Astrophysicist and NPR blogger Adam Frank writes about the “sustainability bottleneck” as the state faced by technological civilizations like ours, which have learned how to “intensively harvest” energy, but not how to sustain themselves through the crisis this harvesting sets off.
It turns out there may be millions of planets that give rise to life in our galaxy alone. Frank asks, “So where is everybody?” and then answers that “Maybe not everyone — maybe no one — makes it to the other side” — which seems to me like the collectivist version of Jim Morrison’s famous quip that “no one here gets out alive.”
Frank and fellow astrobiologist Woodruff Sullivan develop this idea in a fascinating article published in the journal Anthropocene, where they coin the term SWEIT for “Species with Energy-Intensive Technology.” That’s a term I would question, since it’s not so much the species that is the issue here as it’s the techno-ecological system — a mode of production in Marxist parlance, that includes members of one or more species (humanity, in our case), but also various crucial relations with other species, tools, entities, and processes. It’s worth debating alternative terms for this beyond the speciecentric “SWEIT,” just as it’s worth debating the virtues and limitations of the term “Anthropocene.”
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Posted in EcoCulture, GeoPhilosophy | Tagged Anthropocene, astrobiology, Buddhism, cosmology, sustainability, sustainability bottleneck | 7 Comments »
With environmental and eco-political news in the front pages daily, it’s easy to get back into the swing of regular, even daily, posting after the winter holiday lull. Here’s more on the “dating the ecocrisis” theme…
Posted in EcoCulture, GeoPhilosophy | Tagged Anthropocene, Anthropocene Working Group, Clive Hamilton, Revkin | 1 Comment »
The journal Science has just released more news of planetary boundary transgression. (This is related to my post from a few days ago.)
Specifically, of nine such boundaries connected to “processes and systems [that] regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth System,” four have been crossed. Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are considered “core boundaries,” which makes them the kind that, if significantly altered, would “drive the Earth System into a new state.”
The research, published by an international team led by Will Steffen, just came out in Science Express (which publishes Science articles in advance of their print publication). It’s summarized here.
Meanwhile, the New York Times’ lead story today is about mass extinction of ocean life — yet another boundary being crossed.
As environmental social scientists know, ecological boundaries are tricky objects to pin down. But one that’s pretty measurable is the boundary at which the crescendoing Greek chorus of scientists passes a certain threshold of audibility. (To those who are listening.)
Posted in EcoCulture | Tagged Anthropocene, planetary boundaries, science, Will Steffen | 1 Comment »
Two kinds of historical turning points define our era.
The first kind involves the retrospective identification of new forms of enclosure, exploitive intensification, or system derailment. Debates over the beginnings of a recession, or of a war, or — on a larger scale — of the Anthropocene, are about this kind of backdating: how far back do we trace the beginnings of a crisis we are well in the midst of, but which we have only belatedly come to recognize?
The second kind identify “peaks” of a certain form of exploitation, such as “peak oil,” which mark the moments at which the viability of a crucial resource begins to reverse direction and force a scramble for replacements.
To the latter kind we can now add 2014 (roughly) as the year of “peak wild fish.” As the Breakthrough Institute‘s Marian Swain details in this Slate article, aquaculture surpassed wild capture as our main source of seafood for the first time this year. Swain accepts that there is no going back, and optimistically describes a scenario in the “not-so-distant future” when consumers “may be aghast to find out that their sustainably farmed halibut was actually trawled from a commercial fishery.” What, not from a farm? Throw it out, then.
That seems a bit like arguing that fresh air sucks compared to the exhaust you breathe in the middle of Boston’s Central Artery Tunnel. But whether it’s preferable or not isn’t the point. The point is that we are crossing these thresholds regularly now, like salmon on their way to an ocean who won’t have a river to spawn in when it comes time for that.
No going back. (Notch up one more point for the increasing relevance of Whitehead, for whom there is only always the movement forward.)
Posted in EcoCulture | Tagged enclosure, peak oil, peak wild fish, transition | Leave a Comment »
The latest issue of the open-access Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, an issue devoted to “Gilles Deleuze and Moving Images,” includes a review by Niall Flynn of my book Ecologies of the Moving Image. Another recent review of EMI can be found in the The Journal of Ecocriticism. And I’ve mentioned the Environmental Humanities Book Chat devoted to the book, and Harlan Morehouse’s Society & Space interview with me about the book. I’ve been sent two other forthcoming reviews, to appear in the journals Aether (which, judging by its web site, seems to have gone into some hiatus) and JSRNC.
All the reviews I’ve seen so far are fairly detailed, for which I’m grateful, and I think that all appreciate the ambition, complexity, and nuance intended by the film’s theoretical model (which more than one reviewer calls “compelling”) and by the recursive method of its delivery. It appears from these readings that my strategy for overcoming binaries — through a layered, interactive, and dynamic “triadism” — seems to work, even if it takes patience to figure out and remains difficult to summarize.
The 40-minute EH Book Chat goes into the greatest depth at critiquing the book, and I’ll address one of the recurrent points raised in that video presentation here.
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Posted in GeoPhilosophy, MediaSpace | Tagged cinema, cinema studies, ecocdriticism, Ecologies of the Moving Image, EMI, film-philosophy | Leave a Comment »
Academic trend watchers will be interested to see how the digital and the Anthropocene have catapulted to the top of hot topics at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference. (A few others are mentioned here and here, Bruno Latour’s keynote being one of them. Here’s a collection of tweets on Latour’s talk, most of them by Jenny Carlson. And for those with more catching up to do, see the series on the ontological turn last year, and my own account of missing Latour then.)
John Hartigan has an interesting post on Somatosphere that compares the suddenly off-the-scale theoretical cachet attained by the term “Anthropocene” against the funkier, more earthbound, and more discipline specific term “multispecies” (its disciplinary specificity still mostly confined to anthropologists and STS folks).
“What just happened in Anthropology?” Hartigan asks.
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Posted in GeoPhilosophy | Tagged AAA, Anthropocene, anthropology, Hartigan, multispecies | 6 Comments »
Note: This is an updated version of a previously posted notice.
Our Environmental Studies program has announced a cluster hire — a search for three new tenure-track professors, at multiple levels from Assistant Professor to Program Director, under the overall umbrella of “Sustainability Studies and Global Environmental Equity.”
Details on the cluster hire can be read here. Details on the Program Director position can be found here. A list of potential courses to be taught by the new faculty can be found here. And here is a list of members of the search committee (we value transparency).
For full consideration, applications should be received by January 5.
The program web site is here. These three positions are being hosted by the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. (The Environmental Program is a cross-college, interdisciplinary environmental studies program, but it is administered through the Rubenstein School.)
Posted in Academe | Tagged environmental studies, faculty positions, sustainability studies | 4 Comments »
The deadline for proposals to next year’s Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference — arguably the largest and leading ecocritical conference in the world — is coming up in a few weeks.
The conference theme is “Notes from Underground: The Depths of Environmental Arts, Culture and Justice.” Keynotes will include Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Linda Hogan, and a host of others.
Details below and here.
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Posted in Academe | Tagged ASLE, conferences, ecocriticism | Leave a Comment »