Adapting technology to suit a new context is not a new practice. However, adapting tech to support collective, rather than capitalist outcomes, may be able to help us move out of some of the pervasive problems inherent in development paradigms.
“Tequio has also become a strategy for meeting everyday needs. Just as the modern-day technology of free, open-source code has enabled collective progress in the digital sphere, the communal labor of tequio raises the possibility of resistance in Abya Yala — and survival of the world at large.”
Technologies have been adapted in Abya Yala, an indigenous name for what’s now called “Latin America,” to serve diverse needs like language preservation and distributed ownership of cellular phone/internet networks.
These needs are a response to colonization and capitalism. Many rural and/or indigenous populations have never been given access to these increasingly necessary forms of communication, so now they are reclaiming and grounding this tech in the own communities. More neutrally called “digital divides,” this unpoliticized and academic understanding points to inequitable gaps in access to and use of online spaces and tools. Aguilar Gil’s essay suggests that these gaps can be bridged by going back to roots of collective and cooperative practices embedded in many indigenous communities:
There is a serendipitous affinity between the logic of collective effort and free cooperation that defines open-source software like Linux and the philosophy of many indigenous communities who built structures to survive the harshness of colonial rule. Both rely on mutual support and small-scale, community-level labor linked into a circuit of larger tasks. Such tequio is an essential “social technology” common across Abya Yala.
This is a continuation of what we might call “self-organizing” – appropriating capitalist/colonial tools to suit decolonizing contexts. Although not necessarily designed as such, tech tools can be used to create spaces for collaboration, cooperation, and community. This happens through a reclaiming – a reclaiming of the intentions and goals from a capitalist, profit-centered model to one that benefits communities.
Investing in land is reliant on historical and continued genocide, forced assimilation, colonization.
Commodification of nature
Capitalism rooted in colonialism erases or downplays the importance of land and “natural resources” as foundational to growth. One of the major ways to turn land into a natural resource is called commodification — or the process of turning something into a commodity by converting it from its original form to a value that can be measured in dollars.
Take a tree for example, a complex living being that can do many amazing things: turn what we breathe out into oxygen; produce a huge variety of delicious tasting fruits, nuts, syrup, and berries; provide a home for birds, mammals, and other animals; can induce a sense of awe in us if we pay attention (see: redwoods, live oaks in the south of the U.S., bristlecone pines that are 5,000 years old); I could go on. In his book Cradle to Cradle, architect William McDonough illustrates this point too:
“Imagine this design assignment: design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the seasons, and self-replicates.
Why don’t we knock that down and write on it?”
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that trees are – for a variety of reasons – magical.
Capitalism takes these magical beings and turns them into something that can be traded on a market – paper, lumber. Occasionally, economics can understand “environmental services” – more of the things that McDonough was getting at – the valuing of sequestering carbon, and then complicate the tree’s value, as well as make a stronger economic argument to keep it alive and healthy.
By the way, this is all reliant on a lot of separations within nature. Trees are separate from birds that live in them, separate from the soil and water and fungal networks that nourish them. We are separate from them.
So…commodification turns parts of nature into things that can be traded on markets, and made money from the sale of, based on an agreed upon value. “Raw materials.”
This relies on separating us from nature, from our other ways of relating, and the interrelatedness of its parts.
If you’re interested in any of these things, I highly recommend watch Tom B.K. Goldtooth’s video on Youtube:
History of the land under the United States
United States history is different than the history of the land that the U.S. currently occupies. Who was here before the “start”? How is their deep history erased by current narratives that start history at 1776? How does our understanding of the U.S. as one nation erase the hundreds of other sovereign nations that also currently inhabit this land?
“Counter to the western stories that we’ve been here 12,000 years, we’ve been here over 60,000 years, likely over 100,000 years, and there is a great deal of evidence to support that,” says Paulette Steeves, director of the Native American Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
A more complicated understanding of history that many of us did not receive in school is necessary to understand the depth of relationship that indigenous people have had and many continue to have with this land currently called the United States for thousands of years. In contrast, the colonized period of this land is relatively small, a few percent of total peopled time.
Land as Investment
Investing isn’t just about money. All capitalism relies on commodification of nature and land and the genocide required to do those things as well as direct investment in land.
Wealth redistribution tends to focus on dollars and donation of money.
It’s imperative that our interpretation of investment be broadened to also encompass land. Investment in land doesn’t have to look like owning a real estate property, there are lots of ways to invest. And certainly all of capitalism happens on land anyway.
The process of commodification – turning trees into paper, into an abstract commodity that can be bought and sold – is the process of disconnecting ourselves from place, of literally uprooting ourselves and nature and abstracting it into something else. In its very nature, this is colonial — it is void of a sense of place, a sense of context, history, and connection.
There’s a strong connection to present-day gentrification and displacement – these are not new concepts. This is also super connected to the gentrification that’s happening around the country (and many parts of the world) as people move around. The idea that people are movable, easily displaced, that a value connected to a place will drive people out of being able to live there — rooted in racialized colonialism.
Land is not arbitrary. Things like “equal redistribution of land” or “land as commons” are colonial concepts that continue to erase deep relationships of indigenous people to *specific* places.
For a really basic idea of what I mean here, think about a place you call home. About how it smells, about the plants that live there and how they change over the course of a year. About all the people you are connected to in that place. That place can’t be anywhere, it’s a specific place to you with many histories. Multiply that by 20,000 years and then it might be similar to indigeneity.
One example of a land reparations project I’m familiar with locally is an indigenous women led project called the Sogorea Te Land Trust. It asks settlers on Chocheño Ohlone land to pay a “tax” to fund the purchase of land to be stewarded and used in ceremonial practices. There are several other indigenous led land trusts around the country.
I’m going to leave you here with a few resources, some questions to consider, and let you know some of the questions we’re currently holding as Regenerative Finance. Want to be in conversation with us?? Far out! Drop us a line.