Market Landscape: Speaking between Financial Districts and The Planet

An audio documentary by Sben Korsh and Maxime Decaudin and

CCA
[00:00] Welcome to the CCA. This is Market Landscape: Speaking between Financial Districts and The Planet, a project by Sben Korsh and Maxime Decaudin.
Sben Korsh
[00:08] Hey there, I’m Sben.
Maxime Decaudin
[00:11] Hello, I’m Maxime.
CCA
[00:13] Sben and Maxime created this audio documentary during their residency as the 2018-2019 Emerging Curators at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. In this documentary, they explore the ecologies of financial districts and follow intangible connections between the urban landscapes of finance within global cities and exploited landscapes across the planet. You can follow a transcript and find documents that they reference along with images and accompanying material at www.cca.qc.ca/marketlandscape.
MD
[00:47] At 7:30am on 25 April 2019, members of climate activist groups Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action stopped a train at Canary Wharf in London.1 The train, the Docklands Light Railway, carries many financial workers every morning to their offices in Canary Wharf, a major financial district located in East London. Climbing on top of a train car, several protesters held banners reading “Business as usual equals death.”
Diana Warner
[01:33] So first of all, I can’t say much about the action itself. I’m due to have a Crown Court hearing.
MD
[01:41] This is Diana Warner, a retired family doctor turned Extinction Rebellion activist. Diana actually glued herself to the train, standing on the platform and affixing her hand to a passenger window.
Diana Warner
[01:59] We do inconvenience. Part of the inconvenience will make people think—they stop and have to think about why we’re doing it. Because this inconvenience is nothing compared to what is happening in other parts of the world.
MD
[02:16] Diana sees Canary Wharf as connected to the planetary environmental crisis.
Diana Warner
[02:21] This seat of finance is so powerful, it spreads its fingers all over the world. It spreads its fingers into the very air we breathe. It affects the water that many people drink.
SK
[02:45] Over the past year, Maxime and I have been working on this project together, thinking about the connections between financial districts and the planet. Our research focuses on spaces in Hong Kong and London, two cities where we’ve been living, studying, and teaching.
MD
[03:01] I’m an architect and historian. I teach landscape architecture, and I’m interested in environmental transformation and discourses on nature.
SK
[03:08] And I’m an architectural historian, interested in spaces of financial work like office buildings and financial districts, as well as more broadly forefronting questions of justice and equity in architecture.
MD
[03:19] The action led by Diana Warner and her fellow demonstrators at the train station stopped some workers from getting to their offices that morning, and perhaps some of them paused to think about how their work might be implicated in climate change. For us, the protest made us question: What are the intangible connections between places of finance and climate change? What do the pristine head offices of financial firms and their manicured landscapes obscure about the concrete consequences of their work on the planet?
SK
[03:49] In two parts, we will hear from people who live within, study, and design what we call today’s market landscape—places from different parts of the planet, tied together by the ideological forces of the free market.
MD
[04:01] In the first part, we have a general discussion about the rise of the global city at the end of the twentieth century and how they are embedded in a financialized economy. We turn to the particular histories of the two financial districts that we know best, the Central District of Hong Kong and Canary Wharf in London. We speak with some of the district’s landscape architects and unpack with them the material and environmental costs of green spaces designed for the enjoyment of financial workers.
SK
[04:27] In the second part, we will contextualize these districts within systems of global finance and identify the consequences of corporate investments elsewhere on the planet. Many of the world’s largest and well-known international banks fund activities such as oil and gas production, which affect climate change—such as coal mines in the German Rhineland or fracking in the West Texas Permian Basin. We will take up one example, that of the Canadian tar sands, which receives billions annually from international financial firms, including those headquartered in Canary Wharf and Central Hong Kong. We speak with the activists on the ground to learn about the environmental realities of these extractive projects, and how they’re resisting the industry’s expansion on Indigenous land.
MD
[05:09] These two parts begin to reveal the obscured connections between landscapes around the planet, showing how they’re contingently produced through the extractive nature of the financialized economy. In our conclusion, our guests share ways in which the hidden connections between financial districts and the planet become opportunities to reimagine these economic relations.


Part one

Saskia Sassen
[05:40] In the 1980s, I began to see the emergence of a new type of economy, very partial, very however marked by powerful actors.
SK
[05:57] This is Saskia Sassen, a sociologist known for her work on the global city having published a book of the same title in 1991.1 We spoke with her at her apartment in London so that she could help us establish the global economic context in which the contemporary financial districts of Canary Wharf and Central Hong Kong appeared. According to Sassen, as financial firms deregulated and began to work globally, there was an expansion of specialized expertise and knowledge.
Saskia Sassen
[06:24] If you want to invest in Russia, how do you do that? If you want to invest in Latin America, how do you do that? So you had an extraordinary amount of specialized knowledge. Now let’s remember that that’s also the time when we deregulate, privatize, and globalize. So by the 1980s, these three dynamics are sort of in play, and out of that then comes the need for the big actors who had big corporate firms.
SK
[06:54] And all these new specialized actors in global finance—traders, consultants, and lawyers—required financial spaces such as Canary Wharf and Central, Hong Kong to accommodate their workplaces. These cities essentially became the infrastructural site for this expansion of specialized financial knowledge. Through being sites of such work, these cities have a broader functional role.
Saskia Sassen
[07:15] The global city is a kind of function. At that point, by the 1980s this new economy has installed itself. And that is something that a lot of the commentators—the urban experts—had a very hard time seeing. It was just amazing how they couldn’t “get it,” because all the big fancy firms, they had sort of moved off into other areas or they, you know… and what they didn’t see was that a whole new economy was emerging. So it’s like a system that installs itself in these cities. That is rather the image that I like.
SK
[07:47] One of the ways in which we begin to see this new economy is through the construction boom of office spaces in global cities such as Canary Wharf in London and Central, Hong Kong. Both districts grew to accommodate the new masses of financial workers resulting from market deregulations, which created new opportunities for developers to build larger office buildings than ever before.
MD
[08:05] The land upon which Canary Wharf is today located, originally opened as the West India Docks in 1802. The Docklands were a large port for goods going to and coming from the British colonies in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Barbados. Sara Stevens, an architectural historian currently researching Canary Wharf and a 2019 Research Fellow at the CCA, spoke with us from her office in Vancouver. She tells us more about Canary Wharf’s beginnings and the post-industrialization and containerization of the port.
Sara Stevens
[08:45] The London Docklands is this area that’s been really shifting quite a lot before Canary Wharf, as a project, came to be. So it was always a struggling part of the city that had been thriving only as a commercial docklands starting in the late eighteenth century. By World War II, it was heavily bombed out—it was very working-class—but it was heavily bombed out, and all of the docks that had been built became really under-utilized after that. And then by the 1960s, as containerization was really shifting the way that the shipping industry operated, they became completely obsolete, the docks that were there.
SK
[09:17] Londoners would have never thought that the city’s connections to the new global economy would ultimately move to the so-called derelict Docklands.
Sara Stevens
[09:24] Canary Wharf began in 1981, and it was a multi-firm master planning process, really set up under the Thatcher government as a push to create an entirely new financial district for the center of London. This is a time of lots of deregulation in the United Kingdom and abroad, and the plan called for the redevelopment of a major site. It was going to create, really from whole cloth, a new financial district that would be separate from the stodgy confines of the city, which is London’s traditional financial center. It would create this major node for globally integrated economic activities. So that was what kind of precipitated this as being an area, a site for redevelopment. And I think one of the most interesting pieces of the story is how it was established as an Enterprise Zone.
SK
[10:06] This Enterprise Zone that Sara Stevens speaks of is exemplary of Margaret Thatcher’s vision of a free market. Under a neoliberal framework, though typically thought of as a non-interventionist state, it’s actually the government’s role to establish public infrastructure such that private enterprise can flourish.
David Mountain
[10:30] The London Docklands Development Corporation was a totally non-democratic authority. It was kind of set up, eventually, from central government, from Margaret Thatcher, in a very Labour-controlled area of East London.
SK
[10:44] David Mountain, an urban historian who is writing his Ph.D. on the Dockland’s redevelopment talked to us at a pub in London about some of the political history behind the construction of the financial district.
David Mountain
[10:55] There’s lots of trade unionism. They took this land out of control from the locally elected democratic local councils who were all Labour. And so, if you were on the Labour left—and at the time the Labour party was very left-wing—if you were on that position, this was kind of the number one “on the ground” manifestation of Thatcherism.
SK
[11:33] Public resistance towards the project in Canary Wharf and the Dockland’s distance from the city center stalled some early attempts at development. Eventually, the Canadian real estate company, Olympia and York, came in to develop Canary Wharf. The developers brought with them a particular “North American” flair to the project. As David describes,
David Mountain
[11:51] I think there was this kind of aesthetic component, which was that people wanted to live by water, on waterfronts—this American idea of like Boston and Baltimore harbour.
SK
[12:01] Many people express this idea that Canary Wharf is a foreign urban model imported to London. Similar to Canary Wharf, Central, Hong Kong greatly benefited from global deregulations, in this case, serving as a major platform for global finance to enter China’s reformed economy. Hong Kong was a crown colony from 1842 to 1997 established under the liberal idea of free trade. While Central was always the heart of the city’s economy, the late twentieth century saw a new wave of redevelopment. Funnelling foreign investment, placing China’s state-owned companies on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and managing the new wealth of the mainland, financial firms spurred urban redevelopment in Central and cemented Hong Kong’s role as one of Asia’s most important financial centers. The new financial spaces, like Exchange Square or the HSBC headquarters, were designed with ideas about what world-class, grade-A buildings should look like. This era of development in both districts is marked not just by the emergence of a financial system in a globalizing world, but also physically by the confluence of expensive materials and luxurious designs.
MD
[13:07] Parks and gardens are particular places where this is most evident in financial districts. While buildings and infrastructure are designed to optimize return of investment, greening and public open spaces are more complex to evaluate. To better understand the global connection to these everyday spaces, we spoke with some of the landscape architects who designed the parks and streetscapes in both Canary Wharf and Central, Hong Kong. The construction of these green spaces relies on the importation of plants. This is one of the ways in which these financial districts are materially connected to landscapes elsewhere. For instance, Anthony Hui, the designer of Cheung Kong Park, a privately built open space located in Central Hong Kong, explained to us how large trees were brought all the way from Hainan Island, nearly five hundred kilometres away.
Anthony Hui
[14:02] One of the trees that we put in was actually a tree that was not native—but looks native enough, which was the tallest tree, and I thought that they thought I was crazy when I planted that tree because it was already fifteen metres tall, and it was unheard of that you would plant a tree that tall. I managed to get that tree from Hainan, and we needed to close the highway to bring the tree in, so that was a great exercise.
MD
[14:28] Remo Riva, the architect who designed the 1980s office complex housing the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, talked to us in Hong Kong about a similar story of plant importation, an expensive transportation of the Ficus trees that now stand in the lobby of Exchange Square.
Remo Riva
[14:42] The trees: the problem was these trees are not available here. They grow in Malaysia, but they’re not really grown in a commercial setting; whereby in the States they have been used, these types of the Ficus benjamina trees. They’re the ones that actually grow in air-conditioned spaces. So, I identified some nursery in Florida. Went there. I mean, the problem was then getting them over here very quickly once they’ve been, the four, were identified. So, they hired the—what’s that cargo plane? Air Tiger or something? Put the trees inside, flew to Hong Kong, had special arrangements with customs, and put them on a truck, and bring them here at night. So, it all happened that night and with a crane, they were lifted up and put in place.
MD
[15:40] Not only are these landscapes expensive to construct, but they are also difficult to keep alive. Steven Richards, who designed the new Crossrail Place rooftop garden in Canary Wharf, met with us in his London studio.
Steven Richards
[15:52] It is a roof garden, so it doesn’t touch the ground. It doesn’t touch a water source. So, it will always need to be watered. And this, again, always raises a debate about the cost—the actual real costs of doing these environments, because they have to be so carefully managed. When you’re dealing with soil on a platform, invariably what it slowly does over the years is just, generally, collapse, because it’s not getting constant replenishment. So, you have to look very carefully at lifespans within these roof gardens. So again, they’re very nice stories about bringing nature in, but they are super managed spaces. We control them totally. This is not nature. You know, it’s not a piece of wilderness. A big-scale roof garden like this is a major technical operation that never stops. It’s almost a machine in a way, and the outcome is, yes, a fabulous lush space.
MD
[16:49] These projects turn out to be expensive pieces of infrastructure, costly machines designed to grow plants in artificial conditions for the enjoyment of those in the financial district. Materials such as trees and stones often come from far away, dramatically increasing the economic cost, but also the ecological footprint of these small urban parks. Additionally, they continuously require intensive care and large quantities of resources to be maintained as they were envisioned. Paradoxically, their designers emphasize their environmental benefits. For Anthony Hui, Cheung Kong Park’s major contribution to the local ecology are the fruit trees he selected to provide habitats for birds.
Anthony Hui
[17:31] The success of the project was, actually, the birds of Hong Kong roost on the trees. They’re covered with birds! Particularly the not-so-native white cockatoo. You just see them, just living there at nighttime, up to the morning.
MD
[17:52] While protecting the local ecology is a widespread concern for landscape architects, many of them are sensitive to environmental issues and often advocate for a sustainable future. This is the case of Sandy Duggie, who designed numerous parks, rooftop gardens, and streetscapes in Hong Kong.
Sandy Duggie
[18:09] So I’m very keen that we promote sustainability as much as possible in our designs, and you know, improving the greenery, improving the connection of people who have become disconnected from nature. Reconnecting with nature is something that runs through all of our projects.
MD
[18:25] Indeed, landscape architects offer more than green spaces for financial workers to rest or have lunch. Often, their botanical and ecological expertise is instrumental in conserving and improving habitats for local biodiversity. However justified, the environmental contribution of parks and gardens in financial districts seems rather negligible in comparison to the consequences of activities funded by banks and other financial firms elsewhere on the planet.
SK
[18:53] Saskia Sassen makes a similar comment about designers. Basically, it’s not explicitly bad for designers to work on financial districts, but what is their effect on the world?
Saskia Sassen
[19:03] I think that for them, the rise of this big financial sector has been a boom, I assume. And that’s great. The deep problem is the extractive nature of this new type of economy. That is problematic.

  1. Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). 


Part two

SK
[19:24] In part two, we zoom out from financial districts of global cities to examine how they function on the planet via the financing of environmentally destructive projects. If we limit our focus on just the extraction of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, these activities account for trillions of dollars in funding. According to the Banking on Climate Change Report from 2019, compiled by the likes of Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, amongst others, the world’s major financial firms have funnelled some 1.9 trillion US dollars into fossil fuels between 2016 and 2018.1 We spoke with Greig Aitken, an expert on oil and gas financing from his satellite office in the Czech Republic, whose organization is one of the authors of the report.
Greig Aitken
[20:08] My name’s Greig Aitken, and I’m a climate campaigner with BankTrack. BankTrack was formed to basically monitor, analyze, and campaign against private bank flows, covering extractive industries, fossil fuels, but also private bank financing for forest devastation, the likes of palm oil. Also large dams, and so forth. Under certain UN frameworks, banks are supposed to respect and uphold human rights in all their investments. They have commitments on these, and very often we find that these standards are just not being applied. And this applies to a lot of the standards, which banks say they’re committed to, often voluntarily, which is a problem. And so, therefore, we find very often financing coming in, in a variety of forms for egregious projects, which have damaging impacts for communities, environments, biodiversity, and of course climate.
SK
[21:08] Listed in the 2019 Banking on Climate Change Report are many of the companies that surround the parks of Canary Wharf and Central, Hong Kong. Their funding for fossil fuels is divided into sub-sectors like ultra-deep water, coal mining, or fracked oil and gas. We will focus on just one of these, the tar sands sub-sector in Canada.
MD
[21:34] The processing of tar sand is one of the most polluting methods for the production of crude oil. The oil is extracted from rocks rich in something called “bitumen.” They’re either excavated to be processed or, when too deep, the oil is melted using high-pressure steam. On top of high carbon emissions, tar sand oil extraction pollutes large quantities of water, which are stored onsite, and often spill in waterways or permeate into the aquifer.
SK
[22:01] According to BankTrack, from 2016 to 2018, the thirty largest tar sand production companies globally, received over 71 billion US dollars in funding from the likes of JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, and HSBC—as well as Canadian banks, including RBC, TD, Scotiabank, and the Bank of Montréal.2 Aside from traditional banking, there are also conglomerate corporations—like CK Hutchinson Holdings, a company headquartered in Hong Kong, which owns Husky Energy. Husky Energy is one of Canada’s largest oil producers, located in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
MD
[22:44] We talked to Rita Wong over the phone from Vancouver, where she’s a professor of critical and cultural studies. Rita Wong grew up in Calgary, Alberta, the financial center of Canada’s oil industry.
Rita Wong
[22:55] The devastation happens up north, but the offices or headquarters are down in Calgary in southern Alberta. I’ve always felt the power and the intimidation of the oil industry, so it’s very difficult to imagine criticizing it when you live in Alberta—there’s such a heavy, thick layer of ideology.
MD
[23:14] Like the pristine landscaping of Canary Wharf and Central Hong Kong, corporate ideology and complex funding mechanisms obscure the everyday realities of extractive industries on the ground. For several years, Rita Wong has participated in healing walks led by Indigenous women in the oil sands of Alberta. As she describes her experience, we discover a very different landscape than what we found in financial districts: a degraded and hostile environment, equally funded by global finance.
Rita Wong
[23:43] You know, the first time I walked up in the tar sands, I was not physically, emotionally, or spiritually prepared for what hit me. Because you know, you think you’re just gonna walk up there in solidarity—and you do—but then you get up there, and it’s like, after walking for six hours in the middle of the processing plants for Suncor and Syncrude, it’s like you’ve chain-smoked for a year or something. Like my lungs, I just—I felt awful. I was not prepared for the physical experience of that. It was very sobering and very disturbing, right? And for people who live there on a daily basis, I think, the cancer rates in the area are higher, there’s illnesses that come with it.3 There’s real sacrifices that come, that are felt in the body as well as on the land.
SK
[24:30] We wanted to learn more about the Indigenous communities, and how their lives are affected by the tar sands industry. So we spoke to Kanahus Manuel.
Kanahus Manuel
[24:39] Weytkp, xwexweytep [Hi all]. My name is Kanahus Manuel, and I am with the Tiny House Warriors and Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, coming from the Secwepemc Nation in so-called British Columbia, Canada.
SK
[24:52] She explained to us how the extraction of tar sands, and the investments of banks, has transformed the landscape of the region and threatened their traditional economies.
Kanahus Manuel
[25:01] They call the Alberta tar sands one of the biggest carbon bombs in the world, and it is the biggest industrial project ever known to mankind. And you could see it from space. You could see it on Google Earth. You could see Fort McMurray and the areas around Fort McMurray that are being mined right now. The mining practices that they need even just to get to bitumen is going hundreds of feet into the earth, and even just a millimetre is like taking out an ancient forest. Ten thousand years just to build those first layers of earth on the ground there. That’s like ancient forests being torn down. And the people around ground zero, we call it—Fort McMurray and the areas around the Alberta tar sands—are feeling the biggest impacts, and that’s because they’re the ones getting sick. They’re the ones with the rare types of cancer. They’re the ones with the skin lesions. They’re the ones that can’t drink the tap water. They don’t have clean drinking water in their communities. These economies are destroying our already existing Indigenous economies.4 The elk, the moose, the caribou, the salmon, you know, all of our foods that are being impacted by the Alberta tar sands and these pipeline infrastructures.
SK
[26:16] Kanahus Manuel refers to the pipelines being built to connect the landlocked tar sands to both the northern US border and out to the Pacific coast.
Kanahus Manuel
[26:25] The Trans Mountain Pipeline is a twinning—it’s actually a twinning of a pipeline. There’s an old 1953 pipeline that was built by Kinder Morgan, a Texas company. They brought this pipeline from the Edmonton Terminal all the way down through the interior of British Columbia to the coast, to the Salish Sea out near Vancouver. This is bringing this pipeline 1,142 kilometres, and it would include 890,000 barrels per day.
MD
[26:54] Because the environmental consequences of the pipeline threatens the livelihood, health, and well-being of Indigenous communities, they have been fighting for the recognition of their rights and titles. Kanahus Manuel started the Tiny House Warriors, a protest in the form of small houses on wheels, which they park along the pipeline path.5
Kanahus Manuel
[27:12] The Tiny House Warriors was really a vision of how to resist, and the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, which I’m a part of, have been resisting against different industrial projects and really pushing decolonization in our territories.6 We’re going to build tiny houses because we have to be out on the line. We can’t be sitting on the Indian reserve and figuring out how we’re going to stop this pipeline that goes through five hundred kilometres of our land. We need homes out there because we know how it is to resist on the territory, hence, that’s why we have our homes on wheels now, because we don’t want the government to destroy our homes and bulldoze down some of these most sacred symbols of our people.
SK
[27:55] She here describes the physical intervention in the landscape as a mode of resistance to the destruction of these environments and the rights of communities to their resources. Rita Wong has also been resisting the pipeline’s expansion. In this case, through Tsleil-Waututh lands, in what is now known as Vancouver. There, community members have built a watch house to protect the landscape.
Rita Wong
[28:15] I don’t actually see my work as protest. I see it more as respecting and aligning myself with Indigenous law. So, here in Vancouver, that would be Coast Salish territory—the traditional homelands of the Musqueam, the Squamish, and the Tsleil-Waututh. And the Tsleil-Waututh had been very strong leaders in protecting the land and the water. They’re the people of the inlet. At the watch house, which is a Coast Salish watch house built on the East Gate of the Kinder Morgan tank farm, or the Trans Mountain tank farm, this watch house is a traditional Coast Salish structure.7 It’s built from one cedar tree, and it is built there to both look after the community and also to guard against enemies. So it’s built on top of the pipeline and it would have to be taken down if the pipeline’s expanded. So it’s also strategically located.
SK
[29:05] Both Rita Wong and Kanahus Manuel have been mobilizing built spaces as a form of resistance. Both the tiny house and the watchtower are strategically-placed communally-built projects which attempt to physically block the expansion of the pipeline. The Trans Mountain pipeline is just one of several major pipeline projects ongoing in North America, including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. According to the Rainforest Action Network, those tied to the financing of these pipelines include many firms that are headquartered in Canary Wharf and Central Hong Kong such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Bank of China, and the China Construction Bank.8 According to BankTrack, Kinder Morgan, the corporation responsible for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, in particular, secured over 5.5 billion Canadian dollars in loans for the project.9 Due to intractable difficulties across the two provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the federal government, headed by the Liberal Party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has acquired the pipeline outright and gave a green light to its construction in the summer of 2019. The wholesale acquisition of the project by the state is reminiscent of the neoliberal clearance of the docklands in London that we had discussed in part one, whereby Margaret Thatcher’s government sought to clear the land and reinvest state capital into it. Rita Wong tells us more about the Canadian example and ties this to her action at the watch house.
Rita Wong
[30:28] My focus has been more on Canada’s role in buying the Trans Mountain Pipeline and trying to then fob it off on Indigenous peoples. I think that’s the ultimate divide and conquer, to not only buy something that, in my opinion, should be and will likely be a stranded asset—a pipeline that nobody can afford—under the guise of so-called national interests that ignores global interest or international interest or local interests. You know, there’s no healthy global without healthy locals.
SK
[31:02] Manuel similarly sees the federal government’s actions as part of a historical continuation of centuries of colonial settlement. The state’s acquisition of the pipeline has transformed it into a Crown Corporation. This places it in a long lineage of colonial companies that are formed by an Act of Parliament, thus tying its corporate ownership directly to Canadian sovereignty.
Kanahus Manuel
[31:23] You know, since Canada first came here and British Columbia was formed, and now here in 2019, we’re in the exact same position that my ancestors were.
SK
[31:33] These politics of the contested landscapes of extraction contrast starkly with the designed environments in which financial decisions are made. On the ground, the industrial activities funded by global financial firms threaten the health and livelihood of local populations while duly destroying the environment.

  1. Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Sierra Club, and Honor the Earth, et al. Banking on Climate Change 2019, 20 March 2019. 

  2. Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Sierra Club, and Honor the Earth, et al. Banking on Climate Change 2019, 20 March 2019. 

  3. Stéphane M. McLachlan, Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, 7 July 2014. 

  4. Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, Standing Rock of the North: The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Secwepemc Risk Assessment, October 2017. 

  5. See Tiny House Warriors: Our Land is Home.  

  6. See Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly

  7. For more information, click here

  8. Rainforest Action Network, et al. Funding Tar Sands: Private Banks vs. the Paris Agreement, 2 November 2017. 

  9. Ryan Brightwell, et al. Human Rights Briefing Paper How Banks Contribute to Human Rights violations, 8 December 2017. 


Conclusion

SK
[31:58] In summary, as the global economy has shifted towards more deregulation and privatization, financial districts became platforms for financial firms to perform services globally. This opened up opportunities for designers and developers to create new spaces in Canary Wharf and Central.
MD
[32:14] A closer look at the everyday spaces of financial work reveals so-called world-class buildings and manicured parks. While adding value to the estate and providing better spaces for employees, these environments have a cost.
SK
[32:26] Beyond the physical boundaries of financial districts, many of the companies headquartered in Canary Wharf and Central fund projects that contribute to environmental degradation in the planet. Bank consortiums and holding companies invest in the tar sands extraction industry of Canada. The industrial production of bitumen has catastrophic consequences for the environment and affects the health of local settler communities and Indigenous peoples alike.
MD
[32:49] The landscapes of finance are unequal. What they have in common, however, is the extractive economy that funds them, and links them together in an inextricable way; large trees are flown from across the globe to provide shade and adorn corporate plazas while hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of forest topsoil are removed in order to transport millions of barrels of crude oil to the Pacific through extended pipelines.
SK
[33:15] Reflecting on these realities, some of the people we spoke with shared their visions for the future: advocating for greater transparency, creating new spatial imaginaries, and alternative forms of solidarity. Diana Warner finds it important to accept the current situation before moving forward.
Diana Warner
[33:32] It takes love as well. Love and hope. Love for other people beyond yourself, for our kids. And it takes hope that we, as a species, can actually get down and turn things around and that enough people will end up opening their eyes and opening their hearts to make this happen.
MD
[33:56] Beyond realizing the situation of emergency we found ourselves in, Rita Wong from Alberta formulates what she sees as the most challenging question of our time.
Rita Wong
[34:05] It’s just as what Haraway would say, “staying with the trouble.”1 Not looking away from it, not hiding from it, but just facing it, and being in it together. You know, it’d be nice if the folks who are making the big bucks could understand this other way of seeing the world. But their inability to do so may be our species’ demise.
SK
[34:27] Greig Aitken from BankTrack believes that greater transparency in the financial sector might lead the world economy out of its dependence upon fossil fuel. He explains how disclosing the sordid character of their investments could discourage banks from continuing to fund climate change.
Greig Aitken
[34:43] Once we identify which banks are involved in bankrolling projects or bankrolling certain companies, we can engage. We can try and see whether there are means of persuasion for banks to not get involved in projects—or there’s the shaming approach.
SK
[34:58] Whether it’s persuasion or shame, something seems to be working even if it’s incredibly, incredibly slow. For instance, banks like ING, Crédit Agricole, and Société Générale have ended financing for all tar sands projects.2
MD
[35:12] Kanahus Manuel speculates on the idea of shame, bringing it right to the financial sector’s doorstep, and imagining a new landscape that connects the financial district to the planet. She recalls her experience of visiting the corporate office of a financial firm to suggest new connections and new relationships for the future.
Kanahus Manuel
[35:30] I travelled to Zurich and I went to this big international insurance company to do a presentation to them about our title and rights against this pipeline. And we went in, I had to surrender my passport at the door of the security, and then they escorted me down, and it was a beautiful landscape area with bridges that are going over little creeks. But it’s all made, and it’s all a big fortress, and it’s gated in by a big stone wall fence. And all these buildings are in there. It’s a place for all the financial workers to go and enjoy. And there’s ducks, and there’s all of this beauty—and they wouldn’t even know that their money is destroying something around the world. And I thought, well maybe what they need instead of a beautiful landscape, maybe what they need is a little part of what they’re doing with their money when they destroy other places. Like a black creek. Fountains that say “do not drink this water” cause it’s contaminated. Some toxic smells, like what people are smelling at the Alberta tar sands. And possibly even cannons that are going off every fifteen minutes, because they don’t want birds to land on the contaminated tailings ponds. To actually see what they’re causing—in their own backyard, and maybe something like that would be some type of visual or image, so that they could see the decisions they’re making from behind their desks that are affecting Indigenous communities.
SK
[36:59] Just as Manuel hopes to bring visibility of her landscapes into the offices of financial districts, we hope that this selection of uncovered geographic entanglements has revealed some of the material and financial flows that dictate the physical realities of so many places around the planet.
CCA
[37:26] This was Market Landscape: Speaking between Financial Districts and the Planet, an audio documentary by Sben Korsh and Maxime Decaudin at the CCA. Edited by Kate Yeh Chiu with post-production provided by Phi in Montréal. Special thanks to Giovanna Borasi, Sophie Couture, Albert Ferré, Geneviève Godbout, and Camille Lavallée-Prairie. To learn more about the CCA, visit www.cca.qc.ca.

  1. Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). 

  2. Banktrack, Banks that ended direct finance for tar sands, updated 27 August 2019. 

Sben Korsh and Maxime Decaudin are the CCA’s 2018-2019 Emerging Curators. Their project is called Market Landscape.

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