We are, indeed, at a moment of generic toppling. By which I mean: as I spoke about at the recent "Epic Geographies" conference: if weather belongs to novels, then climate belongs to epic. So as climate appears in our weather, "we" are shifting surely from novel to epic. This is what it means when the Guardian headlines today that "Meteorologists are seeing global warming's effect on the weather"; this is what it means when Parisians stare on at the Seine, reaching its highest level since 1910 (see here). We leave the novelistic to head into epic, i.e. each gesture, each moment, is as if held onto by Poseidon's trident or Hera's anger or Zeus's lack of libido-control. And there is no way to calm it all with a "banquet des dieux."
EXTERRANEAN MINDFULNESS ON THE BOULEVARD SAINT-MICHEL, or "YEs, Indeed, NO TEXT MESSAGES WITHOUT TANTALITE"
Thanks to the Ecole des Mines and the associated Musée de Minéralogie, the Boulevard Saint-Michel is a place of exterranean mindfulness: “Without tantalite, no text messages,” reads one of the signs, referring to the fact that, as the same poster explains in small print, tantalum “turns out to be necessary for the manufacturing of the miniaturized capacitors used in portable phones and laptops.” The s’avère nécessaire (turns out to be) situates the realization in the time of the person stopping to read the sign: “Why yes indeed, it turns out I wouldn't be able to send text messages without this chemical element.” The other posters make similar points for other elements.
This first exterranean awareness goes hand-in-hand with another slightly different one: just a few steps further along the boulevard, mined matter, turned into the very building of the Ecole des Mines, in its geological depths, carries the traces of human history in the form of bullet holes from World War II (see photo). Standing here, the flâneur becomes aware both that the phone in his pocket can't take photos and upload them without small bits of tantalite; and that other mined matter, in the form of the building, serves both in the wall and in the memorial plaques attached to it, serves to wind together geological history and memory in an uncannily similar way.
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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