Tag Archive: ecology

My upcoming talk at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs comes from the East European strand of my research.

The talk will be called “Becoming Tuteishyi: Peregrinations in the Zona of Ukraine, with Walter, Gloria, Andrei, Bruno, and Other Explorers.”

The description reads as follows:

Drawing on the author’s research and travels, this talk will consider Ukraine’s ambiguous positioning within global cultural discourse by recourse to theories of borderlands (via Walter Mignolo and Gloria Anzaldua), hybridity and amodernity (via Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway), postcommunism and postcolonialism, and to images of anomalous zones and errant wanderings, with particular attention to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

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A new book by Tim Ingold is always good news, especially one that — like his 2000 collection Perception of the Environment — brings together several years’ worth of work into one volume. Ingold describes Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description as “in many ways” a “sequel” to that earlier book, and it’s interesting to examine the territory he’s traversed since then.

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This is the concluding part of a three-part article. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here. They should be read in the sequence in which they were published.


The True, the Good, and the Beautiful

All of this can be related to the triad of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful — or, in their Peircian sequence, aesthetics, ethics, and logic. Aesthetics, as Peirce conceived it, is most directly concerned with firstness; ethics, with secondness; and logic, with thirdness.

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I’d like to call a moratorium on the use of the word “constructivism” (or “constructionism”) to refer only to social constructivism.

(This post was prompted by Tim  Morton’s Object-Oriented Strategies for Ecological Art, but his point there is somewhat differently directed and mine addresses a more general issue that can still be found in a lot of writing in social and ecological theory, and which concerns what’s at stake when we speak of “constructivism.”)

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I was going to post something to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, but Sarah Phillips has already posted something so good, saying many of the things I would have wanted to say, that I will simply link to her article at Somatosphere and add some personal notes of my own. The result reads more like a love letter to post-Chernobyl Ukraine than a lament. So be it.

First, a couple of choice bits from Sarah’s article:

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Ecology, ontology, politics: These three terms are among the most common themes of this blog, but their intersections deserve a more sustained exploration. This is the first of a series of posts that will do that through critical discussion of various readings and concepts.

This first post reviews and reflects on some of the questions raised by Andrew Pickering’s latest book The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010). The next two posts will examine the integral theory of Sean Esbjörn-Hargens as applied to climate change, and integral theory pioneer Ken Wilber’s critique of process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.

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I enjoyed Astra Taylor’s film Examined Life when I first saw it a couple of years ago, and, having just watched it again, I’m glad to see that it bears re-viewing.

As one might expect, some segments are more lasting than others. Slavoj Zizek wearing an orange safety vest talking about ecology at a London trash heap (above) is the most brilliantly conceived segment, and one gets to hear the full (and in its own way brilliant) incoherence of his position on the topic. “The true ecological attitude is to hate the world: less love, more hatred,” as he puts it in the full interview (available in the book-of-the-film, p. 180).

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I’m reorganizing the piece I wrote for the School of Advanced Research workshop on science, nature, and religion so that part of it will fit into the introduction of the book we are producing (which I’m co-writing with the workshop organizer and chair, Catherine Tucker) and the rest will make up the book’s concluding chapter. The original piece had a coherence to it that will be lost somewhat, so I thought I would share the first couple of sections of it here.

(Graham Harman’s recent comments about the slowness of traditional scholarly publishing versus the rapidity and accessibility of open-access publishing, which reiterate the argument that got me to set up this blog in the first place, has encouraged me to want to share at least something of this SAR event that happened a year and a half ago, and that won’t culminate with a publication for several months still.)

The remainder of this piece, including the “cosmopolitical” argument I alluded to in this post at the time, will remain in the book’s conclusion. You’ll have to wait for the book to read the finished version of that. It will be a very good collection, and I hope SAR Press doesn’t make it too inaccessible for the general public.

Here are a couple of excerpts… View full article »

Marx’s insights for ecology are many. The four “informal laws of ecology,” as Levi Bryant points out in his post on John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology, are not one of them (let alone four). These “laws” have been making their rounds ever since biologist and eco-socialist (and one-time Citizens Party candidate for the U.S. presidency) Barry Commoner proposed them around 1970. Numerous iterations afterward have suggested three, four, or five such laws, with Greenpeace’s Declaration of Interdependence being particularly influential. I’m not aware of any scientific ecologists today who think of them as actual scientific laws, though others have been proposed for the science of ecology (see, e.g., here or Pierre Dansereau’s 27 laws of ecology). Foster’s point is that they are “informal,” and therefore intended to provoke thought, not to serve as a foundation for a science.

But let’s look at them, and then at Marx. The first of Foster’s (Commoner’s) “laws,” that “everything is connected to everything else”, is (as Levi points out) a platitude. It’s not wrong, but it doesn’t take us very far. (Except in the mystical experience, which has its place, and an inspirationally important one for many environmentalists; but let’s leave that aside.) The point it makes is intended as a corrective to the common-sense notion that things are simply what they are (people, animals, possessions, units of one thing or another, etc.) and that’s all. The law says that they aren’t just that: everything arises out of its own set of originating conditions, and passes away into other conditions, affecting other things in the process. Not everything directly affects everything else — that would be impossible, since two things that arise simultaneously but in different places don’t normally affect each other (unless by way of some “holographic universe” or superstring-like mechanism that scientists haven’t figured out yet). But if you traced the lines of causal connection from any thing in the universe, you could, in principle, trace it back/forward/across to anything else. That’s what the theory of evolution and the Big Bang both propose, and the science of ecology shares the supposition (though theoretical physicists may not): there is a single universe that has unfolded along a single (branching/diversifying/multiplying/expanding) trajectory, and everything in it is connected through this shared ancestry/descent/line of development. That’s all. The more pragmatic point (which was Commoner’s point) is that our actions have effects and that we normally don’t give them enough thought.

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Seems someone else beat me to reviewing Bernd Herzogenrath’s anthology Deleuze/Guattari and Ecology for Deleuze Studies, and the reviews editor failed to tell me that (which he must have known for a few months now; I hope that’s not common practice for them). In any case, things like that happen, especially with academic journals that operate with little or no administrative support, as is the case with DS. I could send it to another journal, but DS is the leading venue for anglophone Deleuze scholarship and the book’s been out since late 2008, so I’ll just share it here, in its extended-length and hyperlinked (and thus ‘value-added’) version.

Incidentally, if anyone else would like a venue for online publishing of reviews related to Deleuze, eco/geophilosophy, and the like, I’m quite happy to make space available here for that. The print publication process, after all, takes time (and costs money), and journals are better used as venues for peer-reviewed scholarship, which also takes time, than for reviews, which are useful as soon as they’re written.

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