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 »
But one of the unexpected revelations for me has been Brenda Longfellow’s Offshore, an interactive web documentary that offers powerful depictions of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in a stunning visual format.
The film’s home page is here. I recommend setting aside some time to explore its many features. Note that the page takes some time to load.
For those wishing to follow the conference, its Twitter hashtag is #uws2014, and the Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/uws2014. I will try to say more about it when I can.
According to Dupré, who is director of Egenis, the Center for the Study of the Life Sciences (formerly the ESRC Center for Genomics and Society), the project aims to “redress the balance” between substance based and processual views within the philosophy of science. Giving the example of the cellular structure of the human body — where 90% of a body’s cells are microbial symbionts — Dupré notes that
“In general, it seems increasingly plausible that there is no unique way of distinguishing biological things from the multiple processes by which they are sustained, which supports the hypothesis that the ontology of biological things is less fundamental than that of living processes.”
The preliminary program is up for the third Under Western Skies conference, “Intersections of Environments, Technologies, Communities,” which will be held in a couple of weeks at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.
And it looks fantastic. I think the biennial UWS gatherings are becoming one of the leading interdisciplinary forums for environmental thinking, critique, and engaged scholarship.
The topics cover a remarkable range: environmental politics, climate change activism, fossil fuel and resource conflicts (tar sands being prominently featured), indigenous struggles, eco-art and aesthetics, ecopoetics and literature, music and acoustic ecology, film and media, pedagogy, animals, ecophilosophy, e-waste, ecological economics, geoengineering, disaster planning and preparedness, health, food, and much more.
Keynotes and plenary activities cover a similar range, from indigenous activists Idle No More and Winona LaDuke (who will speak on the Keystone XL pipeline) to anthropologist Tim Ingold, western historian Patti Limerick, eco-religion scholar Bron Taylor (speaking on “Terrapolilitan Earth Civilization: Toward an Evolutionary and Naturalistic Environmental Ethics”), ecologist David Schindler, and Justice Thomas Berger (best known for his role in the Mackenzie Pipeline Inquiry). They even found a spot for my own keynote, entitled “From the Age of the World Motion Picture to the Archive, the Cloud, and the Commons.”
The following is a guest post by Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia. It continues the Immanence series “Debating the Anthropocene.” See here, here, and here for previous articles in the series. (And note that some lengthy comments have been added to the previous post by Jan Zalasiewicz, Kieran Suckling, and others.)
The Anthropocene: Too Serious for Post-Modern Games
[Note: This post has been edited slightly since it was first published, to clarify the difference between sound waves and radio waves.]
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.
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.