The 2022 Indian Ocean School of Political Ecology took place in the island country of Mauritius on the 25th of October and concluded on the 2nd of November. Over 130 delegates, hailing from numerous countries within the Indian Ocean and African South Coast, were hosted by the Centre for Alternative Studies and Research. The Alternative Information and Development Centre was grateful for the opportunity to send a contingent to the school consisting of some AIDC staff and its partners within social movements and organized labour.
Attendees from numerous countries such as Madagascar, Senegal, Zambia, South Africa, Comoros, Seychelles, Mozambique, Malawi etc engaged in deep learning through a series of seminars, panel discussions, historic tours of Mauritius and group discussions throughout sessions. Academics and activists delivered presentations on a wide-ranging set of topics such as eco-socialist feminism, the commercialization of energy transitions, Marxist ecology and understanding the metabolic rift and the Anthropocene, socially owned and democratic alternatives to fossil fuel reliance, lessons from working-class environmental struggles in the Indian Ocean and the neoliberal capture of renewable energy.
With most attendees lodged in the Senlis sur Mer in Riambel, situated on the South Coast of Mauritius, the school placed itself within a rural and working-class community. This was done to emphasize an understanding of climate change and the ecological crisis from the perspective of the poor and working class, who have already begun to feel the destructive consequences of the ecological collapse and climate instability.
“What especially interested me was the discussion on eco-feminism. Once more, we observed how women and children from the global south are the ones who are most affected by climate change. This is true even though the global north is the region that contributes the most to the emissions that have a large negative impact on the global south and the rest of the globe”, said Lindi Mkhumbane who was part of the South African delegation.
According to Mkhumbane, the effects of capitalism and patriarchy are the exploitation of women and the destruction of the environment. Which is why we need to smash the system of capitalism as a whole.
Meanwhile, Cape Town-based unionist, Bridget Nkomana, says it was a great honour and privilege to be part of the school of ecology. “My experience was beyond expectations. Mauritius is a very humble place with its people. Meeting my other African brothers and sisters was just as humbling. Their food was not pretentious but they love their chillies,” she said.
Complimenting the intellectual work and group discussions, were daily group tasks undertaken by all attendees of the school. Randomly divided into groups from varying countries, attendees organized themselves to ensure the Senlis sur Mer was kept in an orderly and clean condition so that all may enjoy their time at the school. This group work helped build friendly connections and a collective sense of responsibility alongside a spirit of mutual support and solidarity. Importantly, the group work and social events helped attendees reach out to each other to construct networks of support for their respective struggles once the school had concluded.
“Academically we exchanged so much information about the climate crisis and all the elements it manifests to communities. We learned how capitalists don’t value human life and all they care about is profits. They will extract so much natural resources at an expense of killing people with toxic waste, air and water”, adds Nkomane.