Commoning in the Anthropocene: responding to large-scale mining through practices of collective care. The case of Skouries, Halkidiki, Greece
Earth scientists believe we have entered a new geological epoch named the Anthropocene. Humanity’s endless pursuit of economic growth is presented as responsible for the creation of cumulative and overlapping crises, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, deforestation, pandemics and water depletion. Simultaneously, responses to the Anthropocene threaten to affect our current institutions of democracy through the retraction and repression of civil and individual rights with new forms of restrictions both physical and psychological. Within this frame, commoning practices of collective care provide an alternative pathway for addressing Anthropocene related problems (Gibson-Graham et al., 2016) and can function as laboratories to enrich our democratic institutions (Ostrom, 2015; D. Wall, 2017). This thesis examines the politics of commoning that have emerged in response to large-scale mining in Skouries of Halkidiki, Greece. My goal is to understand how particular forms of commoning arise and how they are spatially and temporarily different from the politics and practices that prioritize economic growth. To study commoning around Skouries I have conducted 40 face-to-face interviews, 5 focus groups and 5 participant observations with people from the anti-mining community. I have also used secondary data from documents and electronic sources in order to better understand the history and the depiction of the anti-mining struggle as well as the technical aspects of the large-scale mining investment. I have three main findings. First, large-scale mining in Skouries and the practices that prioritize economic growth seek to smoothen and standardize existing socioecologies in order to minimize disruption and dissent. Second, particular practices of collective care can slow down and, in some cases, challenge the devastating effects of mining and associated Anthropocene problems. Third, state authorities and civil society institutions associated with commoning need to find new ways of engaging with each other in order to build political institutions that value mutual aid, solidarity, care and empathy. I conclude that we need to train ourselves to listen to, attend to, and engage wholeheartedly with already existing alternative value systems, such as those created through commoning practices of collective care. In doing so democratic processes can be improved rather than destroyed to face the challenges of this new epoch.