BUILDING AUTONOMY THROUGH ECOLOGY IN ROJAVA
- Published: Friday, 07 December 2018 11:04
- Written by Andrew Neef
Before years of war devastated northern Syria, decades of capitalist exploitation by the Syrian state created the ecological disaster the people of Rojava face today. Through wheat monoculture, oil extraction, and neglect of waste management planning, the Syrian state left the region with growing ecological problems. Simultaneously, the Turkish government has expanded dam projects along rivers running south into northern Syria for decades, making it harder for people to grow food and be self-sustainable.
When Rojava was liberated from direct Syrian government control in 2012, this set off a political revolution towards a self-organized democratic society across northern Syria. In 2016, 151 delegates from various northern regions of the Syrian state, including Rojava, proclaimed autonomy through the creation of the ‘Federation of Northern Syria–Rojava’. Revolutionary forces throughout Rojava continue building an autonomous democratic society today.
After decades of destructive colonial policies and war, the Internationalist Commune of Rojava – a self-organised collective of internationalists from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europa, America and Oceania established in 2017 – in cooperation with the Ecology Committee of the Cizire Canton, began taking direct action to protect the region’s autonomy. Out of the rubble of war-torn cities, the people of Rojava launched an ecological campaign to develop solutions to these problems and “Make Rojava Green Again”.
The ecological campaign is addressing issues related to cultivation of food, reforesting large swaths of land, providing alternative forms of electricity, limiting fossil fuel usage, preserving the water supply, and even developing waste management solutions. Many of the local committee members are young adults who consider themselves responsible for building a more just social and economic system that functions in balance with nature. The women’s liberation movement in Rojava also plays an important role in operating ecological pilot projects, such as agricultural cooperatives. The Internationalist Commune is made up of individuals from around the world who have traveled to Rojava to support the revolution with their expertise, ideas, and labor. Internationals organizing with local communities in Rojava are working to support ecological projects, expand awareness, and build a healthy future across the region. The campaign is still very new and much work still lies ahead.
Developing urban agriculture is one tier in the ecological campaign to expand food security and autonomy in Rojava. Decades of monoculture – which has long been common policy supported by the Assad government, which has controlled Syria since 1971 – and the use of artificially supplied water and chemical fertilizers has degraded the soil and made cultivation of food impossible in some areas. The Internationalist Commune plans to create rooftop gardens and plant on undeveloped land within cities, which will further decentralize agriculture across Rojava. The return to traditional organic fertilizer-based agriculture is also a solution being put into practice by the Internationalist Commune.
In Rojava, access to sustainable sources of water is yet another ecological issue the Internationalist Commune is working to overcome. Climate change has contributed to the problem by shortening the rainy season across the region, which has decreased the amount of rainfall and lowered groundwater levels.At the same time, Turkey has built dams upstream along the Euphrates and Xabur tributary, actively restricting the flow of water south into Rojava. To promote sustainable use of water for growing crops, the Agricultural Protection Committee has registered all water wells, prohibited further expansion of wells for agriculture and limited the planting of crops requiring irrigation to 60%. Plans have been implemented to begin using greywater (water from showers, the kitchen, etc) and blackwater (from toilets) for organic fertilization of agriculture.
The Internationalist Commune is developing plans to expand public transportation as a method to minimize this impact on the health of locals and environment. In addition, the ecological campaign is planting trees by thousands to help improve urban air quality.
The supply of electrical power to many regions of Rojava is a primary hurdle in sustaining autonomous self-governance. Rojava currently derives electricity from three primary sources: hydro-electric power plants, natural gas, and diesel generators. Much of the electrical infrastructure, such as power lines and substations, has been destroyed after years of war across the region. The Internationalist Commune, with strong support from the Ministry of Energy, is developing plans to create a more decentralized and sustainable infrastructure. The development of the first wind power pilot project in Rojava has begun, which will serve as a working example for communities throughout the region. Volunteers are also working to create decentralized solar solutions, using photovoltaic technology, which will provide alternative sources of power and water heating systems.
The Internationalist Commune believes this will reduce community dependency on both centralized electricity grids and fossil fuels. The Internationalist Commune in Rojava is simultaneously moving forward on plans for managing organic (food, paper, etc) and non-organic waste (plastic, metal, etc). Methods are being developed to sort, separate, and store all types of waste instead of burning or burying the waste, which causes air pollution and contamination of ground water. Organic waste is cleaned and stored for composting, and plans are underway to recycle all non-organic waste. Hazardous waste is stored far away from water sources to avoid contamination.
Such a massive ecological overhaul within Rojava will not be accomplished overnight. One essential pillar in maintaining self-governance throughout the region is community education. Success for an ecological revolution in Rojava will come from sharing concrete experiences and skills at all levels of society. The Internationalist Academy will be the center of this effort and will train individuals in the principles of self-organization, women’s liberation, ecology, language, and culture. Students at the academy will participate in lectures and discussions at youth centers, municipalities, schools, and other institutions, to further develop what an ecological society in Rojava can look like and how to build it. International volunteers skilled in sanitation, renewable energy, mechanical and electrical engineering, and even physicists, chemists, and biologists continue to travel to Rojava to assist the construction of an autonomous ecological society. The academy hopes to build awareness throughout the region to “overcome the ecological and social crisis” which they see is “brought about by capitalist modernity”, and promotes the destruction of nature and humanity.
“THE LAND MUST BE DEFENDED OR THERE WILL NOT BE A PLACE FOR THE REVOLUTION” – INTERNATIONALIST COMMUNE OF ROJAVA
Adapted from: https://unicornriot.ninja/2018/building-autonomy-ecology-rojava/