With its passage of Act 120 this past June, Vermont became the first U.S. state to require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). (This followed Connecticut’s and Maine’s decisions to require it once adjacent states do.) Since then, GMO food manufacturers have announced they will challenge that decision in court. Meanwhile, critics of GMOs have come under fire from some surprising places.
Vandana Shiva is probably the best known critic of genetically modified foods. The prominent environmentalist, who was critiqued in an August article by Michael Specter in the New Yorker, spoke here (in Burlington, Vermont) over the weekend.
For those interested in following the debate that’s followed Specter’s article, I’ve compiled the main sources on it below.
A journalist asked me to say something about the use of animal mascots for commercial purposes. In an email, she wrote:
“What does a brand owe an animal mascot, especially one at risk? For instance, polar bears face rapid habitat loss, yet Coke has only donated $2 million to the WWF for conservation efforts. There’s also Kellogg’s Tiger, or Tony the Tiger, yet there are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild.”
I am about to travel to Asheville, North Carolina, for the Ecomusics and Ecomusicologies conference, to be held from Thursday through Monday at the University of North Carolina Asheville. The international conference, which has become an annual event (it met previously in Brisbane, Australia, and in New Orleans), brings together theorists and researchers with performers and practitioners. Panels on topics including “musical collaboration, improvisation, green industry practices, acoustic ecology, ecopoetics, soundscapes, sustainability, contemporary composition, musical activism and other fields” will be complemented by concerts, performances, and sound installations. Details can be found here.
In the meantime, several other things in my In-Box deserve sharing:
What is this movement (of movements) that is taking shape, and how will it grow? Is it the Climate Justice movement, or the People’s Climate movement, or something else? Or will it just be branded as environmentalism redux, with all the attendant limitations of that terminology and tradition?
Will the centrality of social justice concerns and its critique of neoliberal capitalism get diluted as the movement goes mainstream (if it does that)?
Will it build the momentum that’s needed to spill over into effectiveness the way environmentalism did 40-some years ago, launching a decade of legislation that helped respond to the most serious ecological problems of the time?
This week’s theme in my “Environmental Literature, Arts, & Media” class is apocalyptic rhetoric. (I’m loosely following Greg Garrard’s list of tropes in Ecocriticism, but adding, amplifying, and amending to be more artistically inclusive.)
Because it’s a fun topic (and deadly serious, too), I thought I’d post a few of the videos we’ve been watching and discussing.
The third edition of the Environmental Humanities Book Chat features a discussion of my Ecologies of the Moving Image. Discussants include the Royal Institute of Technology’s Anna Åberg, organizer of the “Tales from Planet Earth” film festival and conference, Seth Peabody of Harvard University (and a Rachel Carson Center fellow), and moderator Hannes Bergthaller of National Chung-Hsing University (Taiwan) and Würzburg University (and EASLCE Past President).
The closing panel of this conference featured Winona LaDuke, Tim Ingold, Bron Taylor, environmental epidemiologist Colin Soskolne (who convened the preceding panel on public and environmental health regimes), and myself. We were each asked to provide five minutes of summary comments on the big issues of our concern (related to the conference). The following were the notes I prepared.
We all have issues to concern ourselves with — individual, local, community, regional, national, and global issues — and I don’t want to be the one to tell people that their issues are less important than a global issue defined by a distant group of scientists. They are not. But in some sense, it’s precisely such an issue — climate change and its associated social and ecological disruptions (biodiversity loss, massive social dislocation, and so on) — that is the one that we all face in our near future, and that will serve as a globally unifying issue for decades to come.
The challenge is for those of us who are aware of this to articulate a coherent and enabling, not disabling, understanding of it: a vision of what we can do — politically, economically, technologically, culturally, and spiritually — to deal with it. This involves three things:
The keynote talks at this conference (including my own) are being videotaped and will be made available publicly sometime in the coming months, as I understand it, so I haven’t made any effort to document them here. But with Tim Ingold I couldn’t resist.
Anthropologist Ingold has been a prominent star in my intellectual sky since I first read, as a graduate student, the important 1988 collection he edited entitled What is an Animal? Since then several of his articles — some of which later appeared in the book The Perception of the Environment — encouraged me to look to diverse sources for making sense of nature-culture conundra: sources including the ecological psychology of James J. Gibson, the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexkull, some of the specifics I had initially missed of Heidegger’s and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenologies, and a potpourri of out-of-the-mainstream anthropologists, geographers, and others who helped me conceptualize the theory underlying my dissertation and later my first book, Claiming Sacred Ground. (See more here.)
Ingold’s keynote speech here today was my first time to hear him speak in person. The following are my notes from it. They don’t capture his warm and funny storytelling style nor his use of visuals (on a blackboard, to his insistence). But hopefully they convey a fragment of his ideas. Continue Reading »