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Two figures quietly amble through the near-empty fields that line the western shores of Lake Titicaca, the vast blue expanse that stretches across the Peruvian border province of Puno into Bolivia. The air is crisp, filled with nothing but the sound of the wind and the odd sprightly greeting by man, sheep and, occasionally, from a distance, minibus. The passer-by might suspect that life here has remained essentially unchanged for centuries.
Melvis points to a patch of potato plants to my left, and comments that the flowers are blue. This is the first sign that something is amiss. It is early December, only the beginning of the warmer, rainy season – they should not be showing themselves yet.
Melvis, a 19-year-old amateur radio DJ, has returned from university to the lakeside community of Cruzpata. Cruzpata is part of Suma Yapu (‘beautiful field’), one of 20 Nuclei of Cultural Affirmation (NACAs) that constitute the Andean Project for Peasant Technologies (PRATEC). PRATEC was created in 1987 after its founders spent three decades working within the development field, concluding that development professionals entirely dismiss the Andean idea of Sumak Kawsay (‘good living’). NACAs accompany communities across Peru, collectively assessing climate and community changes.
There is no doubt the climate has changed here. In recent years the rainy season has become erratic. Often there are droughts. As you read this, storms induced by El Niño have caused rivers to flood, carrying livestock away and devastating crops. People in badly affected areas have no food, seeds have been lost and houses are falling down.
The disarray of nature’s rhythms imperils an Andean agriculture that traditionally depended on conversation with the pacha (life-zones) in which both climate and humans, as members of the ayllu (extended family), play a role. PRATEC member Jorge Ishizawa notes the feeling that the tourist industry has become greedy, disrespecting Pachamama (Mother Earth). The floods are her response.
According to Don Mateo Mamani, elder from the community of Vizcachani, the fox had always ‘advised us when to sow and…on the production of the year’ and the lizards ‘of the occurrence of frosts.’ Now ‘other signs have appeared.’ Deer, joskas (tragacanth), wild relatives of the turnip with yellow flowers come and ‘we do not know what they want to tell us.’ The floods are another hard-to-read sign.
PRATEC communities have spent decades affirming Andean practices of agriculture and conservation, medicine, governance and education. They incorporate the agro-festive calendar into schools, teaching children to respect the apus (mountain deities) and learn what different plants and animals tell them. They nurture school fields and learn to cook foods based on nutritious, diverse crops, rather than bought produce like rice and pasta.
Since the floods, Eliana Apaza of Suma Yapu NACA is concerned that although Andean communities have a tradition of reciprocity, many may still be at risk in the coming winter season without sufficient food, seeds and materials. Their situation is exacerbated by unstable glacial melt, along with open-cast mines, threatening the high pastures containing the greatest wild biodiversity in the mountains – wild plants that can provide during failed harvests.
The collective wisdom of these communities contains an abundance of eco-systemic knowledge that scientists can only dream of. As PRATEC’s founder, the late Eduardo Grillo, pointed out, the Andeans’ 10,000 year old conversation with their environment means to ‘dance to the rhythm which at every moment corresponds to the annual cycle of life’. It is how the disarray in the pacha that humans have caused may be repaired.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
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Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
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New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
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A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi