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I’ve been posting about the Ukrainian presidential runoff elections over at UKR-TAZ, the blog I established in the wake of the 2014 Maidan revolution. (See Four theses on Ukrainian politics and Politics as reality-FB.) The gist of my comments is relevant to the study of social media’s impacts on political and cultural change in general, so I’ll summarize them here.

My four theses were fairly straightforward: (1) that, in electing as its president Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and actor who plays the president on television, Ukraine would overtake all rivals in the race to equate politics with reality-TV, (2) that Ukrainians are more savvy than most about their politicians, (3) that for a political system dominated by oligarchic interests, Ukraine’s is surprisingly pluralistic, and (4) that as with all oligarchic or plutocratic “democracies,” this pluralism is restricted to issues that don’t threaten the overriding interests of the oligarchic class.

I added a concluding sentence about why I wasn’t fretting too much about the electoral decision, unlike some (but not all) of my Ukrainian friends and colleagues. My follow-up post goes into a little more detail about this. It reads, in part:

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Like many, I’ve been finding it difficult not to feel an upwelling of anxiety as the scope and scale of the climate emergency has become more and more obvious, as Trump-style political (non-)responses — precisely the kinds of responses that will only make things much worse — have scaled themselves up around the world, and as new forms of political manipulation have been enabled via social media and other technologies, all of which inscribe the most serious cause of the problems — wealth inequality and the interest vested in maintaining it — ever deeper into the matrix of human options. To the extent that there is so much to be gained from maintaining the status quo (or lost from challenging it), to that extent will things continue to get worse. And if keeping up with all these developments seems so difficult, responding to them adequately has seemed almost impossible.

Movements and initiatives like Extinction Rebellion provide glimmers of hope on the possibility of mobilization — the next week and a half (Earth Week) is a particularly active time for them (see here on how you can join a local initiative).

At the same time, the sense of imminent crisis and urgency in all such activism carries an affective thrust that doesn’t necessarily model a healthy and “sustainable” mode of activity. (Amanda Lynch and Siri Veland deal with this to some extent in their recent book, Urgency in the Anthropocene.) The sense that there is so much to do right now — that we should be out in the streets rioting, waving our flags, poking our cameras into politicians’ faces, and constantly delivering monologues (so as to break into the 24-hour news cycle, to keep our opponents on their toes, and to keep ourselves from losing momentum) — all of that can contribute to the sense of heightened anxiety.

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It’s nice to see archdruid John Michael Greer’s proposal for a “Pleistocene-Neocene transition” get a little traction in the science press — specifically, in a Science Alert article by psychologist Matthew Adams.

Greer, whose writings on religion and ecology are respectably out-of-the-box, advocates against the Anthropocene label on the basis that a geological epoch — which is what the “cenes” refer to (from the Paleocene and Eocene to the Pleistocene and Holocene) — typically takes millions of years to establish itself. By that standard, the “Anthropocene” can only be based on the fantasy “that what our civilization is doing just now is going to keep on long enough to fill a geological epoch.” (The Holocene is only about 12,000 years old, so it’s debatable whether it even qualifies as an epoch.)

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For someone who teaches media and environment, it’s heartening to see people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and one of her advisors, Cornell legal star Robert Hockett, break through the media din. Even Tucker Carlson had to admit that “it’s nice to have a smart person” on his show to explain things. (Students, take note.)

First, Ocasio-Cortez: Continue Reading »

Tangerine Reef

And here is Animal Collective’s beautiful International Year of the Reef collaboration with marine biology art-science duo Coral Morphologic, entitled Tangerine Reef:

More on Coral Videography, “pioneers of avant-garde coral macro-videography,” on their web site.

I’ve been trying to convince acclaimed northeast Vermont brewer Shaun Hill to add Whitehead’s Process and Reality to his Philosophical Series of ales, stouts, lambics, and porters, on the pretext that it was written down the road from the brewery. But also because Nietzsche, Foucault, Emerson, Thoreau, and Deleuze would appreciate his company. (Shaun says he first has to read the book.)

Meanwhile, here is French avant-garde guitar maestro Richard Pinhas’s take on the book, performed with Japanese noise master Tatsuya Yoshida (a.k.a. Merzbow) and drummer Masami Akita. Three of the album’s four tracks can be heard here.

AllMusic’s Thom Jurek writes about the music:

Rojava at risk

I’ve posted here before about the Kurdish experiment in social-ecological-feminist radical democracy that’s been unfolding in the unlikeliest circumstances in the northern Syrian region of Rojava. Donald Trump’s sudden announcement of a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Syria now leaves that experiment extremely vulnerable… which puts anti-war* activists into an uncomfortable position.

(I add that asterisk to “anti-war” because I see the anti-war goal as occasionally requiring civil and even military defense, for instance when a people and land are under attack by a foreign invader. There are shades of grey here, but the point is to work continuously toward creating the conditions for lasting peace even while protecting one’s citizens from annihilation.)  Continue Reading »

I was interviewed yesterday by the local CBS-affiliated WCAX news show on the topic of how to motivate Vermonters to take action on climate change (while Bernie Sanders and Cornel West were speaking just up the road). What was used of our interview was fairly minimal, so I thought I would share the notes I prepared in the moments between getting their questions and doing the interview.

The entire piece can be read or viewed hereContinue Reading »

For many, President Trump’s babbling and incoherent responses to last week’s National Climate Assessment (“I’m too smart to believe it, just look at our air and water and what those other countries are doing…”), following on from his even less coherent responses to California’s wildfire tragedies (“They should rake more, like the Finns”), merely reconfirm that Americans elected a huckster and a clown to the highest office in the land.1

But for careful watchers of right-wing responses to climate science, Trump’s comments show something else as well. Instead of the carefully prepared propaganda campaign we’ve seen in previous years (crafted at places like the Heartland Institute or the moderately more reasonable, but ideologically libertarian, Cato Institute), Trump appears to have been caught scrambling for talking points. Continue Reading »

Heads in the sands

It’s not surprising that the Trump administration would wish to bury the nearly 1700-page Fourth National Climate Asessment, Volume 2: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, a report written by over 300 scientists representing 13 federal agencies, by having it released on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when most Americans are too busy shopping (or sleeping off their holiday revelry) to pay attention to anything.

It’s not just Trump’s (and other Republicans’) coziness with the oil and gas industries, and their dislike of the implications of climate science, that accounts for it. It’s also that they are busily gutting government while they can (as Fintan O’Toole explains in this week’s New York Review of Books) and the report makes it painfully clear what that kind of strategy will lead to. (It ain’t pretty.)

1700 pages is a lot to read, but if you live in the US (and plan to stay put for a while), you ought to at least read the Summary Findings, the Overview (chapter 1), and the regional chapter on the part of the country you live in.

Feverish World (2016-2068): Arts and Sciences of Collective Survival was premised on the acknowledgment that the coming decades will be feverish in more ways than one — climatologically, politically, economically, militarily — and that the arts will be essential in helping us come to terms with that feverishness. In my comments opening the symposium, I laid out the organizing committee’s thinking about this “feverishness.” In a follow-up event on November 30, EcoCultureLab will explore ways to move forward locally so as to be better able to “meet” that feverishness.

My hunch is that the only emotionally productive and sustainable ways forward will be to focus on transforming today’s (and tomorrow’s) challenges into ecotopian capacities: How do we remake society into one that can sustain itself ecoculturally (without fossil fuels and grotesque inequalities) into the longer-range future? What are the visions that can guide this process forward?   

The following were my opening comments at the Feverish World Symposium. The ecotopic visioning remains ahead of us.

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Peircian thinker Gary Fuhrman has posted an interesting piece on the naming of the Anthropocene, entitled Holocenoscopy. Noting that the word Holocene means nothing more than “entirely recent,” as opposed to the Pleistocene, which means “most recent,” so there’s really nowhere left to go with naming geological periods after their recentness, Fuhrman suggests we look to another meaning associated with the Greek suffix -cene: not the new (kainos, καινός) but the common (koinos, κοινός). (Christians may recognize the term koinonia, κοινωνία, as a reference to fellowship and communion.)

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