As I set to work on the final chapters of the first volume of the Humanist Anthropocene, I come across this report in the Guardian about the oil fields in Guanabara Bay, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, discovered in 2006. The report notes how “oil-fuelled development is transforming this iconic landscape into a petrochemical and service centre for the oil and gas fields more than 200km offshore in the Campos and Santos basins.” The report talks of Alexandre Anderson, a fisherman concerned with the environmental impact of the oil fields—his activism has put his life at danger. The impact is at quite a scale: “Guanabara, it seems, has become Petrobras Bay”: “there are at least two refineries, four terminals, four shipyards, as well as countless storage tanks, support ships, service factories and underwater pipelines.” The report contains several chapters, which I don’t summarize here. I’ll forego obvious commentary and note simply how Guanabara bay was, in the sixteenth century, the heart of the French presence in the Americas, i.e. “La France Antarctique,” the home to “Fort Coligny.” What was once a site for colonialism tout court is now the site of extraction and a different kind of colonial presence.
It's the end of June, almost. It's been an intense month of writing.
Pope Francis's encyclical about climate change (May 24, 2015) has been provoking lots of fascinating responses on all sides. One of the most interesting parts of the encyclical itself has to do with how it juxtaposes/problematizes the notion of "humanity" as a whole (i.e. "we" as "anthropoi") and the notion of "different humans" (i.e. how "we" are not all the same, because of history, gender, etc.), something I've unpacked more in one chapter of the Humanist Anthropocene.
The Guardian discusses the televised interview of Barack Obama and Sir David Attenborough: "it is Attenborough, on the day in which he marked his 89th birthday, who poses the most probing questions of their encounter, asking the president why he cannot show a commitment to tackling climate change in the same way previous presidents had strived to put people on the moon."
The World Policy Institute's Summer 2015 journal is dedicated to "Climate's Cliff," i.e. how close we are to "falling off."
Photos taken in Caen June 2015, (c) Phillip John Usher
Rolling Stone details yesterday's prank by The Yes Men in New York City: "New Yorkers and tourists passing through Columbus Circle Thursday were treated to free shaved ice courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell, which was recently given preliminary approval by the Obama administration to drill for oil in the Arctic. The company hauled a chunk of the "last iceberg in existence" to the city to give New Yorkers a "first taste of the last frontier." But these "Shell employees" were the Yes Men, bringing attention to Shell's drilling!
This morning in the New York Times, Justin Gillis pens an interesting piece about Naomi Oreskes (at Harvard since 2013) and who, with Erik Conway, has been looking into the "Merchants of Doubt" who have denied the science of various phenomena, from tobacco to global warming. Light shed her on the pseudo-science that makes it onto TV and into the popular media more generally, and which often wins out against the real science. Oreskes and Conway published a book (2010) on the topic; a film is forthcoming.
mountains are not all pyramid-shaped--which is important for animal survival and for how humans care for the planet
Next up on the reading list: Levi Bryant's Onto-Cartography from Edinburgh University Press and which--says the blurb--"gives an unapologetic defense of naturalism and materialism, transforming these familiar positions and showing how culture itself is formed by nature. Bryant endorses a pan-ecological theory of being, arguing that societies are ecosystems that can only be understood by considering nonhuman material agencies such as rivers and mountain ranges alongside signifying agencies such as discourses, narratives, and ideologies. In this way, Bryant lays the foundations for a new machine-oriented ontology."
Excited to read in due course Eben Kirksey's new book, Emergent Ecologies, from Duke University Press, a book that turns attention away from "doomsday scenarios" to see what "possibilities [might be found] in the wreckage of ongoing disasters." As the blurb says, "New generations of thinkers and tinkerers are learning how to care for emergent ecological assemblages—involving frogs, fungal pathogens, ants, monkeys, people, and plants—by seeding them, nurturing them, protecting them, and ultimately letting go." Kirksey teaches Environmental Humanities at the UNSW and at CUNY.
Project THE HUMANIST anthropocene
is a thought archive and workspace of Phillip John Usher (NYU) at the crossroads of early modern humanism and the problems and insights of the Anthropocene. Main Research Page.
ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment)
Environmental Humanities (journal)
Resilience (A Journal of the Environmental Humanities)
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