The Humanities are playing an ever greater role in "grasping" what is going on in terms of the planet. Take for example the field of Energy Humanities: “Energy humanities” is a rapidly emerging field of scholarship that overcomes traditional boundaries between the disciplines and between academic and applied research. Like its predecessors, energy humanities highlights the essential contribution that the insights and methods of the human sciences can make to areas of study and analysis that were once thought best left to the natural sciences."
There is some fabulous work being done in this area.
-The work of Imre Szeman (Alberta) is key here:
-Also at Alberta, co-directed by Szeman and Sheena Wilson, there is the fabulous Petrocultures project, "a new research cluster at the University of Alberta whose aim is to support, produce, and distribute research related to the socio-cultural aspects of oil and energy in Canada and the world today."
-Danine Farquharson and Fiona Polack, both at Memorial University, have been working on a joint research project called "Cold Water Oil": "We are examining how the North Atlantic offshore oil and gas industry is imagined in a wide range of high and popular contexts – everything from oil company websites, to government-sponsored documentaries to literary fiction."
-See also the After Oil project.
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.
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!
Yesterday, Bill MbKibben wrote a piece for the New York Times about Obama's decision to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic. The facts: "The Arctic is melting, to the extent that people now are planning to race yachts through the Northwest Passage, which until very recently required an icebreaker to navigate." And the ignoring of the facts: "This is not climate denial of the Republican sort, where people simply pretend the science isn’t real. This is climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children. They just deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground." The spirit of McKibben's piece is taken up by a short satirical piece in the New Yorker today by Andy Borowitz, "Scientists: Earth endangered by new strain of fact-resistant humans."
A group of “kayaktivists” in Seattle, reports the NYT, protest the Shell Oil’s proposes leasing of a terminal in the Port of Seattle for its Arctic drilling fleet. shellno.org phrases the problem as follows: “On January 8, we learned that Shell will be hosting their Arctic drilling rigs in Terminal 5 of the Port of Seattle. That same day the journal Nature published an article saying that Arctic oil MUST be left in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Drilling for Arctic oil is an open attack on people in the global south, who are already losing communities to rising seas and extreme weather. It could also spell disaster for one of the most unique wilderness areas on the planet and all of its inhabitants.” Seattle’s Mayor, Ed Murray, seemingly agrees with the spirit of the protest: “We need to focus our port, our businesses, on the new economy, on things like clean energy of the future and not on the old economy that is dying out, such as oil.” The kayaks, by gathering on the waters, make visible an “extraction landscape” that might otherwise remain somewhat invisible since far away from the shores and the city.
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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