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Editorial - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"Syllabi are theory’s infrastructure. While they are not the same as the essays, lectures, books, case studies, films, and other media organized by them, they can and should be seen as theoretical contributions in their own right, and subjected to the same degree of critical reflection, scrutiny, and innovation. Syllabi set a program for study, give structure to vast networks of ideas, and define an interpretative stance on the world. Focusing attention on syllabi—which texts they include, and how they are organized and framed—offers a window into larger problems facing the field of architectural theory today.

Architectural theory went through an academic renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s, with scholars forging new links with groundbreaking theoretical movements of the time, from feminism and postcolonialism to semiotics, phenomenology, and deconstructivism. New syllabi were formed in architecture curricula that incorporated contemporary discursive practices, positions, and sensibilities. Yet the syllabi for such classes have not developed significantly since then. Architectural theory in academic curricula today is often addressed either through a history of theoretical concerns—from mimesis, analogy, beauty, honesty, and utopia to modernity, alienation, authenticity, regionalism, contextualism, autonomy, and postmodernity—a tabulation of theoretical frameworks—from structural linguistics, marxism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology to feminism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism—or a roster of authors—from Vitruvius, Alberti, Laugier, Perrault, Boullée, Durand, and Ruskin to Le Corbusier, Loos, Meyer, Jacobs, Alexander, Banham, Venturi, Scott-Brown, Norberg-Schulz, Rowe, Rossi, Tafuri, Eisenman, Jencks, and Koolhaas.

Academic courses that address more urgent contemporary issues and diverse geographies are too often allocated to specialized fields, institutions, or spaces of study, such that they rarely come to challenge the canon of architectural theory’s increasingly standard model. Theory is one of the necessary ingredients for the maintenance of the discipline of architecture as a synthetic manifestation connecting history, criticism, and practice. Therefore, theory must overcome the institutional inertia of pedagogical reproduction, the neoliberalization of intellectual labor, and the disorientation of informational media, and rearticulate its necessary role. At an infrastructural level of knowledge production, theory must attend to the changing nature of cultural communication, globalization and calls for inclusivity within the social space of discourse, and the economic logics driving planetary collapse.

The starting point for any reformulation of architectural theory should be the ways we learn. The conditions of contemporary thought itself have been transformed over the past decades by new media platforms and the emergent practices of surveillance capitalism. The old attentional economy that once sustained reflective and critical thought has been replaced by an economy of distraction. The work of analyzing difficult texts has become alien to digital natives young and old, who are habituated to a culture of instant access, skimming, and the hypnotic rhythm of clicks, taps, and swipes. When video tutorials appear more engaging and specific than the seemingly dated writing styles of even a decade ago, the habits of reading, thinking, and writing common to theory’s past must be re-imagined.

This expanding space of communications has accompanied intensified intercultural exchanges brought about by global economic integration, migration, and the resultant pressing together of different peoples, cultures, and ways of life. Theory’s debt to a Western tradition of philosophical, historical, and critical reason has been brought into question. Architecture’s theoretical discourse needs to respond to the critique of Western-centrism and the calls for its provincialization. It must address the question of opening up to alternative epistemologies and broader methods of discourse production, be they poetic, practical, symbolic, moral, magical, or mythic as much as philosophical or metaphysical. Provincializing Western architectural theory is one way to address the social struggles and conflicts between identity groups that have intensified with the proverbial shrinking of the world. In this vein, theory must reflect on who constructs architecture’s theoretical canon, who speaks as a theorist, who theory speaks about, and who theory addresses as its audience. While embracing the concrete political gains in the social redistribution of power among different genders, races, sexualities, and class backgrounds, theory should also question the role of identity as an operator within discourses, institutions, and national politics, and critically reflect on both its essentializations and constructed nature.

The globalization of culture is, for better or worse, supported by global, transnational, and neoliberal economic practices and their consequent forms of ecological destruction. As much as the global can provincialize theory, the global can also further focus theory upon the new ethico-political demand created by the explicit awareness of technological convergence and impending planetary collapse. With the recent granting of a new geological epoch to our species, we have passed a threshold of irreversible awareness that modern dreams of progress, infinite economic growth, and unlimited consumerist self-expression produce the counter-effects that turn dreams into nightmares. Yet while causes remain global, their effects are often local and asymmetrical, demanding that we theorize both a new hermeneutics of our technological being and a new ethics and politics of the earth.

In challenging architectural theory, these historical factors hold the capacity to reenergize and rethink its relationship to its traditional concerns, frameworks, authors, organizations, and geographies that shape its curricula. They might even force the most basic of existential questions for architectural theory itself: what is it for, today? At its very minimum, we can understand theory to be an instrument for socializing architects into a shared vocabulary and tradition, both within and outside of the discipline, as well as a means for providing a forum for ideological debate between the many conflicting practices that compose the field of architecture. But should architectural theory seek to renew the projective avant-garde project which it was understood to be a couple of decades ago, one capable of challenging and reorienting studio culture and professional practice more widely? Or should it keep a critical distance from design, and instead focus its lens upon the formation of the subjectivity, critical consciousness, ethical comportment, and civic duty of the architect themselves?

Theory’s Curriculum is an extra-academic initiative that seeks to provide theory with a means to challenge its existing methods of pedagogical reproduction. It seeks to build a collaborative project that brings together isolated laborers to pool ideas and methods across dispersed institutions and geographies, to compare inherited models, to detect received assumptions, and to ask fundamental questions about what and how we should teach and learn when we teach and learn architectural theory.

Collaboration is inevitably a heuristic fiction, promising what is often difficult to sustain against the dominant structures of modern individuation, today’s entrepreneurialization of the self, and the semiotic capital of discourse. It inevitably cuts across the values of wage-labor and attribution, and blurs the boundaries between professional roles, friendship, and community spirit. Yet, as McKenzie Wark has argued, the conditions of intellectual laboring in the academy today necessitate that we adopt a more realist approach to theorizing as the cumulative task of many smaller efforts, rather than the great leaps forward once marked by grand philosophical systems or public intellectuals. With these syllabi, Theory’s Curriculum seeks to reconceptualize intellectual work as the function of a general intellect, an ecology of contributions on particular themes and ideas that, when exchanged and debated, evolve as a collective project.

These syllabi aim to indicate potential avenues for progress, and in so doing prompt a debate. They are far from exhaustive, yet are free to be used, recycled, hacked, and plundered. They are offered in the spirit of further collaboration, and with the hope that they will invite others to join this nascent enterprise in the rearticulation and teaching of architectural theory today. Ultimately, they suggest that pedagogy is not secondary to theory, but that rethinking how we teach and learn theory might be central to how we theorize anew."
syllabus  syllabi  curriculum  architecture  education  highered  deign  highereducation  academia  theory  nickaxel  josephbedford  nikolaushirsch  mckenziewark  collaboration  individuation  labor  progress  pedagogy  anthropocene  neoliberalism  globalization  economics  migration  thecanon 
2 days ago by robertogreco
Patagonia's new company mission is to save the planet
"In an exclusive interview, founder Yvon Chouinard talks about how the new mission will reshape how the company does business."

"For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Its mission has long been “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

In just the last few years alone, the company has expanded its used clothing program, amped up its investment in sustainable startups, launched an activist hub to connect its customer base directly with grassroots environmental organizations, and taken the Trump administration to court over its public lands policy. And just last month, CEO Rose Marcario announced it was giving back $10 million in tax cuts to grassroots environmental organizations.

But for Yvon Chouinard, that’s not enough. So this week, the 80-year-old company founder and Marcario informed employees that the company’s mission statement has changed to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

In an exclusive interview with Fast Company, Chouinard says the shift in mission may sound trivial–obviously those ubiquitous fleeces aren’t going anywhere–but it’s actually fundamental to almost every aspect of the company. The key is in its expression of urgency, to signal to everyone inside the company and out, that this isn’t just about climate change, it’s a climate crisis.

“We’re losing the planet because of climate change, that’s the elephant in the room. Society is basically working on symptoms. Save the polar bear? If you want to save the polar bear, you got to save the planet,” Chouinard says. “Forget about the polar bear, they’re toast anyway. So I decided to make a very simple statement, because in reality, if we want to save the planet, every single company in the world has to do the same thing. And I thought, well, let’s be the first.”
While months in the works, Patagonia’s announcement comes as major scientific reports have detailed the consequences of unchecked climate change. The Fourth National Climate Assessment by the White House released just a few weeks ago outlined the potential societal and economic impact, which includes annual losses in some economic sectors projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.

Chouinard is blunt in his own assessment of the level of urgency. “This is Pearl Harbor. The whole country, and whole world, has to mobilize to do this,” he says. “It’s triage. I remember when I was a kid during World War II, we didn’t have any meat to eat. There was no beef, there was no sugar, people had to grow their own gardens. The whole country mobilized. That’s what has to happen now. So I didn’t think we were taking climate change seriously enough. We were supporting too many causes that were working on symptoms and not actual causes and solutions.”

The new mission statement impacts every single job in the company. About six months ago, Chouinard gave the HR department some new marching orders. “Whenever we have a job opening, all things being equal, hire the person who’s committed to saving the planet no matter what the job is,” he says. “And that’s made a huge difference in the people coming into the company.”

It’s also influencing who Patagonia works with as brand ambassadors–being a great surfer is cool, for example, but they also have to be committed to being strong and vocal environmental advocates–and the grassroots activist organizations it funds. “We give out about 900 grants a year to different activist organizations,” says Chouinard. “We’ve given money to an organization that repairs people’s bicycles. Well, they’re not going to get any money any more.”

To figure out the best way the company could have the most effective impact, Chouinard and Marcario had to ask themselves questions like, what are Patagonia’s resources? Where does the company have influence? And what should it be putting money into? They came up with three key answers: agriculture, politics, and protected lands.

Regenerative agriculture has long been a company priority, both in its R&D for clothing and apparel materials and its line of food products, Patagonia Provisions. Before it was a nice-to-have, now it’s a need-to-have. “We’re not going to get rid of our cars; we can’t even get carbon taxes going,” says Chouinard. “But with regenerative agriculture, there’s been studies that have shown that if we did our agriculture the right way, we could capture more carbon than we’re emitting. Period.”
Right now the company is working with about 100 small farmers who grow cotton regeneratively in India, which is being expanded to 450 next year. They control the pests with traps, they weed and gather the cotton by hand. “That’s what you have to do, replace all the chemicals with knowledge and labor,” says Chouinard.

And they can also sell the cover crops planted to help protect the cotton, “So they get another 10% from us for growing regeneratively, they can sell their cover crops, and they’re happy,” Chouinard says. “We’re going to be making regeneratively grown cotton stand-up shorts, not only employing people, but from a crop that actually captures carbon. That’s a win-win for everybody.”

In politics, ahead of the 2018 midterm election, Patagonia became one of the first consumer brands ever to make the endorsement of specific candidates part of its brand marketing. It posted endorsements of Nevada Democratic candidate Jacky Rosen in Nevada and incumbent Montana Senator Jon Tester on its website, across its social channels, and in customer emails. Chouinard says to expect the company to speak up more loudly and often.

“Jon Tester barely won in Montana. I’ve had people in Montana tell me he probably wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t helped,” he says. “That makes me feel pretty good! We have this political power, a few million customers who are really behind what we’re doing. So why not use it to do some good?”

For protected lands, it goes beyond advocating and fighting for public lands, as the company has been doing for Bears Ears in Utah. Smaller, more strategic investments of money and time have the potential for significant impact. Last May, Chouinard talked to Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation, about an idea for creating a new park at the very tip of South America. “I’ve been there and it’s a wild, wild place,” Chouinard says. “There’s no roads, no trails, just a lot of swampland that captures a tremendous amount of carbon. So I thought it’d be a perfect place for a protected parkland.”

Patagonia gave Tompkins Conservation $185,000 to get on it. And they are, working with the governments of Chile and Argentina on the establishment of new protected lands. “It’s not like we had to buy up a ton of land and force our way in. It’s strategic investment that has really paid off,” says Chouinard. “This whole thing could be done by Christmas. Can you believe it?”"
patagonia  branding  business  climatechange  sustainability  yvonchouinard  2018  earth  anthropocene  globalwarming  extinction 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Greta Thunberg full speech at UN Climate Change COP24 Conference - YouTube
[See also: ]

"15 year old activist Greta Thunberg speaks truth to power at the UN COP24 climate talks:

"My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old. I am from Sweden.

I speak on behalf of Climate Justice Now.

Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn't matter what we do.

But I've learned you are never too small to make a difference.

And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake.

You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don't care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.

Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.

Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.

The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn't do anything while there still was time to act.

You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.

Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.

We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.

We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.

We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.

We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.

Thank you.""
gretathunberg  climatechange  2018  sustainability  youth  sweden  change  globalarming  activism  civilization  crisis  flight  action  money  corruption  anthropocene  goodancestors  resistance  science  climatescience  hope 
december 2018 by robertogreco
School strike for climate - save the world by changing the rules | Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm - YouTube
"Greta Thunberg realized at a young age the lapse in what several climate experts were saying and in the actions that were being taken in society. The difference was so drastic in her opinion that she decided to take matters into her own hands. Greta is a 15-year-old Stockholm native who lives at home with her parents and sister Beata. She’s a 9th grader in Stockholm who enjoys spending her spare time riding Icelandic horses, spending time with her families two dogs, Moses and Roxy. She love animals and has a passion for books and science. At a young age, she became interested in the environment and convinced her family to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community."
gretathunberg  climatechange  2018  sustainability  youth  autism  aspergers  sweden  change  globalarming  activism  extinction  massextinction  equity  climatejustice  inequality  infrastructure  interconnected  crisis  flight  action  money  corruption  anthropocene  goodancestors  resistance  science  climatescience  hope 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Pink Chicken Project
"Pink Chicken Project suggests using a “Gene Drive” to change the colour of the entire species Gallus Gallus Domesticus to pink.

Being the world's most common bird, the bones of the 60 billion chickens that are killed every year leave a distinct trace in the rock strata (the earth's crust), a marker for the new geological age - the Anthropocene.

To re-occupy this identifier of our age, the project suggests genetically modifying a chicken with pink bones and feathers, using a gene from the insect cochineal to produce a pigment that will be fossilized when combined with the calcium of the bone.

Spreading this gene with the recently invented Gene Drive technique, the species could be permanently altered, on a global scale, in just a few years.

Thereby modifying the future fossil record, colouring the geological trace of humankind, pink!

Pink, is a symbolic color, an opposition to the current global power dynamics, that enable and aggravate the anthropocentric violence forced upon the non-human world.

The pink chicken DNA also carries an encoded message, that calls for an ecological discourse that must include issues of social justice, in order to achieve the radical restructuring of society needed to break the death grip of the sixth extinction.

Lying somewhere between utopia and dystopia, the project attempts to redirect focus to the underlying ethical and political issues;

What future do we really want, and why?

And can we stay humble in facing what is unknowable?"
chicken  animals  multispecies  morethanhuman  2018  dna  genetics  color  anthropocene 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Overgrowth - e-flux
"Architects and urban practitioners, toiling daily at the coalface of economic expansion, are complicit in the perpetuation of growth. Yet they are also in a unique position to contribute towards a move away from it. As the drivers of growth begin to reveal their inadequacies for sustaining life, we must imagine alternative societal structures that do not incentivize unsustainable resource and energy use, and do not perpetuate inequality. Working on the frontline of capitalism, it is through architecture and urban practice that alternative values, systems, and logics can be manifest in built form and inherited by generations to come.

Nick Axel
Matthew Dalziel
Phineas Harper
Nikolaus Hirsch
Cecilie Sachs Olsen
Maria Smith

Overgrowth is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Oslo Architecture Triennale within the context of its 2019 edition."

[See also: ]


Ateya Khorakiwala: "Architecture's Scaffolds"
The metaphor of grassroots is apt here. Bamboo is a grass, a rhizomatic plant system that easily tends towards becoming an invasive species in its capacity to spread without seed and fruit. Given the new incursions of the global sustainability regime into third world forests to procure a material aestheticized as eco-friendly, what would it take for the state to render this ubiquitous material into a value added and replicable commodity? On one hand, scaffolding offers the site of forming and performing the subjectivity of the unskilled laborer—if not in making the scaffolding, then certainly in using it. Bamboo poles for scaffolding remain raw commodities, without scope for much value addition; a saturated marketplace where it can only be replaced by steel as building projects increase in complexity. On the other hand, bamboo produces both the cottage industry out of a forest-dwelling subject, on the margins of the state, occupying space into which this market can expand.

Bamboo is a material in flux—what it signifies is not transferable from one scale to another, or from one time to another. In that sense, bamboo challenges how we see the history of materials. In addition to its foundational architectural function as scaffolding, it acts as a metaphorical scaffolding as well: it signifies whatever its wielders might want it to, be it tradition, poverty, sustainability, or a new form of eco-chic luxury. Bamboo acts more as a scaffolding for meaning than a material with physical properties of flexibility and strength. Scaffolding, both materially and metaphorically, is a site of politics; a space that opens up and disappears, one that requires much skill in making.

Edgar Pieterse: "Incorporation and Expulsion"
However, what is even more important is that these radically localized processes will very quickly demand spatial, planning, and design literacy among urban households and their associations. The public pedagogic work involved in nurturing such literacies, always amidst action, requires a further institutional layer that connects intermediary organizations with grassroots formations. For example, NGOs and applied urban research centers with knowledge from different sites (within a city and across the global South) can provide support to foster these organizational literacies without diminishing the autonomy and leadership of grassroots movements. Intermediary organizations are also well placed to mediate between grassroots associations, public officers, private sector interests, and whoever else impinge on the functioning of a neighborhood. Thinking with the example of Lighthouse suggests that we can think of forms of collective economic practice that connect with the urban imperatives of securing household wellbeing whilst expanding various categories of opportunity. The transformative potential is staggering when one considers the speed with which digital money systems and productive efficiencies have taken off across East Africa during the past five years or so.

There is unprecedented opportunity today to delink the imperatives of just urban planning from conventional tropes about economic modernization that tend to produce acontextual technocracy. We should, therefore, focus our creative energies on defining new forms of collective life, economy, wellbeing, invention, and care. This may even prove a worthwhile approach to re-signify “growth.” Beyond narrow economism there is a vast canvas to populate with alternative meanings: signifiers linked to practices that bring us back to the beauty of discovery, learning, questioning, debate, dissensus, experimentation, strategic consensus, and most importantly, the courage to do and feel things differently.

Ingerid Helsing Almaas: "No app for that"
Conventionally, urban growth is seen in terms of different geometries of expansion. Recent decades have also focused on making existing cities denser, but even this is thought of as a process of addition, inscribed in the conventional idea of growth as a linear process of investments and profits. But the slow process of becoming and disappearance is also a form of growth. Growth as slow and diverse accretion and shedding, layering, gradual loss or restoration; cyclical rather than linear or expansive. Processes driven by opportunity and vision, but also by irritation, by lack, by disappointment. In a city, you see these cyclical processes of accretion and disruption everywhere. We just haven’t worked out how to make them work for us. Instead, we go on expecting stability and predictability; a city with a final, finished form.

Peter Buchanan: "Reweaving Webs of Relationships"

Helena Mattsson and Catharina Gabrielsson: "Pockets and Folds"
Moments of deregulations are moments when an ideology of incessant growth takes over all sectors of life and politics. Returning to those moments allows us to inquire into other ways of organizing life and architecture while remaining within the sphere of the possible. Through acts of remembrance, we have the opportunity to rewrite the present through the past whereby the pockets and folds of non-markets established in the earlier welfare state come into view as worlds of a new becoming. These pockets carry the potential for new political imaginaries where ideas of degrowth reorganize the very essence of the architectural assemblage and its social impacts. These landscapes of possibilities are constructed through desires of collective spending—dépense—rather than through the grotesque ideas of the wooden brain.

Angelos Varvarousis and Penny Koutrolikou: "Degrowth and the City"
The idea of city of degrowth does not attempt to homogenize, but rather focus on inclusiveness. Heterogeneity and plurality are not contrary to the values of equity, living together and effective sharing of the resources. Difference and plurality are inherent and essential for cities and therefore diverse spatial and social articulations are intrinsic in the production of a city of degrowth. They are also vital for the way such an idea of a city could be governed; possibly through local institutions and assemblies that try to combine forms of direct and delegative democracy.
growth  degrowth  architecture  overgrowth  2018  nickaxel  matthewdalziel  phineasharper  nikolaushirsch  ceciliesachsolsen  mariasmith  ateyakhorakiwala  edgarpieterse  ingeridhelsingalmaas  peterbuchanan  helenamattsson  catharinagabrielsson  angelosvarvarousis  pennykoutrolikou  2019  anthropocene  population  sustainability  humans  civilization  economics  policy  capitalism  karlmarx  neoliberalism  systemsthinking  cities  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  urbanization  ecology  consumption  materialism  consumerism  oslo  bymelding  stability  change  predictability  design  africa  southafrica  postcolonialism  ethiopia  nigeria  housing  kenya  collectivism  dissensus  experimentation  future  learning  questioning  debate  discovery  wellbeing  intervention  care  technocracy  modernization  local  grassroots  materials  multiliteracies  ngos  autonomy  shigeruban  mumbai  bamboo  burkinafaso  patrickkeré  vikramadityaprakash  lecorbusier  pierrejeanneret  modernism  shivdattsharma  chandigarh  india  history  charlescorrea  scaffolding 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Could California's Camp Fire Have Been Avoided? - The Atlantic
[originally here: ]

"Disasters are never natural in the ordinary sense because they always could have been avoided or mitigated by human choices. In this way of thinking, everything that we call a disaster started as a hazard, and hazards themselves are only risks, not harms. If and how hazards become disasters is shaped by governmental, infrastructural, and economic choices, conscious or unconscious."

"Disasters are never natural in the ordinary sense because they always could have been avoided or mitigated by human choices. In this way of thinking, everything that we call a disaster started as a hazard, and hazards themselves are only risks, not harms. If and how hazards become disasters is shaped by governmental, infrastructural, and economic choices, conscious or unconscious.

If this sounds like I’m saying we should blame the government for disasters, like medieval peasants who believe that a flood means the king has lost the mandate of heaven and must lack virtue, I’m not. Nor am I saying that the government (or the economic system, or whatever) is strictly to blame for every bad thing. I’m saying that if we set up an institution to control floods, and rightly give it credit when it does well, it’s equally to blame when it does poorly. This isn’t subtle; it’s what we mean by responsibility. And there are historians now who read the old idea of the mandate of heaven and “moral meteorology” not only as a farmers’ superstition but also as an oblique way to say things like: The king didn’t use the massive hydrological infrastructure at his disposal to mitigate the effects of what could have been merely unusually heavy rain. He’s a bad administrator. Or, if you prefer, heaven finds him lacking in virtue.

California and the United States are, of course, strikingly well-governed in some ways and strikingly badly governed in others. Our disasters follow. The air quality in the Bay Area right now is a hazard; a society that can’t manage to distribute good air filters to everyone who needs to be outside, and allows everyone else to stay inside, is a disaster. The poorest suffer the most. This is so true that it’s almost redundant. Poverty in any useful sense isn’t net worth in dollars. It’s more like a high ratio of personal disasters to personal hazards. Will a toothache, a hazard, turn into an untreated infection, a disaster? Will being caught jaywalking, a hazard, turn into a felony record, a disaster? Will getting sick turn into losing your job? When we point out that homeless people suffer particularly badly from the smoke, it’s worth remembering that this isn’t some kind of sad coincidence—wow, homeless and at risk from the air!—it’s why we care about homelessness in the first place. A house is one of many machines for mitigating hazards.

The Black Saturday fires destroyed entire towns and killed 180 people near metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, not quite a decade ago. The comparisons are easy. Survivors talked about the speed of the fire there too—how you could be preparing to evacuate one minute and surrounded by flames the next. Many people in those hills died defending their houses, with garden hoses and buckets, against unsurvivable heat. I expect that happened here too. After the Black Saturday fires, a lot of experts were exasperated by survivors rebuilding what had been destroyed, most famously the little town of Marysville. Don’t people realize the fires will be back? The experts are right about the fires but wrong about the people. Everything we make is temporary, and some will choose to live under trees even knowing they’ll burn. The rest of us can roll our eyes, but we do it from places where we know there will be another hurricane, another earthquake, another heat wave, mass shooting, death in custody, cancer. Everyone spends a lifetime doing things that will end."

"The closest thing we have to infinity is sustainability, a word secretly disliked by many people who use it most. Sustainability for Californian forests is a fairly clear concept, because it’s been tried for 10,000 years. Fire is hard to govern. A serious program of controlled wildland fires in California would surely collapse the first time one got out of control—and one would, because fire does—and burned down someone’s property. It asks a lot of anyone to see a house’s destruction in a fire set by someone wearing a uniform as really necessary.

We can’t switch over to some perfectly sustainable, traditional ecological knowledge–based fire-management regime tomorrow. We have already built houses among trees. The forest we know today is different from the forest that was sustained. It’s been changed by policies of fire suppression and intense logging. It will have to slowly become something sustainable, and only then could that future forest, which none of us has ever seen, be sustained.

And, of course, the climate is changing. Summer is hotter and drier now. What worked well for the entire Holocene epoch may not work at all in the Anthropocene. And the ideal forest strategy in 2018’s climate will not be ideal in 2068’s, at least the way we’re going. So it comes back to taking carbon out of the air. We all knew that already. I think this must be one reason California’s fires are especially fearsome to many Americans: because the idea of California is often subtly an idea of the future.

I hear people say with disgust that these smoky days are the new normal. But the forests burned every year, in vast areas, though in cooler, slower, individually smaller fires, up until the genocides of European settlements. The nearly smokeless summers that my parents’ generation can talk about weren’t the system at equilibrium; they were already an effect of unsustainable imbalance. The oldest Californians living can’t remember the kind of forest we’ll need for the future. If we don’t want the kind of fire we have today—the kind that kills whole families—and if we don’t want to cut down all the plants and be done with the unpredictability of nonhuman life, we’ll still be left with fires. Safer fires, but smoky fires.

So there will be some ash-tasting days in the happiest future I can imagine for California. The air will be chemically fairly similar to today’s, but it will smell different. For now, here in Oakland we’re breathing the consequences of the 20th century, and trying not to forget that this kind of air is ordinary for millions upon millions of people who live around coal power plants."
charlieloyd  2018  california  fires  risk  hazards  climatechange  wilfdires  disasters  anthropocene  forests  forestmanagement  canon 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Comrade Animal: The habitat beyond anthropocentrism
"During the customary preliminary research phase of this project, we came across a meme which very soon became the starting point of the project itself. It immediately dawned on us that this meme was a condensation of the different themes we wanted to develop with the ‘Comrade Animal’ exhibition and its collection of contents.The diptych accompanied by its caption, seemed to contain all of the different aspects we have taken into consideration for this project.

The trolling meme, with a clearly xenophobic and racist intention, compares a photo of a wooden hut with the caption “Africans today” to the design of an architecture built by beavers with “beavers millions of years ago.” At the bottom: "who's the better architect?". The elements that we can extract are several. The racism of the western man towards the African continent is certainly the underlying goal; and in order to denigrate the African continent, man is compared to an animal.The second element: the animal is inferior to man, it is a being that occupies a lower level in the pyramidal structure in which mankind occupies the vertex, obviously in service to a vision of the world generated by us.

Since the beginning we have asked ourselves whether looking at the relationship between man and animal through their architectures could help us to reevaluate the extremely anthropocentric matrix with which we have shaped the global habitat. At the base we found a necessity: rethinking human creation, and in our specific case that would mean giving shape to artefacts, architectures and objects. It is from this point that the project for the 59th edition of the International Bugatti Segantini Award is born, the main objective of which is a critical re-reading of the events of May 1968 and its consequences, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Several reflections concentrated in the Primitive Future Office publication (plug_in, 2014) acted as the foundations of this proposal. Specifically reflections on possible processes of emancipation when dealing with how we shape the habitat, and the traditional hierarchical structures that guide it.

In the publication, our research retraced a series of experiences, starting from the American counterculture movements with manuals such as the Whole Earth Catalog, and how their cross-contamination with movements such as that of May '68, have brought us to the present day, developing the debate on open design and the open source movements applied to the human habitat with makers and fablabs. Taking this line of investigation further, we wanted to go discover non-anthropocentric ways of shaping the habitat, which take into consideration all living organisms and that can perhaps place man back amongst the animals.Would it be possible nowdays to examine the spirit that guided the great changes of '68, and imagine a future in which we can oppose a certain form of culture which, through social, economic and colonial policies, by now hegemonic, appears as dominant? It was through design that ’68 observed a society in which the maker was transformed into a supplier of instruments and not of finished projects, and thus fighting the usual structures of power. Would it be possible in the same way today, to oppose a self-proclaimed supremacy of the human species over other species considered less important? In an era in which ancient conflicts between humans have returned, it could be that a vision of our habitat no longer based solely on the human being, might represent a real turning point.

The exhibit mixes three artists/designers with three professionals from the world of social sciences, pushing for an interdisciplinary reflection on the implications of anthropocentrism and our relationship with other living beings in the way we shape the space we inhabit."

[See also: ]
multispecies  animals  morethanhuman  interdisciplinary  anthropocene  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  leonardocaffo  sofiabelenky  hunterdoyle  leonardodellanoce  oliviergoethals  angelorenna  palazziclub  parasite2.0  stefanocolombo  eugeniocosentino  lucamarullo  architecture  art  design  albertowolfgango  amadeod'asaro 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change - The New York Times
"Editor’s Note
This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it. Jake Silverstein"
climatechange  1980s  1979  science  history  nathanielrich  anthropocene  activism  politics 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Kauai 'O'o - YouTube
[See also: Kauaʻi ʻōʻō on Wikipedia


"The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was a bird common in the subtropical forests of Hawaii until the early twentieth century, when its decline began. This is its last song that was last heard in 1987: it is now probably extinct"


"Memories in the anthropocene: loss at something impossibly beautiful you never knew of."]
birds  foreden  animals  nature  anthropocene  wildlfide  multispecies  extinction  audio  hawaii  sounds  sounf  birdsong  kauai 
june 2018 by robertogreco
On the Wild Edge in Iceland | Center for Humans & Nature
"Picture a country hanging from the Arctic Circle, where at least 80 percent of the people leave room in their minds for the existence of elves, “Huldu-folk” (hidden people), or other netherworldly creatures; where wild means vast stretches of grayness: gray, craggy mountain peaks, gray gravel, and gray ash from yesteryear’s volcanoes."

"As an ecologist, I was painfully aware of the stresses that ecosystems worldwide experience from grazing, climate change, and other human-imposed factors. What I wanted to know was this: Does a forest with a history of higher levels of disturbance have a more difficult time responding to additional stress than a forest with a lesser history of disturbance?

There was one way to find out. I would impose a disturbance on three woodland sites and observe the response. My three sites were strikingly similar birch woodlands, but they had a few important differences in their disturbance histories. My Site 1 (the forest in the valley in eastern Iceland that had me believing in elves) had not seen any serious sheep grazing for about a century. My Site 2, in a valley adjoining Site 1, was remarkably similar in all respects to Site 1, except that it had never been protected from grazing. My Site 3 was farther north—a harsher climate, a shorter growing season—and, like Site 2, it had never been protected from sheep grazing. These sites were on a gradient of stress from the least stress (at Site 1) to the most stress (at Site 3). Knowing how important nitrogen is to plant survival at high altitudes (and latitudes), I would track foliar nitrogen as my clue, using it as my insight into how the woodlands were handling stress.

I didn’t know at the time that some of the ecological models concerning disturbance, ecosystem shifts, resilience (or lack thereof), and crossing of ecological thresholds were based on psychological models of human psychic breaks and breakdowns. But now it makes sense. At what point does the accumulation of disturbances become so profound that a person—or a forest—is no longer able to function?

It is important to note that the prospect of disturbing the woodland sites was not an easy one for me. I was conflicted. I was studying forests because I loved them. Was it ethical to stress my subject and push it closer to the edge, even if my long-term goal was to understand (and even promote) ecosystem resilience? My advisor, Kristiina Vogt, comforted me: the forest disturbance would be minor and temporary. The ecosystems would bounce back.

With that reassurance, I bought a lot of sugar (actually, almost half a metric ton) for my disturbance experiment. While ecologist and forest service colleagues in Iceland questioned whether I was embarking on a homemade liquor and bootlegging project, the truth was that my unusually large sugar purchase had everything to do with nitrogen. A story from one of my fellow doctoral students, Michael Booth, can help me explain how.

Michael used to begin his forest ecology presentations with a picture of a forest upside down. The roots of the trees were featured on top and the leaves down below. His point? Much of what is running the show in a forest is under our feet. In any given handful of dirt, there are millions to billions of bacteria. And these microbes can be the tail that wags the forest dog, especially when it comes to nitrogen. While these bacteria play a key role in making nitrogen available to trees and plants in their preferred form, bacteria also need nitrogen for their own survival. Can you guess what happens to nitrogen in a handful of soil when there is a significant increase in the bacterial population? The answer: The microbes take the bulk of the nitrogen for themselves, leaving less nitrogen available for plants.

I wonder if a happy, healthy forest is one that has just the right number of microbes (whether that number would be in the millions or billions, I have no idea), such that the microbial community gets the nitrogen it needs while giving the trees and other vegetation the nitrogen they need. While notions of “balance” in nature are very out of fashion, to say the least, the concept seems applicable here. Too few or too many microbes would be a problem—from the perspective of the Icelandic woodlands, anyway. At both ends of the spectrum, there would not be enough nitrogen for the plants and trees."

"At the grazed sites, perhaps the warmer soil temperatures allowed for expansion of the birch woodland into higher altitudes. While the warmer soils may have allowed the birch to exist at higher altitudes, the trees at the grazed sites are also at a higher risk for nitrogen competition (from microbes enjoying the warmer soils) and grazing (from the aforementioned sheep). In other words, the birches at grazed tree lines exist higher up on the mountainside, but at the same time, they live closer to their edge. While this may not be the safest route for the birches, it is perhaps worth the risk because the upside is pretty big: the chance at life.

It sounds familiar. Given the choice, I would rather be on the edge of human experience, certainly on the edge of human knowledge, and even tolerate the edge of emotional comfort, if it meant life. And does not history (our own and others’) show that experiences on the edge can offer important insights into both what it means to be human and what it means to be one human in particular? For me, “living on the edge” is part of the daring—and the learning—that is central to the evolution of life.

There are many expressions of Iceland’s wildness, and all these expressions depend on the presence or absence of sheep. Perhaps the most common depiction of the Icelandic wild involves Iceland’s gray moonscapes, with sheep—and not trees. However, these starkly beautiful landscapes have crossed over an ecological threshold beyond which it is very hard to return. These landscapes are wild and wooly, but if you do not know how they came to be as they are, you may not be able to put your finger on the sadness that you might sense in the haunting gray vistas.

One could argue that the lush, protected woodlands are Iceland’s most wild places, despite the fact that they are enclosed by human-made fences. These sheepless woodlands offer wild green memories seemingly borrowed from the time of the Vikings and carried into the present day by their human—and elf—protectors. On the other hand, in some places, Icelanders ask the Icelandic Forest Service not to plant more trees. The chief of the Icelandic Forest Service, Þröstur Eysteinsson, told me that in such cases he hears the complaint that trees will “ruin the view.” “They are optimists,” Eysteinsson retorts, because it is, of course, no small task to restore a whole forest ecosystem anywhere, much less in such a harsh climate.

If I were to show you what I believe to be the wildest places in Iceland, however, I would take you to the forest limit, to a birch woodland populated with a good number of sheep and enough moss to satisfy the average elf. Mind you, this place would not have too many sheep, nor too many soil microbes, for that matter. I would take you to a place where birches breathe life into a landscape shared with sheep and their people, a place where the story told by both the sagas and the landscape itself is a story of life taking a chance—on the edge."
iceland  trees  forests  brookeparryhecht  2018  elves  sheep  fences  humans  anthropocene  edges  seams  ecology 
june 2018 by robertogreco
White Allies, Let’s Be Honest About Decolonization by Kyle Powys Whyte — YES! Magazine
"Indigenous environmental movements in North America are among the oldest and most provocative—from the Dish With One Spoon Treaty between Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples to the Mni Wiconi (“Water Is Life”) movement of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. As a Potawatomi environmental justice advocate, I often get asked by other environmentalists in the U.S. to share my views on what they can do to be good allies to Indigenous peoples. Those who ask usually identify themselves as being non-Indigenous, white, and privileged. They are U.S. settlers: people who have privileges that arise from the historic and ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples. 

Whether one participates in settler colonialism is not entirely a matter of when or how one’s ancestors came to the U.S. Having settler privilege means that some combination of one’s economic security, U.S. citizenship, sense of relationship to the land, mental and physical health, cultural integrity, family values, career aspirations, and spiritual lives are not possible—literally!—without the territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples. 

How then can settler allies move beyond being sympathetic beneficiaries of colonialism? What approach is legitimately decolonizing?

The resilience of settler privilege is a barrier. Gestures toward allyship can quickly recolonize Indigenous peoples. Some people have tried to create bonds of allyship by believing that Indigenous wisdom and spirituality are so profound that Indigenous people have always lived in ecological harmony. This is the romantic approach. Other allies have tried to create solidarity through claiming that Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmentalists should not distinguish their efforts. In this view, environmental issues threaten us all, and we should converge around common problems that affect all humanity, instead of wasting dwindling time on environmental racism. This is the same-boat approach. 

The romantic approach assumes that lifting up Indigenous wisdom and spirituality constitutes action. But this approach does not necessarily confront ongoing territorial dispossession and risks to health, economic vitality, lives, psychological well-being, and cultural integrity that Indigenous people experience. This is why scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang say decolonization is not a metaphor. Yet, the empathetic responsibility to support others’ self-determination and well-being is a major lesson in many Indigenous environmental traditions. Subscribers to the romantic view are unprepared to respond to criticisms of supposed Indigenous hypocrisies, like the alleged contradiction of tribally sanctioned coal industries. Responding to these critiques requires an understanding of colonialism, yet some romantics are unwilling to take the time to learn how the U.S. forcefully re-engineered tribal governments to facilitate extractive industries. This understanding is key if one’s goal is to undermine the levers of power that undermine Indigenous self-determination and well-being today.  

The same-boat approach also misses the colonial context. The conservation movement has been as damaging to Indigenous peoples as extractive industries. National parks, ecological restoration projects, conservation zones, and even the uses of certain terms—especially “wilderness”—are associated with forced displacement of entire communities, erasure of Indigenous histories in education and public memory, economic marginalization, and violations of cultural and political rights. Though certain sectors of conservation have improved greatly, newer movements, such as the international UN-REDD+ Programme, still repeat harms of the past. Almost every environmental achievement in the U.S.—such as the Clean Air or Clean Water acts—has required Indigenous peoples to work hard to reform these laws to gain fair access to the protections. 

A decolonizing approach to allyship must challenge the resilience of settler privilege, which involves directly facing the very different ecological realities we all dwell in. Sometimes I see settler environmental movements as seeking to avoid some dystopian environmental future or planetary apocalypse. These visions are replete with species extinctions, irreversible loss of ecosystems, and severe rationing. They can include abusive corporations and governments that engage in violent brainwashing, quarantining, and territorial dispossession of people who stand in their way. 

Yet for many Indigenous peoples in North America, we are already living in what our ancestors would have understood as dystopian or post-apocalyptic times. In a cataclysmically short period, the capitalist–colonialist partnership has destroyed our relationships with thousands of species and ecosystems.

Zoe Todd and Heather Davis, authors of “On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene,” characterize the ecological footprint of colonialism as seismic. The ongoing U.S. colonial legacy includes forcing Indigenous peoples into grid-like reservations that empower corporations and private individuals to degrade our territories; fostering patriarchy and conditions for sexual violence in Indigenous communities; brainwashing Indigenous children through boarding schools; and brainwashing everyone else through erasing Indigenous histories and experiences across U.S. culture, education, and memory. 

So Indigenous people awaken each day to science fiction scenarios not unlike the setup in films such as The Matrix. Yet in Indigenous science fiction films, such as Wakening and The 6th World, the protagonists are diverse humans and nonhumans who present unique solutions to daunting environmental problems. They are not portrayed as romantic stereotypes or symbols of a common humanity. They do not presuppose naive notions of Indigenous spirituality. They see environmental protection as possible only if we resist the capitalist–colonialist “matrix” of oppression and build allyship across different human and nonhuman groups. These films differ greatly from, say, Avatar, where the protagonist is a white male who passes as Indigenous and uses romantic Indigenous wisdom to save everyone. Indigenous people learn to ignore this difference, embracing a common foe together.  

Decolonizing allyship requires allies to be critical about their environmental realities—and about the purpose of their environmentalism. To do this, allies must realize they are living in the environmental fantasies of their settler ancestors. Settler ancestors wanted today’s world. They would have relished the possibility that some of their descendants could freely commit extractive violence on Indigenous lands and then feel, with no doubts, that they are ethical people. Remember how proponents of the Dakota Access pipeline sanctimoniously touted the project’s safety and that it never crossed tribal lands? On the flip side, when more sympathetic (environmentalist) settler descendants lament the loss of Indigenous wisdom without acting for Indigenous territorial empowerment; buy into the dreams and hopes of settler heroism and redemption in movies like Avatar; or overburden Indigenous people with requests for knowledge and emotional labor yet offer no reciprocal empowerment or healing—then they are fulfilling the fantasies of their settler ancestors.  

One can’t claim to be an ally if one’s agenda is to prevent his or her own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias. Yet how many environmentalists do just this? I do not see much differentiating those who fight to protect the colonial fantasy of wilderness from those who claim the Dakota Access pipeline does not cross Indigenous lands. Indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present. This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against Indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing intergenerational traumas, and calling out all practices that erase Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences.

Perhaps these goals and values are among the greatest gifts of Indigenous spirituality and wisdom. I want to experience the solidarity of allied actions that refuse fantastical narratives of commonality and hope. Determining what exactly needs to be done will involve the kind of creativity that Indigenous peoples have used to survive some of the most oppressive forms of capitalist, industrial, and colonial domination. But above all, it will require that allies take responsibility and confront the assumptions behind their actions and aspirations."
decolonization  capitalism  indigenous  indigeneity  2018  kylepowyswhyte  resilience  self-determination  colonialism  dystopia  settlercolonialism  privilege  allyship  solidarity  environment  environmentalism  zoetodd  heatherdavis  anthropocene  scifi  sciencefiction 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Future Imaginary Lecture: Kim TallBear. “Disrupting Settlement, Sex, and Nature” - YouTube
We live in an era of decimation dubbed the “anthropocene.” Settler-colonial states such as the US and Canada disproportionately consume the world. As we reconsider violent human practices and conceive of new ways of living with Earth in the face of a feared apocalypse, we must interrogate settler sexuality and family constructs that make both land and humans effectively (women, children, lovers) into property. Indigenous peoples—post-apocalyptic for centuries—have been disciplined by the state according to a monogamist, heteronormative, marriage-focused, nuclear family ideal that is central to the colonial project. Settler sexualities and their unsustainable kin forms do not only harm humans, but they harm the earth. I consider how expansive indigenous concepts of kin, including with other-than-humans, can serve as a provocation for moving (back? forward?) into more sustainable and just relations.

Kim TallBear is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota. She is also descended from the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. TallBear originally trained to become a community and environmental planner at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). She completed in 2005 a Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz in History of Consciousness. More broadly, she is interested in the historical and ongoing roles of science and technology (technoscience) in the colonization of indigenous peoples and others. Yet because tribes and other indigenous peoples insist on their status as sovereigns, she is also interested in the increasing role of technoscience in indigenous governance. What are the challenges for indigenous peoples related to science and technology, and what types of innovative work and thinking occur at the interface of technoscience and indigenous governance? Into her research she brings collaborations, and teaching indigenous, postcolonial, and feminist science studies analyses that enable not only critique but generative thinking about the possibilities for democratizing science and technology."

[via: ]
kimtallbear  anthropocene  kinship  indigenous  us  canada  monogamy  polygamy  marriage  culture  society  property  race  racism  settlercolonialism  colonialism  sexuality  gender  sex  intimacy  relationships  families  resistance 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Silica Magazine
"Exploring nature in the digital age

Silica Magazine is a multi-platform media brand investigating the geographic, ecological, and technological phenomena of the modern world. Our goal is to bring hard journalism, substantive artwork, and pioneering commentary to an informed and motivated readership through carefully crafted output.

Silica Media, Inc. is a non-profit founded in 2016 and is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

Editor-In-Chief – Casey Halter
Creative Director – Evander Batson
Executive Producer – Shannon Lee
Editor – Josh Segal
Columnist – Joseph Sutton"

[See also: ]
nature  geography  ecology  technology  digital  multispecies  morethanhuman  anthropocene 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Critters – Silica Magazine
[See also:

"Over the past few years, Engadget has put more of an emphasis on longform stories. From weekly features on lab-grown meat, dystopian surveillance and world-champion speedrunners, to our multi-part series on the Cyborg Olympics. Some have come from our reporters, others from talented freelance writers, but all have matched our mission to explore technology and its relationship with science, entertainment and culture.

Engadget is not alone in its desire to tell these stories. The world is full of great publications, writers and artists. Silica Magazine is one such publication; an independent periodical that quickly made a name for itself with its mixture of superb storytelling, reporting, art and design. I've personally been a fan for some time, and I'm happy to announce that we're teaming up with Silica for the launch of its third instalment, "The Critter Issue."

From May 21st to May 25th, Engadget will run five stories produced by Silica. Through the week-long takeover, we invite you to explore the questions: How is life defined in a world dominated by human technology? How are we changing it? How is it changing us? And what is happening to life on this planet in all of its natural, artificial and liminal states?

Silica, define 'Silica Mag':

Silica Mag is an online periodical investigating the interplay between the geographic, ecological, and technological phenomena of the modern world. We are a small group that brings together journalists, artists, and academics to produce investigative long-form journalism, substantive digital artwork and pioneering commentary once a year to help drive the discussion around Earth's environment.

We refer to ourselves as "a travel guide to the environmental apocalypse." Our stories seek to take readers on a journey –– physically, digitally and intellectually –– and redefine what it means to bear witness to the destruction of our planet's landscapes.

Our past issues, the Lake Issue and the Homeland Issue, respectively investigated freshwater bodies and uncertain concepts of the new American frontier. This time around we set out to ask: What is wildlife when the world is no longer wild?

Computer, define 'Critter':

A creature, beast or animate entity existing within a society or ecosystem. A zoological agent of change, an unwanted or unnoticed animal, an invading interloper in the age of the Anthropocene.

Silica, define 'The Critter Issue':

Five features: Inside the animal internet, Wonders of Wildlife, Ghost media, Talk to me and 'Til death do us part each ponder what it means to co-exist on this planet with other species -- from peering into the future of animal translation technology, to investigating how digital surveillance is transforming our relationship to the animal kingdom. On-the-ground reports pick apart our complex relationship with the life, death and conservation of wildlife, while a new media artist showcase ponders the reanimation of Earth's extinct species through digital archiving.

In tandem with our launch on Engadget, Silica will be also be publishing a menagerie of commentary, gallery and interactive pieces on We encourage you to get lost in the wild, wild world of The Critter Issue.

Engadget x Silica credits

Features editor: Aaron Souppouris
Developers: Collin Wu, Stefan Rimola
Copy editors: Megan Giller, Sheila Dougherty
Silica Magazine:

Editor-in-chief: Casey Halter
Creative director: Evander Batson
Editors: Shannon Lee, Josh Segal
Contributors: Dylan Kerr, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Steph Yin
Artists: Bryan Ma, Everest Pipkin, Loren Schmidt, Tea Stražičić"]
multispecies  silica  engadget  morethanhuman  2018  animals  technology  wildlife  nature  anthropocene  environment  ecology 
may 2018 by robertogreco
So what if we’re doomed? (Down the Dark Mountain) — High Country News
" Kingsnorth embraced Jeffers’ inhumanism, and Tompkins his ideas on beauty. But the immensity of the ecocide demands more. Our grief comes from the takers and their modern machine, which is one of violence and injury. If our sanity is to survive the ecocide, we must address these two pains in tandem: grief for the loss of things to come and the injustices that surround us.

We can do this through beauty and justice, which are closer together than they first appear."

"However, he is also arguing for integrity, which is close to Jeffers’ ideal of beauty: “However ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand / Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history ... for contemplation or in fact ... / Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is / Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.”

Perhaps, then, the way through the ecocide is through the pursuit of integrity, a duty toward rebalancing the whole, toward fairness, in both senses of the word."

"This is no cause for despair; it is a reminder to be meaningful, to be makers instead of takers, to be of service to something — beauty, justice, loved ones, strangers, lilacs, worms."
apocalypse  climatechange  ecology  anthropocene  additivism  2017  briancalvert  paulkingsnorth  environment  environmentalism  california  poetry  justive  beauty  via:kissane  balance  earth  wholeness  integrity  robinsonjeffers  darkmountain  multispecies  posthumanism  morethanhuman  josephcampbell  ecocide  edricketts  davidbrower  sierraclub  johnstainbeck  anseladmas  outdoors  nature  humanity  humanism  edwardabbey  hawks  animals  wildlife  interconnected  inhumanism  elainescarry  community  communities  socialjustice  culture  chile  forests  refugees  violence  douglastompkins  nickbowers  shaunamurray  ta-nehisicoates  humanrights  qigong  interconnectivity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Human Wildlife Encounters in Urban Regions: Coexistences | Session Gallery | AAG Annual Meeting 2018
"We live in a biosphere impacted by dense urban settlements and human activities with repercussions far beyond city boundaries coupled with growing societal concerns about loss of biodiversity. As cities encroach on rural or forested areas we increasingly find ourselves cohabiting with urban wildlife who live in our midst or migrate through our regions. Beginning with Jennifer Wolch's Zoopolis, there has been a growing interest in geography about wildlife in cities and, in particular, ways to manage human wildlife encounter and to coexist with non-human others. Urban areas exhibit a proliferation of contact zones and hotspots, sites of encounter between humans and wildlife that manifest at a variety of scales. In spite of this, habitat fragmentation is one of the leading factors leading to extirpation and extinction of species.

Against the backdrop of growing awareness of the impacts of climate change, and the imperatives of the 6th extinction, urban residents are increasingly aware of the contradictory role cities play in enhancing and destroying the biodiversity in our midst. As a result, a complex assemblage of institutions, government, NGO, and volunteer organizations have emerged to manage the relationship between urban wildlife and urban citizens.

We invite papers addressing the theme of human wildlife encounters in urban regions across the globe and welcome a wide range of papers from the more conceptual to case-specific empirical studies. Topics might include: a focus on a particular species within an urban location; reactions to wildlife encounters from urban residents; critical and de-colonial perspectives on our relation to urban wildlife; policies, regulation and management, and/or policing of urban wildlife; politics of care in urban wildlife protection; mapping and spotting urban wildlife; everyday practices of urban wildlife care; planning and design for urban wildlife, such as the creation of wildlife corridors; biophysical wildlife routes; urban indigenous communities and interactions with wildlife."
via:danabauer  geography  multispecies  morethanhuman  anthropocene  coexistence  sustainability 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How birds' genes influence adaptation to climate change
"As Earth’s climate changes, species must adapt, shift their geographical ranges, or face decline and, in some cases, extinction. Using genetics, biologists involved in the Bird Genoscape Project are racing against time to find out the potential for adaptation and how best to protect vulnerable populations of birds.

The project’s most recent study, published in Science, focuses on the yellow warbler. Found across most of North America, the bird spends its winters in Central and South America, and flies as far north as Alaska and the Arctic Circle in the summer, filling wildlands and backyards with color and song along the way.

Using more than 200 blood, tissue and feather samples from across the breeding range, the researchers discovered genes that appear to be responding to climate, and found that bird populations that most need to adapt to climate change are experiencing declines.

Senior author Kristen Ruegg, a research scientist at UC Santa Cruz and adjunct assistant professor at UCLA, said previous studies focused on how long-term changes in temperature and precipitation cause bird species to shift their geographic ranges. Genetic mapping offers the opportunity to look at another option—the capacity to adapt to climate change.

“With this research, we can say, based on these gene-environment correlations, here’s how populations will have to adapt to future climate change, and here are the populations that have to adapt most,” said Ruegg, who also is co-director of the Bird Genoscape Project.

Whether the yellow warbler will be able to adapt is another matter. “That’s our next big question,” Ruegg said.

Valuable information for conservationists

The new study uncovered some of the challenges yellow warblers already face. In some populations, genes associated with climate adaptation are mismatched to environments. These populations will likely have the hardest time adapting quickly enough to future climate shifts.

That’s been the case in the past, too. Comparing the genetic findings to breeding bird surveys dating back to the 1960s that track changes in bird abundance, the researchers determined that the populations that need to adapt most are already in decline. Using genetic maps, the habitats of the populations most vulnerable to climate change can now be targeted for protection, said Rachael Bay, lead author of the study and a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. The findings offer valuable information for conservationists who hope to protect species like the yellow warbler in the future, she said.

“Evolution has the potential to matter a lot when it comes to climate change response,” Bay said. “It’s a process we should start to integrate more when we make decisions, and it’s shown a lot of promise that hasn’t been realized yet.”

The yellow warbler is not currently endangered. It was selected for the study to give researchers a better understanding of how genes relate to climate variables across its broad range. But the bird may serve as a canary in the coal mine for species that are more at risk.

“This is an alarm bell,” said Tom Smith, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and director of the Center for Tropical Research. “We spend a lot of time asking what is going to happen under climate change, what the effects will be and what we need to do to manage it. Our results shocked us—it’s happening now.”

The study sets the stage for two important next steps, Smith said. First, it means additional studies need to be done to learn how other species adapt to climate change. Second, the findings can be used now to tailor and inform future conservation management."
birds  nature  climatechange  adaptation  genetics  genes  evolution  survival  globalwarming  2018  animals  anthropocene  multispecies  morethanhuman  kristenruegg 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Atlas for the End of the World
[via: ]

"Coming almost 450 years after the world's first Atlas, this Atlas for the End of the World audits the status of land use and urbanization in the most critically endangered bioregions on Earth. It does so, firstly, by measuring the quantity of protected area across the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots in comparison to United Nation's 2020 targets; and secondly, by identifying where future urban growth in these territories is on a collision course with endangered species.

By bringing urbanization and conservation together in the same study, the essays, maps, data, and artwork in this Atlas lay essential groundwork for the future planning and design of hotspot cities and regions as interdependent ecological and economic systems."

"The findings of this research are threefold: first, a majority of the ecoregions in the hotspots fall well short of United Nations' 2020 targets for protected lands; second, almost all the cities in the hotspots are projected to continue to sprawl in an unregulated manner into the world's most valuable habitats; and finally, only a small number of the 196 nations who are party to the CBD (and the 142 nations who have sovereign jurisdiction over the hotspots) have any semblance of appropriately scaled, land use planning which would help reconcile international conservation values with local economic imperatives.6

By focusing attention on the hotspots in the lead-up to the UN's 2020 deadline for achieving the Aichi targets, this atlas is intended as a geopolitical tool to help prioritize conservation land-use planning. It is also a call to landscape architects, urban designers, and planners to become more involved in helping reconcile ecology and economics in these territories.

Set diametrically at the opposite end of modernity to Ortelius' original, this atlas promotes cultivation, not conquest. As such, this atlas is not about the end of the world at all, for that cosmological inevitability awaits the sun's explosion some 2.5 or so billion years away: it is about the end of Ortelius' world, the end of the world as a God-given and unlimited resource for human exploitation. On this, even the Catholic Church is now adamant: "we have no such right" writes Pope Francis.7"

"This immense and ever-expanding trove of remotely sensed data and imagery is the basis of the world's shared Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The subject of this cyborgian, perpetual mapping-machine is not only where things are in space, but more importantly how things change over time. Because the environmental crisis is generally a question of understanding what is changing where, we can say that with remote sensing and its data-streams we have entered not only the apocalyptic age of star wars and the white-noise world of global telecommunications, but more optimistically, the age of ecological cartography.

The "judgment and bias" of this atlas lies firstly in our acceptance of the public data as a given; secondly in the utilization of GIS to rapidly read and translate metadata as a reasonable basis for map-making in the age of ecological cartography; thirdly, in our foregrounding of each map's particular theme to the exclusion of all others; and finally in the way that a collection of ostensibly neutral and factual maps is combined to form an atlas that, by implication, raises prescient questions of land-use on a global scale."

"Who are the Atlas authors?
The Atlas for the End of the World project was conceived and directed by Richard Weller who is the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and Professor and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). The Atlas was researched and created in collaboration with Claire Hoch and Chieh Huang, both recent graduates from the Department of Landscape Architecture at UPenn now practicing landscape architecture in Australia and the United States."
biodiversity  culture  future  maps  anthropocene  earth  multispecies  environment  ecology  ecosystems  mapping  data  visualization  infographics  dataviz  bioregions  atlases  geography  urbanization  cities  nature  naturalhistory  california  classideas  flora  fauna  plants  animals  wildlife  morethanhuman  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  economics  endangersspecies  statistics  richardweller  clairehoch  chiehhuang 
january 2018 by robertogreco
An Atlas for the End of the World
"The Atlas for the End of the World is a project started by Penn architect Richard Weller to highlight the effects of human civilization and urbanization on our planet’s biodiversity.
Coming almost 450 years after the world’s first Atlas, this Atlas for the End of the World audits the status of land use and urbanization in the most critically endangered bioregions on Earth. It does so, firstly, by measuring the quantity of protected area across the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots in comparison to United Nation’s 2020 targets; and secondly, by identifying where future urban growth in these territories is on a collision course with endangered species.

There’s lots to see at the site: world and regional maps, data visualizations, key statistical data, photos of plants and animals that have been modified by humans, as well as several essays on a variety of topics.

And here’s a fun map: countries with national biodiversity strategies and action plans in place. Take a wild guess which country is one of the very few without such a plan in place!"

[See also: ]
anthropocene  maps  mapping  atlases  geography  urbanization  cities  nature  naturalhistory  california  classideas  flora  fauna  plants  animals  wildlife  multispecies  morethanhuman  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  biodiversity  ecology  economics  ecosystems  endangersspecies  visualization  data  statistics 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Cosmoecological Sheep and the Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet | Environmental Humanities | Duke University Press
"In recent decades, in the South of France some young people from urban backgrounds have chosen to become shepherds and to learn to reconnect with the herding practices that many livestock breeders had abandoned under the pressure of agricultural modernization policies. In some cases they have found themselves entrusted with sheep that are as naive about herding as they themselves were. Before their introduction to transhumance—seasonal movement between pastures—these animals were primarily confined and fed indoors or in small fenced areas. The shepherds had to learn how to lead, how to understand other modes of living, how to teach their sheep what is edible and what is not, and how to form a flock; the sheep had to learn how to “compose with” dogs and humans, to acquire new feeding habits, a new ethos, and moreover, new ways of living in an enlarged world. These practices cannot be reduced to a livestock economy: shepherds consider herding a work of transformation and ecological recuperation—of the land, of the sheep, of ways of being together. Learning the “arts of living on a damaged planet,” as Anna Tsing has termed it, humans and animals are making their own contributions to a new cosmoecology, creating cosmoecological connections and contributing to what Ghassan Hage has called alter-politics."
cosmoecology  cosmopolitics  sheep  shepherds  multispecies  morethanhuman  ethology  ethics  economics  2016  vincianedespret  michelmeuret  france  annalowenhaupttsing  herding  agriculture  livestock  animals  human-animalrelationships  human-animalrelations  ecology  alter-politics  ghassanhage  anthropocene  latecapitalism  annatsing 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Antropoceno | dpr-barcelona
"Cuando Las Patronas lanzan comida en bolsas a las entrañas de La Bestia quizás no son conscientes de la relevancia de su gesto a escala geológica. Movidas por empatía activan colectivamente un mecanismo ancestral de cooperación recurrente en todos los seres vivos una vez superada la etapa de recelo y competencia. Al instinto competitivo que levanta muros, intercalan una estrategia inteligente que inventa protocolos, revienta límites y difumina fronteras.

Existen otros gestos que generan flujos con impacto a escala geológica. Quizás nos somos conscientes de que en nuestros bolsillos llevamos pequeños trozos de África procesados en China y del gasto energético y material de la infraestructura que nos permite estar continuamente conectados.[1] La necesidad de actualización y los ciclos cortos de renovación se traducen en teléfonos obsoletos apilándose en los cajones de nuestras casas.

Las anteriores narrativas ilustran dos formas de relación de la especie humana con el entorno y la presión que constantemente ejercemos sobre el. Un proceso de consumo y desposesión continuos, acelerados especialmente a raíz de la Revolución Industrial y puesto en evidencia por el cambio climático, es el que ha llevado a plantear conceptos como el Antropoceno, que sugiere que hemos entrado en una era geológica marcada por la influencia de la actividad humana en el planeta.

No existe consenso respecto al inicio del Antropoceno[2], algunos proponen buscarlo en los albores de la agricultura, ya que es donde se pueden encontrar las primeras evidencias de sedimentación que delatan esta actividad humana que permitió a los humanos asentarse en comunidades con densidades nunca antes vistas, mientras que otros autores señalan la Revolución Industrial o el inicio de la carrera nuclear.

Y qué papel tiene la arquitectura dentro de este panorama? Hasta ahora entendíamos que todas las realizaciones arquitectónicas han ocurrido durante el Holoceno. Es bajo las condiciones ambientales de este período geológico en las que nuestra disciplina ha ido especializándose. Sin embargo, estas condiciones no son inmutables y tenemos certeza científica de que han ido cambiando aceleradamente desde finales del siglo XIX.[3] Actualmente existe cierto consenso sobre el impacto que la práctica arquitectónica tiene sobre el medio ambiente. La mayor parte de este impacto no se debe tanto a la construcción sino al consumo de energía derivado del transporte, técnicas y materiales constructivos. Además los análisis de ciclo de vida de los edificios coinciden en que es mayor el impacto energético por su mantenimiento que por su construcción. Las buenas prácticas apuntan que el reciclaje, la minimización del transporte y el uso de recursos locales son las mejores estrategias de mitigación.

Sin embargo un repaso crítico nos muestra que las premisas ambientales están lejos de ser las que regulen la producción arquitectónica, y que en la profesión siguen importando más las valoraciones estéticas o económicas. Por otro lado, las estrategias de adaptación y cobijo que hemos refinando responden a condiciones ambientales que previsiblemente no sigan siendo las mismas. Así que al parecer practicamos una disciplina todavía muy coqueta y poco previsora.

Y es que en realidad, los arquitectos disponemos de pocas herramientas e incluso de lenguaje para lidiar con fenómenos complejos o con cambios evolutivos. Y el panorama incierto que tenemos por delante desborda las habilidades técnicas, estáticas y formales que presuntamente definen la excelencia arquitectónica. Lo sostenible no es más que una etiqueta bucólica o un slogan de marca para adaptarse a condiciones ambientales que en realidad son difícilmente reversibles, mientras que la incertidumbre y el cambio son las verdaderas constantes que tenemos por delante.[4] Los defensores del aceleracionismo lo han comprendido al anticipar un hipotético fin del capitalismo y su ethos productivo, de los que al parecer no seremos capaces de renunciar. Porque seamos absolutamente sinceros: no hemos logrado mucho con buenas intenciones, apelaciones morales o previsiones desalentadoras. Mientras tanto la arquitectura sigue siendo en realidad una práctica subordinada a los intereses, posibilidades y consecuencias del sistema financiero.

Es posible reorientar nuestra profesión frente a este panorama? Tal vez el reto esté en una paulatina reconversión, que incorpore protocolos que permitan responder a la incertidumbre en lugar de generar soluciones cerradas. Una estrategia de acciones capaces de incorporar accidentes y generar respuestas emergentes a problemas que no han aparecido todavía, que es como funciona la evolución.

Es posible que en el gesto de Las Patronas encontremos alguna pista. Este grupo trabaja colectivamente con la incertidumbre; sus acciones afectan y se ven afectadas por una infraestructura de movilidad. Sin planificarlo a largo plazo, inciden sobre un flujo de vidas y memorias, ayudan a modificar la ecología de las poblaciones, de los sistemas urbanos y las regiones en los que interactuará la población que emigra. Y de forma análoga, quizás el coltán, cobre y demás minerales de nuestros teléfonos móviles estén a la espera de nuevas formas de minería que los rescaten de nuestros cajones.

Porque no solo moldeamos el mundo con nuestra actividad; el medio ambiente también nos moldea a nosotros y los cambios que introducimos modifican entornos y organismos que al final tienen consecuencias sobre nosotros mismos. La arquitectura del Antropoceno será menos anthropos y más colectivo. Un sistema de gestión de incertidumbres que genere soluciones dinámicas y evolutivas útiles para diferentes formas de vida, sean humanas o no."
anthropocene  2017  architecture  capitalism  laspatronas  mexico  migration  borders  competition  cooperation  markets  sustainability  uncertainty  collectivism  accelerationism  groth  ecology  environment  ethelbaraonapohl  césarreyesnájera  dpr-barcelona 
november 2017 by robertogreco
You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring :: Paul Hawken's Commencement Address to the Class of 2009 — YES! Magazine
"When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seat belts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see ifit was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages,campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown — Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a … [more]
paulhawken  humanity  2009  commencementaddresses  environment  sustainability  earth  peace  deforestation  poverty  climatechange  refugees  activism  davidjamesduncan  mercycorps  strangers  abolitionists  grnvilleclark  thomasclarkson  josiahwedgewood  progressives  england  anthropocene  civilization  globalwarming  movement  bodies  humans  morethanhuman  multispecies  interconnected  interdependence  charlesdarwin  janinebanyus  life  science  renewal  restoration  exploitation  capitalism  gdp  economics  maryoliver  adriennerich  ecology  interconnectedness  body  interconnectivity 
november 2017 by robertogreco
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."

"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."

"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Children Of The Anthropocene | Future Unfolding | Heterotopias
"Look beneath your feet and you will see the Anthropocene. It is made of the deep concrete that paves our cities, the abundant plastics that constitute our waste and the metal pipes that funnel our water and oil. Look up and the chances are you will see it, too. Vapour trails linger in the air after an aeroplane has shot through a clear, blue sky, their chemical residue spraying delicately over the earth below.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life”
In 2000, the Nobel-prize winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, and biologist, Eugene F. Stoermer, advanced a theory suggesting we are no longer living in the geological epoch known as the Holocene. Following the Paleolithic Ice Age, the Holocene provided us with stable, mild climates for approximately 12,000 years. Weather patterns were relatively predictable while land, animals, plant and tree life carved out a flourishing existence amidst its warm, pleasant temperatures. Citing the measurable effect greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane were exacting on the atmosphere, Crutzen proposed the Anthropocene, “the age of man”, the delineation of a time defined by human action on the environment. While the term has not yet gained official designation, there are increasing efforts to scientifically prove its existence. Global warming, plastic pollution, nuclear waste and many other human-driven phenomenon leave an unmistakable trace in geological records, the data of which is being used to evidence the Anthropocene.

Despite the bleak hubris and narcissism underpinning the term, these scientific efforts are facilitating a broader dawning ecological awareness. Eschewing the apocalyptic fatalism of its many contemporaries, Future Unfolding asks not what the world looks like after the deluge but before it. The game pulls off the temporal trick of transporting both player and setting back in time, adopting an almost childlike gaze of its seemingly edenic world. Inspired by designers Mattias Ljungström and Marek Plichta’s own experiences growing up in the Swedish and Polish countryside, dense forests of coniferous trees grow unchecked and its woodland floor is often carpeted with delicate red and yellow flowers. With such a shift in perspective—a reversion back to an earlier self—Future Unfolding asks us to assume a state of naivety and rediscover a sense of openness. With it, we might relearn our relationship with nature, unpick our assumptions and dissolve the hubris of our Anthropocene.

Things don’t function as you might expect in Future Unfolding. A tree is often a tree but at other times it is a portal, capable of transcending time and space. Sometimes these portals appear in its fauna like the idly grazing sheep who possess the ability to teleport. Elsewhere, amidst the ferns and luminescent lichen, pines appear to make patterns, simple shapes that when strung together, produce an entity capable of dissolving obstacles such as the impassable boulders strewn across the land. I remember playing in the ancient woodlands of Snowdonia as a child, forging many of the same connections and exploring the same potential of the environment that Future Unfolding depicts. That landscape hummed with the vibrancy of life, from the insects that consumed the pungent, rotting leaves on the ground to the thick, green moss that covered each rock. It offered me a window into another world that, as a child, echoed in my consciousness."

"For a crisis as enveloping as the Anthropocene, there is a value in this type of universalism. Specific problems abound that require specific solutions, of course, but Future Unfolding, along with other video games, literature, art and music are beginning to craft a new vernacular capable of conveying this shift in expression. Bjork’s work has long since channelled some sort of symbiosis with nature. Speaking about utopia in a recent interview with Dazed, she said: “There’s this old argument that civilisation treats nature the same as man treats women—you have to oppress it and dominate in order to progress. I just don’t agree with that. There is another way.” Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith crafts what might be considered the sonic equivalent to Future Unfolding’s pristine wilderness, her dense latticework synths sparkling with the same primordial urgency as the game. Track titles like “Existence in the Unfurling” speak to a similar biological enmeshing that Future Unfolding works towards. Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus explores similar terrain, that game’s fizzing soundtrack determined by your place in the environment. Trees, hillocks and beaches all carry specific sounds, the effect of which jostles you into paying closer attention to its procedurally generated landscape."

"Throughout both Future Unfolding and the Southern Reach Trilogy, the gap between “us” and “them”—between humans and other life—is broken down. Sleeping mammals with long, white hair populate the game’s glowing landscape, each one keen to dispense knowledge. “Things near are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote,” one said to me. “The near explains the far. The drop is a small ocean.” Their words emphasise wholeness and co-existence at times while also asking the player to unknow. “Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything,” said another. “Not till we are lost. In other words, not till we have lost the world do we begin to find ourselves.” This might sound like the garbling of a new-age hippie but these messages signal to a wider picture while the moments of discovery and interaction enable us to peek at the minutiae of blooming flowers and bobbling rocks.

Adopting this shift in perspective allows us to understand the scope of the Anthropocene as well as a way out of it. In his 2016 book, Dark Ecology, the philosopher Timothy Morton, wrote that “ecological awareness forces us to think and feel at multiple scales, scales that disorient normative concepts such as ‘present’, ‘life’, ‘human’, ‘nature’, ‘thing’, ‘thought,’ and ‘logic.’” But in traversing and reconciling these eerie phenomena we might reach a state of intimacy with nonhumans. “Coexisting with these nonhumans is ecological thought, art, ethics and politics.” For Morton, such a coexistence doesn’t entail a deferral to primitivism but an embracing of technologies amidst a transforming viewpoint. Play is crucial to the process and Future Unfolding gives us a space where we might test out these ideas for size to see how they fit, feel and taste.

Future Unfolding’s childlike gaze gently encourages a flexibility of thinking within us. It asks us to forget old cognitive pathways and instead forge new routes of thought. It is sometimes a sticky, unsettling process and, eschewing formal instructions or direction, the game reflects our current state of unknowing. We are prone to flailing in the murky darkness of the forest. But as we reformulate our relationship with nonhumans, Future Unfolding asks us to push through the uncomfortable anxiety of dawning ecological intimacy. Only then might we reach the ecstasy the Biologist experiences in Area X. We are prone to flailing in the murky darkness of the forest. But as we reformulate our relationship with nonhumans, Future Unfolding asks us to push through the uncomfortable anxiety of dawning ecological intimacy. Only then might we reach the ecstasy the Biologist experiences in Area X."
anthropocene  2017  lewisgordon  games  gaming  videogames  timothymorton  paulcrutzen  eugenestroermer  systems  systemsthinking  edkey  davidkanaga  proteus  kaitlynaureliasmith  futureunfolding  johnmuir  nature  mattiasljungström  marekplichta  globalarming  climatechange  via:anne  trees  lanscape  toplay  universalism  jeffvandermeer  southernreachtrilogy  biology  morethanhuman  multispecies  darkeccology  ecology  björk 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Cap and Trade – The New Inquiry
"Q: Is that why the book is largely set in a forest? So much of the writing about capitalism is located in factories, fields, or counting houses. What can forests help us understand about capitalism?

A: Not all forests are just groups of trees. Much of the book takes place in the industrial forests of the Pacific Northwest. It was a center of industrial timber in the mid-20th century and is still considered an industrial forest today. Managed forests have become an important model for the industrial plantation. The sugar cane plantation of the New World was the early model for industrialization. Now when you look up the word plantation, tree plantations come up first. For me, writing about forests is a way of getting at industrial discipline.

Of course, the original New World colonial plantation haunts capitalism to this day. It is on the slave plantation that Europeans learn to create assets through the joint disciplining of people and crops. They also invented techniques to shield investors from the environmental and social consequences of the investments that they were making, often over long distances. The mid-20th century managed forest in the U.S. was a model for the intensive crop production of a forest. Weeds were removed through spraying, and the technical monocrop features of the forest were really exaggerated, even in national forests.

Q: In your essay “Gens” you make this statement of purpose along with your co-authors: “Instead of capitalism a priori, as an already determining structure, logic, and trajectory, we ask how its social relations are generated out of divergent life projects.” How did you come to this way of thinking about capitalism?

A: I came to it in part through feminist political economy. In the late 20th century, feminist political economy started asking questions about labor that weren’t getting asked, like why there were women factory workers and why certain industries preferentially hired women, or even certain kinds of women. In order to explain that, one simply couldn’t ignore complicated historical trajectories—colonialism, racism, and the way the state interacted with the family—and the way these histories intertwined to create a particular moment in capitalism. Those basic opening questions turned into fertile theoretical ground for feminist scholarship. Rather than starting from a monolithic structure of capitalism and asking about its effects, feminist scholarship asked how a set of histories congealed together to create a particular kind of economic moment.

Q: Matsutake mushrooms are very small. The mushroom trade is very small. But you convincingly argue that small does not mean unimportant. Scale is an important theme in the book. What can mushrooms help us understand about capitalism and scale?

A: We are seduced by our computers today. Computers have such an easy time making something bigger or smaller on a screen without appearing to distort its characteristics at all. It makes us think that this is how reality works. When reality does actually function this way, it is a whole lot of work to make it scale up and scale down. And it never works perfectly. The plantation chases that ideal. Its goal is to scale up or scale down without changing the manner of production at all. But doing that is an enormous amount of work, and the work is often violent.

Mushrooms turn out to be a good way to think about contradictory and interrupting scales, both in terms of political economy and ecology. In the supply chain, there’s not the same emphasis on maintaining production standards across scale. Instead, there are techniques for translating mushrooms produced in different local realities and scales into a single, uniform commodity. And these techniques never succeed completely. Ecologically, if you don’t have certain small disturbances between particular organisms, you wouldn’t have the effect of the forest at all."

Q: The book flips the geography of the supply chain we are most used to hearing about. The flexible labor is in rural America, and the buyers are overseas, in Japan. Is this a new historical period, economically speaking? How do you situate this in the context of the broader 20th century global economy?

A: I argue that there was a moment in the late 20th century when a particular model of Japanese supply chain became so powerful, it kicked over a big change in the way supply chains worked globally. Production was no longer the organizing force, which had been the case in the U.S. corporate supply chain, the predominant form before that. These changes disentangled the relationships between nation-states and powerful sourcing corporations. This disentanglement allows the rural northwestern resemble the global south in certain ways as a sourcing area for global supply chains. But the matsutake supply chain is an unusual case. If you want to find U.S. companies sourcing from other parts of the world, that’s still the dominant form of supply chain.

Q: The book seems hopeful.

A: I’ve been accused both ways.

Q: Well, it has “End of the World” in the main title, and “the Possibilities of Life” in the subtitle.

A: That’s true. We don’t have a choice except to muddle by. So that’s the hopeful part. We have to figure out what we’ve got and what we can do with it. To me, this is practical hopefulness. It is a hard line to pull off. The subtitle is not actually about hope in a traditional Christian sense of redemption. At this particular historical moment, I don’t think that makes much sense. There are plenty of people who want to use a set of philosophies or technologies to get us out of the soup. That’s tough. On the other hand, there’s just getting stuck in a big bundle of apocalyptic thinking.

The book asks us to pay attention to the imperfect situation in which we live, to recognize both the handholds and the pitfalls. Perhaps looking at this particular mushroom lends hopefulness. I’ve since realized I don’t have to go that direction. Lately I’ve been giving papers on killer fungi, the kind of fungi that grow unintentionally out of the plantation system. These fungi and other pests and diseases represent the plantation system gone wild in ways that negatively affect humans, plants, or animals. Fungus can be terrible too."
scale  scalability  capitalism  sustainability  annalowenhaupttsing  anthropology  anthropocene  2016  themushroomattheendoftheworld  growth  plantations  geography  supplychains  japan  us  forests  trees  mushrooms  nature  multispecies  labor  morethanhuman  annatsing 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Robert Macfarlane on Twitter: "The contrast-term to "Kulturfolger" is "Kulturmeider", culture-avoiders, those species that cannot survive in humanly made habitats."
"The contrast-term to "Kulturfolger" is "Kulturmeider", culture-avoiders, those species that cannot survive in humanly made habitats."

[See also: "Word of the day: "Kulturfolger" - a species that adapts well to living among humans & their habitats (lit. 'culture-follower', German)." ]
words  german  culture  multispecies  entanglement  humans  nature  wildlife  anthropocene 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing - A Feminist Approach to the Anthropocene: Earth Stalked by Man - YouTube
"To take seriously the concept of the Anthropocene—the idea that we have entered a new epoch defined by humans’ impact on Earth’s ecosystems—requires engagement with global history. Using feminist anthropology, this lecture explores the awkward relations between what one might call “machines of replication”—those simplified ecologies, such as plantations, in which life worlds are remade as future assets—and the vernacular histories in which such machines erupt in all their particularity and go feral in counter-intentional forms. This lecture does not begin with the unified continuity of Man (versus indigenous ontologies; as scientific protocol; etc.), but rather explores contingent eruptions and the patchy, fractured Anthropocene they foster.

Anna L. Tsing is a Professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, and the acclaimed author of several books including Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen.

This Helen Pond McIntyre '48 Lecture was recorded on November 10, 2015 at Barnard College."
annalowenhaupttsing  2015  anthropocene  multispecies  morethanhuman  ecology  disentanglement  feminism  naturalhistory  anthropology  ecologies  plantations  capitalism  humans  entanglement  interdependence  animals  plants  trees  birds  farming  fordlandia  rubber  environment  hope  science  humanism  agriculture  annatsing 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet — University of Minnesota Press
[via: ]

"Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene

2017 • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, Editors

Can humans and other species continue to inhabit the earth together?

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene.
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet exposes us to the active remnants of gigantic past human errors—the ghosts—that affect the daily lives of millions of people and their co-occurring other-than-human life forms. Challenging us to look at life in new and excitingly different ways, each part of this two-sided volume is informative, fascinating, and a source of stimulation to new thoughts and activisms. I have no doubt I will return to it many times.

—Michael G. Hadfield, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Living on a damaged planet challenges who we are and where we live. This timely anthology calls on twenty eminent humanists and scientists to revitalize curiosity, observation, and transdisciplinary conversation about life on earth.

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene. The essays are organized around two key figures that also serve as the publication’s two openings: Ghosts, or landscapes haunted by the violences of modernity; and Monsters, or interspecies and intraspecies sociality. Ghosts and Monsters are tentacular, windy, and arboreal arts that invite readers to encounter ants, lichen, rocks, electrons, flying foxes, salmon, chestnut trees, mud volcanoes, border zones, graves, radioactive waste—in short, the wonders and terrors of an unintended epoch.

Contributors: Karen Barad, U of California, Santa Cruz; Kate Brown, U of Maryland, Baltimore; Carla Freccero, U of California, Santa Cruz; Peter Funch, Aarhus U; Scott F. Gilbert, Swarthmore College; Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford U; Donna J. Haraway, U of California, Santa Cruz; Andreas Hejnol, U of Bergen, Norway; Ursula K. Le Guin; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, U of Oslo; Andrew Mathews, U of California, Santa Cruz; Margaret McFall-Ngai, U of Hawaii, Manoa; Ingrid M. Parker, U of California, Santa Cruz; Mary Louise Pratt, NYU; Anne Pringle, U of Wisconsin, Madison; Deborah Bird Rose, U of New South Wales, Sydney; Dorion Sagan; Lesley Stern, U of California, San Diego; Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus U.
books  toread  anthropocene  annalowenhaupttsing  multispecies  heatheranneswanson  elainegan  nilsbubandt  anthropology  ecology  science  art  literature  bioinformatics  2017  morethanhuman  humans  transdisciplinary  interspecies  karenbarad  katebrown  carlafreccero  peterfunch  scottgilbert  deborahgordon  donnaharaway  andreasheinol  ursulaleguin  marianneelisabethlien  andrewmathews  margaretmcfall-ngai  ingridparker  marylouisepratt  annepringle  deborahbirdrose  dorionsagan  lesleystern  jens-christiansvenning  earth  intraspecies  annatsing 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Profile: AURA: Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene
"We have entered the Anthropocene - a new geologic epoch, defined by unprecedented human disturbance of the earth’s ecosystems.

The Anthropocene is a confusing age. At a time when humans have come to be a 'force of nature' that is instrumental in causing rapid, often unintended, changes to the earth they inhabit, nature in its classical sense is over. Nature itself has become a cultural side-effect, a side-effect full of unintended consequences.

At the heart of our confusion is the problem of unintentional design on anthropogenic, i.e. human disturbed, landscapes. Human projects do not always result in the landscapes of which we dream. Climate change is one example of unintentional design; new zoonotic diseases are another. As these examples suggest, we tend to imagine unintentional design as a danger to human survival. But what if anthropogenic landscapes were sometimes also sites of new designs for living—unplanned but still life-enhancing?

New approaches that cut across the conventional divide between the human sciences and the life sciences are required to consider these Anthropocene dilemmas.  "Living in the Anthropocene: Discovering the potential of unintentional design on anthropogenic landscapes" is a research project at Aarhus University that seeks to study these dilemmas.

Headed by Niels Bohr professor and anthropologist Anna Tsing, the project aims to open up a novel and truly trans-disciplinary field of research into the Anthropocene.  Applying insights and methods from anthropology, biology and philosophy, the  project will focus on the 'co-species landscapes' that humans and other species come to co-inhabit in the Anthropocene.  The projects suggests that a descriptive and trans-disciplinary approach is needed to understand the kinds of lives that are made and the futures that are possible in the ruined, re-wilded, and unintended landscapes of the Anthropocene."
annalowenhaupttsing  anthropocene  capitalism  climatechange  nielsbohr  aarhusuniversity  multispecies  ecosystems  landscapes  anthropology  biology  philosophy  morethanhuman  annatsing 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Mapping 'Where the Animals Go' Amid Human Disruption - CityLab
"A new book maps how animals navigate a world heavily altered by urban development and climate change."
maps  mapping  anthropocene  nature  wildlife  2017  animals  climatechange  urban  urbanism  jamescheshire  oliveruberti  lindapoon  morethanhuman  animalcrossings 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Apocalypse, Now - On The Media - WNYC
"Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.

2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye talks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest. 

3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there's hope.

4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane on new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!"
robertmacfarlane  kimstanleyrobinson  clairevayewatkins  jeffvandermeer  sciencefiction  scifi  speculativefiction  anthropocene  humans  nature  multispecies  language  tolisten  economics  finance  cli-fi  climatechange  utopia  names  naming  silence  pessimism  optimism  hope  dystopia  anthopocene  deserts  natue  change  earth 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Dumpster Honey – BLDGBLOG
"In a poem I clipped from The New Yorker a while back, Davis McCombs describes what he memorably calls “Dumpster Honey.” It remains a great illustration of altered natures—and the fate of food—in the Anthropocene.

McCombs shows us bees wandering through a rubbish heap “of candy wrappers and the sticky rims / of dented cans, entering, as they might / a blossom, the ketchup-smeared burger // boxes,” mistaking a stained world of “food-grade waxes / mingling with Band-Aids” for healthy flora.

Hapless bees slip their little bodies past “solvents / and fresheners,” picking up industrial food dyes and “the high-fructose / corn nectars” of artificially processed edible waste.

With this in mind, recall several recent examples of bees feasting on edible chemicals in urban hinterlands, in one case actually turning their honey bright red.

As Susan Dominus wrote for The New York Times back in 2010, a stunned Brooklyn beekeeper “sent samples of the red substance that the bees were producing to an apiculturalist who works for New York State, and that expert, acting as a kind of forensic foodie, found the samples riddled with Red Dye No. 40, the same dye used in the maraschino cherry juice” being mixed at a nearby factory.

This had the dismaying effect, Dominus writes, that “an entire season that should have been devoted to honey yielded instead a red concoction that tasted metallic and then overly sweet.” (Amusingly, Brooklyn’s cherry-red honey also inadvertently revealed an illegal marijuana-growing operation.)

Or, indeed, recall a group of French bees that fed on candy and thus produced vibrant honeys in unearthly shades of green and blue. This honey of the Anthropocene “could not be sold because it did not meet France’s standards of honey production,” perhaps a technicolor warning sign, as the very possibility of a nature independent of humanity comes into question.

In the post-natural microcosm of “Dumpster Honey,” meanwhile, McCombs depicts his polluted bees “returning, smudged with the dust / of industrial pollens, to, perhaps, some // rusted tailpipe hive where their queen / grew fat on the the froth of artificial sweeteners,” a vision at once apocalyptic and, I suppose, if one really wishes it to be, ruthlessly optimistic.

After all, perhaps, amidst the litter and ruin of a formerly teeming world, some new nature might yet spring forth, thriving on the sugared colors of factory sludge, beautifully adapting to a world remade in humanity’s chemical image.

It’s worth reading the poem in full. It stands on its own as a vivid encapsulation of these sorts of overlooked, peripheral transformations of the world as we forcibly transition an entire planet into a new geo- and biological era."
bees  environment  anthropocene  insects  multispecies  2017  geoffmanaugh  bldgblog  davidmccombs 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Sounds of Extinct Birds – Earbirding
"Ever wondered what a Dodo sounded like? Or a Great Auk? Or a Kaua’i ‘O’o?

On a whim, I went looking for sounds of extinct birds on the internet, and I found a lot more than I bargained for — in more ways than one. I managed to turn up some of the rarest, most remarkable, saddest and most haunting recordings I’ve ever heard…and also some of the looniest. I’ll save the loony for last; let’s start with the poignant."
birds  sounds  recordings  anthropocene  artifacts  nature  animals  extinction 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent | Issue 28 | n+1
"On first read, I was dazzled and bewildered. Desperate to impress the organizer, who I thought brilliant, I strained over it line by line in hopes of insight. In the end, I mumbled through our meeting. I didn’t understand the Manifesto until I’d read it three more times. In truth, I probably still don’t. But for a young woman struggling to understand the world after Hurricane Katrina and a global financial crisis, Haraway beckoned. She offered a way to make sense of the things that seemed absent from politics as I knew it: science, nature, feminism.

The Manifesto proclaims itself to be against origin stories, but its own is hard to resist. In 1982, the Marxist journal Socialist Review — a bicoastal publication originally titled Socialist Revolution, whose insurrectionary name was moderated in the late 1970s as politics soured — asked Haraway to write five pages on the priorities of socialist feminism in the Reagan era. Haraway responded with thirty. It was the first piece, she claimed, she had ever written on a computer (a Hewlett-Packard-86). The submission caused controversy at the journal, with disagreement breaking down along geographic lines. As Haraway later recalled in an interview, “The East Coast Collective truly disapproved of it politically and did not want it published.” The more catholic West Coast won out, and the Manifesto was published in 1985 as “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s,” though it has been known colloquially as the Cyborg Manifesto ever since.

In one sense, Haraway did what she was asked: she outlined the contemporary state of political economy from a socialist-feminist perspective. Her reading of the shift to post-Fordism was loose but lucid. The rise of communications technologies made it possible to disperse labor globally while still controlling it, she noted, scattering once-unionized factory jobs across the continents. The gender of industrial work was changing too: there were more women assembling computer chips in East Asia than men slapping together cars in the American Midwest. Automation was lighter and brighter: in place of hulking industrial machinery, our “machines are made of sunshine” — but this light, invisible power nevertheless caused “immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore.” Family structures were changing: mothers increasingly worked outside the home and headed up the household. The result was what Haraway, drawing on Richard Gordon, called the homework economy — a pointed term for what’s euphemistically and blandly called the service economy.

The Manifesto offered a new politics for this new economy. Prescient about the need to organize the feminized, if not always female, sectors, Haraway explicitly called leftists to support SEIU District 925, a prominent campaign to unionize office workers. She also criticized the idea of a universal subject, whether held up by Marxists (the proletarian) or radical feminists (the woman). A new politics had to be constructed not around a singular agent but on the basis of a patchwork of identities and affinities. How, then, to find unity across difference, make political subjects in a postmodern era, and build power without presuming consensus? “One is too few, but two are too many,” she wrote cryptically. “One is too few, and two is only one possibility.” Acting as isolated individuals leads nowhere, but the effort to act collectively cannot leave difference aside. Women of color, Haraway suggested, following Chela Sandoval, could not rely on the stability of either category; they might lead the way in forging a new, nonessentialist unity based on affinity rather than identity.

This is where the metaphor of the cyborg comes in. For Haraway, the cyborg is a hybrid figure that crosses boundaries: between human and machine, human and animal, organism and machine, reality and fiction. As a political subject, it is expansive enough to encompass the range of human experience in all its permutations. A hybrid, it is more than one, but less than two.

In place of old political formations, Haraway imagined new cyborgian ones. She hoped that “the unnatural cyborg women making chips in Asia and spiral dancing in Santa Rita Jail” would together “guide effective oppositional strategies.” Her paradigmatic “cyborg society” was the Livermore Action Group, an antinuclear activist group targeting the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a nuclear-weapons-research facility in Northern California. The group, she thought, was “committed to building a political form that actually manages to hold together witches, engineers, elders, perverts, Christians, mothers, and Leninists long enough to disarm the state.”

What set the Manifesto apart from other reconceptions of feminism was its embrace of science. The cyborg was a figure that only a feminist biologist — herself an unlikely figure — could imagine. While by the 1980s many feminists were wary of biological claims about sexual difference, evading charges of essentialism by separating sex from gender (biology might give you a certain body, but society conditioned how you lived in it), Haraway argued that failing to take a position on biology was to “lose too much” — to surrender the notion of the body itself as anything more than a “blank page for social inscriptions.” Distinguishing her attachment to the body from the usual Earth Mother connotations was its famous closing line: “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

Who wouldn’t? The cyborg’s popularity was no doubt fueled in part by the vision of a bionic babe it suggested — a Furiosa or the Terminator — though it couldn’t be further from her meaning. Asked what she considered a true moment of cyborgness in 1999, Haraway responded, “the sense of the intricacy, interest, and pleasure — as well as the intensity — of how I have imagined how like a leaf I am.” The point was not that she shared some biological commonality with a leaf, or that she felt leaves to be kindred spirits (though she very well might have). What made her giddy was the thought of all the work that had gone into producing the knowledge that she was like a leaf — how incredible it was to be able to know such a thing — and the kinds of relationship to a leaf that such knowledge made possible.

Despite her frequent reminders that it was written as a “mostly sober” intervention into socialist-feminist politics rather than “the ramblings of a blissed-out, techno-bunny fembot,” many still read it as the latter. Wired profiled her enthusiastically in 1997. “To boho twentysomethings,” they wrote, “her name has the kind of cachet usually reserved for techno acts or new phenethylamines.” (More recently, the entrepreneurial synthetic biologist Drew Endy deployed the Manifesto in support of his bid to label synthetic biological products as “natural” under federal guidelines to increase their appeal to cautious consumers.)

Its Reagan-era coordinates may have changed, but the Manifesto remains Haraway’s most widely read work. The cyborg became a celebrity, as did Haraway herself, both serving as signifiers of a queer, savvy, self-aware feminism. Yet she has grown weary of its success, admonishing readers that “cyborgs are critters in a queer litter, not the Chief Figure of Our Times.”

Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s Haraway herself who sometimes seems the Chief Figure. There’s no Harawavian school, though she has many acolytes. She does not belong to any particular school herself, though many have attempted to place her. You can’t really do a Harawavian analysis of the economy or the laboratory; other than the cyborg, she’s produced few portable concepts or frameworks. Her own individual prominence runs counter to her view of intellectual work as collectively produced. Yet for thirty years she’s been ahead of intellectual trends, not by virtue of building foundational frameworks but by inspiring others to spawn and spur entire fields, from feminist science studies to multispecies ethics. Her work tends to emerge from problems she sees in the world rather than from engagement with literatures, thinkers, or trends, yet it manages to transcend mere timeliness.

Her new book, Staying with the Trouble, is a commentary on the most pressing threat of our era: catastrophic climate change. It’s hard to think of someone better suited to the task. Climate change requires ways of thinking capable of confronting the closely bound future of countless humans and nonhumans, the basis for certainty in scientific findings, the political consequences of such knowledge, and the kinds of political action that such consequences call for. If Haraway has long practiced such hybrid thinking, that also means the problem best suited to challenging her thought — to testing its mettle, and its usefulness to our political future — has decisively arrived."

"Under Hutchinson’s supervision, she wrote a dissertation heavily influenced by Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 landmark The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn had caused an uproar with his argument that rather than steadily progressing toward truth, the production of scientific knowledge was marked by conflict and upheaval. What scientists had once been certain was true would eventually be considered wrong. Each emerging framework was often incommensurable with what had come before. Kuhn called this phenomenon a “paradigm shift.” A classic example was the transition from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian relativity."

[See also: "Cthulhu plays no role for me" ]
donnaharaway  2017  science  scientism  feminism  cyborgs  serviceeconomy  economics  academia  philosophy  1982  1985  california  ucsantacruz  queerness  biology  nancyhartstock  marxism  fredericjameson  hueynewton  angeladavis  historyofconsciousness  teresadelauretis  climatechange  anthropocene  naomiklein  blockadia  rustenhogness  kinstanleyrobinson  cyborgmanifesto  jamesclifford  histcon  alyssabattistoni  blackpantherparty  bobbyseale  jayemiller  historyofscience  radicalism  radicalscience  multispecies  animals  praxis  gregorybateson  systemsthinking  language  storytelling  politics  intersectionality  situatedknowledge  solidarity  perspective  thomaskuhn  epistemology  reality  consciousness  primatology  theory  empiricism  octaviabutler  sciencefiction  scifi  patriarchy  colonialism  racism  ignorance  objectivity  curiosity  technology  biotechnology  technofuturism  companionspecies  dogs  ethics  chthulucene  capitalocene  ursulaleguin  utopia  mundane  kinship  families  unity  friendship  work  labor  hope  sophielewis  blackpanthers 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Extinction Studies
"We are a group of humanities scholars dedicated to the future of life in this time of extinctions. Our historical moment is one of unprecedented loss of planetary forms of life. Our research and writing is situated in a lively practice that emerges from our entanglement in these processes of loss.

Four main themes inform our work: time, death, generations and extinction. Time carries the emerging richness of intergenerational life on earth. Death is the necessary counterpart to life enabling and nourishing new generations, which constitute ongoing patterns of embodied inheritance. In its current manifestation, extinction is the violent termination of these gifts of time, death and generations.

Our vision for extinction studies is to engage with the profound implications of this cascade of loss."
extinction  multispecies  nature  anthropocene 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Science and the Senses: Perturbation — Cultural Anthropology
"I vividly remember how, on certain nights in my childhood, my brother and I would be herded toward the entrance hall of my parents’ house, where the Carl Zeiss Ultraphot II microscope still stands. This was a huge machine from the 1960s, one of the relics that my father would rescue from the constant upgrading of his lab required by so-called scientific progress. To me, as a child, it was some sort of abstruse, mysterious device. Taking up a large portion of the hall, it was a massive object, coming with its own table, which was usually covered with a thick gray drape to protect it from dust. Above the oculars, there was a giant, round screen typical of the 1960s design, all curves and matte metal. On those nights, my parents—both freshwater microbial ecologists—would take off the drape, turn all of the lights off, and turn on the screen to show my brother and me the wonders of microscopic worlds.

Growing up with experiences like this, the notion that science forgets the sensory never made much sense to me. Perception was present and was much more than just that: it entailed the full spectrum of emotions, passions, senses, and the kind of fascination and wonder that only the natural world can inspire. Still now, when I converse with scientists in the course of my fieldwork, I see that wonder and I find the senses present in all kinds of ways. Yet the role of the sensory is shifting. I hear it whenever my mother discusses her work with me: so many of the younger scientists with whom she works are oblivious, she tells me, to the sensorial engagements that she grew up with. “They don’t even count them!” she exclaims, referring to the microorganisms in their samples. “How can you know what you have if you don’t even look in the microscope?” The sensory dimensions of molecular biology are replacing the time consuming, eye-wrenching work of counting by microscope. More advanced techniques allow the scientist to determine what is in a sample without ever putting it in a slide under a microscope. Or so their proponents claim.

The problem with these changes is not so much the depersonalization of sensorial experience. Rather, it is the increasing confidence in new methods and the assumption that these are unproblematic and fully objective. The story goes that 16S rRNA analysis tells you what organisms you are dealing with with the certainty of a fact. Of course, most people working with these techniques know better. But as students have less time to get their degrees and are pushed forward faster, they have less time to doubt and to fully grasp the limits of their newly acquired sensorium. Often these techniques rely on advanced knowledge in other fields, far from the expertise of those who use them, thus hiding their limitations by design. Those who depend on these prosthetics are easily alienated from the nitty-gritty details of the materialities in play, and have little sense of what the limits and constraints of those prosthetics might be."

"This re-scription is useful when considering the scale of the microbial and the scientific sensorial apparatuses proper to it. But it is equally useful for thinking and doing on another scale, which is central to my current work: that of the planetary. Having been sucked into the maelstrom of the Anthropocene, my research tries to resist the traction of this notion and its mainstream political currents. To do so, I attend to the figure of the planet. The planetary scale is the motor force of the Anthropocene, on which the gears of the vast machine of sustainability rely. The way in which the Anthropocene frames global environmental change depends on the same sensorial apparatuses that make the planet. But in the process of making environmental emergency, the Anthropocene also risks remaking the planet Earth in its own image, perpetuating dangerous elisions and tensions and forgetting the limits of its own planetary sensorium. In resisting the notion of the planetary, then, I attend to it historically and praxiographically—but also, one might say, scientifically. My aim is to flesh out not only the continuities in the histories of this notion and its object, but also the gaps, interruptions, and diversions that characterize it. In doing so, I aim to offer inspiration for unfolding alternative constellations of the planetary. Here, the planet emerges not only as an object; it complicates the clear distinction between subjects and objects that informs the official epistemology of modern science. Rethinking the sensory in terms of modes of attention (and distraction) can, I think, play a crucial role in this rearticulation of the planetary away from received theories of knowledge, toward a world in which knowing is just one among a multiplicity of practices and doings/undoings that make worlds in which living together, willy-nilly, is done.

Attending to the sensorium of the planetary highlights the technosocial apparatuses that are at work in making planetary vision possible. It imagines as nature not only the planet, but also satellites, spaceflight, remote sensing, radioisotope tracers, global circulation models; the vast machine of climate-change science policy; social phenomena like the green economy and austerity; and the discourses of extinction, loss, adaptation, and proliferation that characterize the Anthropocene. Considering these sensory mediations as relational and historical modes of attention and distraction inflected across heterogeneous materials and sites allows us to attend to how knowing, doing, and living with the planet are enacted in the same gesture. This move can restore the sense of wonder that I saw in the screen of my childhood to the sciences."
science  senses  wonder  method  sfsh  expeuence  2017  donnaharaway  anthropology  anthropocene  perception  doubt  prosthetics  technology  time  technoscience  attention  maríacarozzi  williamjames  vincianedespret  knowing  distraction 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces | Aeon Ideas
"We are accustomed to the idea of geology and astronomy speaking the secrets of ‘deep time’, the immense arc of non-human history that shaped the world as we perceive it. Hawkes’s lyrical meditation mingles the intimate and the eternal, the biological and the inanimate, the domestic with a sense of deep time that is very much of its time. The state of the topsoil was a matter of genuine concern in a country wearied by wartime rationing, while land itself rises into focus just as Britain is rethinking its place in the world. But in lying down in her garden, Hawkes also lies on the far side of a fundamental boundary. A Land was written at the cusp of the Holocene; we, on the other hand, read it in the Anthropocene."

"Deep time represents a certain displacement of the human and the divine from the story of creation. Yet in the Anthropocene, ironically we humans have become that sublime force, the agents of a fearful something that is greater than ourselves. A single mine in Canada’s tar sands region moves 30 billion tonnes of sediment annually, double the quantity moved by all the worlds’ rivers combined. The weight of the fresh water we have redistributed has slowed the Earth’s rotation. The mass extinction of plant and animal species is unlikely to recover for 10 million years."

"There is also something disturbingly banal about the Anthropocene. Arguably, it’s in the encounter with everyday objects, surfaces and textures that we get the best sense of its scope and scale. Some 60 billion chickens are killed for human consumption each year; in the future, fossilised chicken bones will be present on every continent as a testimony to the intrusion of human desires in the geological record. Plastics, which began being mass-produced in the middle of the 20th century, give us back the world as the West has been taught to see it – pliable, immediately available, and smoothed to our advantage. Yet almost every piece of plastic ever made remains in existence in some form, and their chemical traces are increasingly present in our bodies. It is ironic that the characteristic ‘new’ smell of PVC is the result of the unstable elements in the material decaying. Although ostensibly inert, like Chernobyl’s ‘undead’ isotopes, plastics are in fact intensely lively, leaching endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Single-use plastic might seem to disappear when I dispose of it, but it (and therefore I) will nonetheless continue to act on the environments in which it persists for millennia.

The Anthropocene is a product of our fantasies of a frictionless, hyper-connected world. Humans created 5 billion gigabytes of digital information in 2003; in 2013 it took only 10 minutes to produce the same amount of data. Despite the appealing connotations of ‘the cloud’, this data has to go somewhere. Greenpeace estimates that the power consumption of just one of Apple’s immense data centres is equivalent to the annual supply for 250,000 European homes. Traces of this seemingly ephemeral data will persist into the deep time of the future, as rising concentrations of carbon warms the atmosphere."

"Deep time is not an abstract, distant prospect, but a spectral presence in the everyday. The irony of the Anthropocene is that we are conjuring ourselves as ghosts that will haunt the very deep future."
anthropocene  plastic  deeptime  science  time  longnow  humans  chickens  2016  davidfarrier  environment  earth  holocene  consumption  materialism 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Care — Cultural Anthropology
"I propose care as a methodological mode of attention that can ground the sometimes frightening implications of the Anthropocene as an epoch. Care as a method helps shift the overwhelming largeness of the spheres—bio, strato, litho—toward more intimate and personal relationships with the Anthropocene as an emergent quality of the natural/cultural world. A good working definition of care highlights the cultivated body-knowledges and sensibilities by which creatures come to attend to one another’s needs. The creatures I draw in here are teachers of western herbalism, their students, and the plants they work with. Their modes of learning care across biological difference can offer a response to the suggestion that problems of the Anthropocene—global climate change, plastics in the ocean, pharmaceuticals in the water supply, the potential collapse of global ecologies—are too big to cope with."

"An herbalist who wanders into the garden or out of the city to gather plants in less managed woods, field, desert and swamp, bends or reaches and slows down to greet the plant, asking permission to harvest some of its parts. He or she often leaves an offering, a gift, in return for the gift of the plant’s medicine. Visiting burdock, dandelion, or black cohosh, herbalists make room for the plant’s be-ing, beyond its usual object status. Caring across biologies emerges as a bodily practice through such exchanges. By attempting to move into plant time, herbalists construct a fleshly, embodied mode of attending that shifts their human perception and proprioception. Plants as beings become intimately palpable, emerging as a kind of kin to care for.

Herbalists’ intentionally intimate and embodied relational practices help articulate how and why plant-human relationships matter. Such practices understand plants as beings occupying a different mode of time, and as capable of coordinating with humans to enable care across entangled biologies and social ecologies of wellness and illness (see Craig 2012; Nading 2014). They offer us the chance to think more broadly about who can care for whom and how, rather than falling into the seductive traps of projected human victimhood that thinking with the Anthropocene so often offers (Dean 2016). This is carework not in terms of ocean levels or parts per million, although those articulations of the biosphere’s assemblages help to tell stories about why intimate forms of care are necessary. Rather, this care happens at the vegetal pace of affective and embodied relation across domains of experience. Care across biological difference can enrich the possibilities that the Anthropocene as a conceptual framework offers us, while also helping us thrive in its context."
care  caring  via:anne  anthropology  charisboke  anthropocene  multispecies 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"

"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."

"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.

As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing 
april 2016 by robertogreco
When chickens go wild : Nature News & Comment
"The feral chickens of Kauai provide a unique opportunity to study what happens when domesticated animals escape and evolve."

"Chicken and egg

“You won't see a bird as healthy-looking as that,” Wright says of the hen that he and Henriksen had captured at Opaekaa Falls. “Her plumage is perfect.” In the basement of a rented house on Kauai, the researchers have set up a makeshift laboratory where they photograph the bird, draw its blood and then kill it and prepare it for dissection. Wright starts with the hen's Brazil-nut-sized brain.

Their unpublished research has shown that the brains of domestic chickens are smaller than those of junglefowl, relative to their body size, and organized differently. The team hopes to identify the genes responsible for these changes and others, such as the diminished visual-processing systems of domestic birds. Life in the wild has also altered the reproductive systems of the feral chickens. Domestic breeds lay eggs almost daily, but breeding seasonally could allow feral chickens to reapportion the minerals devoted to eggs (which come from spongy tissue in the centre of their bones) to making their skeletons more robust. The researchers sample the hen's femur and also find that its ovaries are empty of egg follicles, which could be a sign of seasonal breeding.

Feralization has garnered much less attention from scientists than domestication (which gets a nod in chapter one of Charles Darwin's 1859 On the Origin of Species). But swapping of domestic and wild genes has been happening all over the world for thousands of years. A feral-sheep population that has lived on the island of St Kilda in the Scottish Outer Hebrides for as long as 4,000 years acquired beneficial alleles that determine coat colour from a modern domestic sheep breed some 150 years ago2. A 2009 study in Science3 found that some wolves in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, carry a domestic-dog version of a gene linked to dark coats that shows hallmarks of positive selection, possibly helping wolves from the Arctic to adapt to forested environments. “People would have thought that genes to live in a farm and house aren't going to be any good in the wild, but that's not necessarily true,” says Jonathan Losos, an evolutionary ecologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

And like Kauai's feral chickens, other feral animals such as dingoes in Australia and urban pigeons practically everywhere have not evolved back to the state of their wild ancestors — even if certain traits may trend in that direction.

Like chickens, other domesticated animals tend to have smaller brains than their wild cousins, relative to body size (see 'Free bird'). And brain regions involved in processing things such as sight, sound and smell are among the most diminished, perhaps because humans bred animals to be docile and less wary of their surroundings. Feral pigs in Sardinia seem to have regained large brains and high densities of neurons involved in olfaction, but not the abilities that come with them: their neurons do not express a protein that has been linked to the exquisite sense of smell in closely related wild boars4. Likewise, feral dogs, cats and pigs often lack the savvy of their wild brethren and still depend on human niches for their survival, notes Melinda Zeder, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Packs of feral dogs, for instance, do not form the complex hierarchies that make wolves such fearsome predators. “There's no leadership the way you get in a wolf pack. It's just a bunch of shitty friends ,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Oxford, UK, who is part of a team examining the mixed ancestry of Kauai's feral pigs."
feral  chickens  kauai  nature  birds  anthropocene  science  evolution  2016  ewencalloway  feralization  via:anne 
february 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no.3: non-ecological thinking
"When we think of the power to focus on a particular problem and solve it, we generally think of it as a useful ability. But what if the power to focus comes at the exclusion of the larger picture? Those responsible for putting new technological products into the public domain are often guilty of thinking in very localised terms - in other words, non-ecologically. This constraint is essentially about a chronic lack of lateral thinking; of being so focused on the immediate action or problem that implications for the broader ecology are ignored.

This was pioneering ecologist Charles Elton’s advice in 1927:
When an ecologist says ‘there goes a badger’, he should include in his thoughts some definite idea of the animal’s place in the community to which it belongs, just as if he had said, ‘there goes the vicar.

More recently, the cultural critic Neil Postman described technological change as ecological (in ‘Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change’, 1998):
Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. After television, America was not America plus television. Television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry, and so on.

So what happens when that dye is added? There are some obvious history lessons. To return to the nature analogy, for example, there is the introduction of humans - and with them rats, pigs, dogs, and monkeys - to Mauritius in 1505. (It was the Portuguese who first landed in Mauritius, a few years after discovering our little previously uninhabited island.) Mauritius was the home of the fabled, and sadly flightless, dodo bird. The dodo had evolved to fill a niche and naturally became complacent on its peaceful island, too relaxed in a world without predators to handle the first signs of globalisation. The flightless birds were completely unprepared for the new mammals … and as a result, they didn’t last long. Interestingly, the story of the dodo is not yet over: although the bird became extinct centuries ago, a certain species of tree that depended on the dodo for its own existence is only now following its path to extinction.

In market terms, meanwhile, there is the demise of independent local shops since the 1970s - made obsolete by supermarkets, shopping malls, and big box stores. The incursion of these consumer flytraps destabilized the harmony of communities and destroyed the fragile ecosystems of the high street and city centre - ecosystems that local governments have for years now been trying to regenerate, with varying degrees of success.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons why disruption occurs. Megastores like Whole Foods and Costco are nice to have nearby (as we at Crap Futures know very well, living on a remote island without their convenience). Food is usually cheaper and everything is in one place. Likewise Uber, which provides a better, neater, cleaner, cheaper, more efficient service than the established taxi companies in many places. The old taxi companies, like the flightless birds, became complacent in their gentle habitat; the Uber dogs came along and ate them up. But it won’t end there. As Uber’s Travis Kalanick said in a recent speech: ‘We don’t want to be like the taxi guys who came before us – we embrace the future.’ Uber drivers could well be replaced by the autonomous car in the not-too-distant future - a contingency Uber is aware of and hopes to see happen under its own control.

As the complexity of human ecosystems increases, the potential disruptors are becoming more subtle.

Perhaps the best example is the mobile phone. It started as just a portable phone, then a particularly small portable phone (what Germans sensibly named a ‘handy’). At this stage it still had relatively limited potential to disrupt. But then ‘smart’ features and supporting networks were gradually added, until suddenly the mobile phone had the ability to stir up and irreparably alter huge swathes of the urban ecosystem with app-based service companies such as Uber. In the past, interactions between user and product were temporary and limited - telephone cables fixed the context, isolating and containing the effect. The ubiquity and mobility of products today means that the effects of interaction create a complexity that cannot be readily understood - implications are far harder to imagine and more far-reaching. This only means that it is increasingly important to find ways of imagining these knock-on effects before they happen.

John Steinbeck paints a beautiful image of ecological complexity in The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951), an account of the six-week specimen-hunting trip Steinbeck took in the Gulf of California with the marine biologist Ed Ricketts:
One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

Steinbeck’s description of life in the tide pool poetically captures the complexity of scales, timeframes, and interactions that operate in a natural ecosystem - a complexity that is echoed in technological and cultural systems.

Some important questions to ask are:

How will a product be used, and by whom?

How will it interact with other (especially networked) products in the environment?

What happens when the product is moved to another habitat, possibly one it was not intended for, or to which it is not ideally suited?"
crapfutures  charleselton  1927  1998  neilpostman  ecosystems  systemsthinking  technology  future  complecity  production  environment  bighere  longnow  johnsteinbeck  nature  huamsn  anthropocene  globalization  2015  change  mauritius  dodo  disruption  local  power 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Anja Kanngieser – Listening To The Anthropocene Sound And Ecological Crisis by liquid_architecture

Lecture: Anja Kanngieser – Listening to the Anthropocene: Sound and ecological crisis

Mapping out a range of eco-acoustic practices from field recordings to data and geo-sonifications, the talk explores imaginations of the natural world at a time of accelerating global environmental crisis."
anjakanngieser  via:subtopes  2015  anthropocene  nature  sound  firldrecording  donnaharaway  cosmopolitics  isabellestengers  culture 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Isthmus: On the Panama Canal Expansion
"The shockwave of Panama Canal expansion is reshaping cities throughout the Americas. We need to look through the lens of landscape, not logistics."

"In the United States, many designers and urbanists have lamented the end of the modern age of infrastructure-building. Some call for renewed investment in public works 57 while others advocate for hacks and tactics to fill the perceived void. 58 However, we may soon see a new wave of infrastructural expansion built not by nation-states but by private interests (e.g. the Nicaragua Canal project driven by HKND Group, a Chinese corporation) or city governments (e.g. coastal cities such as Tokyo, Miami, and New York preparing for rising seas). Whoever is orchestrating construction, it’s clear that there is a continuing appetite for large-scale infrastructural works.

While the phenomenon of bigness is a common historical condition in the Americas generally 59 and the Panamanian isthmus specifically, the operative role of logistics distinguishes the current reconfigurations from the preceding five centuries of commerce, excavation, and construction. 60 The neutral language of logistics occludes the true scale of the Panama Canal expansion. Instead of acknowledging earth moved and channels dug, logistics celebrates wait times shortened and profit margins eased. And because it is a positivistic framework, logistics obscures the political and social implications of its behavior. But the canal expansion puts the lie to the claim that logistics is politically neutral. The primary medium of logistics is territory, and territory is land which is politically divided, controlled, and administered. 61

Efficiency is necessarily measured within bounds; redraw the boundaries, either physical or conceptual, and the calculus changes significantly. 62 The excess generated by the Panama Canal expansion and its networked effects challenges the validity of the bounds drawn around infrastructural projects of this scope and scale. Here the bounds are drawn based on the relatively narrow values admitted by logistics. Thus, the sedimentary surplus of excavation is seen as a disposal expense, rather than a potential resource, because the value it could generate would accrue to residents, turtles, and fish, not to the ACP or the global shipping corporations it deals with. The uncertain fate of American port expansions challenges the elevation of efficiency as a primary goal, by demonstrating that it may be impossible to draw boundaries so small that they meaningfully predict the behavior of such large systems in the manner demanded by positivist logistics.

We are not arguing that logistics should or will lose its role in the organization of infrastructure projects that have global effects. (That would be unrealistic, if only because of the intimate intertwinement of logistics and contemporary capitalism. 63) Rather, we argue that landscapes, people, and others affected by these projects would benefit if logistics were augmented with other conceptual tools. At the scale of the Panama Canal expansion, logistics has produced unintended effects that harm local communities and environments. While these are sometimes justified as necessary casualties of economic development, that defense collapses when the presumed economic benefits fail to materialize. The legacy of canal expansion may be a constellation of overbuilt and underutilized infrastructure projects and degraded ecosystems — symbols of unfulfilled political and economic ambitions. If this is common to logistical infrastructures at very large scales, then we should not use logistics as the sole framework for their conceptualization.

We argue that analytic and design frameworks that take landscape as their primary object should be among the tools used to evaluate such infrastructures. We say this precisely because landscape, as a concept, works with a more complete range of values — material (as emphasized in this essay), social, political, ecological, cultural, and aesthetic. 64 While logistics elides these dimensions, we have shown that they are present in the expansion project and have been a part of the canal landscape since its inception. 65 As a medium, landscape integrates multiple processes, indicators, and design goals. Landscape has both analytical and experiential dimensions, which makes it ideally suited for synthesizing ideas across science, design, land management, and other practices. 66 While the logistician frames every situation as a technical problem to be solved, the landscape designer sees a cultural project, an opportunity to bring together competing value systems and forms of expertise. Landscape foregrounds the values that are contested in a given project, and it does not assume that economic gain and efficient distribution are the only goals that matter. This is all the more important given that logistics is often speculative; promised economic benefits doesn’t always materialize, even as social and environmental effects do.

Here our argument differs from that of other writers in the design disciplines who have engaged logistics and the landscapes that it produces. Charles Waldheim’s and Alan Berger’s “Logistics Landscape” makes a direct connection between the production of physical space through logistics and landscape as a conceptual framework, but the article focuses on articulating logistical landscapes as a manifestation of the current period of urban history and offering a set of logistical landscape typologies. 67 It closes by asserting that landscape architecture could play a role in the design and planning of logistics landscapes, but does not articulate how that role might develop or what inadequacies in a purely logistical approach might need to be ameliorated. Writers such as Clare Lyster and Jesse LeCavalier critically examine and unpack the workings of logistical flow with the intention of drawing methodological lessons that might inspire designers, planners, and other urbanists, but they do not attempt to carve out roles for designers within the territories governed by logistics. 68 All of these researchers share a common interest in explaining why other disciplines, primarily designers, should be interested in how logistics operates.

We have taken a different approach, describing gaps in the operations of logistics in order to convey the urgency of approaching large-scale infrastructural projects with landscape tools, methods, and frameworks. The discipline of landscape architecture, which we as authors call our own and which Waldheim and Berger assert the value of, possesses some of these characteristics, but it is not alone. Landscape ecology, geography, soil science, environmental studies, the nascent spatial humanities, and spatial planning are all examples of disciplines that take landscape as their medium. 69 Working with colleagues from these disciplines, designers who learn to grapple with logistical bigness might discover new formats for public works, approaches which neither retreat to the tactical nor valorize a bygone era, but instead produce augmented speculative frameworks, novel spatial practices, and material responses fit to contemporary conditions."
shipping  panamá  panamacanal  ports  2015  anthropocene  architecture  geology  cities  us  americas  northamerica  southamerica  panamax  logistics  landscape  losangeles  oakland  seattle  infrastructure  bigness  scale  briandavis  robholmes  brettmilligan 
december 2015 by robertogreco
What's in the UN Paris Climate Deal? - The Atlantic
"In some ways, the most hopeful news out of Paris—the new 1.5 degree goal—is also the least realistic. Recent science has indicated that warming to two degrees, still the stated international red line, might be catastrophic, creating mega-hurricanes and possibly halting the temperate jet stream which waters American and European farmland.

From that perspective, 1.5 degrees is an encouraging, ambitious goal. But it’s also a promise that costs negotiators nothing while indicating great moral seriousness.

Because here’s the thing: The math still doesn’t work. 2015 is the hottest year on measure. Because of the delay between when carbon enters the atmosphere and when it traps heat, we are nearly locked into nearly 1.5 degrees of warming already. Many thought the world would abandon the two degree target at Paris due to its impracticality.

In order to slide under the 1.5-degree target, global emissions have to peak in the next five or six years. (Emissions slowed this year, mostly due to China’s economic downturn, but they are expected to rise again soon as India adds industrial capacity.) The world has to completely stop emitting carbon around 2060. Can it be done?

Now we find out. If climate change worries you, think about not only how you vote, but also how you spend your civic attention and how you communicate your concern to policy-makers. Think too about how you’re supporting those already affected by it.

To my mind, climate is our great story. No other narrative envelopes all of humanity in quite the same way, forcing answers about the ethics of food, of oil, of technology, of economic security, of democratic republics and command capitalism, of colonialism and indigenous peoples, of who in the world is rich and who in the world is poor.

We live in the middle of history. Nations still bicker over borders, flaunt weapons of mass death, and abhor refugees in their midst. Today they tried, miraculously and inadequately, to care for their common good."
robinsonmeyer  climatechange  climate  policy  2015  capitalism  economics  oli  energy  borders  weapons  refugees  humanity  anthropocene  colonialism  decolonization  hope 
december 2015 by robertogreco
What are the Topics? - Semester in Dialogue - Simon Fraser University
"Spring 2016. Semester in Experimental Futures
Full-time, 15 credits (DIAL 390W, 391W, 392W)

Application Deadline: Friday, October 23, 2015 at noon (PST)

“Experimental Futures” will explore the intersections of the environment (nature), politics (culture) and the role of the arts and dialogue to rethink and imagine new environmental and political associations and attitudes. Climate change and environmental degradation are rapidly increasing around the world, disproportionately impacting the globe’s most vulnerable. The intersection of culture, language, and ways of being are pushing us all to rethink how we consider, live among, and interact with each other.

We are bombarded with information in this digital age while struggling to find the meaning within it. Profound cultural changes are afoot and clearly needed in this newly named epoch the Anthropocene, compelling us to seek out new and substantially different solutions, shifting how we collectively engage one another. We will use the arts and dialogue as guides to explore building new relationships between people, places, and institutions while enunciating with clarity and impact the communities we seek for the future.

Focal questions may include:

How can we imagine new disruptive interventions, new models of engagement, collaboration, and governance, even new economic systems?

How can these new ideas be brought to the forefront as we try to bridge that gap between the old way of being in the world with novel ideals and policies for the future?

How do we articulate new progress while honouring powerful and important histories?

What role do the arts and dialogue play in locating and responding to these challenges?

What might relationships between the technological, ecological, and political become in light of these changes and possibilities?

We will explore these questions at various personal, local, regional, and global levels of scale, but focus our work at the local level to facilitate seeking vital responses to the challenges of political, ecological, and cultural issues faced in our immediate communities.

Possible questions might include:

What are the implications of the Anthropocene on the future of the greenest city?

How are the arts understood in the Lower Mainland and what role are they currently playing as disruptive and imaginative forces?

How does this kind of cultural work gain traction in our communities? What is the future of public spaces in the politics of the local?

What role do public movements and changing definitions of the social play in responding to the growing environmental crisis?

Where and how can emergent voices intervene, participate and shape these conversations?

This course will explore these and related themes through dialogues with thought leaders from across the spectrum of the arts, politics, environment and social change. You’ll be exposed to cinema, fiction, art projects and interventions, theoretical writings, case studies and on-the-ground projects with guest thought leaders, attend public events and organize participatory public programming to develop richer, more nuanced understandings of the challenges and possibilities of the future. You will be challenged to develop practices, ways of being, and the skills needed to play active roles as citizens, innovators (experimental imaginers), and collaborators in this new and changing world. This is about the creative imaginings at the intersection between nature and culture.

Course runs Monday thru Friday, 10:00-4:00, January 5 - April 11
15 credits (Dial 390W, 391W, 392W)


Sean Blenkinsop is an Associate Professor in the SFU Faculty of Education with a secondment for five years to the Semester in Dialogue.

Am Johal is the Director of SFU's Vancouver Office of Community Engagement in the SFU Woodward's Cultural Unit."
via:selinjessa  futures  education  classideas  amjohal  seanblenkinsop  anthropocene  environment  nature  politics  culture  art  climatechange  dialog  urbanism 
september 2015 by robertogreco
@justinpickard (A beaver rivals any entity within riparian worlds...)
""A beaver rivals any entity within riparian worlds for mounting stochastic operations and for thriving in stochastic zones—beavers reoccupied Mount St. Helens within months of the eruption and thrive in postmeltdown Chernobyl. When beaver dams break—routinely, unpredictably—they unleash a flood of water and sediment downstream; beavers rebuild dams within days or leave them breached and move elsewhere. Strategies adapting human livelihoods to anthropocene circumstances require that humans pay close attention to other species and notice how they respond stochastically to human actions and ecological forces." —Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and July Cole, ‘Transfiguring the Anthropocene: Stochastic Reimaginings of Human-Beaver Worlds’ (2015) [ ]"
beavers  anthropocene  cleowoelfle-erskine  julycole  manifestdestiny  engineering  technology  stochasticism  wildlife  science  nature  animals  multispecies 
september 2015 by robertogreco
More-Than-Human Lab. » Design Ethnography in the Anthropocene
"It’s the second week of winter trimester, and I’m teaching my second-year undergraduate course in Design Ethnography. The theme this year is the Anthropocene, or how design relates to people’s relationships with animals, plants, the Earth’s elements, and “natural” materials in an era defined by humanity’s impact on the planet.

In this course, students learn about some of the main ecological challenges facing the world today and how different cultures around the world understand the relationship between nature and culture. And we focus on developing critical and creative skills in observation, interviews, interpretation, representation, and reflection so that design can play a more sustainable role in our shared future.

Anthropocene Fever by Jedediah Purdy

The Anthropocene debate: Why is such a useful concept starting to fall apart? by Aaron Vansintjan

Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin (pdf) by Donna Haraway

Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet

Tomorrow we delve into what ethnography means and how we do it. I like this lecture because I get to share one of my favourite descriptions of ethnography, from Bronislaw Malinowski’s 1922 Argonauts of the Western Pacific :
“Ethnography has a goal, of which an Ethnographer should never lose sight. This goal is, briefly, to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of his world. We have to study man, and we must study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold life has on him. In each culture, the values are slightly different; people aspire after different aims, follow different impulses, yearn after a different form of happiness . . . In each culture, we find different institutions in which man pursues his life-interest, different customs by which he satisfies his aspirations, different codes of law and morality which reward his virtues or punish his defections. To study the institutions, customs, and codes or to study the behaviour and mentality without the subjective desire of feeling by what these people live, of realising the substance of their happiness—is, in my opinion, to miss the greatest reward which we can hope to obtain from the study of man.”

Ignore the outdated language and, almost one hundred years later, I think it is still an unusually eloquent statement on the beauty of our field of research. And if ethnography is committed to sharing stories about what it means to be human, then we can also count amongst its rewards a greater understanding of ourselves.

The first assignment is to conduct several hours of participant observation, doing something that can help us better understand people’s everyday understandings of, and interactions with, “nature”. I haven’t defined nature for them, and I can’t wait to see what they do!

I’ve also started doing something new this trimester: Each class begins with 10 minutes of sustained consideration of a photograph. Spending ten full minutes looking at one image is incredibly challenging but, I hope, also rewarding. The longer we spend looking at something, the more we stand to see. Our minds are given time to move away from–and perhaps more importantly, return to–what’s right in front of us. The activity, especially when done regularly, sharpens attention and increases awareness. It teaches students the foundational skill of all ethnographic research: engaged observation. The activity ends with answering one question: “What matters here?” and, of course, there is no right answer. The goal is simply to get better at seeing–at recognising–the larger context(s) which lend any image its resonance or power."
annegalloway  morethanhumanlab  anthropocene  photography  ethnography  designethnography  2015  jedediahpurdy  aaroncanistian  fonnaharaway  bronislawmalinowski  looking  noticing  observation  understanding  slow  classideas  multispecies  nature  culture  reflection  context  behavior 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Banality of Ethics in the Anthropocene, Part 1
"And so Earth scientists are now writing of human impact on a geological time scale. It is a development that calls into question modernity’s understanding of history, expressed in the nineteenth century by Jacob Burckhardt, that history is “the break with nature caused by the awakening of consciousness.” In Dipesh Chakrabarty’s profound observation: Human history and geological history have now converged.

These dazzling facts force us to rethink the place of humankind in deep history. A long time after we modern Prometheans disappear, or retreat to a position where we are no longer interfering in the Earth System, the great processes that drive planetary change – orbital forcing, plate tectonics, volcanism, natural evolution and so on – will overwhelm human influence.

But the planet will not settle into a state that looks anything like the Holocene; it has been diverted onto a different trajectory and there is no going back. We must concede what seemed impossible to contemplate – humans have become agents changing the course of deep history.

What does all this mean for justice and ethics? I would like to suggest that, without relieving individuals of culpability, when we step back and survey these Earth-shattering events our established ethical categories and legal principles appear banal and feeble. If the human impact has been so powerful that it has deflected the Earth from its natural geological path, describing the state of affairs as “unethical” or “unlawful” seems to be some kind of category error."

[Part 2:

"The feebleness of ethics may be conceded in the case of consequentialist and duty ethics, but what about virtue ethics? Are we not in this predicament because hubris has defeated humility, because self-interest has trumped concern for others? Perhaps, but the virtues that guide us in daily life tell us nothing about the place of humans on the planet, and that is now what is at stake.

The attempt to frame a transformed climate by mere ethics risks normalising an event without parallel, of rendering prosaic a transition that is in fact Earth-shattering. If the imprint of humans on the functioning of the Earth system has become so large that we have initiated a new geological epoch, the recourse to law and ethics leaps over a more foundational question: What is man? What kind of being made these laws and ethical codes, and what kind of being changed the course of Earth history?

Philosophy since Descartes had answered the former question definitively, and since then it has exercised only a few in the shadows. But unless we open it up again we will flounder around attempting to understand the dilemmas of an ontologically new epoch with the categories of the old one. It is an approach as anachronistic as an animal trial would be today. When human history and natural history become entangled it is no longer credible to argue that the future of the Earth depends only on the moral struggle of modern men and women.

The Earth scientists tell us that the giant beneath our feet is stirring. No longer do we face the sullen resistance of nature to our demands, resistance that in the past has been progressively overcome with more powerful technologies. Now we see a force awakening to its own power.

Against the foundation of modern law and ethics in the moral autonomy of the subject we find ourselves in an increasingly heteronomous world. We no longer have a monopoly on agency. We have assumed that the only kind of willing in the world lies in the consciousness of human beings; yet in the Anthropocene we must confront the possibility of a “will” beyond our own, that which we can only gesture at with metaphors like “the awakened beast”.

"So what is man? The [Sorcerer’s] Apprentice. Yet unlike the pleasing ending to Goethe’s story, with the Sorcerer returning at the last moment to set things right, in the last century or so humans have usurped the role of Sorcerer and changed the world irrevocably.

What is the essential flaw in this being, the being that can spread across the entire surface of the Earth and create fantastically elaborate social structures, including systems of ethico-legal principles to govern its behaviour, and yet send the planet careening off onto a new and dangerous trajectory that jeopardizes all forms of life? Modernity’s greatest philosophical invention, the autonomous subject, now stands on shaky ground, the trembling of “the giant beneath our feet”."]
ethics  anthropocene  climatechange  environment  2015  clivehamilton  via:anne 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Anthropoid Condition - The Los Angeles Review of Books
[via: "Great interview w/ John D. Peters at @LAReviewofBooks: . A lot of people think they’re smart; Peters is really smart."

"Peters’s new book, “The Marvelous Clouds,” is easiest the smartest thing I’ve read in a ages, btw. " ]

"BRÍAN HANRAHAN: What distinguishes your understanding of 'media' in The Marvelous Clouds from other, maybe better-known uses of the term?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: 'Media' is one of those terms whose meaning is as imprecise as a plate of spaghetti. And like 'spaghetti,' few can tell if it is a plural or singular noun. My academic preference is to say “media are” with a plural verb in order to underline the diversity of media forms and formats, but most people are happy to talk about media as a mass noun and use the term to refer to everything from journalists and publicity to furnace filters and hard drives. In the field of media studies, media typically are more clearly defined as a cluster of institutions, audiences, and programs (e.g., Disney, BBC, or Google), but there is a minority tradition I favor that sees media more broadly as staples, environments, and data processors of all kinds — as elements in the middle. Some of my critics say this view stretches the concept beyond its breaking point, but I believe ubiquitous computing has already stretched media more than our concepts have: thanks to digital transformations, media are so environmentally pervasive that we need an encompassing definition to match. Theory is usually playing catch-up.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: The book delves into innumerable subjects, skipping through dozens of disciplines: anthropology, zoology, theology, astronomy, the history of technology, cultural history of many kinds, philosophy and literature and more. But if there is one term that you seem to identify with, it is 'media theory.' On the face of it, that might seem a modest label for such a broad vision. So what is “media theory,” as you understand it, and what can be learned from it?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Glad that you think it is a matter of skipping rather than skidding! The book presupposes a view of knowledge and research that it doesn’t spell out at any length. What would the university look like if we took seriously the mortality of the human knower and the responsibility to speak to the species rather than only to one’s peers? I believe it would be a less turfy, more humble, and more interdisciplinary place, one less focused on the newest thing and more open to long stretches of time.[i] Labeling fields of study often amounts to little more than a branding exercise, so my unpretentious choice of “media theory” is, among other things, an indirect comment on academic tribalism. Media theory has almost no barriers to entry — you’d be amazed at how readily some people opine on media without any sense of the field’s traditions or concepts — and almost anyone can call themselves a media theorist; as beings who live in the middle, in medias res, I think that every human being is potentially such a creature. Media theory, at its best, is a means of seeking greater awareness of the basic conditions in which we live.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: Clouds, unlike fire, sky, and sea, don’t get chapters to themselves in the book, but they are in the title, and they are a recurring motif. What is so interesting about clouds for a media theorist and historian?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Clouds are interesting because they bring together so many great questions. It’s hard to boil down something I’ve thought so much about, but here goes.[ii]

First, clouds raise very fundamental questions of where significance lies. Clouds are often thought to be blank and meaningless, the playthings of whimsy. Hardly. Few things are so packed with meaning. Once you start looking at clouds, you see them everywhere in art, literature, religion, and popular culture, and of course in the sky. The question of what clouds mean is a deep one; reading clouds is the paradigm case of how to interpret nature and how not to. Clouds tell us about the weather and the future, and reading the sky is a basic human task; in Iowa, where I live, like many places, clouds are among the most spectacular forms of natural beauty. Of course, there is a long tradition of scorn starting from at least Aristophanes aimed at anyone who finds meaning in clouds, but it is just as foolish to say clouds have no meaning (ask a sailor, pilot, or farmer if clouds mean nothing). The meaning that remains once you subtract human intention turns out to be rich, and I argue that media theory should take this abundant zone of meaning seriously.

Second, from the poison gas clouds of World War I to the mushroom cloud of World War II to the data cloud today, clouds are telling historical markers. While writing the book, I would tell people I was writing about clouds, and they’d sometimes respond, Oh, I work in IT too! (The cloud metaphor, with its hints of benign oversight and calm flow, richly serves the ideological interests of the IT industry.) That the default meaning of “cloud” has become “server-based data storage” is a symptom of nature being absorbed by technology and technology becoming second nature. It is remarkable how casually we accept this monstrous hybrid of atmospheric aerosols and computing infrastructure without a second thought. Clouds are thus a symptom of what it is fashionable to call the anthropocene, the geological epoch in which human agency alters nature radically.

Third, clouds are an elemental background that surrounds us — and unnoticed environments are prime territory for media theory. A central point of the book is that if we define media as carriers of significance then media should include natural elements; studying aerosol clouds and data clouds side by side gives me a way to make this point.

Fourth, clouds raise two fundamental problems in media theory: how to record phenomena that exist in time and how to represent ones that do not conform to a symbolic system.

Regarding recording, the book is a meditation on how media capture and fail to capture time, and clouds are a good example of entities whose nature is to vanish. Clouds illustrate media ontology. Like sounds and music, clouds exist by disappearing. They exist in time. Clouds are highly material — just this morning so much rain dumped on southeastern Iowa as to trigger flashflood warnings again — and their dynamic materiality is suggestive for media under volatile digital conditions (probably one reason the cloud metaphor took hold so readily).

Regarding representing, clouds bear significance, but without any code to clarify what they mean. Their meanings are essentially vague. The history of cloud media, in painting and photography, is the struggle to capture sensuous objects that are also abstract. (The sky was painting abstract impressionist images long before humans did!) Clouds are the original white noise. Well before analog media such as film and sound recording broke the stranglehold of the symbolic in the late nineteenth century, painters struggled to depict cloud colors and forms, often with stunning results. The ability to represent the indefinite is one of the great achievements of modern mathematics and media, and clouds were at the vanguard here too. If you want to understand how meaning works, you have to understand vagueness, and clouds are a chief example.

Finally, clouds have long been associated with thinking, philosophizing and ultimate things, so they fit my atmospheric interests well. I know the title opens me up to wisecracks about academic loftiness. But in a world run by data-analytics Luftmenschen, it is good to get reacquainted with clouds and other kinds of sky media.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: Why does the media culture of cetaceans, as you imagine it, play such a large role in your history of planetary technics? And what distinguishes your approach from previous thinking about the cetacean world? As you point out, dolphins and whales have long been subjects of utopian fantasy, as well as scientific communications research.

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Cetaceans, the family of whales, porpoises, and dolphins, are often considered among the most intelligent animals on earth (especially dolphins), but they lack the infrastructures that anchor human existence such as feet, hands, fire, clothing, writing, right angles, celestial orientation, and all other forms of technology. Cetaceans thus present a kind of thought experiment about what it might be like to live in a technology-free habitat. Cetaceans could have techniques — say, of dancing, fishing, or communicating — but they could not have technologies, i.e., made materials that shape other materials, including their environments and minds. They live in habitats immune to fabrication, and thus offer a stark contrast to the human “technosphere,” our domesticated bubble of carbon and silicon, GMO crops and insulation. Intelligent marine mammals offer a radical alternative, at least in thought, to our essentially and externally technical history, and show us how much of what we take to be human depends on our technical supports."

[too much to quote]
johnduhampeters  matthomas  2015  interviews  media  feminism  clouds  cloud  infrastructure  hubris  cetaceans  anthropocene  technology  technosphere  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  writing  history  inderdisciplinary  silos  whitenoise  time  meaning  online  internet  tribalism  academia  mediatheory  slow  zoominginandout  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  transdisciplinary 
july 2015 by robertogreco
more-than-human lab - Thinking out loud
"I am a design ethnographer, researcher and educator. I work in the era of late capitalism, in the epoch described as the Anthropocene. I live in the world as an animal amongst animals, and I trade in things. I choose to work with those age-old structures of Western thought: animal, vegetable, mineral. And I choose to look for new ways of understanding them."
anthropology  ethnography  annegalloway  2015  animals  multispecies  posthumanism  capitalism  latecapitalism  anthropocene  understanding  research  education 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The pope's climate change message is really about rethinking what it means to be human - Vox
"Critics will (and do) argue that the pope does little to grapple with the tension between the economic growth and development that has allowed billions to escape dire poverty — development fueled, literally, by the same polluting technologies Francis sharply criticizes and would see curtailed — and the pope's call for all to share in the very benefits that such growth and development has made possible. For all its problems, the fact that the global economy has lifted billions out of the worst poverty must count for something. Would the pope have us hamstring the engine of economic development for the sake of environmental conservation? And if so, how are the poor to receive the incredible benefits that our modern economy has made possible?

The pope's answer, it seems, is that the material benefits of our modern economy might not be quite so wondrous as we like to think. In a poorer world, a world less able to afford self-reliance, solidarity between people will be all the more important. As he writes toward the end of the encyclical:
Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that "less is more."

This may be rather shocking to some, perhaps even most. So let me suggest a way to understand how the "pope of the poor" can, essentially, advocate for a poorer world. Francis is a man who understands that abject poverty grinds men down and crushes their human dignity. It is inhumane and unjust, a source of scandal and a cause for moral outrage. But the pope is also a man who understands that there is a kind of relative poverty in which basic material needs are met but there is limited room for luxury and no room for waste.

This kind of poverty can provide detachment from material things, allowing us to enjoy them for what they are — gifts from a generous and loving God. This understanding of poverty — which has deep Christian roots going back to the Gospel itself — is far from an unqualified evil. In fact, it's a virtue. And for Pope Francis — a man who long ago took his own vow of poverty, and took as his namesake a man of profound poverty, Francis of Assisi — this understanding provides a crucial insight into the way human beings relate to the world around us and to one another.

Like I said, the pope's views on climate change aren't what make this a radical document."
laudatosi'  popefrancis  2015  environment  climatechange  human  anthropocene  humanity  via:anne  technology  science  economics  inequality  poverty  detachment  consumerism  capitalism  stephenwhite  christianity  catholicism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis – Blog – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"The normalisation of liberal individualism and the unsustainable form of prosperity on which the West has so long relied are, of course, the crowning achievements of what Luigino Bruni calls the "grand 'immunizing' project of modernity." But this project did not simply clear away the tyranny of inherited privilege, thereby returning individuals to themselves and their own acquisitive desires. Instead, this immunity from our obligations to others - what John Rawls more prosaically called the "mutual disinterest" constitutive of the social contract - involved the radical renunciation of the munus: that obliging gift which forms the basis of the social bond that is at the heart of communitas.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II captured the essence of this gift in a simple, wondrous sentence: "God entrusts us to one another." Once this munus is renounced, what follows is a hollowed out form of social life, a debased, erstaz community in which, "Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail."

(It is worth pointing out in passing that Pope Francis and John Paul II find an unlikely ally in Julian Savulescu, who shares their critique of the failure of liberalism to produce the kind of citizens that are willing make decisions for the good of others, especially when doing so would run counter to self-interest and immediate benefit: "This restraint of self-interest is the very opposite of the unrestrained satisfaction of it made possible by industrialization and its profusion of material goods, which brought liberal democracy into existence. Liberal democracy has so far been a politics of prosperity, and this induces doubt whether it could turn into a politics of parsimony, voluntary restraint, and decreasing welfare." As a result, Savulescu warns, "contemporary liberal democracies are in the danger of being too liberal to last.")

The great achievement of Pope Francis's encyclical is the way it explicitly deepens and extends the scope of that which has been entrusted to us: our shared environment; the wellbeing of those near and far; the wellbeing of future generations. The language of gift and of what is in common pervades the encyclical, and at once condemns the interpersonal and political indifference that has held sway over the "climate change debate" and exposes the inadequacy of purely technocratic solutions to the problem of environmental degradation.

Implicated in the pope's critique of both interpersonal indifference and a kind of technophilic solutionism is the way that social media cultivates a feeling of concern and even ethical responsibility, all the while shielding us from any real commitment to others."

"For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled. This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change. As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects (or "costs") are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act."

This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress, and a powerful illustration of C.S. Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man (which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough). Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.""
popefrancis  2015  laudatosi'  morality  christianity  luiginobruni  modernity  capitalism  interdependence  johnrawls  juliansavulescu  popejohnpaulii  scottstephens  normawirzba  clivehamilton  celiadeane-drummond  charlescamosy  michaelstafford  via:anne  religion  climatechange  ecology  economics  technosolutionism  anthropocene  antropocentrism  individualism  generations  internet  relationships  inequality  power  cslewis  progress  technology  stephengardner  interpersonal  indifference  empathy  responsibility  socialmedia  concern  commitment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Superwolves, new butterflies, and all the hybrid species evolving before our eyes - Quartz
"Some scientists and conservationists see the coywolf as a nightmare of the Anthropocene—a poster child of mongrelization as plants and animals reshuffle in response to habitat loss, climate change and invasive species. Golden-winged warblers increasingly cross with blue-winged warblers in the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada. Southern flying squirrels hybridize with northern flying squirrels as the southern species presses northward in Ontario. Polar bears mate with grizzlies in the Canadian Arctic along the Beaufort Sea to produce “pizzly bears.”

All of this interbreeding upsets the conventional notion of species as discrete, inviolable entities. Moreover, some scientists and conservationists warn that hybridization will degrade biodiversity as unusual species are lost to genetic homogenization.
Partly scientists fear hybrids will be less fit than organisms that have evolved in place over eons. And often that is true, but the problem solves itself over time as hybrids lose out in the competitive race for survival.

Sometimes, however, the hybrids are more fit. Gradually they outcompete distinctive strains and species, wiping out biological diversity that has evolved over millennia. Often it is a common generalist species that swamps and essentially obliterates a rare, specialized and localized species. Many biologists view such occurrences as a net loss of biodiversity."

"“Hybridization is one of the overlooked but clearly very, very important causes of species’ going extinct,” says Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. “Hybridization is a major problem. It comes from our moving species around, it comes from our changing habitat.”"

"Scientists who view hybridization as a driver of evolution and biodiversity say it even has a role to play in future conservation. Rather than try to protect rare species, such as the red wolf, from hybridization at all costs, biologists should consider the advantages of “the potential adaptive benefits from genomic transfers,” Arnold says.

Opponents of hybridization “might argue it’s less fit if it’s a hybrid,” says Arnold. “My argument would be, well, maybe it’s more fit. They would argue that hybridization is destroying biodiversity. And I would argue that maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s adding to it.”
The coywolf is as good an example as any—a combination of coyote stealth and wolf robustness that has helped it adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.

This more tolerant view of hybridization has already scored one huge conservation success story. Faced with an isolated and severely inbred population of Florida panthers, wildlife managers in the state reinvigorated the population by releasing eight female cougars of a different subspecies captured in Texas. Opponents of the move were concerned that hybridization between subspecies would destroy what was unique about the Florida panther. But the infusion of new genes saved the population.

Scientists and conservationists shouldn’t reflexively try to enforce distinctions between species and subspecies, says Arnold. “I really don’t like this idea of purity, because if we really push that to its nth degree, we are a hybrid. So we need to get rid of us.”"
2015  evolution  nature  climatechange  hybrids  gregbreining  interbreeding  coywolf  anthropocene  hybridization  animals 
june 2015 by robertogreco
AC2015 - Chair's plenary: Feral geographies: life in capitalist ruins
"Two questions guide this talk. First, how have industrial processes changed earth ecologies—even far from industrial centers? Second, given that Anthropocene ecologies have moved outside human design, how shall we understand their geographies as simultaneously global and local? Using invasive fungal pathogens, parasites, and decomposers as my entry point, I will examine histories of invasion that clarify overlapping human and nonhuman world-making, as this leads to feral geographies. On the one hand, such histories illustrate unintentional design, that is, landscapes made by many living things. On the other hand, they suggest that something new—and beyond human control—has emerged in our times, challenging the livable ecologies of earlier landscape dynamics. Indeed, newly deadly more-than-human capacities, with their feral geographies, give substance to the concept of the Anthropocene. Mapping them allows Anthropocene to do crucial work: drawing together a transdisciplinary discussion of industrial effects. The talk thus addresses the possibility of opening disciplinary and conceptual borders, not just for the critique of dichotomies between nature and culture, but also, more urgently, for the making of forms of knowledge, which, while not universal, know what travel is and how to chance it. This is a challenge, then, for both theory and description. Might joining the discussion called “Anthropocene” require humanistic social scientists to rethink our knowledge practices? Meanwhile, the talk is a renewed endorsement of the importance of arts of noticing—and critical description—for our unsettled times."
geography  feralgeographies  feral  anthropocene  capitalism  via:anne  2015  jamielorimer  sarahwhatmore  annatsing  stephenhinchliffe  gaildavies  charylmcewan  noticing  landscape  nonhuman  multispecies  human  design  geoengineering  parasites  pathogens  decomposers  decomposition  annalowenhaupttsing 
may 2015 by robertogreco
e-flux journal 56th Venice Biennale – SUPERCOMMUNITY – The Great Silence
"The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a non-human species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?"

"It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.

When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.

I speak, therefore I am. Vocal learners, like parrots and humans, are perhaps the only ones who fully comprehend the truth of this."

"Human activity has brought my kind to the brink of extinction, but I don’t blame them for it. They didn’t do it maliciously. They just weren’t paying attention.

And humans create such beautiful myths; what imaginations they have. Perhaps that’s why their aspirations are so immense. Look at Arecibo. Any species who can build such a thing must have greatness within it.

My species probably won’t be here for much longer; it’s likely that we’ll die before our time and join the Great Silence. But before we go, we are sending a message to humanity. We just hope the telescope at Arecibo will enable them to hear it.

The message is this:
You be good. I love you."
jenniferallora  guillermocalzadilla  arecibo  aspiration  2015  listening  attention  extinction  anthropocene  humans  parrots 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Watch: Satellite time lapse reveals humanity's global footprint - Vox
"[video: ]

In the 1970s, some forward-thinking NASA scientists put an Earth-observing satellite into orbit. At an altitude of 570 miles, it photographed the entire planet every 18 days, circling Earth 14 times a day and sending the data back to ground stations.

Forty years later, this satellite and its successors have created the longest continuous record of our planet's surface. By stringing the images together, NASA and the US Geological Survey have shown how rapidly and how profoundly humans are changing the face of Earth.


In this time lapse showing the massive growth of Las Vegas, vegetation appears red because the images were partially gathered through infrared sensors. Golf courses and lawns jump out, foretelling the city's water scarcity problems. Off of Lake Mead an artificial lake appears in the 1990s, and developments form alongside it. This is Lake Las Vegas, where Celine Dion lives.

Check out the video above to see what 40 years of satellite imagery reveal about humanity's global footprint.

Read more: 15 before-and-after images that show how we're transforming the planet"
satelliteimagery  via:vruba  anthropocene  nasa  geology  geography  2015  energy  defoestation  envionment  earth  urbansprawl  wateruse  aralsea  lasvegas  brazil  brasil  climatechange  wyoming 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Knowing is Not Naming by Xiaowei Wang | recaps
"We never spoke about the end of empires, but when it happened, we had not seen each other for years. Somehow it escaped our taxonomy of the world, in between the causally symmetric balances and the notes you kept in the cabinet of a northeast institution, in a town with any latitude and longitude. Like our speech to each other, you defied my intuition, kept order and categories until rationale was exhausted.

It happened first on your end of the world, when you gave a night’s walk and noticed the trees full of luminaries. You said to me over the phone how it began on Mott St., an intersection with waning gingkos and brick clad buildings. You thought they were off season holiday lights; decorations for no one’s party.

You knew no one better to call, so it was the first time I heard your voice in years. I was alone in an apartment without furniture, body pressed against the floor, monitoring tiny earthquakes against the house’s wood frame as you hurriedly conspired with me about the emergence of these little creatures: Lux meridiani.

The aftershock of your voice arrived when I could count time in non-linear cycles again. Measurements and miles, the ratio of one encoded word to another were forgotten. I built systems of knowledge with others, in gardens and warehouses, gallery walls and sheets. The small radio you gifted me playing Brigitte Fontaine no longer held sound or gravity.It was those insects that arrived first in your port. Our classification scheme made during my aftershock became a world itself, a procedure that was defined after it had happened. It was a fidelity of information that could only ascribe the certainty of persistent learning, a final becoming of what one so deeply desired. A difficulty in routine.

I saw you weeks later on the TV screen at the deli, on a show filled with gleaming smiles, taut faces and perpetual ticker. You looked tired, thin, with less hair and more gravitas. The reporter asked your opinion on the plight that was at full rage in all known urban areas of North America. My eyes were ready for the invasion in sunny California, where endless summer and relentless beauty overwhelmed my walks and daily reckonings.

New York was first hit the hardest – a glowing light in all street trees on darkened winter days to evenings: persistent radiance. I imagined you from the confines of a light drenched “day”, tracing cartographic vectors of botanical disease, examining shipping container seals, in entomology departments echoing with rubber soled shoes and wool, practicing progressive devotion at the altar of naming.

I wrote all that I could follow, sending you messy notes on maps, telling you it was the geography of will that could only manifest such an insect plague. An alienation of latitude, a degree of material difference in fate that marked us unable to comprehend emergence any more than the life of the pharoah ant or the dragonfly. We exhausted our reserves of trade, wrote: it would be enough to accept defeat from this false economy into the next period of unnamed exchange.

It was my last letter to you that allowed me to forget our geographies and Linnaean schemes. You had stopped replying and I had found the perpetual light of evenings past, a blanket to sleep in periods of short duration. What did time or hours mean anymore, when I had forgotten dusk as a category and day as a known escape?

We awaited your team’s verdict, exactly where Lux meridiani appeared or evolved from, and which numbered crate from a precise longitude or latitude it arose. My neighbors went on with their hours. There were no more lights inside houses, only black curtains drawn tightly. Pundits and scientists enjoyed showing satellite images of the world at “night”, composited into one gleaming beacon where every pixel of continent was white. Days of rain were welcomed as relief to our thirst for some darkness, some contrast in quiet.

A year later, without any results, conclusions or reports with modest covers, you disappeared with all your notes and books. It was then I recalled clearly the first time you looked at me, lips curled asking if I only tolerated bad news.

It was this bad news that made our fiction: The first time you kissed me next to the sundial, during the autumn when sundials still signified movement. A roccoco frame, gold, 4cm in width and height, shaded behind a velvet cloche. Olfactory dislocation, the ancient image of darkened alleys where mystery might have kept itself, a time when engines of recoding were somewhere between ecology and industry, and the rustle of plastic and tinny coos of zippers. A time when projections of desires still existed in the last coordinate of black. The melancholy of pleasure: placed between lines of parameters, poetry and disaster.

“Knowing is not naming”

This workshop/teach-in will focus on the notion of the Anthropocene and the underpinnings of environmental change as a geographical issue, generated by the tension between classification, remote sensing and ground truthing.

Through specific case studies of “natural disasters”, we will look at the systems of land use classification and how ideology is embedded in these ways of categorizing and ordering nature. Beginning with the earliest botanical gardens as a method to classify novel fauna from imperial conquest to the technologic determinism that continues to imbue indices of urbanization and human extents, we will understand hierarchies created by floristic maps more deeply and develop new ways to reconfigure some of the most embedded categories we have towards land use.

Lux meridiani accompanies this workshop as a cartographic fiction built on existing data. By playing with thresholds in the geographical data and reorienting certain land use classifications, Lux meridiani takes the continuous exchange of invasive insects through global trade to imagine the emergence of a new, unknown species that infests street trees in urban areas with relentless luminescence. In this fable, Lux meridiani explicitly states what has been happening all along; that the recoding of our environment has been an economic rather than ecological engine all along."
xiaoweiwang  art  taxonomy  names  naming  cartography  luxmeridiani  anthropocene  2015  landuse  categorization  classification  nature  geography  insects  environment 
april 2015 by robertogreco
6, 52: Continuity
"Pleistocene Park has been in the news, maybe off this Independent coverage. My hunch is that rewilding and de-extinction (and cautious geoengineering generally) are probably great ideas and we’ll come to regret that we didn’t do our scientific and political due diligence earlier. But that’s only a strong opinion weakly held, and what seems more interesting now is understanding how Pleistocene Park, as a flagship, plays in the media.

It’s telling, for example, that Jurassic Park is so often the introductory metaphor. A few months ago, this newsletter mentioned the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve, another private rewilding project that’s more radical in at least five ways: (1) how close it is to people, (2) how far back in time it goes, (3) that it’s rewilding a species that was naturally locally extinct, (4) in terms of biomass turnover, and (5) how far along it is – already finding previously undocumented behavior. But Crescent Ridge is only charismatic megaflora, and Pleistocene Park just has to say “mammoth” to be news.

I think some of that comes down to people fearing mammoths. There’s maybe a sense that we would be in competition, that in a few years they might be intimidating joggers in Yakutsk and trampling wheat fields in Irkutsk. In other words, that large wild animals should probably not exist.

– I had buffalo burger for brunch today. The bison were the largest North American animals to survive the climate change and hunting at the end of the last glacial maximum. There were something like 25,000,000 of them before the United States. In 1890, there were about 1,100. Now there are about 500,000, many of them more or less sustainably ranched.

– Via @annegalloway’s more-than-human lab’s tumblr, 3,200 toy tigers around space for 40,000."

"Tangentially: the nearest big city to Bisie is Goma, on the Rwandan border, between Lake Kivu and Mount Nyiragongo. @jw_rosen has just written two articles about Goma and the lake: After years of war, Goma, DRC, is open for business and (with lovely photographs by Jason Florio) Lake Kivu’s Great Gas Gamble. Rosen is wary of many of the traps that certain other Western journalists are stuck in like wasps in bottles when they try to talk about the region. The gorillas, for example. Or the old National Geographic angle that I remember someone parodying with a line like “Biknis and Uzis: Beautiful, Troubled Brazil is a Land of Contrasts at a Crossroads”. Rosen manages to show a picture of Goma that encompasses complexity without absurdly exoticizing it, that can show M23, Au Bon Pain, natural disasters, and kombucha without being like “See?! This place is weirder than your place!”

(There are a couple angles here that I’m saving for another time, but just because I want to, here are two Goma-related videos I enjoyed: a cover of Pharrell’s Happy and Lake Kivu – Bukavu to Goma.)"

"This morning I read about the Mediterranean drownings, and the unidentified bodies of people who die of dehydration while crossing the border into Arizona, and then rich countries’ hesitations about bringing in Syrian refugees. I see the camps, you know. In the satellite imagery. It’s not as important as listening to the people in them. But helps me relate in other ways. The big ones – Zaatari, Dadaab – are as big as cities. They are cities, cities on life support.

My grandfather’s family were Czech Jews who narrowly avoided the Holocaust. The wealthy nations wouldn’t give them visas. Everyone could see what Hitler was up to. But the US and others still had antisemitic – anti–virtually-everyone – immigration quotas. When it mattered, there were two places in the world that would let them in: China and Bolivia. They went to Bolivia, and as antisemitism became less fashionable toward the end of the war they got to come to America. I’m grateful for what continuity I have with them: the saved letters, the family traits in stories. When I see people dying to cross borders today, I see more continuity. Not same-ness, just continuity. I can’t see people as desperate as my ancestors were and pretend it’s completely different. Everyone in danger of their life deserves help. They don’t earn that responsibility from the rest of us. They just have it, by being a person.

“We’d love to take refugees, but gosh, how can we guarantee that among these starving people and enemies of oppressive states there isn’t anyone who might fractionally lessen our own sense of security?”

“We’d love to take refugees, but gosh, first we have to process them!”

“We’d love to take refugees, but gosh, there’s all this darn paperwork!”

The thing about geography, for me, is continuity. Everywhere is related in calculable ways to everywhere else. There are walls on the ground, but the numbers move smoothly through them. The numbers come from land grabs and military ballistics. We can use them as invisible but omnipresent reminders that you can get there from here.

When I was small, I was used to worldbuilding fiction where the writer had left some things undiscovered. Often this must have been a way to build an ethos of mystery, of romance, of potential, of nascence. Other times it was probably a practical way of leaving options open for the settings of later books in the series. It was very unfair that on the real globe, everything habitable was explored. It felt mean to give the reader a world without the potential for huge lost societies who might have figured out a lot of surprising stuff. “This is all you get.” Rude."
africa  euope  us  migration  immigration  refugees  2015  charlieloyd  borders  border  mexico  congo  drc  bisie  goma  mining  lakekivu  landsat  landsat9  rewilding  crescentridgedawnredwoodspreserve  de-extinction  mammoths  magaflora  magafauna  science  sustainability  terraforming  bison  biomass  pleistocenepark  geoengineering  anthropocene  humanism  personhood  compassion  continuity  geography  society  policy  politics  politicalgeography  safety  security  fear 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Augmented Ecology
"Augmented Ecology is a research platform that tracks developments in an emerging branch of the anthropocene; the intertwining of data and media systems with ecosystems.

[image: “Heat-map for yearly migratory pattern of the Black-throated Gray Warbler on eBird”]

Mapping, visualization and tracking technologies contribute to a more detailed picture of the living and geological landscapes. They help to model, to explore, to research, to protect, to admire, exploit or conserve the natural world by extending our view. By satellite, drone, radio-tag, browser and smartphone, hidden paterns and behaviour are discovered, networks of meaning are formed and participatory science undertaken. These tools are extending our human senses, making visible the daily life of a whale not unlike the way early telescopes made the features of Saturn visible.

[image “Mapping efforts by Google Trek”]

Through epizoic media, drone ecology and satellite sensors living systems seem to be emerging as a subset of the internet of things (IoT). Perhaps this subset could be called an Internet of Organisms (IoO), at any rate it makes for a splendid looking acronym…

The augmentation of natural systems raises some new questions: What changes does the increasing level of media resolution bring to our relationship with the great out-doors and wildlife? What kinds of opportunities do they offer for interaction, research, citizen science or tourism? What is their impact on the political value of the wilderness, both as a global commons and as a refuge away from human society, government and corporate power?

[image “Bengal Tiger Panna 211, the subject of an attempted GPS-Collar hack by cyberpoachers 2014”]

The aim of this research is to highlight how technologies such as remote sensing, tagging, mapping, uav-s, develop a next chapter in our ongoing history of exploration, domestication, exploitation of, and fascination for the dynamic systems we are part of.

[image “SAISBECO facial recognition software for the study of wild apes 2011”]

The wired wilderness is becoming populated by data-harvesting animals, camera-traps, conservation drones, Google Trek adventurers, cyberpoachers and many other forms of machine wilderness. Perhaps Augmented Ecology can be a fieldguide to browse this weird neck of the woods? Surely these developments are worth our deliberate attention - Theun Karelse

This research was triggered by the development of an opensource smartphone application called Boskoi for exploring and mapping the edible landscape undertaken at FoAM. As one of the first participatory apps focussed on nature, it flashed out many issues. The issues surrounding Redlist species were particularly thought provoking and resulted in a session in FoAM’s program at Pixelache festival in 2011 asking: ‘Is there still a privatelife for plants?’ (an adaptation of the title of the BBC natural history series)"
tumblrs  augmentedecology  ecology  multispecies  conservation  technology  anthropocene  mapping  maps  visualization  landscapes  nature  wildlife  droneecology  drones  sensors  ioo  internetoforganisms  sensing  tagging  wilderness 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Anthropology is so important, all children should learn it - The Ecologist
"Anthropology, the study of humankind, should be the first of all the sciences our children encounter, writes Marc Brightman, with its singular capacity to inspire the imagination, broaden the mind and open the heart. Moves to downgrade it in the education system by those who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing, must be fought off.

Anthropology has been in the news because its A-level, only introduced in 2010, is under threat.

This discipline has never been more important at a time of troubling intolerance in society, but it does far more than merely help understand ethnic diversity.

Anthropology includes biological, linguistic and medical fields as well as social and cultural ones, and is as much about human ecology as it is about the 'ecology of mind', to recall the title of Gregory Bateson's classic work. [ ]

I can remember when I was choosing what to study at University. I loved languages, literature, history and art, and I yearned to travel. But I had never heard of anthropology.

It was only later, as a student of English literature, that I read Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques and was spellbound by the story he told of his experience of the degradation of the environment by colonialism, and of the mental worlds of the Bororo and Nambikwara people, which were so close to having been obliterated.

Many of my students tell me similar stories of how they discovered anthropology by accident, and when I tell them about the anthropology A-level they say they wish they could have taken it at their school.

Anthropology is a key to ecology as well as culture

Lévi-Strauss's melancholy tone, expressed in the title of his book, comes from witnessing the erosion of both cultural and biological diversity. Rooted in older disciplines closer to the natural sciences, such as geography and biology, as well as in humanities and social sciences, anthropology is about human ecology, different ways of being in the physical world, and about sustainability - not just culture and identity.

It is good that the press has recently covered the well justified protests against the axing of the anthropology A-level before it has even been given a chance to take root (most schools still do not have the capacity to offer it). But the reports emphasise only the value of anthropology for understanding cultural difference.

Yes, it is true that anthropology can help us to understand and relate to different cultures, different ways of being in the world. It can certainly offer ways to educate people to become more tolerant of diversity. But anthropology is much more than this.

In the face of a global ecological crisis which most of the press fails to take seriously, the discipline also has much to offer. Anthropologists are well known for documenting traditional livelihoods, which are often sustainable adaptations to environments which would be difficult to live in without rich bodies of traditional knowledge and practice to draw upon.

As The Ecologist frequently reports, many indigenous peoples have a wealth of traditional knowledge, which is embedded in complex sets of practices that are compatible with, and indeed founded upon, long term ecological relations.

Anthropologists have been at the forefront of efforts to understand these practices and to bring them to the attention of the wider world. We show how people manipulate their environments to make them more productive, rather than depleting the resources that they find - examples of anthropogenic forest islands or dark earths are cases in point.

The myth of 'wilderness'

Land that is not intensively farmed is often all too easily labelled as 'wilderness', and incorporated into the economist's category of 'natural capital', inviting the naïve conclusion that by subjecting it to the laws of supply and demand it will find its true value.

But the value of land, as my work on REDD+ has shown, alongside many other anthropological studies, cannot be simply reduced to exchange value on the market, and attempts to do so can be severely harmful to people and to the environment.

My colleague at UCL, Jerome Lewis, has shown how the sharing economy of Mbendjele hunter gatherers in Congo-Brazzaville, and their intimate relationship with the forest, are invisible to neighbouring farmers, logging companies and conservation organisations, often leading to dispossession and abuse, as others have shown in this magazine.

In my own work, in collaboration with Brazilian scholars, I have shown how ownership plays a fundamental role in structuring social relations among native Amazonian peoples.

When states and extractive industrial actors make claims to land on the basis that it is not used - that it is terra nullius - they often do so in profound ignorance of both indigenous practices and indigenous property regimes. Anthropologists are often well placed to mediate in such cases.

Is the real problem that it's seen as 'subversive'?

The noises made by the Education Secretary about academic 'rigour' ring false as an excuse for axing anthropology, a discipline which at its best combines scientific precision with the critical awareness of the humanities.

Anthropologists also provide robust, evidence based critiques of the assumptions of policy makers and technocrats who offer tempting 'win-win' solutions to problems of sustainable development. Far too many well-meaning development projects do not take detailed account of situations on the ground, and fail in their objectives, with unintended and sometimes destructive consequences, both for the environment and for native inhabitants.

Perhaps for this reason anthropology is perceived as too subversive - it does indeed foster critical thinking that can be uncomfortable for those in power, especially in the hands of incisive and influential critics of the establishment such as David Graeber.

Successive governments have made claims to basing their policies on scientific knowledge. But the fact is that they usually only do so when it suits them, and scientific arguments are taken piecemeal to justify preconceived policy objectives.

The idea of natural capital has been enthusiastically taken up by policymakers from economists such as Partha Dasgupta, because it can be used to bolster a bold new rhetoric about launching a 'green economy', while in reality making few fundamental changes to business as usual.

The natural capital paradigm is not necessarily something to be rejected wholesale, but it must be recognised for what it is: a universalising discourse which has very particular historical origins in Western capitalism.

'Nature' is not an object, and is not separate from culture, for many peoples of the world. Indeed many of the 'natural' landscapes that conservation organisations try to preserve are the product of efforts over the centuries of indigenous peoples - the very peoples who are all too often evicted to make way for hunting lodges, plantations or 'carbon sinks' that only benefit the wealthy.

We should all study anthropology - beginning at primary school!

There is an increasing consensus among those involved in addressing the global ecological crisis that the natural sciences and economics cannot succeed without input from the arts, humanities and social sciences, as a recent conference at UCL resoundingly showed.

Anthropologists routinely deal with local and global phenomena, working at the interface of the arts and the sciences. We have something very important to contribute, and sometimes we are given this opportunity.

The director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity is an anthropologist (Henrietta Moore); an anthropologist, Steven Rayner, has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Royal Society's Working Group on Climate Geoengineering; and an anthropologist, Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, serves on the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

So anthropological knowledge is in demand, and not merely in the field of cultural identity. To limit the argument about the value of the anthropology A-level to identity politics does a disservice to the discipline.

Anthropology provides students at any level with the critical awareness need for key issues of our times, which are not just religion and ethnicity, but also global sustainability, biocultural diversity and environmental governance. It also gives an excellent preparation for the study of other, more established disciplines such as history, English literature or geography.

More anthropologists are needed in public life, and then the discipline will really influence society and the environment - and very much for the better.

Far from axing the anthropology A-level, the government should support its expansion into the school system at all levels. When I arranged for Nixiwaka Yawanawá of Survival to speak to my son's primary school in Oxford, he gave a basic anthropology lesson to a packed assembly of children aged from four years old upwards, and created a real sensation.

Parents and teachers, as well as children themselves, came to me for weeks afterwards to comment on what a powerful and inspiring experience it had been.

Opening children's eyes, from the earliest ages, to the wonders of cultural diversity, and the different ways of living sustainably in the world, ought surely to be a core aim of our education system."
anthropology  education  gregorybateson  claudelevi-strauss  2015  marcbrightman  children  learning  curriculum  via:anne  k12  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  howwelearn  culture  religion  ethnicity  sustainability  diversity  environment  identity  henriettamoore  anthropologists  davidgraeber  parthadasgupta  jeromelewis  wildreness  ecology  anthropocene  howweteach  global  cv 
march 2015 by robertogreco
K. Verlag | Press / Books / . 1 Fantasies of the Library
"… is a sequence of pages wherein the reader-as-exhibition-viewer learns, rather surprisingly—but with growing conviction—that the library is not only a curatorial space, but that its bibliological imaginary is also a fertile territory for the exploration of paginated affairs in the Anthropocene. 

Fantasies of the Library inaugurates the intercalations: paginated exhibition series. Virtually stacked alongside Anna-Sophie Springer’s feature essay "Melancholies of the Paginated Mind" about unorthodox responses to the institutional ordering principles of book collections, the volume includes an interview with Rick Prelinger and Megan Shaw Prelinger of the Prelinger Library in San Francisco; reflections on the role of cultural memory and the archive by Hammad Nasar, Head of Research and Programmes at the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong; a conversation with media theorist Joanna Zylinska about experiments on the intersections of curatorial practice and open source e-books; and a discussion between K’s co-director Charles Stankievech and platform developer Adam Hyde on new approaches to open source publishing in science and academia. The photo essay, “Reading Rooms Reading Machines,” presents views of unusual historical libraries next to works by artists such as Kader Attia, Andrew Beccone, Mark Dion, Rodney Graham, Katie Paterson, Veronika Spierenburg, Andrew Norman Wilson, and others.

Edited by Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin

Design by Katharina Tauer

Paperback, thread-bound, 160 pages

30 color + 15 black/white images

ISBN 978-0-9939074-0-1 15.99 €

Co-published by K. Verlag and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Made possible by the Schering Stiftung

Order the book via

+ + 6 for 4: The intercalations box set subscription offer! + +


Published in January 2015"
books  toread  2015  anthropocene  anna-sophiespringer  collections  libraries  prelingerlibrary  meganshawprelinger  hammadnasar  rickprelinger  opensource  publishing  ebooks  charlesstankievech  adamhyde  kaderattia  andrewbeccone  markdion  rodneygraham  katiepaterson  veronikaspierenburg  andrewnormanwilson  etienneturpin  kverlag  katharinatauer 
march 2015 by robertogreco
K. Verlag | Press / Books / . 2 Land & Animal & Nonanimal
" … is an ensemble which contends that the meaning of the Anthropocene is less a geological re-formation than it is trans-formation of both land and animal; once exposed to some of the parameters defining this transition, the reader-as-exhibition-viewer may begin to discern erratic rhythms generated by the creatures of nonconformity that inhabit, with their violence, struggles, and love the vast, machinic reality called Earth.

Land & Animal & Nonanimal turns the attention from the built space of cultural repositories to the postnatural landscapes of planet Earth. In his interview about urban soils of the Anthropocene, landscape architect Seth Denizen considers a history of land use practices that is also reflected in artist Robert Zhao Renhui’s photographs of Singapore as a scenario of continuous development. Inspired by a recent visit to the environment of Wendover in the Utah desert, Richard Pell and Lauren Allen of Pittsburgh’s Center for PostNatural History make a case for a postnatural imprint upon the geologic aspects inherent in the concept of the Anthropocene. By encountering "the last snail," environmental historian and philosopher Thom van Dooren considers the meaning of hope and care in the context of species extinction. And while curator Natasha Ginwala’s paginated series with contributions by Bianca Baldi, Arvo Leo, Axel Staschnoy, and Karthik Pandian & Andros Zins-Browne turns to cosmological and ancestral human-animal scenarios, sound artist and researcher Mitchell Akiyama explores philosophies of consciousness against the background of the phonogram in nineteenth-century simian research.


Co-edited by Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin

Design by Katharina Tauer

Paperback, thread-bound, 160 pages

13 color + 39 black/white images

ISBN 978-0-9939074-1-8 15.99 €

Co-published by K. Verlag and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Made possible by the Schering Stiftung

Order the book via

+ + 6 for 4: The intercalations box set subscription offer! + +


Published in January 2015"
anthropocene  books  toread  animals  multispecies  transformation  land  landscape  earth  postnaturalhistory  postnatural  sethdenizen  robertzhaorenhui  richardpell  laurenallen  thomvandooren  natashaginwala  biancabaldi  arvoleo  axelstaschnov  karthikpandian  androszins-browne  mitchellakiyama  consciousness  human-animalrelationships  human-animalrelations  geology  centerforpostnaturalhistory  nonconformity  kverlag  katharinatauer  anna-sophiespringer  etienneturpin  posthumanism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Textures of the Anthropocene | The MIT Press
"We have entered the Anthropocene era—a geological age of our own making, in which what we have understood to be nature is made by man. We need a new way to understand the dynamics of a new epoch. These volumes offer writings that approach the Anthropocene through the perspectives of grain, vapor, and ray—the particulate, the volatile, and the radiant. The first three volumes—each devoted to one of the three textures—offer a series of paired texts, with contemporary writers responding to historic writings. A fourth volume offers a guide to the project as a whole.

Grain: Granular materials add up to concrete forms; insignificant specks accumulate into complex entities. The texts in this volume narrate some of the fundamental qualities of the granular. In one pairing of texts, Robert Smithson compares the accumulation of thoughts to the aggregation of sediment, and an environmental historian writes about the stakes for earthly knowledge today. Other authors include Alfred Russel Wallace, Denis Diderot, and Georges Bataille.

Vapor: The vaporous represents matter’s transformations. In this volume, a political scientist compares Kafka’s haunting “Odradek” to “vibrant matter”; a media theorist responds to poems and diagrams by Buckminster Fuller; and more, including texts by Hippocrates, Italo Calvino, and James Clerk Maxwell.

Ray: A ray is an act of propagation and diffusion, encompassing a chain of interdependencies between energy and matter. This volume includes texts by Spinoza (with a reconceptualization by a contemporary philosopher), Jacques Lacan (followed by an anthropologist’s reflections on temporality), Thomas Pynchon (accompanied by an interpretation of Pynchon’s “electro-mysticism”), and others.

These volumes constitute a unique experiment in design and composition as well as content. The mingling of texts and the juxtaposition of different areas of knowledge represented in a variety of forms express the dynamics of a world in change."

[See also: “Five Minutes with the editors of Textures of the Anthropocene”

"How would you like this collection to change our notion of how we relate to the earth?

The world of the Anthropocene exhibits a mundane gravity. The news, the feed, the live stream, the status update, the flow of bits and bytes, the push notifications, our constant information flows, all bearing the quality of finitude, immediacy, and disharmony. Today, planes crash or disappear off the radar, epidemic diseases are merely managed instead of cured, methane gas erupts due to global warming, mud volcanoes are flowing, unstoppable, after drilling accidents, genocidal wars are fought, occupations continue, barbarism abounds, the weather, indeed, is strange, kids, clubbing, dance all weekend high on horse tranquilizers, toxic fluids are shared body between body in the nighttime capitals of Southeast Asia, yoga workshops in California offer Paleolithic snacks, and every Monday it is business-as-usual, back-to-work, as if the nineteenth century never ended. Work, capital, play.

As of tomorrow, we shall need a new art named by its true appellation — gaia scienza — the Science of the Earth. It is rooted in history, but not the “universalist” history we know all too well, with a bulldozing that mercilessly moves forward, seeking a conclusion, making 
a point, arguing a thesis, aiming at synthesis. The gaia scienza searches the creative, the material output of all times, those matters that have contributed to form the history of imagination. Heinrich Heine hit the nail: “all configurations that have previously existed on this earth must yet meet, attract, repulse, kiss, and corrupt each other again.” 
In this cultivated sensitivity for flows and its ruptures, finally, the Anthropocene can rid us of the Enlightenment project, for, as Woodbine put it, “in the Anthropocene, the critical gesture is finished. It’s so liberating [...] everything is to be reinvented.” We can embark on an Aesthetic Project, a practice of anamnesis, of remembering to remember not to forget." ]
anthropocene  books  nature  2015  katrinklingan  ashkansepahvand  christophrosol  berndscherer  grain  vapor  rays  design  bookdesign  buckminsterfuller  italocalvino  spinoza  thomaspynchon  jaqueslacan  jamesclerkmaxwell  odradek  kafka  vibrantmatter  transformation  propogation  diffusion  interdependence  dynamism  hippocrates  robertsmithson  paulklee 
march 2015 by robertogreco
More-Than-Human Lab. » What we do.
"What if we refuse to uncouple nature and culture? What if we deny that human beings are exceptional? What if we stop speaking and listening only to ourselves?

The More-Than-Human Lab combines creative research methods, science and technology studies, multispecies ethnography, and more-than-human geography to explore different ways of being in, with, and for the world.

Industry, electricity generation, agriculture, and transportation are the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions damaging the planet today. Every year people create between 20 and 50 metric tonnes of electronic waste, globally recycling less than 15% of it. With urban populations growing worldwide, habitat loss and climate change have cost the earth half its wildlife in the past 40 years, and another 20 million species of plants and animals are currently near extinction.

Researchers across disciplines refer to our current era as the Anthropocene—a period of unprecedented human influence on the planet. While technology and design have often improved people’s lives, they have also played significant roles in ecological change through a variety of unsustainable material choices and production techniques, as well as policies such as planned obsolescence and activities of over-consumption.

Albert Einstein said that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” and now, more than ever, researchers need new ways of thinking, making and doing things with—not to—the nonhuman world.

Reimagining technology and design along these lines requires a fundamental shift from viewing the world as a resource to be exploited and manipulated to our own ends, to explicitly acknowledging the interconnectedness and interdependence of humans and more-than-humans: animals and plants; land, water and air; materials, processes and artefacts.

The More-Than-Human Lab explicitly addresses these concerns by dedicating itself to the development and assessment of new creative research methods and empirically-grounded theoretical models. We treat more-than-humans as active stakeholders and collaborators in design research, and we are committed to facilitating public engagement around technoscientific, environmental, primary industry, and government policy issues.

— — —

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”

― Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House"
annegalloway  multispecies  anthropocene  sustainability  environment  animals  interdisciplinary  design  culture  nature  humans  geography  being  climatechange  technology  alberteinstein  wendellberry  systemsthinking  policy  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  posthumanism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin, Keynote 5/8/14 on Vimeo
[Starting at 7:00]

“My little talk is called “Deep in Admiration.” This conference is going to be thinking about how to think outside the mindset that sees the techno fix as the answer to all problems. Just this week, I heard a poet say that the essence of modern high technology is to consider the world as disposable: use it and throw it away. Well, we know that we don't need more infantile new technologies that demand throwing away all the old ones every Tuesday. We need adult rational technologies, old and new: pottery making, bricklaying, sewing, carpentry, solar power, sustainable farming. But after our long orgy of being lords of creation and texting as we drive, it's hard to stop looking for the next technofix. We have got to change our minds. To use the world well, we need to relearn our being in it, renew our awareness of belonging to the world. How do we go about it? That awareness seems always to have involved knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin gave that knowledge a scientific basis and now both poets and scientists are extending our awareness of our relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings, our fellowship as things with other things. Relationship among all things seems to be complex and reciprocal. It's always at least two way, back-and-forth. It seems as if nothing is single in this universe and nothing goes one way. In this view, humans appear as particularly lively, intense, aware nodes of relation in an infinite network of connections, simple or complicated, direct or hidden, strong or delicate, temporary or very long lasting, a web of connections infinite, but locally fragile, with and among everything, all beings, including what we generally class as things, objects.

Decartes and the behaviorists willfully saw dogs as machines without feeling. Is seeing plants without feeling a similar arrogance? We don't know. But one way to stop seeing trees or rivers or hills only as natural resources is to class them as fellow beings, kinfolk. I guess what I'm trying to do is subjectify the universe because look where objectifying it has got us. To subjectify is not to co-opt and colonize and exploit. Rather, if it's done honestly, it involves a great reach outward of the mind and the imagination. What tools do we have to help us make such a reach? Mary Jacobus, in a book called Romantic Things, wrote, “The regulated speech of poetry may be as close as we can get to such things, to the stilled voice of the inanimate object or the insentient standing of trees.” Poetry is the human language that can try to say what a tree or a rock or a river is, that is to speak humanly for it in both senses of the word for. A poem can do so by relating the quality of an individual relationship to a thing, a rock, a river, a tree, the relationship to or simply by describing the thing as truthfully as possible. Science describes accurately from outside and poetry describes accurately from inside, you could say. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the language of both science and poetry to save us from ignorant irresponsibility.”

"“To use the world well we need to relearn our being in it” -Le Guin "]


“Ursula K. Le Guin: Panel Discussion with Donna Haraway and James Clifford, 5/8/14”

“Donna Haraway, "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble", 5/9/14”

“Inhabiting Multispecies Bodies: Panel Discussion with Donna Haraway, Margaret McFall-Ngai, and Jenny Reardon, 5/9/14”

“On Damaged Landscapes: Panel Discussion with Kate Brown, Deborah Bird Rose, Eric Porter and William Cronon, 5/9/14”

“Jens-Christian Svenning, "Future Megafaunas: A Historical Perspective on the Scope for a Wilder Anthropocene," 5/9/14” ]
ursulaleguin  plants  animals  art  2014  technosolutionism  via:steelemaley  things  objects  interconnectedness  interdependence  networks  systemsthinking  technology  jens-christiansvenning  donnaharaway  anthropocene  margaretmcfall-ngai  jennyreardon  katebrown  deborabirdrose  ericporter  williamcronon  jamesclifford  multispecies  objectification  subjectification  fellowahip  kinship  poetry  science  religion  morality  compassion  henryvaughn  maryjacobus  nature  humans  humanism  responsibility  environment  universe  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
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