There is an irony in The Nature Conservancy’s headline heralding a “new study” that “finds nature is vital to beating climate change.” The sub-title adds that “Nature could cost-effectively deliver over a third of greenhouse gas emissions reductions required to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.”

For one thing, what is the “nature” that would be “cost-effectively” corralled into doing this work? And for whom? (For us, of course.)

What is climate change if not “nature’s” response to the carbon emissions and other things that industrial systems have been spewing into the atmosphere for two centuries. Continue Reading »

I think it’s fair to say that the United States is in a state of cultural civil war.

It is cultural war in the sense that it is a war fought with signs and symbols rather than with guns — signs and symbols intended to elicit affiliation, allegiance, and identification with one or another party to the war.

It is civil war not only because it concerns a rift within the civic order of the society, but also in the sense of its relative civility, in contrast to the incivility of physical or military conflict. The relationship of this kind of cultural civil conflict to real civil conflict is similar to the relationship between “civil religion” — or the assumed quasi-religion of a civil society, the glue that holds it together — to “real” religion: it is conducted in the same ways, but without the overt manifestations that make it “war” (or “religion”).

Cultural civil conflicts work on the affective and emotional registers much more than they work on the cognitive and rational registers. Continue Reading »

For those following the debate over the article “The Case for Colonialism,” the following adds little new. It’s mostly a way of summarizing the issue and collecting some useful links in one place. 

There’s a lesson for academia in the flare-up over the Third World Quarterly article “The Case for Colonialism” by Bruce Gilley. The article was published after undergoing peer review in which multiple reviewers recommended its rejection. One of these specifically rejected its publication as a “Viewpoints” article, which in the journal’s lexicon designates articles that are more in the vein of an opinion piece than a scholarly research piece. Continue Reading »

R.I.P. Cassini

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”

62 moons orbiting in and around the grooved rings of Saturn. Winter and spring, hurricanes, jet streams, and auroras. Rivers and deltas pelted by methane rains on Titan. Hydrothermal vented oceans, and geysers shooting plumes of water that fall back as snow on Enceladus. Moons forming spiral waves cresting in the mother planet’s B ring. Janus and Epimetheus relay racing in the same orbit. Pan and Daphnis leaving rippled wakes in their passing. Prometheus and Pandora, and the tiny pinprick of Earth visible through the rings.

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Continue Reading »

Based on its title and on the snippets I saw being quoted, I fully expected to dislike Lee Jones’ article “Charlottesville and the Politics of Left Hysteria,” posted a few days ago at The Current Moment.

Instead, I’ve found it nuanced, cogent, and well worth reading. I myself have tried to broach this topic of the two lefts — the economic (or economistic) left, and the cultural or identitarian left — before (see here). The argument I’ve made there applies to this article as well. I think Jones is more or less correct in arguing that identitarian politics have a down side, which is that they can easily degenerate into a politics of resentment. What he misses is that they can have an up side as well — which is that they can generate a politics of meaning, and that is exactly what the economistic left has lacked.  Continue Reading »

This post is a follow-up to my “case for a non-mammalian food ethic.” I’ve given that case some more thought and have decided that honesty requires more nuance than either continuing to call myself a (straight) vegetarian or calling myself a “non-mammalian.” The latter term is confusing in any case, since “mammalian” could either mean someone who eats mammals or someone who doesn’t (because they love and defend them).  Continue Reading »

Here I go wading into a type of debate this blog does not often venture into: the debate surrounding Google employee James Damore’s firing for his ‘Ideological Echo Chamber’ manifesto. I find this to be a complicated and interesting conversation, and I’m curious to know how my thoughts align with others.

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I recently visited Detroit (for the ASLE “Rust/Resistance” conference) and was interested in seeing how it’s changed since I wrote this (brief) piece. Given how little time I spent there, my impressions aren’t worth much, but here they are.

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As part of its Ford Foundation supported Inequality Project, The Guardian is providing a provocative glimpse of Oxford geographer Danny Dorling’s important research into inequality and the environment. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the complexities surrounding causes and potential solutions to the environmental crisis. Read the article here.

No surprise that the US comes out worst on practically all counts — worst levels of inequality, worst levels of overconsumption, waste, and per capita carbon emission.  Continue Reading »

My book Ecologies of the Moving Image provides some suggestions into how we can become better consumers and co-producers of media. But these suggestions come couched within a 400-page treatise of media (and environmental) philosophy that includes a history of cinema, analyses of various films, and much else. While the focus there is on cinema and on the cultivation of habits that could help make us better viewers of it, the arguments apply to all visual media.

Here I want to try to isolate a couple of practical pointers into “media hygiene” for our densely mediated world. But first, some off-the-cuff rules for “social media hygiene” (mostly to do with clickbait, and not about teen sexting practices or anything like that). This is an evolving list, so feel free to suggest others.

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When I began my involvement with environmental politics in the 1980s, the main currents of radical or critical thought were represented by deep ecologists (or biocentrists), social ecologists (gathered around Murray Bookchin and his Institute for Social Ecology), and ecofeminists, and they seemed more at odds with each other than united. Marxists and socialists (especially around the journals Capitalism Nature Socialism and Monthly Review) were only just starting to embrace ecological thinking. “Eco-anarchism” had grown out of Bookchin’s first forays in the late 1960s, but its representatives were often at odds with each other, due as much to personality clashes (Bookchin’s being one of them) as to anything else. On the other hand, liberal and reformist environmentalism had become pretty mainstream, even if attacks upon it had already registered substantial successes in the Reagan and Thatcher (counter-) revolutions.

At the time, bioregionalism seemed a promising movement that was more practically based — more rooted in local forms of grassroots organizing than in theoretical debates Continue Reading »

When one of our cadre of eco-cultural theorists gets noticed — more so, fêted — by one of the leading newspapers in the world, we need to take note and celebrate with him. In this case, it’s Timothy Morton getting called “the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene” by The Guardian, in a profile titled “A reckoning for our species.”

With his dozen or so books (at least half of them monographs), Tim has been incredibly prolific as an eco-critic, literary historian of Romanticism, and theorist of the ecological crisis. Long-time readers of this blog will know my critical engagements with the OOO orientation  Continue Reading »

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