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To put things in the simplest terms possible:

The global climate precariat — all of those whose lives and communities are endangered by the storms, floods, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and wars produced or intensified by a destabilizing global climate system — are a vast segment of humanity. It is growing daily.

Together, the global precariat and its allies — activists motivated by compassion, fear, solidarity, or clearheaded reason, and everyday people working for social-ecological change — constitute what is potentially the largest political force on Earth. Together we could build a better, more just, and more sustainable world.

The only thing that is stopping us is the belief that walls, borders, weapons, armies, politicians, and/or gods will protect us at the expense of others. Those who spread the latter beliefs — politicians, media networks, think tanks, and the fossil capital that fuels them — are the enemies of reason, love, and humanity. They need to be fought with reason, love, and humanity.

It’s coming to the point where that fight needs to be made visible and unmistakable in everything we do.

Sculpture by Jason Decaires Taylor, see UnderwaterSculpture.com

The term “more-than-human” has become a popular way of designating the “nonhuman” within the environmental humanities. Other terms used include “other-than-human,” and much less frequently “unhuman” and “inhuman,” with the latter’s negative connotations upended (successfully or not) to read positively.

“More-than-human” was, to my knowledge, first used by David Abram in his 1996 ecophilosophical bestseller (inasmuch as ecophilosophy has bestsellers) The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. This was a beautifully written book, more convincing in its phenomenological analysis of perception (the book’s first part) than of language (the second), but a provocative and rewarding read nonetheless.

Abram referred in the book to a “more-than-human world” and to “more-than-human worlds,” and also to a more-than-human “realm,” “matrix,” and “ecology,” but, notably, not to individual entities as “more-than-humans.” (He also used “nonhuman” a lot more often than any of those.) Yet the idea of “more-than-humans,” in the plural, took off, as its suggestion that such entities — everything that isn’t human — is somehow more or qualitatively better than humans was something that many in the ecohumanities liked, if only for its value as provocation.

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Indigenous intellectuals like Kim Tallbear see the current Anthropocene crisis (climate change, etc.) as a continuation and intensification of the kind of thing Indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans (among others) have experienced for centuries. Her thoughts for Indigenous People’s Day, shared on Tallbear’s Substack account, are well worth reading.

Describing a “radical hope” that might be available to us today, Tallbear writes:

In this moment, I see an opportunity for a sharpening of moral clarity across the land. The apocalypses that Indigenous and Black peoples have suffered for half a millennium are blossoming into settler state reckonings. That the violence and unsustainability of colonialism is now confronted by an ever wider number of people feels productive and ethically clarifying. We are more able to deny the genocide deniers, those who have denied our apocalypses while building their homes and farms, factories, institutions, and wealth upon stolen lands using stolen bodies and labour.

It is this “sharpening of moral clarity” that I believe we should all be pursuing today. How do we, each and together, support and contribute to the intensification of colonial, imperial relations that have captured the Earth in an unsustainable grip? How and from what positions can we resist doing that and work toward an alternative set of relations?

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Hearing the announcement of Bruno Latour‘s death earlier today, I remembered his visit to the Feverish World symposium, which I co-organized in 2018 in Burlington, Vermont. Despite his health (which was turning for the worse at the time), he participated gracefully in this strange mixture of conference, festival, and street event, and gave a great closing keynote speech.

Until his death, Latour was one of the most widely cited living social scientists and philosophers in the world. He was often all too casually dismissed as a “social constructionist,” despite the fact that he took science more seriously than almost anyone (he devoted his life to understanding it), and that if there was anything he deconstructed, it was the social. Instead, he was a “constructionist” in the best sense of the word (the Whiteheadian sense): he believed that every thing is constructed — that is, shaped and fabricated — by the labor of all of the relational elements that went into producing it. He believed that “facts” and “fetishes” were not necessarily opposed to each other, but that all things were on a spectrum between the two — “factishes” that were real yet invested with different degrees of mythical power.

But all of that was preamble to the work of restoring genuine dialogue between the realms “the moderns” have separated: especially between the arts, religion, and the sciences, and especially around those things — like climate change and looming ecological catastrophe — that our world seems least equipped to deal with despite having created them.

All of this, to my mind, is best represented by the exhibitions he co-curated: “Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art” (2002), “Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy” (2005), “Reset Modernity!” (2016), and “Critical Zones: The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth” (2020-21), which in their combined impact — as Latourian actor networks made up of artists, scientists, philosophers, and many objects of various kinds — have altered the landscape of contemporary thought more than anyone I can think of in the post-1988 climate change era (since the first major pronouncement of the reality of anthropogenic climate change).

Rest in peace, Bruno. All the debates and polemics you elicited were so very necessary.

Here he is with Rebecca Schwarz and me at Burlington’s Hen of the Wood restaurant:

Steal this book

Wiley’s sudden withdrawal of over 1,300 textbooks from the ProQuest Academic Complete database, which many universities subscribe to, in the days before or (in my university’s case) just after the beginning of the fall semester, seems unconscionable to me. It is consistent with the predatory behavior some other academic publishers have become known for.

To protest, I am making available the book that is mentioned in today’s Inside Higher Ed article on this topic. Nothing against the editors of that book, but as academics they are likely to make reasonable middle-class salaries from their institutions, while publishers profit from their labor. For your copy, go here or click on the image link below.

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The work of Jean-Luc Godard, who passed away a couple of weeks ago through euthanasia at the age of 91, has always seemed to me to be about the possibilities of cinema as a form of thinking. Cinema’s combination of sound and image, constrained by the capacities of the medium but also evolving as those capacities have themselves evolved, presents possibilities for how we think about ourselves, the world, and the relationship between the two. This, for me, is the terrain within which Godard’s cinema was most innovative.

All of this became more clear to me after I read Gilles Deleuze’s writings on cinema, which essentially posit cinema as a form of thinking. (David Deamer’s recent Deleuze’s Cinema Books is a brilliant exegesis of Deleuze’s writings on the topic.) And as I write this now, I feel I want to extend Michel Foucault’s statement about how the twentieth century may come to be known as “Deleuzian” to say that cinema’s twenty-first century will come to be known as “Godardian.”

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This post is the third in a series on the topic of Indigenous identity, universities, and processes of (re-)indigenization. Part 1 can be read here; Part 2, here. While the following is most relevant to the case of Vermont, I hope it can also contribute to a broader consideration of these issues.

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Physicists tell us that spacetime is a unity, or at least a singular continuum or “manifold.” But those of us who inhabit it experience it in two distinct dimensions: extension, which we call “space,” and duration, which we call “time.” Extension enables our encounter with difference; duration, with change.

(As an aside: physicists conventionally speak of four dimensions, but this is a figure of speech that follows the understanding of space as “three-dimensional,” which isn’t borne by metaphysical scrutiny. Moving up, left, and forward at the same time is not three different movements along three dimensions, at least not dimensionally different in the ways that time is different. It is one and the same movement, with the directional coordinates merely providing a locational map across a mathematically measured space. By the same token, any movement is always movement in time, but we experience the temporal aspect differently than the spatial. So it’s really two dimensions.)

In any case, we never experience spacetime in its purity, except perhaps in mystical states. We always (otherwise) experience it as folded and enfolded, curved and pleated, rhythmed, layered, and textured.

We humans inhabit those folds and textures of spacetime in ways distinct from other creatures, and we’ve developed a variety of ways of doing that even among ourselves, incorporating sensory, technical, and cultural extensions of many kinds. But until recently our ways of inhabiting it have generally encompassed taking account of, and successfully co-inhabiting with, a lot of those other creatures.

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Gaia Vince’s Guardian article “The Century of Climate Migration: Why We Need to Plan for the Great Upheaval,” adapted from her forthcoming book Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World, is a very good overview of the coming age of mass migrations. It’s also more or less what I’ve been arguing in my writing on climate change, migration, and “climate Pre-TSD” (pre-traumatic stress disorder).

It’s useful to have so much of the big picture assembled in a single, open-access newspaper article:

The coming migration will involve the world’s poorest fleeing deadly heatwaves and failed crops. It will also include the educated, the middle class, people who can no longer live where they planned because it’s impossible to get a mortgage or property insurance; because employment has moved elsewhere… [. . .]

In 2020, refugees around the world exceeded 100 million, tripling since 2010, and half were children. . . . In addition to these, 350 million people are undocumented worldwide, an astonishing 22 million in the US alone . . . Today, the 50 million climate-displaced people already outnumber those fleeing political persecution.

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This post continues the ethical and political thinking I have shared in some of my eco-theoretical manifestos and asketological writings (including parts of Shadowing the Anthropocene). Its interest in ‘non-fascist life’ takes its lead from critical analysts of fascism including Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and more recent writers like Natasha Lennard. This proposal has two parts, whose intersection I hope to merely suggest here.

1. Non-fascism

Fascism has been defined in many ways. Here I will define it psychologically, as the desire to submit to authoritarian power that would defeat and destroy feared otherness.

Something has been rejected, displaced, and demonized. It is a form of ‘otherness’ that could be racial, sexual, religious, national, ethnic, or some combination of these and/or others. It is perceived as profoundly and historically threatening to oneself and one’s community. It must be overcome. This can only be done by an authority, a constructed power, that requires submission. The fascist psyche is the one that willingly and eagerly submits to such authority.

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Research on the usefulness of psychedelics for treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress has been growing steadily. (See here, here, here, and here for glimpses of it, and To the Best of Our Knowledge‘s recent exploration of it for a fascinating in-depth look at the topic.) I’d like to extrapolate from that research for thinking about ecocultural and climate trauma.

The recent New York Times Sunday Opinion cover piece “Taking the Magic Out of Magic Mushrooms” captures a debate brewing for years now between researchers who believe that the experiential effects of taking psychedelics — personally challenging and transformative experiences turned into life-shaping narratives — are central to their healing effects, and those who believe those experiences can be removed and the effects retained.

We could call these two camps the “experientialists” and the “biomedicalists.” For the former, any kind of pill that “rewires” the brain but does not involve some sort of memorable and transformative experience (like this one) is treating symptoms rather than causes. For the latter, the experiences are incidental by-products of what’s really going on, which is neurological, not experiential.

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On the Ecocene, the Chthulucene, the Ecozoic, and other Holocene successor terms

The term “Anthropocene” has come to be accepted among many intellectuals as the best, or perhaps least worst, name for the geological present, when human activities have come to dominate the planet. It’s still debated among geologists, with “Holocene” or “Late Holocene” preferred by many (and left-leaning social scientists preferring Capitalocene, Technocene, or one of a series of others). But among humanists and popular writers concerned with environmental issues, the verdict can sometimes look as if it’s already in and the Anthropocene is here to stay.

The term’s valence is sometimes taken to be negative (“What a mess we’ve made of things!”), sometimes positive (“We are as gods,” as Stewart Brand has said, and may as well start acting like it), and most frequently a mix of the two (we’ve “ended nature” and are, for better or worse, in control of the wreckage). It rarely carries any assurance that things will continue indefinitely in the way they are going now. And its critics, by now, are legion.

The more optimistic among us like to speculate about a future that does better than the present.

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