“Nine Commons”


 ACTIVATE’S three ‘thematic’ projects for the Biennale were presented within the ‘Urban Foodshed’ section of this Exhibition as part of our ongoing ‘EM/MENA Project’ initiative.



The EM/MENA Project at the Urban Foodshed


Curator: Melina Nicolaides, Director of ACTIVATE


• Going Beyond Sustainable:
Water. Soil. Land. Food. •

ACTIVATE contributed with a series of live presentations and videos focused on agricultural and nature-based solutions that can help resolve the resource challenges of the EM/MENA region, and build ecological resilience into the future. The objective was to also provide a vision for alternative food systems based on a ‘beyond sustainable’ use of land, water, and energy.

Our invited guests at the Seoul Biennale contributed to the overall vision of the Urban Foodshed by sharing ACTIVATE’s objective to highlight the need to combine scientific strategy + real world action in the EM/MENA region. In this area of Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa many countries of this climate change ‘hotspot’ face ever-increasing combined pressures on the sustainable use of freshwater supply, on energy production, and of food resources in urban centers, just as in rural areas and farming communities.

The idea for this project was prompted by the desire to introduce to the Korean public a perspective from this region of the world that faces such extreme predictions for the future, is most threatened by desertification, in order to show that change and regenerative solutions that are “beyond sustainable” can occur in any location, and in any climate of the planet.

The Project’s ‘Live Presentations’ brought a series of experts to the ‘Urban Foodshed’—scientists within major research institutions and individuals working “on the ground”—to share with their Korean counterparts and with the general public of Seoul, their personal experiences, hands-on knowledge and practices regarding present and future solutions envisioned for water, food and energy in the EM/MENA region.

On-site contributions included multiple live presentations from:

Nicolas Netien of Atsas Organic Farm, practicing argo-ecologist, presenting the world’s healthiest olive oil

Savvas Hadjixenophontos, renewable energies expert and inventor, presenting the Fornelia portable Solar Oven

Dr. Salah A. Soliman, Director of the CSDS of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, presenting long-standing environmental threats to the fertile farmland of the Nile Delta and the current food crisis in Egypt

Prof. Dr. Manfred A. Lange, Director of the Future Earth MENA Regional Center presenting the interconnected nature of water, energy, and food (WEF Nexus) in the region



• The People’s Water •

Another issue that was also addressed within the parameters of resource management in the EM/MENA region is that of water privatization.

The focus of this section was on the threat to the water supply of Greece which was seen through a presentation of primary source material from the Syndicate of EYDAP Athens Water Company and from the citizen’s initiative, Save Greek Water. Both of these entities played a leading role in opposing the corporate privatization of water resources and distribution systems, within the ongoing fight to keep the “people’s water” in the hands of the Greek public following seven years of drastic austerity measures. The case of Greek water also exemplified the ongoing global debate regarding the justifiable ownership of water resources, water management services, and who should be the rightful and legitimate provider of water to a city or a to a nation.


• Videos from around the EM/MENA Region •

Alongside the live presentations at the Urban Foodshed, ACTIVATE also presented the work of collaborators to provide a broader view of regional environmental issues from other locations across the EM/MENA region.