Reading Bill McGuire‘s 2012 book Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes, I came across this description of the annual “pulse” called an “Earthbeat,” which is supposedly responsible for Earth’s preference for volcanic eruptions between November and April (also known as “volcano season”):

rather like a beating heart, the Earth changes shape systematically and repeatedly with each ‘Earthbeat’ taking 12 months. During the course of a single ‘beat,’ the northern hemisphere contracts, reaching a peak in February and March, at the same time as the southern hemisphere expands. This is followed by Continue Reading »

Please circulate widely…


A Symposium and Convergence in Burlington, Vermont, October 20-22, 2018

Fifty years after the widespread international protests of 1968 challenged institutional norms, and some sixty years after C. P. Snow lamented the gap between academia’s “two cultures,” those of the arts and the sciences, it is time to ask whether educational institutions have changed in ways that help us address the world’s intensifying crises.  Continue Reading »

A post-Commencement pep talk for myself (& academic friends who care to listen)

It should be pretty obvious by now that predatory, extractive capitalism is not working, and that we need to move swiftly to a regenerative mixed economy grounded in a respect for living systems.

The implications of that are pretty simple, but also profound.

For instance, that transition will require phasing out all of the millions of jobs — predatory jobs, bullshit jobs — that are premised on squeezing a profit at the expense of people, communities, and living systems. And it will require a simultaneous phasing in of all the work that it takes to make our communities socially and ecologically sustainable — healthy, happy, just, flourishing, eudaimonic, and ecologically diverse and resilient.   Continue Reading »

Okay, so I watched Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding (not so much intentionally as to enjoy the loving company of my co-habitants) and was impressed by the tension between Bishop Michael Curry’s sermonizing on love and the dour and perplexed faces of many of the royal-loving Brits in the audience. Diana Evans’ Guardian piece gets at that tension very nicely.

I also caught the references in Curry’s speech to Jesuit paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, whose work has been creeping into mainstream Catholic views about humanity and ecology, and whose views undergird — with significant critical rethinking — the views of ecotheologian Thomas Berry. (Berry should be familiar to most readers of Immanence: see, e.g., here, here, and here. In fact, his term “Ecozoic” figures in the tag line to my EcoCulture Lab — oh, and by the way, welcome, readers, to the EcoCulture Lab.)

Now, in a stunning article on Religion Dispatches, Notre Dame theology and history of science graduate John Slattery claims that Teilhard was not only forward-thinking in his embrace of evolutionary theory, but was also disappointingly retrograde in his embrace of eugenics and blatant racism. Continue Reading »

Coming soon…

“volcanic eruptions and revolutions, ant cities and dog parks, data clouds and space junk, pagan gods and sacrificial altars, dark flow, souls (of things), and jazz”

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My Gund Institute research talk from a few months ago, on “Navigating Earth’s ‘Zone of Alienation’: Chernobyl and the Search for Adequate Images of the Anthropocene,” can now be viewed online (see link below). It consists mostly of out-takes from my book Shadowing the Anthropocene, forthcoming later this year from Punctum Books.

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The 5 D’s

… that might get humans to pull through the next few centuries relatively intact as a species (if not undiminished or unscathed): Decarbonization, Deplasticization, Demilitarization, Decolonization, and Demographic Transition.

The first, Decarbonization, entails a dramatic reduction in industrial production of atmospheric carbon (and other greenhouse gas) emissions. It will keep conditions for the flourishing of human life from getting too unstable and unreliable. As it’s mainly a technical task, it should be pretty doable, as long as the interests vested in maintaining current carbon-heavy systems can be overcome.

The second, Deplasticization, entails the dramatic reduction in industrial production of (relatively) nonbiodegradable polymers (including microplastics). It will keep us from choking on our own industrial puke. Like the first, it’s also a technical task, so in principle it’s pretty doable.

Those two are the easy ones.   Continue Reading »

Or, Things I love, like, dislike, and hate about it…

I love that I can research, write, talk, think, and teach about things that I’m passionate about, or at least care very much about. And because that passion derives from a sense that the world needs certain kinds of engagement and that my activity can contribute to them, that is immensely satisfying. Curiosity and the desire to engage with the world is what drove me to academe, and, happily, it’s kept me there. This part of my work has been making up about 25-60% of my workload, depending on the year, which makes me one of the blessed ones. (It’s far from the norm in academe, a norm that’s been generally receding, and it usually takes some time to get there, but it’s possible.)

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This course (an Honors College course I’m happy to be to teaching this year) is already in progress, but I’d be curious to hear any comments on it. What would you include in a comparative overview of spiritual practices? What’s missing? 

Self-Cultivation and Spiritual Practice: Comparative Perspectives

This course introduces students to the comparative study of religious, spiritual, and psycho-physical practices — exercises by which individuals and groups deepen, develop, challenge, and transform their perceptions and capacities for action in harmony with religious, moral-ethical, or philosophical ideals. The course covers a range that spans from ancient Greek and Roman philosophers (such as Stoics, Epicurians, and Neoplatonists), yogis and monks of South and East Asia, Christian and Muslim ascetics and Renaissance mages, to practitioners of modern forms of westernized yoga, martial arts, ritual magic, and other forms of physical and psycho-spiritual practice. Readings of ancient texts and contemporary philosophical and sociological writings are complemented by practical exercises, writing and presentation assignments, and a practice project.

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Rant for the day

Let’s face facts: Life in such cold climates as the one I live in (it was 8°F/-14°C here this morning) would hardly be possible, for us in such numbers as we are, without fossil fuels.

The harnessing of fossil fuel energy has enabled tremendous innovation — innovation that, if managed well, could help us get to the kind of new socio-ecological era that some have (contentiously) called a “good Anthropocene.”*

Proponents of that “good Anthropocene” tend to make it sound far easier to get there than it would be. Continue Reading »

It’s become a cliché for people in environmental, policy, and even corporate circles to talk about the “triple bottom-line,” or the “three pillars” or “three-legged stool,” of sustainability. Those “pillars” are almost universally understood to be the economic, the environmental, and the social (sometimes rendered, more trenchantly, as social justice). Some have argued that a fourth, the cultural, should be added (incorporating heritage, identity, well-being, and related indicators); occasionally, another fourth is proposed (such as “governance”). The point with most of these models is that society, economy, and environment (and sometimes something else) are seen as interconnected and interdependent, and that measuring the success of any one of them independent of the others may be a futile exercise. So far, so good.

But given the divergent uses to which this language has been put — many of them coupled with terms like “growth,” “development,” “capitalism,” and the like — critics have found sustainability talk to be vague and unsatisfying. (I won’t even get started here on “natural capital,” “ecosystem services,” and the other terminological sleight-of-hand intended to convince the powers-that-be that nature is good for capitalism.)

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The Washington Post reports that “Ruthenium-106, named after Russia” has been wafting all across Europe.

Two quick observations here.

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