Nabil Ahmed

Photo: Sea surface height change, INTERPRT, 2018.

INTERPRT is a long-term interdisciplinary project on environmental justice in Oceania at the intersection of spatial practice, international law and artistic research. The Pacific ring—a geological force field rising from the ocean floor—reorganises a fluid, geological imaginary of the region as a global commons. At this mineral frontier, environmental violence is spatially diffused and temporally protracted, requiring new methods of detection and reconstruction.

INTERPRT produces visualisations, remote sensing analysis, maps and video evidence for investigating environmental crimes. Its fact-finding is focused not only on documenting underreported situations but on gathering environmental forensic evidence to help establish individual criminal responsibility. It also undertakes case study research on the visual culture and legal history at the intersection of environmental protection and IHL towards exploring new legal forums. While its work is aimed at expanding environmental protection, it is committed to providing assistance to civil society groups under existing national and international laws.  

Contemporary environmental violence such as anthropogenic climate breakdown presents unique challenges in the pursuit of accountability as they test legal standards of jurisdiction, intention and conduct. As such, there are few examples of prosecutions for environmental crimes in international humanitarian law (IHL). Widespread, long term or severe ecological destruction – as they diffuse causal links between the crime, perpetrator and victim – create situations of impunity that require new forms of attribution techniques. Freely available, open-source data can enable civil society groups to access new tools towards closing this impunity gap.

INTERPRT’s current research focus is the Pacific region where they investigate situations of ecological and climate ecocide. The Pacific Ocean, Earth’s largest oceanic division, has a fundamental role in the climate system. Yet, like other fragile ecosystems, it faces critical threats of human-induced climate and ecological breakdown.
The Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ represents circum-Pacific zones of volcanic and seismic activity that overlaps vast mineral frontiers of copper, gold, zinc, tin, mercury, uranium, and other rare earth metals. The line also represents a threshold condition between the littoral and the insular, surface, and submarine depths, deep time and human history. In order to help the visual and conceptual understanding of the patterns of ecological destruction, we created a contiguous line by unfolding the ring of fire outward from its northern axis. This line represents what we call an ‘ecocide frontier’ for conflicts between indigenous peoples, and impacted communities on the one hand, and extractive industries and states on the other. Perhaps nowhere is this conflict starker than in West Papua, a site of ecological ecocide from industrial mining and the longest-running self-determination struggle in the Pacific. Today, this frontier is expanding from land to experimental deep-sea mining across the region.

In the fifty years from 1946 to 1996, the United States, France and the United Kingdom conducted more than 315 nuclear tests in French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Our diagram locates nuclear testing and waste sites in the Pacific which will remain radioactive for thousands of years. Compounding the unresolved violence from Cold War-era nuclear testing is the existential threat posed by anthropogenic sea level rise faced by Pacific island nations. Thus climate breakdown poses imminent threats to the Pacific and its low lying island nations in a warming world. The project is exploring the potential criminal responsibility of fossil fuel producers to the impacts of climate change.
Nabil Ahmed (Bangladesh/United Kingdom) holds a PhD in Research Architecture from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is a senior lecturer at the Cass School of Architecture at London Metropolitan University. As an artist and researcher, Ahmed looks at environmental violence and new forums for environmental justice through spatial analysis, writing, and interdisciplinary projects. Since 2013, he has been investigating the impact of mining, land grabs, and self-determination in West Papua. He is the founder of Inter-Pacific Ring Tribunal (INTERPRT), a long-term project on ecocide in Oceania and the Pacific region, commissioned by TBA21–Academy. He has participated in the two-year Anthropocene Project at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin; the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennial; the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial (2016); and numerous other exhibitions. More recently he has published in art, science, and architecture publications such as Third Text, Scientific Reports, Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Sternberg, 2014), Volume, and South Magazine (Documenta 14). 
He is a long-time Academy collaborator and a Fellow of the first cycle of The Current Fellowship program, led by Ute Meta Bauer.