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Everything new under the sun begins as an anomaly; but not everything thought to be new is genuinely new. Everything new and anomalous, if studied in the right way, can be explained; but it may take years of creative trial and error before we know what that “right way” is.

Those might be the twin mottos of the research field known as anomalistics — a field I’ve been interested in, without necessarily knowing it, since I read J. Allen Hynek’s book The UFO Experience at about age twelve. Hynek was the astronomer and scientific skeptic appointed to consult the U. S. Air Force on their Project Blue Book, started in 1952 to scientifically analyze UFO-related data and determine whether they indicated any threat to U. S. national security. Over the course of a few decades, Hynek came to believe in the reality of something he called the “UFO experience,” while never quite accepting the main explanations of that experience ascribed to it by the majority of its experiencers. (Briefly, the two predominant explanations are known as “ETI,” or the Extraterrestrial Intelligence explanation, and “EDI,” or the Extradimensional Intelligence explanation.)

The anomaly I’ve become particularly interested in recently is one known by some as “the Hum,” or “the Global Hum,” and it is one that I believe is somewhere on the trajectory of going from anomalous to explained. It’s also one that I believe has implications for how we think of the Anthropocene.

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Kieran Suckling’s post Against the Anthropocene, originally posted here on July 7 and subsequently shared with the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s Anthropocene Working Group by Andy Revkin, has elicited a round of emailed back-and-forths from some noteworthy individuals, including paleobiologist Jan Zalasiewicz and paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky.

As this debate would be of interest to readers of this blog (and because it hasn’t been shared elsewhere), I’ve decided to share some of that conversation by permission of the individuals involved.

Tony Barnosky first sent around his article Palaeontological evidence for defining the Anthropocene, referring to it in a response to Suckling as follows:

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The following is a guest post by Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. It follows the discussion begun here and in some AESS conference sessions, including Andy Revkin’s keynote talk (viewable here) and responses to it (such as Clive Hamilton’s). 

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In considering why the name “Anthropocene” has been proposed, why it has been embraced by many, and what might make a better alternative, it is instructive to look at how geologists have named previous epochs. From such a view, “Anthropocene” immediately stands out as an anomaly.

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I’ll be the guest speaker at the Environmental Studies colloquium at the Antioch University New England Graduate School tomorrow.

Title of my talk: “Culturing Nature: Ecology, Gaia, and the Parliament of Lively Things.”

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The new issue of Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy includes work by Quentin Meillassoux, Tristan Garcia, a review panel discussing Katrin Pahl’s Tropes of Transport: Hegel and Emotion, and a piece by me on the objects-processes debate in speculative realist philosophy.

The latter, entitled “Beatnik Brothers? Between Graham Harman and the Deleuzo-Whiteheadian Axis,” is an updated version of the talk I gave at the 2012 Nonhuman Turn conference at the University of Milwaukee’s Center for 21st Century Studies.

The complete issue can be downloaded here.

Two quick observations about art and ecology at Welcome to the Anthropocene:

1) I’m impressed with how well art has been integrated into the program, thanks in part to Jennifer Joy‘s work in weaving her own performances with a troupe of local artists and dancers throughout the events. (And how none of it is the cloying kind of art one sometimes finds when environmentalism and art meet.) This should be the goal of any interdisciplinary environmental conference or gathering; this conference, in many ways, raises the bar.

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The following are the comments I prepared for the roundtable “The Arts and Humanities Respond to the Anthropocene.” They follow in the line of critical thinking on the Anthropocene initiated by gatherings like the Anthropocene Project (see here, here, and here, and some of the posts at A(S)CENE) and journals like Environmental Humanities.

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As a cultural theorist, I come to the topic naturally asking what the different theoretical paradigms in cultural and environmental theory can say about this term “Anthropocene.” These paradigms stretch across a spectrum that can be very loosely grouped into “realist” approaches and “constructivist” approaches.

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New look

Immanence has taken on a new look. It’s crisper, cleaner, and easier to read. Most of what was in the old version is in the new one, though it might take a moment of poking around to find it. If you are reading this on a blog reader, please visit the blog on its home page. And please feel free to let me know what you think.

This week’s AESS conference “Welcome to the Anthropocene” features a breakfast roundtable called “The Arts and Humanities Respond to the Anthropocene.” See the session description below.

Unfortunately the panelists have been dropping like flies: it looks like neither dancer and performance artist Jennifer Monson, eco-artist Jackie Brookner, nor performer and comedian Jennifer Joy can make it. That leaves eco-journalist (and musician!) Andy Revkin (who’ll be giving a keynote address the previous evening), author and biologist Amy Seidl, and myself.

So this is a general call to all artists and eco-humanities folks in the New York City area: come to the breakfast roundtable if you can and if you dare. It’ll take place this Thursday morning, 7:30-9:00 a.m. at Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza in Lower Manhattan.

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Since most of us love lists — or at least love and hate them simultaneously – here is the updated version of the “Top humanities theorists of the last century” list.

See the previous version for the full criteria and the caveats. Briefly: it’s a list of the most cited humanities theorists of the last 100 years (roughly) according to their Google Scholar citation numbers.

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