Destroying life to create emptiness: imminent eviction from the Spyre, an ecological and committed squat in Pully, Switzerland. Here is a press release from the Collectif Bambou, living in a squat ecologist and engaged threatened with eviction in the commune of Pully. We would like to highlight the social and ecological issues raised by this situation.
Have you already heard about the Spyre? On an immense green field in Pully, a large villa and its annex is home to a whole world: colorful, lively, communal. For nearly three months now, the Bamboo Collective has been living and bringing these places to life with ecological and solidarity-based ways of life. The occupied buildings were empty, left abandoned since the plot was bought by Dune Capital SA, property developers wishing to raze them to the ground to build twelve new luxury buildings. This huge project had aroused about twenty opposition from the neighbourhood, and the building permit has not yet been issued. “Welcome to our world, the one we build in the dustbins of theirs. We used to live a bit hidden, busy living, creating and fighting, but today here we are, sharing with you what they are about to demolish: our desires, our creations, our houses, our living hope of another world” expresses a resident.
In the contemporary context of climate emergency against the backdrop of social and, today, health crisis, the collective believes that militant places like the Spyre are more necessary and legitimate than ever. “Occupying these places is a double gesture: on the one hand, to denounce the logic of always aiming to demolish in order to rebuild in a polluting and individualistic way, buildings intended for a privileged minority while people have no roof, and in this way concreting more and more… On the other hand, it is also an action where we build a truly social and ecological alternative to the model of society that underlies this kind of project”. The collective says “The need for housing is real, but in the face of the climate emergency we are experiencing, housing must be thought of differently: reuse what exists, create more shared and common spaces, enhance green spaces – such as the forest and the large garden at the Spyre – not yet concreted, which can be used as parks, accommodate light habitats, or serve as a space for local and shared agriculture”.
Until now, the Spyre has been home to about twenty people, and has organised numerous events, such as workshop days to share knowledge, participative work camps to learn about the joys of construction, evenings of exchange around various readings, collective dinners… The Spyre has always maintained a very good relationship with the neighbourhood. It planned to bring this place to life and allow a large number of people to enjoy the forest it shelters, as well as to use the large garden to aim for market gardening autonomy. However, the owners want to put an end to this community and ecological project and empty the premises as soon as possible…although the building permit has not yet been issued. The District Court ruled in favour of them on Thursday, ignoring the arguments in defence of the Collective and asking them to leave the premises within 48 hours.
Biodiversity to be protected
In addition to the social and cultural aspects that this place has experienced in recent times, its biodiversity is also remarkable. “The garden offers an assemblage of large trees which is exceptional in the neighbourhood and is an important habitat, especially for insects, birds and bats. On the other hand, the wooded cordon at the edge of the grounds represents a relay zone for the many species moving within the villa areas, or towards the woods of the Chenaula,” says a biologist supporting the site. It should be remembered that the decrease in ecological connectivity and the isolation of natural habitats is considered “one of the main causes of biodiversity loss” by the Federal Office for the Environment. “In the current context of widespread biodiversity erosion in Switzerland, we find it important and in the public interest that this assemblage of trees, which also contributes to the quality of life in the district, be taken into account and preserved in the future”.
A brutal decision
This imminent eviction decision shows once again that the Swiss legal system is not ready to hear the voice of those who defend a fairer and more ecological future. For the Bamboo Collective, this situation is not just an isolated phenomenon, but illustrates much broader problems and dynamics. “The eviction from the place where the Spyre used to live and meet people may seem like a small wave in the face of the global disaster that is taking place, but it is a very explicit symptom of a system that is on the verge of collapse”. The construction sector is responsible for 36% of total CO2 emissions.
Even if they are not surprised, the inhabitants are nevertheless revolted by the response of the justice system: “It is hard to see what is right in the fact that some people may have several houses, some of which they have not used at all since the day they bought them, while others are on the street. As for the time limit imposed, it is considered far too short. “There were more than twenty of us living here, and many of us have nowhere else to go. Moreover, evicting people who will therefore be without housing during the Covid19 period and during the winter is a rather inhuman choice”. This decision shows that private property weighs more heavily than the right to decent housing.
The Bamboo Collective has started to empty the premises and is therefore preparing for the possibility of a forced eviction in the coming days, but hopes that the decision will not be carried out immediately. The collective continues to encourage the owners to come and discuss the possibility of concluding a loan-to-purpose contract to use the premises until the planned work begins. Indeed, the owners still have a choice, still an influence on what happens next. They do not yet have a building permit for what comes afterwards. Here are some extracts from the letter that the Bamboo Collective sent them:
We don’t know if you hear us, if you understand us – here we speak the language of sharing and possibilities; you, you answer us with absurd laws, fines, costs, and refusal to trust. Come if you dare to step out of the comfortable paths and high social status that your financial power gives you. Come and see what we do here, how we live with rooms full of beds, heads full of dreams and hearts full of life. Come and taste the homemade rosemary syrup made from the plants grown in the garden. You think we are utopians? We haven’t been for a long time. Our actions are a realisation of realistic alternatives to what is happening in this world. So we will continue to try, we will continue to create more communal, more resilient lifestyles. We will continue to challenge the logic that it is normal that the majority of our time is sold to work that enriches the rich, destroys the living and impoverishes our lives. We squat for many reasons: out of need, conviction, envy; we squat to free up time and devote it to actions that move, at least a little, the deadly world you so ardently defend.
The Spyre is not just a personal housing project, it is a political project that sets up and defends more communal, more supportive and more ecological lifestyles. Work, reflection, logistics, construction, collective decisions, risk-taking. Every time a squat gets evicted, it is a world that crumbles, a possibility that disappears, a breach that dies and people who find themselves without a roof over their heads. Hundreds, thousands of hours of work suddenly disappear. You don’t understand this, you who work to produce, to grow, to exploit. Go ahead, expel people who will never be able to match your privileges, your wealth and your social protection. You destroy a habitat teeming with life in the belief that you are making another one. But in the neighbourhood, the flats of the same type as the ones you are planning are mostly empty because, unfortunately, many of the wallets targeted by your project are not intended to live in these places. You don’t think of these spaces to make them live, but to make them bear fruit, to the detriment of people who simply need spaces still spared by the unhealthy inertia of the real estate industry. You are destroying life to create emptiness, be it physical, social or moral, while continuing to fuel the mechanisms that plunder the earth’s resources and push our society to its limits.
What an aberration to know that the houses we live in are going to be forcibly evicted to remain empty for a long time to come. To conclude, we will quote just one sentence from the court, which is emblematic of the absurdity of the situation: “… the argument that the buildings would remain empty for several years before being demolished in no way legitimizes the members of the Bamboo Collective to usurp the premises, each owner being free to exercise his possession as he wishes.
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Groups (social center, collective, squat) in Switzerland: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/CH
Events in Switzerland: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/CH