This mission statement of TRISE was adopted at the first conference in 2013 and then slightly modified after the second one in 2014.
TRISE mission statement – Toward Democratic and Ecological Cities
At the United Nations Rio + 20 world summit that took place on the environmental crisis, its failure forced both the official and unofficial parallel summits to concluded that solutions are not likely to be initiated by national governments but that solutions are likely to take place at the regional and city level of society. When the United Nations declared at the turn of this century that for the first time in human history the majority of people now live in cities and towns and that urbanization seems irreversible, the relevance of social ecology became even more evident. Our challenge is to recognize that cities must become ecological cities, and in order to move toward this goal, cities must become participatory democracies. Social ecology underlines the fact that we cannot have democratic cities without also being ecological cities and ecological cities are not realizable without being profoundly democratic.
Since August 2011 there have been a communicating network of social ecologists in Europe that have been discussing the desirability of founding a Transnational Institute of Social Ecology (TRISE). Independent of all political parties, TRISE will seek to be an association of intellectual/activists, and as such a pan-European resource and to all those concerned with the democratization of democracy. The ‘Right to the City’ for all citizens becomes a fundamental transforming goal for us.
What is Social Ecology?
There are on the internet several texts that define social ecology. There is none better than the statements by the founder of social ecology, Murray Bookchin. While some other examples can be given, the arguments used by Bookchin could, updated, indicate the essence of what social ecology is at its core. This still holds for us, and we use this as the basis for the institute we choose to found. There is also the 40 year experience of the Institute of Social Ecology in Vermont, co-founded by Bookchin, which is an important resource.
Why the TRISE now?
While there are active groups and individuals throughout the world who continue to be inspired by social ecology and the writings of Murray Bookchin, and while a scaled down Institute of Social Ecology continues to exist and functions in Vermont, there is not at the moment a European centre that brings together on a regular basis those persons, both organisations and individuals, who seek a better understanding of social ecology and equally important its application in the world of socio-political transformation, especially locally and regionally. The absence of such a centre, especially in Europe, makes it difficult to see continuity and applied social ecology and therefore we seek to assure an ongoing exploration of the full philosophical and political contribution of Murray Bookchin. A major purpose of the TRISE is to continue and seek the application of the legacy of Murray Bookchin. This does not suggest that the institute is exclusive of other major thinkers and practitioners, on the contrary. Since TRISE will be concerned with both ecology with an emphasis on urban ecology, and the development, past, present and future of urbanization, we are open to other major contributions that can enhance our collective understanding of the rise, impact and future of cities and towns. Among the thinkers we are also inspired by we include Henri Lefebvre, Jane Jacobs, Peter Marcuse, David Harvey, and Saskia Sassen to name of few. All of these have helped in our understanding of the modern city, not to mention its impact on the environment. We recognize that there are now other definitions of social ecology, and that the concept have made its way into the academic world, and in many cases have lost the link to what the founding center, the Institute of Social Ecology in Vermont, defined as the scope of this philosophy and politics. It is our purpose therefore to insure through educational activities, research, translation and publications, and most importantly by the practical application of social ecology on the ground in urban centers in Europe that some continuity exists in an urbanized world where the ecological footprint of the city grows heavier daily. In doing so we are aware of the fundamental need to define anew a harmonized relationship between town and country, as we work to stop society’s war on the natural environment.
Prospects of the TRISE
The economic and consequently the social and political crisis within the European Union, has raised all sorts of questions on a broad range of concerns. The trends toward a Europe of regions, and the growing recognition of the greater importance of cities, ecologically, economically, and politically, suggest a slow movement away from traditional centers of power. It may also suggest new opportunities for the advancement of new ideas, new agendas for fundamental change. There are to be sure powerful forces seeking the further centralization of economic authority in the form of central banks and so forth. Nevertheless it is easy to observe motion, tension, and latitude as Europe evolves.
The TRISE in Greece
Greece has undergone and continues to undergo a shock therapy imposed from above. Amidst the popular protests and the evident suffering of sections of Greek society, in urban areas new forms of politics and social organisation have been manifested. Many elements of social ecology are to be found in this new sensibility. The current social and political situation is not without some hope and a different approach to change may emerge as witnessed by the citizen assemblies that gathered on an ongoing basis in the centre of Athens and other towns where citizens evoke and practice a form of direct democracy often reminiscent of ancient times. Such forms of citizen assemblies are struggling to exist and practice a new politics in various neighbourhoods through mutual aid and solidarity. Bookchin, who was a philhellene, would have been heartened by these new social forms in Greece as well as elsewhere.
How TRISE started?
There is enough interest among Greeks, inside and outside the country, to found TRISE in Greece, and there is enough interest in the rest of Europe and elsewhere as well to sustain this effort. The TRISE will also establish relations with the Institute of Social Ecology in Vermont, the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre, the Institute pour une politique alternative de Montreal and several similar centres in Europe proper, all of which will be invited to partner with us, and eventually to undertake joint efforts. But a firmer footing is needed within Greece.
As we started to undertake the slow and careful preparatory work of building TRISE, a first conference of seminars and workshops and training sessions was organised in March 21-24, 2013 in Greece, on Crete. A second conference was organized in April 27-30, 2014, in Marathon. A European advisory council have been put in place of persons who can act as resource people when needed. A conference planning committee responsible for drafting a programme and for organising the next conference has also been put in place. An administrative board has been elected to take responsibility for forwarding and following up the activities and plans of the institute.
We can conclude this general outline by restating a number of facts. Around the globe there is a growing awareness with many indicators that citizens are becoming more aware of the precarious condition of the planet. If current trends continue, we all know too well, we will leave the next generation not only a natural environment on the verge of collapse, but a global economy on the edge of default. The ecological crisis is first and foremost a crisis of our type of society, and the irreversible trend of irrational urbanization with its environmental consequences as well as its socio-economic contradictions heads the list of problems. Many interesting things are happening at the urban level among European cities, although many more deep changes have to be made. Very few of these experiences are known in North America, fewer still in the USA, the biggest polluter of all. It is among the TRISE’s priorities to narrow this gap of ignorance and work together across the Atlantic. Basic changes in urban society are needed to reverse current trends. We will discuss together the whys and the how.
TRISE is an association of intellectual/activists. It is the goal of TRISE to eventually publish an electronic and print journal in English and Greek on social ecology, name “Society and Nature”.