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This was originally posted over a week ago, but then taken down by request as it was being considered for publication elsewhere (but not published there). A shorter version of it appeared yesterday at VT Digger.

The school I work for, the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, recently undertook a strategic planning exercise that envisioned four different scenarios for how the world might look in 20 years. We settled on two main axes for distinguishing the scenarios: (1) scarcity versus abundance of resources, and (2) integration versus separation or atomization, where what’s integrated is both society (less conflict-ridden, more egalitarian) and its relationship with the natural world (more biocentric in its sensibilities). The resultant four scenarios, named with a little levity, map against the axes this way:

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A very helpful analytical review of the “relational paradigm in sustainability research, practice, and education” has just been published online by Ambio. While it’s limited to a certain selection of key publications, the article, by European sustainabililty researchers Zack Walsh, Jessica Bohme, and Christine Wamsler, covers the terrain of “relational approaches” to ontology, epistemology, and ethics in a fair and evenhanded way.

Here’s their “tanglegram of key relational discourses” (click for larger version):

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The outbreak of Coronavirus is a good opportunity to think about how we treat guests whose novel appearance amidst us may pose hardship, but whose continuing presence is undeniable.

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As I write, there are two known cases of COVID-19 in my state of Vermont, but there are no tests available to me or to the next person to tell us if either of us could be a carrier. Universities and colleges (including my own) have cancelled classes and moved to online teaching. The air hangs heavy with… something.

Here’s where I reach for my metaphors.

It feels like we are waiting for an ultra slow-motion tidal wave to arrive, and hoping it won’t be a tsunami when it gets here. Life goes on, but in a lower key, with a background awareness that the wave may already be infiltrating amidst us…

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There are two implicit rules that social media (in their corporate controlled, un- or dis-regulated state) want you to learn.

(By “want,” I mean that these are the tendencies being encouraged by the systems themselves. And by “rules,” I mean norms, habits, or learned impulses meant to be followed instinctively.)

The rules are these:

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The following is a short essay I wrote for the Peder Sather/Reassembling Democracy workshop on “Environmental Change and Ritualized Relationships with the Other-than-Human World,” held at UC Berkeley this past December.

There are physical boundaries between humans and specific nonhumans—fences, walls, windows (of homes, gardens, kennels, zoos, abbatoirs, safari vehicles, camera lenses, guns); and there are metaphoric boundaries, about which much has been written by animaphilic critics of Descartes, Bacon, and other high priests of early modern science.

Many of these boundaries are so ritualized as to be hegemonic: the rituals are repeated, reinvoked, or transgressed and renegotiated every time we visit a zoo, a park or nature reserve, a wilderness area or urban greenspace, or for that matter our gardens, our grocery stores, and, for some, our bodies and our homes (or lack thereof).

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Musical occasions

Music is an occasional topic on this blog (as shown in the Soundscape category). It was my first university discipline and love (when I was an undergrad at York’s wonderfully eclectic Music Department), still figures in my scholarly work from time to time (as in my work on Cape Breton Island and the Chernobyl Zone), and I continue to harbor thoughts of one day doing for music what Ecologies of the Moving Image did for cinema. Of course, the 130 year history of cinema is not the 130,000 year history of music, so an ecophilosophy of the latter will have to be a much different, and much more humble, affair.

What I haven’t done here is shared anything about the music I’ve made over the past 35 years. You can now get some of that over at Bandcamp, where I’ve recently updated my page to include things spanning a diversity of projects over the years: electronic and electroacoustic music made in the days before digital (some of it at York’s Electronic Music Studio), psychedelic and “oceanic” improvisational forays (including with my bandmates in the ethno-psych-Slavic-folk-thrash band Stalagmite Under a Naked Sky, a.k.a. Вапняки), avant-jazzy piano work (some of it utilizing alternate tuning systems in the vein of La Monte Young and Terry Riley, other pieces inspired more by Cecil Taylor, Matthew Shipp, Keith Jarrett, and modernist composers Dane Rudhyar and Aleksandr Scriabin), and even an album of choral work from the years when I conducted a Ukrainian choir in Toronto.

For those interested in the connection between music and philosophy, there’s a certain trajectory that tracks with the evolution of my ecophilosophical inclinations and obsessions: from the eco-apocalyptic and “mockalyptic” themes of the earlier albums (Storm Warning, Age of Aquariums, Resurrected Fields) to the “process-relational strategies” of the Pluto Descends trilogy. The latter is most evident, I think, in the intonational experimentalism of Distempered Landscapes and the chromatic abstraction of Mercury Rises.

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Or, Why Ukraine- and Russia- literacy should now be mandatory studies for every voting American

One could start with another question: Why are both the politics of climate change and politics in general so polarized these days? Political polarization, after all, remains the main complaint of Americans, and it has made it impossible to make progress on many fronts. (I’ll leave the climate change issue aside, though I’ve discussed it many times before on this blog; e.g., here, here, here.)

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Media+Environment, the new, open access, online, peer-reviewed journal of transnational and interdisciplinary ecomedia research published by the University of California Press, has launched its first issue and thematic stream, on “The States of Media+Environment.” The introduction can be read here. Articles can be accessed here.

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Opening access…

Janet Walker, Alenda Chang, and I talk about the open-access model we’ve chosen for Media+Environment journal, here on the University of California Press blog.

“OA is a bit like ‘the cloud.’ It may seem ethereal and free, but in reality it’s tangible and the subsidies have got to come from somewhere! We’re trying to figure this out…”

The first issue will feature provocations on the “States of Media+Environment” by Toby Miller, Yuriko Furuhata, Jennifer Gabrys, Nicole Starosielski, Sean Cubitt, Dale Hudson & Patricia Zimmerman, Sheldon Lu & Zhen Zhang. It’s coming very soon.

Media+Environment is an open-access, online, peer-reviewed journal of transnational and interdisciplinary ecomedia research. The journal seeks to foster dialogue within a fast-growing global community of researchers and creators working to understand and address the myriad ways that media and environments affect, inhabit, and constitute one another. Founded on the premise that media and environment is a crucial conjunction for our time, the journal encourages both traditional and multimodal forms of scholarship.

Here’s a hypothesis:

If the human community exists in some more or less unified form in 880 years (in the year 3000 by our calendar), that feat will have been accomplished, at least in part, in and through the emergence of an ecological religion.

What does this mean, and how could we test it?

Religion, defined anthropologically, is something like a system of symbols — encompassing creed (beliefs, tenets, and ideas about humans and the larger universe), code (deeply held values, ethical and behavioral norms), and cult (practices, rituals, and actions regularized into observable and repeatable patterns) — by which people, in a more or less structured community, actively locate themselves in a world of power, meaning, and value that transcends yet includes them. For simplicity’s sake, let’s consider these five things essential to “religion”: creed, code, cult, community, and transcendence.

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As people around the world prepare for Global Climate Strike Week (Sept. 20-27) and for the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City on Sept. 23, here are some thoughts and sources to help us think about what’s at stake, what’s possible, and what we can do. This blog may be updated as needed, so please revisit it periodically.

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