Some 2500 years ago, a man named Siddhartha Gotama articulated what have come to be known as the “4 Noble Truths”: the truth of dukkha, or fundamental suffering (that there is a basic unsatisfactoriness to life), the truth of its causes (that it arises from an ignorance and misperception of the nature of things, which are conditionally-arising-and-passing — process-relational, rather than stable and possessible), the truth of its cessation (that liberation from ignorance is possible), and the way of its cessation (the so-called Noble Eightfold Path).

In a similar spirit, I’m trying to capture my talk for this weekend’s iCreate Cape Breton workshop, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in four pithy propositions. The talk is entitled “From Ecological Sacrifice Zones to a Global Movement of Movements,” and one of those sacrifice zones — the infamous Sydney Tar Ponds, now a public park called Open Hearth Park (see photo below and the Fifth Grade anticipatory vision for it, above) — is nearby.

Here are the 4 propositions.

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Trembling yet?

The New York Times reported this week that

“The United States Geological Survey on Thursday released its first comprehensive assessment of the link between thousands of earthquakes and oil and gas operations, identifying and mapping 17 regions where quakes have occurred. […]

“By far the hardest-hit state, the report said, is Oklahoma, where earthquakes are hundreds of times more common than they were until a few years ago because of the disposal of wastewater left over from extracting fuels and from drilling wells by injecting water into the earth. But the report also mapped parts of eight other states, from Lake Erie to the Rocky Mountains, where that practice has caused quakes, and said most of them were at risk for more significant shaking in the future.

“’Oklahoma used to experience one or two earthquakes per year of magnitude 3 or greater, and now they’re experiencing one or two a day,’ Mark Petersen, the chief author of the report, said.”

More here. The report is available here; abstract here.

I just noticed, for the first time, how many of my publication titles begin with a verb in present continuous (or progressive) mode: words like claiming, stirring, stoking, opening, orchestrating, coloring, weathering, de/composing, re-examining, teaching… If I include subtitles, I get mapping, theorizing, stalking, collapsing, crafting. And when I add talk and conference paper titles, there’s screening, greening, searching, recentering, reimagining, re(b)ordering, constructing, deprogramming (really).

I’m not sure what that says about me… That I like continuous motion?

(I know: what’s with the parentheses and slashes? They’re almost all old… Notch them up to the pomo-ism of youth.)

The following is a significantly revised version of an article I posted to the Indications blog (and etc) five and a half years ago. I was curious to see how much of it still holds (a lot, I think), so I’ve revisited it and expanded its proposed sort-of-canon, in the second part of what follows, into a list of 33 or so classics and quasi-classics of the environmental studies — and, at least through substantial overlap, environmental humanities — field(s). Comments welcome.



Is there an Environmental Studies canon?

An e-mail asking about an “environmental studies canon,” sent to the ASLE listserv in 2009 by veteran environmental writer John Lane, might have flared up into a full-throttle debate over the joys and pitfalls of disciplinary canonization, but quickly fizzled out, probably due to its coinciding with the end of summer and beginning of the fall semester. John’s proposed list, shared below, reflected the “mainstream” American environmental studies consensus fairly well, and the responses pointed both to its problems and to the breadth of unquestioned support some of its texts would get from those who teach in the field.

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Those who missed the panel on “Post-Cinema and/as Speculative Media Theory” at last week’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Montreal will be able to view the videos of the talks at medieninitiative. Steven Shaviro, Patricia Pisters, Mark Hansen and I entertained a standing-room only crowd (see the audience spilling out into the hall here).

The first talk, which is up already, is Steven Shaviro’s brilliant exegesis of “The Rhythm-Image,” which Shaviro proposes as the title for the unwritten third volume of Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema series. (The list of such possible titles — “Cinema 3.0” for the non-committal — continues to grow, as Shaviro shows on a slide at around 4’45”.) The other talks will be added soon.

Meanwhile, here’s a poster for the upcoming Cultures of Energy research symposium at Rice. It promises to be a packed 48 hours of interesting talks. Mine will be called “Cinema, Ecology, and the Death of Carbon Capitalism.”

The Orbis spike

In an article in Nature entitled “Defining the Anthropocene,” geographers and climate scientists Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin provide a new approach to dating this era that focuses on an event they call the “Orbis spike,” a dip in atmospheric COoccurring around 1610. Effectively, what their proposal does it to allow geologists to harmonize their work with historical and social scientific scholarship on the Columbian encounter and the spread of European colonialism across the planet. (I’m thinking especially of world-systems theorists, environmental historians like Alfred Crosby and Jason W. Moore, and the Latin American modernity/coloniality research program.)


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Quick quiz:

What U.S. city did Michel Foucault pen these words about?

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Back to Zero

My musical, intellectual, and ecocultural interests would not have evolved the way they did without Daevid Allen — beat poet, musical visionary, and psychedelic rocker who died last week at age 77. Here’s a personal account of why.

In the background are the social, material, and ecological connections that I intend to examine more closely in future writing on the ecologies of music: networks of musicians and artists, political events (like May ’68 in France), places and landscapes (Glastonbury, Deia, Canterbury, et al.), objects and techniques (like tape loops, or Allen’s dissemination of the style of guitar playing he called “glissando guitar” and the surgical instrument he used for it), and ideas and images (like the Tantric graphics employed by Allen to convey Asian and occult ideas about subtle bodies, higher harmonies, and other such things). 


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One of my pet musicological theories is that the years 1967-74 were the most creative 7-year period in the history of musical humanity.

Why those years? The social and technological revolutions of the 1960s — civil rights, the women’s movement, the counterculture and anti-Vietnam War movements, the sudden unifying singularity of television and mass (and alternative) media across national boundaries — made possible new convergences across a wide range of cultural spheres, including among musicians coming out of the rock, folk, jazz, blues, classical, and avant-garde traditions, not to mention interlocutors from India, Africa, South America, and elsewhere.

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OAD update

That stands for “Ontology Across the Disciplines,” which is the UVM faculty (and grad student) reading group that I said I’d keep readers updated on. I’ve been a bit remiss with that, as we had a meeting 3 weeks ago and will be meeting again at 4 p.m. today.

Here is a one-page handout (click for PDF) I’ve sent around to participants. It includes a very quick-and-dirty (and extremely cursory) “orienting map” — really just intended to catalyze other participants to map for themselves how ontological questions have come to the fore in their own disciplines — as well as some very brief summary notes of the discussion at the last meeting, which focused on Cultural Anthropology’s “Politics of Ontology” series.

Today’s meeting will focus on two readings by anthropologist Todd Ramón Ochoa: “Versions of the Dead: Kalunga, Cuban-Kongo Materiality, and Ethnography” and “Prendas-Ngangas-Enquisos: Turbulence and the Influence of the Dead in Cuban Kongo Material Culture“.  Both come from a book project that was published as Society of the Dead: Quita Manaquita and Palo Praise in Cuba.

Comments welcome.

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