Stardust: Toward a Revolutionary Urban Ecology

Stardust: Toward a Revolutionary Urban Ecology



I wanted my square for the quilt to express what a sustainable urban ecology would look like with human beings and plants and animals coexisting in harmony in a city. Given the role that population density, public transportation, and greater access to education, jobs, and cultural engagement—museums, theater, galleries, and so on—can play in combating climate change, cities are crucial sites for mitigating the worst ecological crisis in human history. I considered various slogans: “Toward a Revolutionary Urban Ecology,” “The Right to the City,” and “Another World Is Possible.” But the actual design of the square dictated something less explicit, more metaphorical.

In designing the square, I placed blocks of fabric that drew my eye in a quilt-like pattern with two of the same pieces catacorner—blue fish in a sea and flowers on a turquoise background; in between are four wavy red rectangles, perhaps rays of light, in vertical and horizontal lines; and a yellow sun in the center. In the lower left hand corner, a woman is leaping, holding a flag; to her right is a blossoming tree; above the tree is a bird, wings spread; and in the center, enveloped by the sun, is the trace of a cityscape.

Instead of the slogans I had initially considered putting on the flag, I embroidered (a bit crudely) the word “stardust,” signifying the origins of life. The word started to mean more to me after reading the Marxist sociologist Erik Olin Wright’s public diary as he was dying from leukemia. He wrote about his time left “in this marvelous form of stardust,” observing that “Atoms don’t have experiences. They’re just stuff. That’s all I really am is stuff. But stuff so complexly organized across several thresholds of stuff-complexity, that it’s able to reflect upon its stuff-ness and what an extraordinary thing it has been to be alive and aware that it’s alive and aware that it’s aware that it’s alive. And from that complexity comes the love and beauty and meaning that constitutes the life I’ve lived.”

This deep knowledge of the stardust from which we came and to which we return in nonhuman form connects us to everything around us on earth and across the universe. But to realize that harmony between nature and humans will mean enacting a revolutionary urban ecology; demanding the right to the city; sustaining the natural world of which we are part and which global capitalism, run amok, is destroying; and making our own history to prove that another world is possible.

Publication Date

Spring 2023


Art and Design | Urban Studies and Planning

Stardust: Toward a Revolutionary Urban Ecology