Ribeirão da Paciência
Portal sem porteiras
For the writing of this piece we walked along the Ribeirão da Paciência, patience river, one of the main rivers in our neighborhood. We literally walked in the river, got our feet wet, hydrated our ideas. We walked in search of the intersections of our two commons: the water and the internet, in the small scale in which they present themselves in our surroundings. By commons we mean what belongs at the same time to everyone and to no one.Commons are shared resources that everyone needs. Without them life would be impossible. We have always needed water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, irrigation, power generation, and many other purposes. The internet, on the other hand, is only a resource declared a basic human right by UNESCO in 2016, so we wonder: Is it as fundamental as water to our survival?
We are in Monteiro Lobato, in the Serra da Mantiqueira, a mountain range in southeastern Brazil known for its waters, as its Indigenous name implies: Mantiqueira, amana (rain) and tykyra (drop)
What follows is our reflections about the path of water and information.
PART I - The Spring
The dawn of PSP
We are Portal sem Porteiras (Portal without Gates), known as PSP, a communication association and community network located in Bairro dos Souzas, in Monteiro Lobato, São Paulo. PSP was born in 2017 from our urge to be collective in our communication process.
Our main goal is to put into practice a common management of something we all need, the internet, but in a microcosmic environment — a mesh network that weaves our community and connects us to the global network. Our action is local, rooted in the community we live in, Souza’s neighborhood. .
From what source does the Internet sprout?
Communication is a primary social process that is motivated by survival itself.
Given its importance, the tools for this are in constant transformation, from written communication to the Internet. They are what we call communication media: technologies for human interaction. between individuals, either individually or in mass. Communication depends on biological, social and technical processes. Communication processes that involve technical apparatuses are called mediated communication. This is the case of the internet, a set of computer networks that, spread over all regions of the planet, is able to exchange data and messages using a common protocols.
The river we choose to walk in is called "ribeirão da paciência" (patience river). The name refer to the fishing, that has always required a certain amount of patience. People does not fish here anymore. Are there no more fish or no more patience?
It is still possible to find shrimps and guarús hidden in the vegetation on the banks of streams, piabas in backwaters, traíras near the branches in calm waters, catfish that become more active when it rains. The water becomes muddy, and it is also possible to observe fish going up the rivers to reproduce.
Fishing time, requires a deep connection with the environment and what flows in the internet is anxiety
Water is omnipresent on the planet. It makes up most organisms, people, and the atmosphere. It is dispersed in time and space.
What sprouts from springs in Brazil today could have circulated through an Egyptian pharaoh’s body. Before that, it could have carried minerals from geological eras before the dinosaurs.
The unexpected meeting of the dust of the Sahara desert, which crosses the Atlantic and meets the flying rivers formed by the evaporation of the Amazon forest, constitute a part of the rain that falls in our territory, passes through the soil generating food and supplying aquifers and underground rivers where it is enriched with minerals more than 2 billion years old present in the constitution of the rocks of the Mantiqueira mountain range
poem by a neighbor
I once saw a baby being born:
suddenly a small human being came out of a woman's body.
It is a miracle.
The water gushing out of the crack in the rock causes me the same strangeness and amazement:
the earth is giving birth to life - but constantly.
The womb of the earth is a mystery.
A commons is anything that is needed to benefit all the people..
The water is obviously a commons, not just for us human beings, but for all the life involved in this planet. Water is an interspecies commons. It is not a commons that belongs to humans, although we sometimes apply the neoliberal logic of property onto it. For Indigenous groups in Brazil, as the Krenaks, water is a family member. Family members do not belong to each other, they are together.
The internet is a commons, but it is different. First of all by its nature. The internet is a necessary common network not because our physical bodies require it to survive but because it intermediates most of the social and economic activities that structure society, without which we cannot survive. More than access to information, the internet mediates access to the basic rights of citizenship — basic rights that attempt to guarantee the survival of our physical bodies, which, embedded in neoliberal society, are continuously alienated from raw natural resources and connected to abstract functions.
While the internet operates according to the logic of the goods imposed by the culture in which we live, its operation continues to violate other worldviews. By its existence, the internet manipulates natural resources in a predatory way for a “better” life based on neoliberal precepts. We can cite as examples the dams and hydroelectric stations, responsible for most of the electricity generated in Brazil, which, while changing the flow of the river, influence or even make impossible traditional ways of life in various territories.
PART II - The river flows
The collective management of our network is always a challenge, since we have been taught to outsourcing our basic needs to specialized services.
Our expectations of internet use need to be reviewed by the parameters of what we can manage.
We choose to do it slowly - being in no hurry is also a subversive act.
The internet is a network of computers speaking the same language. But these computers need to physically connect to each other in order to talk, what we call internet infrastructure. Internet infrastructure is made up of many layers of technologies. The simplest are cables, the first way to connect one computer to another. Another is through radio, the ability to send information in the form of electromagnetic waves through the air. It is through the frequency spectrum that satellite internet is made possible, where information comes and goes from space to connect us to each other down on earth. Although information travels through air, its transmission is controlled by legislation. In Brazil, legislation controls the use of certain frequencies for certain purposes — purposes that fit inside the limited normativity of what decision-makers can imagine. Not even the electromagnetic spectrum is free. Imagine that the air is like an infinite sea, and that its waves bring and carry information.
Spectrum is also a commons, so it is necessary to create legislation that regulates its transit. This should not be done by the interest of capital. Nor should it be done within institutions disconnected from the people and their own organizational structures. Despite the magical idea of information packets flying around, the robust part of the internet infrastructure is physically located deep in the ocean. There are more than 1 million kilometers of fiber-optic cables traversing the planet underwater. This extraordinary construction is such a major intervention in nature that it exceeds our human ability to understand its impact in the long term. It will not go unnoticed by those who survive it in the future. It may even become a symbol of the deep impact that humanity has permanently caused the earth, so deep even to be able to justify the adoption of a new geological era to characterize such activity: the Anthropocene.
Sewage treatment station
While we were writing this piece, a resident of Monteiro Lobato’s neighborhood posted in a WhatsApp group her indignation with a failure of the nearby sewage treatment station.
It is not the first time that we hear such reports. The installation of the treatment plant was a symbol of progress. But what was once a place of leisure for the residents has now become a smelly muddy river, hindering those who live next to it.
Water naturally cleans itself when flowing without human interference. It has always been like that. In its paths, the gravel, the sand, the curves, and the obstacles block the coarser dirt, which little by little is incorporated by biological processes. Plants, algae, bacteria, fungi, and all living beings that use water in their life cycles, purify and clean the finest impurities, which little by little is incorporated by biological processes.
As the human population increases and crowds itself, we mimic nature in its processes for our own ends. Of course, we do it much faster than nature’s pace.
poem by a neighbor
From the spring,
we walk on the riverbed as if we were also water.
To be water is to flow, to adapt;
it is to occupy the lowest places;
it is to nourish life wherever it passes.
The path that water takes is not always the shortest,
but the most natural.
We walk on the riverbed because the banks have an owner,
but the water path belongs
to the people,
to the plant,
to the animal,
to the sea
The Flying rivers
The flying rivers are large volumes of water vapor that flow through the air, regulating the climate of many regions. It is because of the flying rivers that the southeast region of Brazil is not one big desert like other regions in the same latitude, such as the Atacama desert.
When it rains here it brings water from the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean.
Water Governance in Brazil
Water governance structures flow past territorial boundaries. Rivers cross properties, municipalities, states, and national borders. In Brazil, water is a public good. This has only been true since 1988, with the end of the military dictatorship and the subsequent rewriting of the constitution.
That constitution marked a new era of democracy and human rights in the country. It was also important in a broader context. Brazil was in tune with a worldwide movement at the time, which placed ecological and environmental concerns at the forefront of international conversations around human rights. In large part motivated by the UN’s Stockholm Declaration of 1977, which was the first major world conference to take up the safeguarding of the natural world as a pressing political issue, new environmental guidelines were being established by countries across the world.
Soon after this democratic turn, Brazil created the National Water Resources Policy, which officially recognized water as a public good. Its administration then became the shared responsibility of different governmental entities at the municipal, state, and federal levels of the country. A little later, in 2000, Brazil created the National Water Agency (ANA) of the Ministry of the Environment which effectively decentralized and established more participatory management by transferring power to local and regional levels of government. Thus the Basin Committees were created, which allowed greater participation of users, civil society, NGOs, etc. These Committees constitute the “Parliament of Waters,” a space in which community representatives of a hydrographic basin discuss and decide on the management of water resources, sharing management responsibilities with governmental agencies.Water flows, it is its nature. There are many attempts to contain the water, to change its course, to narrow its passage, but the water remains flowing.
poem by a neighbor
Water that comes from the earth is a river.
Water that comes from the sky is rain.
Rain also has no owner
and is also a miracle.
The infinity of the sky is a mystery.
It rained and the Ribeirão was agitated and muddy,
but just keep flowing and soon
its waters will be calm and crystalline again.
All you have to do is be patient.
A sewage treatment plant imitates, concentrates, and artificially intensifiesthe physical, chemical,and biological processes that would naturally occur in a river in its cleansing flow. This technology has made it possible for us to live in cities; without it, the diseases derived from mistreatment of the water would have hindered the current high population density. .
Human beings have invented an existence that is detached to the environment they live in, unrelated to the environment they are. .
The river is in no hurry to become the sea.
The water that originates in our community, after passing through the treatment plants, continues its course to join the Paraiba do Sul River, to supply large urban centers in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Our local care influences what is distant.
PART III - Unloads
This article was a collective challenge, a cut and paste of words and pictures that emerged within us. We remembered communal expressions that had water as a subject and used it as fuel to conceive this piece. We accessed biology and geography research, drawings, personal hiking maps, poems, networks, performances, and movements in a search to better comprehend what water and communication flows have in common.
A territory is the relationships established in a determined geographic space. Some important information for surviving in a determined geographic space may be shared through communication dynamics all the time in this space. Deterritorialized technologies have been created and inserted in our lives so seamlessly, that we don’t even remember how life was before them. These technologies not only affect human and machine interaction but also impact human-to-human communication by mediating our daily interactions. It is important to remember that when a technology is created it emerges out of the imagination of its human creators. Imagination is influenced by a series of cultural, social, and historical factors that shape technological progress.What would the technology of information look like if it was created in a different cosmology?
A sea of PSP possibilities
Close to our seventh year of association, PSP dove into different waters. A lot of people and ideas came and went . When we founded our collective, our mission was to connect the unconnected to the internet. But we are now reflecting on how to significantly connect the already connected . . . Connecting people in the shadow of connectivity, just because they “need” to be connected, may end up becoming a favor to the lords of data capitalism. Since more people connected means more data being used to improve advertising products and services, which means more opportunities to convince people that consumption will make their lives better.If we trace a parallel comparing the watershed with a network server, we can conclude that the information, before we access it, can be under the soil we step on.
Water and internet have fences.
In Brazil there was a process of Portuguese colonization called aldeamentos. The aldeamentos is a realization of the colonial project of territory occupation, that includes forced labor and acculturation of the Indigenous people. In the second half of the 16th century, the policy of aldeamentos was carried forward by the Jesuits. The missionaries displaced Indigenous people from their territory to Jesuit villages on the coast, imposed sedentary life onto the Indigenous through agricultural work, forced adoption of “Christian customs,” and the use of the so-called general language, leading to the abandonment of the native language. But it is not difficult to find this story told differently. Colonial narratives say the aldeamentos were created to ensure that the Indigenous peoples had access to land, water, and other natural resources. Under the aldeamentos, the Indigenous people’s dynamic of use of space is overruled by geometric shapes, bordered by barbed wire fences. The Indigenous people were left with their own fenced area but not with their own rules. Here in the Serra da Mantiqueira, many Indigenous people were forced to go to Aldeamento de Queluz, and the culture of the Indigenous people who lived in this region, the Puris, was practically extinguished. Recently, it was through social media that some people who identified themselves as Puri have begun to recover language and culture through the sharing of stories. More than 200 years later, the fences separating properties are still reinforced. Those who grew up here describe the past different uses of the spaces: paths that crossed the land to shorten walks, fruit trees that ensured food abundance, access to natural pools. All fenced. Now, those who challenge property boundaries are facing risks.
Occupy all the streets and waterfalls of Soujah
Excerpts from Analuh's poem
I'm a black woman
I go on my way unfolding things
I went to bathe in the river and a white man comes up to me
Here, I'm not gonna blah-blah-blah
He comes to talk to me about notary,
Excuse meI'm cool with my friends
My freedomYour money can't buy
Once and for all I'm gonna talk
Our freedomyour money can't buy!
*For every barbed wire there's always a set of pliers!
Water is my prayer
Evolve your mind
here there is no competition
Transform our mentality
Let's rhyme and learn to confront this approach
The land is our mother and not a product
Don't talk about deserving
I was born without a cent"
The absence of net neutrality is a good example of the reinforcement of transit through controlled spaces. In rural areas, as is our situation, most people access the internet through cell phones and mobile data. The telecoms who sell these services offer limited access to specific apps with no charge. In that way, many people in our area refer to these apps as the internet. And yet they have never entered a domain name, never visited a website. It is hard to know how these digital interactions are responsible for certain behaviors. But the way these apps design social interaction, exploiting people's need for belonging, can lead to great social political disasters. We saw this in Brazil with the consolidation of a ultra-conservative Right based on fake and distorted news.
Poems by neighborhoods
We dont get to sea,
but at the same instant we drink the sprout`s water,
the river arrives the sea
Sea deep is mistery
The water origin and its destiny is the mystery
Our origin and our destiny is the mistery
May the path we walk,
between our origin and destination
be like the path of water.
A symbolic path - river talk
“River” is a performance at the Ribeirão da Paciência in honour of Oxum, the queen of the rivers. A female orixá that presides over fresh water is one of the most worshiped entities in Afro-Brazilian faiths.
The village that looked for a river
The children of the Souza neighborhood danced an author`s story of a peaceful village at the day of lost of the Water Goddess amulet. From then, they see their spring river disappear and, moved by need and thirst, go on an adventure to search water.
In PSP we like the challenging moment when our lives have sprouted. We seek to transist because we see giant possibilities to transform with those same technologies that may threaten us. We want to embrace the individualism that has made us sadly ego centered (by the other side, with possibilities to understand so much of our essences) to create and try new ways of caring together. We want a small collective administration that can apply all the knowledge created globally, but that is decided locally by those who matter. We want a common protocol, but we want diverse languages. We want our non-useful life time, the time for the river to turn into sea; the time for the sea to turn into a river that flies; the time for the river to rain on us.