EPA announced new “guidelines” for how companies monitor environmental violations, pollution and hazardous waste waiving a requirement for reporting, and will not issue fines for violations. Former EPA Adminstrator, Gina McCarthy, called it “an open license to pollute.”
- Trump administration allows companies to break pollution laws during coronavirus pandemic (The Guardian)
- E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters (NY Times)
- “An open license to pollute”: Trump administration indefinitely suspends environmental protection laws during coronavirus pandemic (CBS News)
- The EPA appears to be using coronavirus to make huge concessions to polluters (Vox)
March 3, 2020 | ANTI-SCIENCE “TRANSPARENCY” RULE MOVING FORWARD
- EPA Announces Supplement to Science Transparency Proposed Rule (Press Release)
- The Trump Administration Is Enshrining Its Anti-Science Policy in the Midst of an Epidemic (Mother Jones)
- As the Nation Worries About Coronavirus, the Trump Administration is Rolling Back Environmental Rules (Mother Jones)
To see a full list of US EPA and federal environmental policy rollbacks click the button below.
The EPA was in residence at the Wave Hill Winter Workspace from Jan 2 – Feb. 15, 2020. The 6-week artist in residence included fieldwork research, open studios and a procession of a performative walk (by EPA agent andrea haenggi) with human and plant participants. EPA agents andrea haenggi and Catherine Grau led efforts to pilot a new project, the Multispecies Care Survey which will debut at the Old Stone House on April 18, 2020. A special thanks to all the Workspace artists in the residence: LoVid Hinkis-Lapidus, Ezra Benus, Linda Lauro-Lazin, Stephanie J.Alvarado and Kymia Ricky Kremit Nawabi-Yalkin, the Wave Hill plants, gardeners and to Jennifer McGregor and Jesse Firestone for providing a space for our artist practice to grow with love and support.
Dearest Friends and Allies,
As 2019 comes to a close, we write to you with a sense of hope, urgency and possibility for the new year ahead. In 2019 we witnessed another round of devastating rollbacks to vital environmental policies like the Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan. The Trump administration’s attack on policies that protect the air, land and water we depend upon persists, with a total of 95 rules and regulations currently rolled back or repealed. Despite this, 2019 was also marked by the largest climate protest in history, largely led by youth. We stand in solidarity with these climate activists and look towards our weedy plant friends for wisdom and guidance as we continue to resist the policies of Andrew Wheeler (US EPA) and his cronies.
Through our own work, we’ve also celebrated successes and persevered through challenges. EPA agents presented at this year’s College Art Association, led workshops with groups at Rutgers, The New School, City Tech, at Swale, Socrates and UPenn among others. We also developed a project Suit Up, Join the Emergent Plantocene Clean Up for the exhibition, Department of Human and Natural Services at NURTUREart, curated by Mariel Villeré. The show was listed as one of the top ten of 2019 in Brooklyn, NY by Hyperallergic.
In 2020, we have a lot planned and hope you’ll join us in the weedy resistance. The year kicks off with a Winter Workspace Residency at Wavehill (Jan 2 – Feb. 15). While there, we’ll be developing a new project called the Multispecies Care Unit (MCU), a flexible gathering place to catalyze conversation, experimentation and action around current environmental policy, the ongoing climate crisis, and the 2020 elections. We’ll do this through embodied fieldwork, movement improvisation, plant ID and story circles among other tactics. The project will launch in mid-April at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn. Please get in touch if you’d like to collaborate or think you may be able to host the MCU next year.
In weedy solidarity,
Ellie, Catherine, andrea, Chris and the spontaneous urban plants
2019 US EPA ROLLBACKS
CLEAN WATER REGULATIONS
Under the administration’s revised “Waters of the U.S.” rule, about 51 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of streams across the U.S. lost their federal protections.
COAL PLANT WASTE REGULATION
In 2018 the EPA proposed to gut the protections contained in the Coal Ash Disposal Rule by allowing power plants to avoid the clean up of coal ash and deviate from the rule’s clear standards for groundwater monitoring, closure, and more. The rule went into effect in 2019 and will impact the waterways of communities around the US.
CLEAN AIR REGULATIONS
In 2017 former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a notice proposing a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which requires utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The rule was replaced in 2019 with the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule which weakens emissions standards. In May 2019, Administrator Andrew Wheeler also announced plans to change the way the EPA calculates health risks of air pollution, resulting in the reporting of far fewer health-related deaths.
In 2019, the Trump administration continued the process of rolling back Obama-era fuel economy standards, which were originally set to hit an average of 54.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars and trucks by 2025.
“TRANSPARENCY” IN SCIENCE
In November the EPA issued a new draft of its proposal “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” which the Environmental Performance Agency solicited onbehalfof.life comments last summer. The proposal is still problematically unclear and would limit the kind of data that can be used in making legislation affecting public health and environmental justice issues.