rs21 Endgames is a series of monthly events on the climate crisis, with rs21 hosting comradely conversations exploring crucial aspects of ecosocialism. The latest event was a talk and discussion with Vron Ware about the politics of rural life, based on her latest book, Return of a Native: learning from the land (Repeater 2022). The book brings themes of race, class and colonial history into a forensic investigation of rural England.
In her introductory talk at the event, Vron Ware explained the origins of the book project, and brought together some of its themes.
The discussion afterwards brought the focus to how the countryside is inextricable from cities, given how many people either commute to cities or work remotely in jobs based there. Participants also highlighted the threats to agricultural life in Britain at the moment. Last year, Penrith’s Newton Rigg College, one of the few options for an education in farming in Northern England, was shut down. Farm workers in Britain are part of an ageing demographic, with the average age of a farmer at 59. Farms are closing at an increasing rate due to the difficulties of making profit and the impossibility of sustaining a farm without it. Once farms close, the land goes into disuse. While this is a crisis in the making for British agriculture, current agribusiness practices can be ecologically damaging and key changes must be made in order to make farming sustainable again.
The politics of rural life is a topic often neglected by the left, who congregate in cities, but it provokes important questions for how a sustainable, socialist future in Britain could work.