R.I.P. Cassini

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”

62 moons orbiting in and around the grooved rings of Saturn. Winter and spring, hurricanes, jet streams, and auroras. Rivers and deltas pelted by methane rains on Titan. Hydrothermal vented oceans, and geysers shooting plumes of water that fall back as snow on Enceladus. Moons forming spiral waves cresting in the mother planet’s B ring. Janus and Epimetheus relay racing in the same orbit. Pan and Daphnis leaving rippled wakes in their passing. Prometheus and Pandora, and the tiny pinprick of Earth visible through the rings.

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

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Based on its title and on the snippets I saw being quoted, I fully expected to dislike Lee Jones’ article “Charlottesville and the Politics of Left Hysteria,” posted a few days ago at The Current Moment.

Instead, I’ve found it nuanced, cogent, and well worth reading. I myself have tried to broach this topic of the two lefts — the economic (or economistic) left, and the cultural or identitarian left — before (see here). The argument I’ve made there applies to this article as well. I think Jones is more or less correct in arguing that identitarian politics have a down side, which is that they can easily degenerate into a politics of resentment. What he misses is that they can have an up side as well — which is that they can generate a politics of meaning, and that is exactly what the economistic left has lacked.  Continue Reading »

This post is a follow-up to my “case for a non-mammalian food ethic.” I’ve given that case some more thought and have decided that honesty requires more nuance than either continuing to call myself a (straight) vegetarian or calling myself a “non-mammalian.” The latter term is confusing in any case, since “mammalian” could either mean someone who eats mammals or someone who doesn’t (because they love and defend them).  Continue Reading »

Here I go wading into a type of debate this blog does not often venture into: the debate surrounding Google employee James Damore’s firing for his ‘Ideological Echo Chamber’ manifesto. I find this to be a complicated and interesting conversation, and I’m curious to know how my thoughts align with others.

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I recently visited Detroit (for the ASLE “Rust/Resistance” conference) and was interested in seeing how it’s changed since I wrote this (brief) piece. Given how little time I spent there, my impressions aren’t worth much, but here they are.

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As part of its Ford Foundation supported Inequality Project, The Guardian is providing a provocative glimpse of Oxford geographer Danny Dorling’s important research into inequality and the environment. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the complexities surrounding causes and potential solutions to the environmental crisis. Read the article here.

No surprise that the US comes out worst on practically all counts — worst levels of inequality, worst levels of overconsumption, waste, and per capita carbon emission.  Continue Reading »

My book Ecologies of the Moving Image provides some suggestions into how we can become better consumers and co-producers of media. But these suggestions come couched within a 400-page treatise of media (and environmental) philosophy that includes a history of cinema, analyses of various films, and much else. While the focus there is on cinema and on the cultivation of habits that could help make us better viewers of it, the arguments apply to all visual media.

Here I want to try to isolate a couple of practical pointers into “media hygiene” for our densely mediated world. But first, some off-the-cuff rules for “social media hygiene” (mostly to do with clickbait, and not about teen sexting practices or anything like that). This is an evolving list, so feel free to suggest others.

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When I began my involvement with environmental politics in the 1980s, the main currents of radical or critical thought were represented by deep ecologists (or biocentrists), social ecologists (gathered around Murray Bookchin and his Institute for Social Ecology), and ecofeminists, and they seemed more at odds with each other than united. Marxists and socialists (especially around the journals Capitalism Nature Socialism and Monthly Review) were only just starting to embrace ecological thinking. “Eco-anarchism” had grown out of Bookchin’s first forays in the late 1960s, but its representatives were often at odds with each other, due as much to personality clashes (Bookchin’s being one of them) as to anything else. On the other hand, liberal and reformist environmentalism had become pretty mainstream, even if attacks upon it had already registered substantial successes in the Reagan and Thatcher (counter-) revolutions.

At the time, bioregionalism seemed a promising movement that was more practically based — more rooted in local forms of grassroots organizing than in theoretical debates Continue Reading »

When one of our cadre of eco-cultural theorists gets noticed — more so, fêted — by one of the leading newspapers in the world, we need to take note and celebrate with him. In this case, it’s Timothy Morton getting called “the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene” by The Guardian, in a profile titled “A reckoning for our species.”

With his dozen or so books (at least half of them monographs), Tim has been incredibly prolific as an eco-critic, literary historian of Romanticism, and theorist of the ecological crisis. Long-time readers of this blog will know my critical engagements with the OOO orientation  Continue Reading »

Trump’s speech on his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord included so many questionable statements, it’s hard to know where to start. Fortunately, others have. Among the better fact-checks are the Washington Post’s (this one and this one), FactCheck.org’s, NPR’s, PolitiFact’s, and the Huffington Post’s.

Foreign Policy’s summary (which comes from a partisan source, but is mostly non-controversial) in Why Abandoning Paris is a Disaster for America captures the essential implications of Trump’s decision very well in these 5 points: Continue Reading »

Since it’s the Holocene that has provided the conditions for the (human-led) biogeochemical experimentation that has now likely achieved a runaway state, and since “Holocene” was never anything other than a placeholder term — it only means “entirely new” — it seems inappopriate to replace it with the term “Anthropocene.”

“Holocene” begins as a leap of faith — that this interglacial may somehow be different from previous Pleistocene interglacials. Until the evidence for that becomes conclusive — that is, until planetary systems settle into a new and different holding pattern — we should just call our era the “Late Holocene” and leave it at that (i.e., ambiguous). We have no idea how it will end or what will follow; we only know it’s likely to be short. The dream of human sustainability is still mostly science-fiction. (Even if indigenous cultures have shown it’s not entirely unimaginable.)

All that said, “Anthropocene” is a good conversation starter. We’ll need a new one in a few years. (Perhaps something more apocalyptic.)

In the parallel universe where good news remains possible…

A team or 70 researchers from 22 countries and led by Paul Hawken has produced a very interesting analysis of potential climate change solutions. The analysis, released last month as a book called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, “maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming.”  Continue Reading »

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