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Distant Nature — Zuri Camille de Souza

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During a 5-week residency at el-Atlal, I studied the relationship between political control over land and relationships to plants, as well as the natural ecology.

It is challenging to write with conviction about ecology when I realise that the time I spent in Palestine changed my core understanding of environmental systems itself—I find myself questioning the hierarchic dualities of material within which we design, cultivate and live. I am compelled to question my previous perception of what Nature means and acknowledge the deep integration between the human-made and Natural world.

One might argue that to use the word integration with regards to pollution, contamination and waste disrespects initiatives that work to restore the earth to a state of ecological balance. My understanding is that until we legitimately acknowledge unnatural materials as parts of a complex, intimidating and almost-dystopic environmental system, we will not find solutions that create positive environmental changes. This is because they do not acknowledge how comfortable and acclimatized we are to abused, industrial environments.

Whilst I came to Palestine with the idea of mapping green initiatives and creating a database of ecological projects, it became apparent to me that—as in many other parts of the world—such instances are often reduced to selective places, often within cities, often within specifically urban social groups. It is not enough for a socioecological movement to remain within circles of privilege—they need to subvert boundaries of class, religion and economy. However, rather than critiquing the projects, the people or the initiatives, we need to instead question whether it is perhaps the methods that form the basis of these movements which are inherently noninclusive. Often, they are founded out of Global North perspectives that are culturally irrelevant, not relatable or perhaps simply perceived as boring?