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This post follows up on my previous note about Alfred North Whitehead’s time spent in Greensboro, Vermont. It was updated on July 7, 2016, thanks to information obtained from the Mitchells’ descendants.

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I have found out where the Whiteheads stayed when he was writing his philosophical magnum opus, Process and Reality. It was in a two-story cottage owned by economist Wesley Clare Mitchell and progressive educator Lucy Sprague Mitchell. The cottage Continue Reading »

This post builds on the previous one on the state of the eco-humanities. Here I focus on the substantive elements for narratives adequate to the Anthropocene.

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One of the challenges of our time is to learn to tell an adequate story of humanity’s current predicament.

Next spring’s Stories for the Anthropocene Festival in Stockholm aims to deal with this challenge. Numerous books and statements, from Bill McKibben’s Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet to Roy Scranton’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene to Ian Angus’s about-to-be-released Facing the Anthropocene to the Breakthrough Institute’s Ecomodernist Manifesto (and its critiques), vie for the right mix of pessimism and optimism, technical realism and motivating vision. These latter-day efforts add to existing “big story” narratives, like David Christian’s “Big History” and Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme’s “universe story” (see here for a discussion of their limitations), injecting urgency from recent science into the mix.

My own sense is that there are at least three key elements that should be part of any such narrative: Continue Reading »

I was astounded to read the following passage as I sat in a cottage on the shore of Caspian Lake in Greenboro, Vermont, earlier today:

“Work on ‘The Concept of Organism’ began with the summer of 1927, which the Whiteheads spent in a cottage on the shore of Caspian Lake, in Greensboro, Vermont. It was there that Whitehead’s metaphysical system was created and his magnum opus, later named Process and Reality, was shaped.”

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Just as I=PAT serves as a handy, if problematic, formula for thinking about the causes of environmental impact, so I think there is a similar formula underlying tragedies like the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. It goes something like this:

Hate + Technology + Distress = Carnage/Chaos

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This post is the first of a series of reflections on the state of the Environmental Humanities, or Eco-Humanities, and of where this interdisciplinary field might be headed.

A note on terminology: The term “Environmental Humanities” has caught on in ways that “Eco-Humanities” and other variations have not, but the debate between them has hardly occurred, so I will use those two interchangeably in what follows. The abbreviation “EH” works for both. I’ll leave open the question of whether the Eco-Arts deserve more explicit recognition, as in “Eco-Arts and Humanities” or “EAH,” or if they are a separate entity. I’ll also leave aside the fact that one could say all the same things about “Anthropocene scholarship” — which is even more interdisciplinary in its roots and scope.

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Interviews are funny things: you have to think on the spot, but later realize how deeply and profoundly imperfect (!) was your choice of words.

The Imperfect Buddha Podcast has an interview with me in which host Matthew O’Connor (of Post-Traditional Buddhism) and I talk at length about Buddhism, process-relational metaphysics, panpsychism, social constructionism, cognitive science, meditation (including process-relational analytic meditation, but much later than when he asks me about it), emptiness, subjectivity, Dzogchen, enlightenment, and ecological crisis, plus a host of thinkers from Whitehead and Peirce to Naess, Guattari, Harman, Zizek, Lacan, and meditation teacher Shinzen Young.

Writing, on the other hand, allows for the kind of reflective consideration of one’s words that I’m more accustomed to. The Pomegranate, a peer-reviewed journal of Pagan studies, has published a special issue incorporating autobiographies of some scholarly leaders within that field, and it turns out that I qualify among them. (I’ve been on the editorial board of the journal for many years.)

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While I’ve done no formal surveys, my best guess is that about half my students here at the U of Vermont (at least those in Environmental Studies) would fit into the category of “religiously unaffiliated,” the so-called “religious Nones” — a category that now makes up almost 1 in 4 Americans and over a third of those under 25.

Many, though not all, of my students resonate with the phrase “spiritual but not religious.” If they were offered the option, I suspect they would subscribe to what Elizabeth Drescher calls “spiritual cosmopolitanism.”

Drescher writes:

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With reality like this, who needs fiction?

It’s from Fort McMurray, last week. Harrowing.

While the impact of such images is undeniable, the debate over whether and how they are related to climate change is a debate the rest of us should not shy away from. Continue Reading »

McKenzie Wark has written a very provocative piece on the geopolitics of the Anthropocene, or what he calls “The Geopolitics of Hibernation.”

A quote:  Continue Reading »

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I’ll be giving this talk at the University of Kansas on Thursday. It’ll be exactly two days after the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. And 16 days before the 30th anniversary of Mikhail Gorbachev’s speech about the accident. Pravda (Truth) first reported in any detail on the accident on May 6 and 7.

The future of the Soviet Union hinged on that 18 day period between the accident and the Politburo’s admissions about it. If there was a single event that precipitated the USSR’s unraveling, it was the Chernobyl accident. Without the accident, its aftermath — Continue Reading »

One of the best ways to respond to the Bubble I mentioned in the last post is through the arts. Here’s the poster for my summer course examining artistic responses to the global crisis.

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I’ve been using the metaphor of the Sustainability Bottleneck in my teaching, but another one that is more immediately graspable is The Bubble.

Two things landed in my in-box this morning that testify to this (but that’s a pretty daily occurrence, e.g., see this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, all from the past week). One of these is a New York Times op-ed by a meteoreological business guy, called “A New Dark Age Looms.” The second is an interesting piece by Australian eco-anarchist farmer Glenn Albrecht called “Exiting the Anthropocene and Entering the Symbiocene” (which originally appeared on his blog in December).

Where they concur is that, as scientists have been increasingly predicting, we can expect a Coming Unraveling — an unraveling of the “established patterns and regularity of Holocene phenology” of the past 12,000 years, followed by a “new abnormal” in which

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