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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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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 »

The following six books all have the same title. Without looking them up, match each book’s subtitle with the author and publication details listed below.

  • Coming to Our Senses: Affect and An Order of Things for Global Culture
  • Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West
  • Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
  • Coming to Our Senses: A Naturalistic Program for Semantic Localism
  • Coming to Our Senses: Perceiving Complexity to Avoid Catastrophe
  • Coming to Our Senses: Significance of the Arts for American Education

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Last updated on November 11, 2018

Immanence sometimes dips into areas of controversial or “boundary” science, which means areas of science whose interpretation is both publicly and scientifically contentious. While I don’t consider climate science to be all that scientifically controversial (though it is certainly politically controversial), and the general topics of “fake news,” “information war,” and the alternative media ecosystem (which are sometimes covered here) are not particularly scientifically contentious, topics such as “the Hum,” to take one example, fall into the area of anomalous phenomena — phenomena whose ontological status is considered unknown, mysterious, or problematic from a scientific perspective. (See note 1 below on the Hum.)

Public health has seen a number of such contentious issues arise, and in recent years the growth in cases of Lyme disease, and more so of “chronic Lyme,” has joined the ranks of other syndromes and conditions — from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or specific variants of it, such as Gulf War Syndrome), Recovered Memory Syndrome, Multiple Personality Disorder, and others — which have at various times teetered precipitously at, or over, the edges of what the scientific community considers “real.” There are connections between many of these phenomena and environmental change (on that, see Mary Beth Pfeiffer’s book), but those won’t be the primary focus of this post. Continue Reading »

On civility

Some say the problem in today’s political world is the lack of civility. Others say the problem is civility itself, or the pretense of it (and use of it as a bludgeon), when what is called for is outrage.

It seems to me that there is no universal “civility.” Civility is a matter of fitting in and accommodating oneself to a larger civic body, a larger civitas.

The problem today is Continue Reading »

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