News & Events

Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar with Nicola da Schio (VUB)

18 October 2018 , Geography Dept. - Room F 4.66- (VUB - Pleinlaan 2, BE-1050 Brussels, Building F) from 12.00h to 13.30h

Atmospheric resistance: dissident knoweldges & practices around air pollution

On November 16th 2017 took place the last hearing of a lawsuit filed by five Brussels residents and the law firm Client Earth on air pollution issues. The plaintiffs contended that Brussels authorities’ effort to mitigate pollution was insufficient and that the regional air monitoring was inadequate to provide accurate measurements of the places where people are exposed to the highest concentrations. On the same day, in front of the tribunal, a few hundred citizens were demonstrating their support to the complainants, holding candles and placards with a clear message to the government: “Clean Air Now”. One of the groups leading the demonstration is known as Bruxsel’air and was first established as part of a citizens-science project to monitor black carbon in the city.

The court case and the citizens mobilization are part of a larger citizens mobilisation for cleaner air that is happening today in Brussels, and are emblematic of two processes inherent to the politics of air pollution. While they criticise the current governmental practices to control and mitigate air pollution, they also question- implicitly or explicitly - the way in which pollution is come to be known and measured. Air pollution politics, in other words, is a matter of practices and knowledges.

Much has been written already on the relation between “institutional” forms of knowledge and practice (e.g. the sciences and the state), in relation to air (Whitehead 2009), and to many other environmental matters (among others, see Ascher, Steelman, & Healy, 2010; Boudia & Jas, 2014). In our research we build on those reflections, to explore another side of atmospheric politics, namely the civic mobilisation around the question of better air. In particular, we take a historical perspective and scrutinise three examples of contestation that have taken place in Brussels in the last thirty years. For each of them we want to analyse the forms of knowledge, the values and the political arguments that were mobilised, explore the relation among them and understand the implications in the context of the current momentum of atmospheric resistance.

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