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the air, land and water we depend upon persists, with a total of 95 rules and regulations currently rolled back or repealed.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.
This past week the EPA met to engage in a movement jam to think about the wisdom and agency of moss (Bryophyta). Look out for her at the upcoming Climate Strike on December 6th in NYC.
The EPA was at the Climate Strike in NYC this past week in solidarity with multispecies networks making life possible for all of us. EPA agent Andrea Haenggi led a moss movement score to bring nonhumans into the march. Moss hands for climate justice!
The EPA met in Troy this past weekend to plan and sow seeds for the upcoming year. With the 2020 election approaching, we again look toward our vegetal allies for guidance to catalyze conversation, experimentation and action around current environmental policy and its implications for the well-being of all members co-creating and regenerating our urban ecosystems. This Fall we will begin to develop an EPA Antiracist Guide to Thinking with Plants in response to popularized narratives of invasion ecology. We are also planning a project at the Old Stone House in the Spring of 2020 called the Multispecies Community Care Unit, a platform for exploring and enacting a collective response to the ongoing climate crisis by developing reciprocal care practices within multispecies communities. Stay tuned for further updates and gatherings!
The EPA facilitated an Embodied Scientist Training on May 4th in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s unprecedented rollback of 75+ federal environmental rules and regulations and a nearby Cement Factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The training is a call to intimate action, offering strategies for intimate care, DIY fieldwork and speculative thinking on the resilience of spontaneous urban plants.
Emergent Plantocene Cleaning Score:
Take an EPA Suit and Suit Up!
Watch the 3 minute EPA training video
Take the EPA Clean-Up toolkit and walk to the nearby cement factory (Clean-Up site)
As you walk to the Clean-Up Site: Taste the air, feel the temperature, gauge the humidity
Observe the dust. Go towards the trouble
Look to the ground. Find a spontaneous plant
It has come to balance a disturbance
Open the toolkit and use the guidebook to identify the plant
Prepare yourself for the cleaning process
Protect yourself with mask and gloves
Take a moment to listen to the plant
Discover the offering it brings
Take time to carefully clean the plant
Use the tools to clear waste and particles
Gently pick, scrape, and brush
Use the cotton swabs and spray bottle to remove residual layers of dust
Both plants and humans can have their breathing compromised by the accumulation of cement dust
Collect a dust sample for the EPA archive
Label with the date (and the species if known)
Return to the gallery
Display your dust sample on the shelf.
Use the provided markers to write / draw a recording of your sensation directly onto the suit.
Return the EPA Suit to the rack.
Thanks for becoming a interspecies EPA Agent
EPA Agent Chris Kennedy and collaborator Dan Phiffer prepared remarks and a presentation at the Annual Meeting of SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) this April on the use of OnBehalfOf.Life. Kennedy spoke about his adaptation of the platform to uses in the classroom at the New School University, as well as a variety of workshop formats inside galleries and museums.
From March 28-31st the EPA participated in GraftersXChange in Hamilton New York. We brought our practice of breaking down pavement to allow for remediation and rewilding in the form of a durational performance and workshop. As we described in the publication for the event:
We offer “Asphalt Cut-Outs” as a small physical and sensual gesture for interacting with paved land that has suffered disturbance and accumulated toxicity. Carved out by hand with chisel and mallet, Asphalt Cut-Outs are minimalist in shape and humble in size, ranging from six to seventeen inches wide, and taking geometric or organic shapes, some referencing human or plant bodies, like the vulva or the leaf. Removing the asphalt in this way allows for the “airing out” of the compacted soil below, creating a small “(re)disturbance” that begins the process of rewilding, eventually creating a small weedy island ecosystem in a sea of asphalt.
The Cut-Out process as we practice it is laborious. It is intentionally time-consuming, precious and delicate while simultaneously loud like a jack hammer, destructive but also rhythmic, demanding and invigorating. The opener must be attentive to small, slow changes as their body vibrates against, into, and through body of the land. This invites us to attend to land that has been traumatized, to soil compressed under the asphalt. We face our own complicity in the sociocultural structures that made it possible, even preferable, to take this life-giving substrate and lock it away. The opener of the Cut-Out travels forwards and backwards in time, contemplating past and future, while anchored in the present by the crumbling of the asphalt and the breathing and expanding of the moist, perhaps toxic soil, infused with the detritus of generations colonization and industrialization. Through repetitive movement and slow progress, the process asks that we stay with the trouble, opening up to multisensorial inputs (grasping, rocking, singing, dancing to the rhythm of the pounding mallet).
What does it mean to unlock soil that is both life-giving and toxic, to take that airing out into your own body, and let it leave again? Is this a healing process? Of What? Who heals who? In the small gesture of an Asphalt Cut-Out, we seek to face entanglement with past damages, and perhaps take a small step on a path leading towards decolonizing nature and ourselves. Thus we offer Asphalt Cut-Outs as a recipe for Reciprocal Healing for a Multispecies Commons.
Thanks to Margaretha Haughwout, Colgate University, and all the amazing participants who labored with us over the weekend! We leave the rest of the process to plants, weather and time…
Kimberly Reinhardt and the EPA is sharing a new silkscreen poster at the exhibition Environmental Empathies at the Callahan Center Art Gallery at St. Francis College Feb. 6 – March 28, 2019. More about the project:
They Tried to Eradicate Us, They Didn’t Know We Were Weeds
On every continent and in every bioregion, weedy species find a way to survive. Their resilience is at once inspiring while also threatening to many, bringing to fore a complex set of questions about migration, climate change, and the interconnectedness of multispecies life in a time of extinction. As both a performative gesture and call to action, these prints draw inspiration from the texts of poet Dinos Christianopoulos and recent activist movements in Central America. Over the past several years, the phrase “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds” has been popularized in the midst of discriminatory immigration “reform”, with its origins in a couplet appearing in Christianopoulos’ 1978 book, The Body and the Wormwood:
what didn’t you do to bury me
but you forgot that I was a seed
Designed to be wheat pasted in the streets of NYC, this project evolves these entangled texts within the context of ruderal urban landscapes and the work of the artist collective the Environmental Performance Agency. At the EPA we draw inspiration from the wisdom of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds), and intend these posters to encourage further acts of resistance that take a cue from the ingenuity of wild urban plants and interspecies collaboration.
EPA was recently featured in the year end issue of Art in America Magazine with a piece written by Stephen Zacks called Other Voices, Other Worlds exploring emerging ideas about ecology and the Anthropocene. Read article here
EPA is featured in the first episode of the podcast Data Remediations co-organized by Bethany Wiggin and Patricia Kim and others at The Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities! Data Remediations is a podcast meant to get you to think about how we can “remediate” quantitative measures of our rapidly changing planet, translating them into stories and art to stir hearts and minds—and to promote #ClimateAction.