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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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I am a pro-life, values-based conservative.

I wish and act to conserve the conditions that have allowed human life to flourish on this planet for the past 12,000 years, conditions whose continuance today is threatened.

I wish and act to conserve the values — of cooperation, respect, and physical and emotional sustenance — that have enabled human sociality and creativity to flourish amidst a diverse array of life forms, whose diversity and cohesion today is threatened.

I wish and act to conserve the movement toward protecting the dignity of all humans and all sentient beings.

Those who act today to dismantle those conditions, defile those values, and imperil that movement can claim only to conserve their own wealth and privilege at the expense of others.

It’s time to decide what should be conserved and what should be uprooted.

Be a conservative. Vote them out.

Inspired by the daily litany of depressing news (and by reading Latour’s Down to Earth), I’ve succumbed to the temptation of writing a manifesto. Manifestos are cheap, I know, but we have to start somewhere. (And so many questions arise as you write one: about the proper balance between critique and vision, between generality and nuance, between vanguardism and mass appeal, between big tent-ism and more specific forms of address.) Comments are welcome, as are signatures (see below). Or share your own manifestos. Eventually one of our experiments might lead to something… This version was slightly revised at 4:17 pm EST on October 28, 2018.

To anyone paying attention to science, it’s become increasingly evident that the future of humanity is in question. We are at a precipice that calls for dramatic changes in the ways we live on this Earth.

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Review of Bruno Latour, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2018.

Down to Earth is in significant part a restatement of Bruno Latour’s theorizing over the last few decades, made more incisive in the light of Trumpism (and other illiberal populisms) and brought to bear specifically on the moment of Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement. Latour assesses this rejection as a clarifying moment in what we are up against:

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Image result for klee angelus novus

Here’s the “reader’s guide” I promised for Shadowing the Anthropocene. It begins with a quick summary of the book’s main contribution — a kind of “master key” to what it tries to do. It then lays out a set of paths one can take through the book, which would be useful for readers with an interest in one or two but not all of the book’s themes. Finally, I include the detailed table of contents (without pagination), as this somehow got dropped during the editing process, even while a detailed index and bibliography got added.

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Shadowing the Anthropocene: Eco-Realism for Turbulent Times arrived in the mail today. It’s published by punctum books, an open-access academic and para-academic publisher I’ve found to be a real delight to work with. Eileen Joy deserves a medal for her leadership of punctum, and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei’s cover and book design is beautiful. The book can be purchased in print for $22 from the publisher’s web site (it honestly feels very nice to hold in your hands), or you can “pay what you can” ($5 minimum) for a PDF.

Since the book presents some challenging reading to the non-philosophically inclined, I will be posting a “reader’s guide” soon.

An off-the-cuff essay, written not for any particular occasion, but just to get it out of me. It’s probably mostly common knowledge (among people on the green left), just maybe not well articulated yet, and too easily forgotten. Politically, we’re all playing a little catch-up these days.

Understanding the apparent global turn we are seeing against liberal democracy, or against “liberal globalism,” is important if we are to make inroads toward a “greener” future.

The electoral successes — and in some case repeated successes — of “illiberal” leaders like Donald Trump, Turkish president Erdogan, Hungary’s Victor Orbán, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party, India’s BJP (to some extent), the strange coalition of the unpeggable (but populist) Five Star Movement and the far-right Lega in Italy, the British vote in favor of Brexit, and the ongoing hegemonies of Vladimir Putin in Russia and of the Communist Party under Xi Jinping in China — all of these mark a seeming global political swing toward authoritarian conservatism, right-wing populism, anti-liberalism, or something of the sort.

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Geology watchers were more than a little surprised last month to learn that we are living in a new age called the Meghalayan, which apparently began about 4200 years ago.

After all the excitement over the Anthropocene, it seems that a rival group of geological stratigraphers — one tasked with naming the sub-parts of the Holocene — has won the naming race, for the time being. Some, like Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis, are not happy with the outcome, which triviliazes the whole point of the Anthropocene debate — to gauge the degree to which humans are and should recognize our collective centrality in geological-scale global change. Geologist Ben van der Pluijm calls this trivialization Monty Pythonesque — a slicing up of the Holocene by “the Ministry of Silly Cuts.”  Continue Reading »

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