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To have the world’s leading religious figure make a statement like this one — heavily anticipated and already leaked out in draft form — will be a game-changer. And a godsend (literally for some, figurally for most) to the climate justice community — which, after all, should be all of us.

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One of the films that gets a lengthy treatment in my book Ecologies of the Moving Image is Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, about the death of Timothy Treadwell at the hands of a brown bear in Alaska. I characterized it there as a complex and nuanced film that provides a series of somewhat contradictory — but cognitively and affectively compelling — approaches to the human-animal boundary.

What I neglected to examine in any depth was Herzog’s nod to the Alutiiq Native population to help make his own case about that boundary. I should have done that. A film about relations between humans and bears in a part of the world where such relations have existed for centuries requires delving into what Latour and Stengers would call their “cosmopolitics” — the ways in which they have been shaped and continue to affect divergent forms of “naturecultural” coexistence beyond the “modern constitution” of Euro-American modes of thought and practice. 

Filmmaker (and UVM graduate student) Finn Yarbrough took up this issue in a short paper for the course I’ve just finished teaching. The paper ranges insightfully from the film’s queerish gender subtext to Alutiiq shamanism. I’m sharing that paper as a guest post below, with Finn’s permission.   — A.I.

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Graham Harman’s reply to my critical response to his book Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political, which appeared as part of a book symposium in Global Discourse earlier this year, is readable online, here. 

I won’t address the details of that reply here. Some of them relate to our divergent interpretations of Latour, and since Harman has now written two books (and more) about Latour, I am sure he will be able to come up with counter-examples to any examples I provide in support of my interpretation. As Harman suspects, what Latour says is not really the issue for me (though I have an interest in it).

The bottom line in our disagreement is the same as ever: Continue Reading »

Two news bits from the past week or so:

(1) The UN has announced that the proportion of people who are chronically undernourished in the world has fallen by nearly half — from 23.3% to 12.9% — over the last 25 years. Only a handful of countries — Haiti, North Korea, Zambia, Namibia, and the Central African Republic — remain in the high hunger category, which means that over 35% of their populations are chronically hungry.

(2) The Canadian government-appointed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Justice Murray Sinclair (who is Ojibway), has concluded its six-year report by naming Canada’s many decades-long “residential school” system for indigenous youth a form of “cultural genocide.”

The latter may not sound like good news, but for those who already knew that it was that, official recognition is a significant victory.

Make of those what you will.

I’ve reported previously on how critics see the “Anthropocene” concept as overgeneralizing from the causal nuances of actual responsibility for climate (and global system) change. In an excellent summary of recent writing on the topic, ecosocialist climate observer Ian Angus answers the question “Does Anthropocene science blame all humanity?” with a definitive “no.”

That doesn’t mean that the term doesn’t lend itself to a blanket all-humanity-is-to-blame position. It just shows that its main proponents do not, in fact, hold such a position.

The debate continues.

The semester is over, the grades are submitted, the sun is shining after a beautiful heavy rain, and the trees on the streets of Burlington are in full bloom — cherry blossoms and flowering dogwoods, magnolias and crabapples (at least those are my guesses).

And this song lilts the afternoon as I watch the traffic outside my office window.

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There is a lot being said about the unexpected rout of the long-ruling Progressive Conservative government in the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta by the socialist New Democrats. Some of it (on the left) is euphoric and over the top — which is understandable given the seemingly helpless state of the left across much of North America. But the implications of this shakeup in the northern heart of the oil industry are worth pondering.

Among the NDP’s campaign promises were raising the corporate tax rate from 10% to 12%, carrying out an oil-royalty review, increasing income taxes on the top 10% of earners, raising the minimum wage to C$15 an hour, funneling any new energy-royalty revenue to a savings fund, banning corporate (and union) political party donations, and withdrawing provincial support from the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Here are some thoughts on what this political shake-up means for the environment and the left.

The video of my talk on “Speculative Ecologies of (Post)Cinema: Cinema In and Beyond the Capitalocene,” is now up on Vimeo and at Shane Denson’s web site. It is from the SCMS panel “Post-Cinema and/as Speculative Media Theory,” featuring Steven Shaviro, Patricia Pisters, and Mark Hansen.

I discuss the archive, the cloud, the common, the slippery morphing image (of digital cinema), the Anthropocene and Capitalocene, and the unrepresentability of ecological collapse…

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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.

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