Tag Archive: oilpocalypse

Sighting Oil

While it’s been out for several months now, the current issue of Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, a special issue on Sighting Oil, deserves more press than it’s gotten.

The journal is housed at the University of Alberta, which makes it particularly well situated to critically observe the development of Alberta’s infamous Tar Sands. The issue features several critical as well as visual essays on oil (including one by Allan Stoekl on peak oil), tar sands and pipeline politics, visual representation, “dark ecology,” BP and its Gulf Oil Spill, and much else.


(And here’s one thing we’ve been doing about it: Vermont towns say no to Tar Sands oil.)



Jon Stewart’s history of US energy policy…

night of the living dead


From Evan Eisenberg’s The Ecology of Eden:

Half a million years ago, our genus formed an alliance with perennial grasses which allowed us to conquer the world. Over the past ten thousand years, an alliance of humans and annual grasses has conquered much the same ground in a fraction of the time, displacing or subduing not only other species but other humans, their allies, and their cultures.

Only a few centuries ago, a third alliance arose which is now very close to total hegemony over the living world. It has displaced or subjugated much of the natural world that survived the first two waves, as well as what was left of the waves themselves, including humans, their allies, and their cultures. The odd thing about this third alliance is that our most important allies have been dead for millions of years. They are cycads, ferns, giant horsetails, mollusks, plankton, and other creatures that flourished in the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, and which the bear-hug of the earth’s crust has crushed into energy-rich carbon compounds.

Modern humans are merely the latest in a long and distinguished line of saprophages: creatures such as fungi, maggots, and various microbes that feed off decaying or decayed organic matter. In our case, the dead organic matter in question is wood, peat, coal, and oil. [. . .]

An oil spill is a kind of night of the living dead, in which dead organic matter that we have called from its grave rises and strangles the living. But oil spills are the least of the problems that fossil fuels cause. For species not allied with man, this third wave is a horror show in which their own ancestors come back to haunt and harm them. Whatever humans could do before–strip forests, rip up soil, move themselves and their allies to the outermost corners of the world–they can now do more easily. [. . .] The earth is punctured, gouged, and scraped to get at more fuel, and at the minerals that are used to make the machines that use the fuel. [. . .]

A biologist from a pedestrian planet, peering at some stretch of North America from a height of five hundred feet, will conclude that its dominant species is a shiny lozenge-shaped reptilian creature that alternately basks in the sun and sprints at great speed. It is host, he will note, to small endosymbiotic organisms which at intervals emerge, move about slowly, then re-enter the host. Further observation reveals why the host puts up with these seeming parasites. They are devoted to the care and feeding of the host. They suck energy-rich organic compounds from the bowels of the planet and feed them to the host, something it is unable to do for itself. At times they even fight other colonies of their own species for access to the host-food. They make over ecosystems to meet the host’s needs, replacing vast forests and grasslands with flat surfaces on which the host can bask or sprint more easily, and building hives or dens in which the host can take shelter from the elements. What they get in return is as yet unclear. Indeed, it seems possible the two organisms are forms of the same species, the lozenge being a sort of queen and the smaller creature a worker.”

…sinking into ugly reality


Many more like this came out of Greenpeace UK’s

rebranding BP competition.

See here and here for more.

The Associated Press is reporting that the “oil spill cam” has become an Internet sensation. On Thursday, apparently, “more than a million people watched it. Many found it hypnotic.”

Also, apparently, watching the video can “offer clues to who is winning in the battle — BP or the oil,” according to the director of the National Spill Control School (?) at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

“If the stuff coming out of the pipe is jet black, it is mostly oil and BP is losing. If it is whitish, it is mostly gas and BP is also losing.

“If it is muddy brown, as it was Friday, that may be a sign that BP is starting to achieve success, [National Spill Control School director Tony Wood] said. That ‘may in fact mean that there’s mud coming up and mud coming down as well,’ which is better than oil coming out, Wood said.”


Or, as a developer whose “gated fishing community” is “now on hold because of the spill” put it: “It’s the unknown that’s killing us.” Indeed. What else besides “the unknown” lurks beyond the the Deepwater Horizon?

Compared to the other videos I posted, silence may speak loudest. Here, it seems to be accompanied by a mechanical alien probing around on another planet, out of a film by Werner Herzog:

drill baby drill…

How’s that drill-baby-drilly stuff workin’ out for ya?

On the other hand, the violence in détournements like this one is pretty grotesque. I’m even hesitant to link to it, let alone embedding it, for fear of getting my hands too dirty. I don’t think I’d want the guy who made it (no question it’s a guy) to live in my neighborhood. Thuggery (and misogyny) disguised as political cleverness. Makes me want to defend Sarah Palin.

The OTE keeps unfolding…

Does that thing (between 0:11 and 0:27) know what it is swimming through??

Here’s a good collection of some of the most memorable images (but what’s that awful music?):

Does Sarah McLaughlin improve things a little?

View full article »

Spillcam reality


I’ve been wanting to post something about the images of the Gulf oil spill (or, rather, of the unmitigated man made deep water volcanic vent of crude oil and gas) — about what they indicate (i.e. directly inform us about), what they symbolize (i.e., mean) and iconize (look like), and why it might be that CNN and other cable news outlets are so fascinated by the Spillcam. Of course, they mean different things to different people: corporate negligence or ecocide to some, more disappointment in political saviors to others, the dark ecological eye of the Real to yet others (at least that’s something like what I would expect to hear from Zizekians, Mortonites, and maybe dark vitalists), and perhaps just a vague of sense of weird (un)reality to most.

We leap from rock to rock across a raging river — economic crash, volcanic fog, oil spill, and so on — and these are the images that link the chain for us, the dream of globality, the chain we can use as a string of prayer beads or as the rope to strangle ourselves with.

… And about the Middlesex philosophy fiasco, which one can hope isn’t a harbinger of academic seismic shifts to come. (We have some power not to let that happen.)

I’ve been too busy writing and dealing with other matters to do much of either. But it’s a good time for thinking about the sorts of things Jane Bennett writes about in her political ecology of things. The reading group should be getting started over at Philosophy in a Time of Error shortly (and winding its way over here eventually).