Tag Archive: environmentalism

A cultural cold war wind

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I predicted back in 2010 that globalizing and technological trends would lead disparate religious traditions to find common ground on socially divisive issues like abortion and gay rights.

Just as environmentalism, feminism, and indigenous rights were partnering various more liberal church groups with environmental and social justice organizations, contributing to the development of an “eco-egalitarian” global civil religion, so would socially conservative movements — among Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others — lead to a quasi-religion of global “social traditionalism.”

What I didn’t foresee is how quickly this convergent tendency would grow between American Evangelicals and one of the most introverted of international churches — the Russian Orthodox Church. The two had not long ago been arch-rivals in what sociologist of religion Eileen Barker called the “opium wars of the new millennium” — skirmishes over religious turf in the former Soviet Union.  View full article »

Good news, bad news…

As I think about our Environmental Studies curriculum (I’m Acting Director this semester) and start to think about my Nature and Culture course (which I’ll be teaching in January), I come around to the question of how to conceptualize the fraught relationship between humans and everything else.

The Nature and Culture course offers tools for thinking about this relationship, and challenges students to interrogate those tools, developing them in their own ways and to various ends (ethical, practical, political, etc.). One conceptual tool, among many, is the “good news—bad news” frame. Here’s a quick attempt to present things in this frame.

First, of course . . .

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Earth Day 40

I’ve been posting links to Earth Day news in the shadow blog (which you can follow in the column to your right on the Immanence main page). The most interesting news, to my mind, was the initiative for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and the calls to establish an international climate court, both coming out of the People’s World Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Hosted by Bolivian president Evo Morales, whose proposal last year that April 22 be formally adopted as International Mother Earth Day was unanimously accepted by the UN General Assembly, the conference seems to be where a lot of the energy from the global climate justice movement has gone since the Copenhagen debacle.

News about the conference is being widely covered in the left-green and indigenist mediaspheres, including at Democracy Now!, Climate Justice Now!, Climate and Capitalism, Another Green World, Grist, It’s Getting Hot In Here, Indian Country Today, and the World War Four report, and with Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and others chiming in on it. Even at this people’s summit, and within Bolivian indigenous communities themselves, however, one finds rifts, such as this one over mining in Bolivia. And while all the “Mother Earth” language, pervasive at the conference, might raise questions in other contexts (for instance among feminists, for whom it perpetuates a dichotomy that equates femininity with passivity), in this context it seems a way of acknowledging the centrality of indigenous discourses, which I think is important both to climate change and to land rights activism. Meanwhile, however, Big Coal continues to boom.

The big controversy around here was Derrick Jensen’s invited keynote address on Wednesday night, which elicited at least a few calls for retroactive renunciation of his views. Jensen didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before, and at times his talk seemed to descend into a kind of anti-civilizationist stand-up comedy, but many of our students loved it.

On the philosophical front, my favorite Earth Day blog post (probably not intended as an Earth Day post, but certainly suitable to be one) was Peter Gratton’s interview with Jane Bennett, posted yesterday as part of a series of interviews with “speculative realist” philosophers (and, in this case, “vibrant materialists”). Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things is becoming a welcome theoretical interlocutor between the speculative realists and all the other theorists I regularly post about here, so it’s great to see it being read. Reviews are reportedly forthcoming (including, eventually, my own), but the book would be a good one for an inter-blog reading group.

Žižek and his Others


Speaking here at the University of Vermont last Friday, Slavoj Žižek responded to a student query about where to study Lacanianism by lauding our Film and Television Studies Program as the only one anywhere at which Lacanians are actually “in power” — the current chair, former chair, and at least one other faculty member, plus an overflow audience composed primarily of undergrads providing pretty good evidence of this — and then by characterizing the world of Lacanian theory as a kind of widely but thinly spread diaspora, in which the Lacanian had to craftily pretend to go along with the powers-that-be until they got into a secure position at which point they could turn around and “shoot,” i.e. do the real (Lacanian) stuff.

It’s nice to have one’s university marked out as a unique place in this way, not necessarily because of the Lacanianism (though some would say for that, too) as because having Žižek’s imprimatur adds some always-welcome cachet to it. Compared to the talk Žižek gave in Montreal recently, where his topic had been theology and the death of God, he was more on home turf here, both in terms of having the sympathetic packed-hall audience and because his topic was the more familiar one (for his fans) of ideology, film, and Jacques Lacan.

As I’ve related here before (to some extent), I admire Žižek’s passion, am awed by his energy and prolificacy, and strongly sympathize with his overall project, which he has loosely characterized as waking people up from their ideologically induced slumber, where the ‘waking’ is part of a Lacanian unmasking of psychologically driven illusions, and the ‘ideology’ is the one propping up capitalist injustice. But when it comes to the details of his arguments, I don’t always find them as convincing as I would like.

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