Big fan of Evariste Richer’s work “Fulgurite” (2008), seen at the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris this weekend. When lighting—very hot lightening—strikes silica or other common (semi-)conductive minerals or substrates, it creates a fulgurite (<Lat. fulgur = lightening), strangely shaped rock-like objects. But here, the fulgurite is crossed through by a beautifully industrial blue neon tube. The museum notice sees in all this an emblem of Latour’s nature/culture problem…
They’re gone. There are no more of those rodents known as Bramble Cay melomys (or alternatively as mosaic-tailed rats). They are extinct. The Guardian notes that this event is “the first recorded extinction of a mammal anywhere in the world thought to be primarily due to human-caused climate change.” Last seen in 2009, and after extensive searches, these Bramble Cay melomys have been judged gone, once and forever. A moment to remember that to still talk of the “environment” is to perpetuate the problem, as Michel Serres argued long ago, for the word “assumes that we humans are at the center of a system of nature” and thus that we look out and see “the” environment suffering. Ecology, Ecology, Ecology is the way to go.
Remember this? "Now it’s really time to get serious about climate change"
The Guardian reports today on the Carbfix project: "The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid – just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted."
The Guardian reports--in a thoroughly anthropocentric mode--how spiders, too, become climate refugees as tens of thousands of spiders engage in a "mass ballooning event" in an attempt to fine a region's remaining dry spots.
The Guardian reports on how "The Louvre's closure proves art cannot survive climate change."
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."
George Eustice grew up at, and worked for (for 9 years), a fruit farm--this fruit farm, in fact. It's a farm where you can "pick you own," something I did a lot as a kid growing up in England. The Trevaskis fruit farm says that "Even if the rain sets in, welly boots and puddles are great" (see their website). In 2000, he promoted the "No" vote regarding whether or not the UK should adopte the euro as its official currency. And now, and now, he is the farming minister in the Conservative party. And he can't wait for the UK to leave Europe--so that the UK can get rid of those pesky European environmental laws: "If we had more flexibility, we could focus our scientists’ energies on coming up with new, interesting ways to protect the environment, rather than just producing voluminous documents from Brussels" (source: Guardian). As the Guardian reports, Eustice wants to bring US-style environmental politics to the UK: "On pesticides, Eustice said the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style risk-based approach, allowing faster authorisation." In other words: a Brexit would likely spell many things--but it would surely mark the end of a communal approach to ecology. A fruit farm-- it sounds nice, right? "Pick your own"--who doesn't love that? I remember as a kid, picking strawberries, walking on hay, and wondering why I got these sores on my arms. Fabulous. Yes. More of that please.
The Guardian brings good news and bad news: (1) that "With women at the top, UN climate body has chance for real change"; and (2) how "fracking can contribute to climate change" as seen from the emissions measured atop the Swiss Alps.
Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, was shot dead on Friday in Cincinnati after a 4-year-old boy got into its enclosure. Articles and Facebook posts have proliferated (like this one from Time), most of them either (1) wholly anthropocentric, or (2) wholly gorilla-centric, asserting something like (1) we have to protect the child or (2) we should have protected the gorilla. The child's mother has been harassed. Comments on Twitter were equally mean and lacking critical distance. A Facebook page has been set up in support of the mother (Michelle Gregg). The whole tragic affair reminded me of the Australian ecofeminist Val Plumwood's experience--she was almost eaten by a crocodile, an experience she recounts in several places, most fully in the posthumous Eye of the crocodile (read it for free here). The situation is obviously different, and we can't confuse the two, but critical distance is what's needed.
Giving Twitter a try. From now on, all new blog posts will also be posted to Twitter.
Follow here: https://twitter.com/h_anthropocene
Very happy to see this project for a new co-edited volume off the ground. Pauline Goul and myself, inspired by the fabulous work of Louisa Mackenzie, are putting this new volume together. We already have a pretty fabulous list of participants, but want to make sure that we don't miss anything. If you're up for it, please send us a proposal.
Reposting the CFP put on Fabula.org:
What Can the French Renaissance Do For Ecocriticism?
Editors Pauline Goul and Phillip John Usher
The present volume seeks to offer a set of answers to the question raised by its title, “What Can the French Renaissance Do For Ecocriticism?”
All too often, theory in general--and ecocriticism in particular--are said to serve as “lenses” through which we can understand (early modern) literature. All too often, contemporary thought models are “applied” to (early modern) literature, as if true lay only in the contemporary. This volume’s purpose is to envision a back-and-forth, to allow (early modern French) literature to interrogate, to nuance, to provoke, contemporary ecological theory. Our volume’s title owes it concise formulation to Louisa Mackenzie, who first identified that question as pertinent at the Vancouver MLA conference in January 2015. Mackenzie, a scholar at the cutting edge of French Renaissance Studies in the United States, suggested that we should not be asking what ecocriticism can “do” for our readings of the early modern period, but precisely the opposite. Indeed, turning back to 16th century France means shifting to an intellectual context in which key concepts—nature/culture, geology, Deep Time, etc.—were thought in ways uncannily similar to contemporary thought, precisely because certain disciplinary “splits” and intellectual conceptualization had not yet happened, precisely because certain disciplines (e.g. geology) were nascent, but not born. This volume seeks to take seriously Mackenzie’s question and to offer a set of responses. Each chapter of the volume will take up a specific concept or idea of contemporary ecocriticism, in order to question it and refine it.
Possible concepts/ideas to address include:
-Chakrabarty’s idea of putting Deep Time in dialogue with the human time of history
-Morton’s Dark Ecology
-the nonhuman and objects, Morton’s hyperobjects, Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter
-inter-relatedness and the mesh
-logocentrism / anthropocentrism
-the Anthropocene in 1600
Another reason this volume is so urgent is that it will offer a much needed response to the anglocentrism of much ecocriticism, denounced by Tim Morton in his guest column in PMLA on a “Queer Ecology”, and yet made especially clear of late (in 2016) when the MLA’s new forum on "Ecocriticism and the Environmental Humanities,” whose executive committee is made up of Sharon O’Dair, Stacy Alaimo, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, and Stephanie LeMenager, all professors of English, defined ecocriticism as "a scholarly practice within English Studies." Jeff Persel’s fabulous edited volume The Environment in French and Francophone Literature (FLS, vol 39, 2012), makes it evidently clear that ecocrticism is not, of course, limited in such a way to English departments! A related problem is that, even when considered as anglo-centric, ecocriticism as a discipline seems to be formulated mostly by voices that either look at post-1800 sources or at medieval ones. There is thus a gaping lack of any early modern point of view, which, especially with the possible starting date of the Anthropocene in 1600, leaves much to be done. This volume will thus assert and demonstrate the need for ecocriticism and ecological thought to take up and respond to non-English materials from the early modern period. In the words of Louisa Mackenzie in her article in the French Literature Series’s ‘Environment’ issue (2012), “It’s a good time to think about an early modern, a French, a queer ecology.”
The book will be in English, and the submission of chapters is set for May 30, 2017.
Please submit a title, 300-word abstract, and a short CV to Pauline Goul (email@example.com) and Phillip John Usher (firstname.lastname@example.org) by June 20, 2016.
An interesting week for plants in the Washington Post. On the one hand, scientists in Austria, Finland, and Hungary have shown, by observing the nightly movements of trees, that said trees in fact sort of "sleep" at night: "During the hours of darkness, the trees appeared to relax, or droop, their branches at the tips by as much as four inches." On the other hand, other scientists have now created a kind of "cyborg plant" : "The idea is to create a smarter breed of plant, one that can respond to changes in its environment and let farmers know how it's holding up. Internal circuitry could even allow a plant to boost its growing or bloom on command." At the very moment that we are realizing the extent to which plants appear are like the Descartian-arborean-machines we thought they were, we start to invade them and re-technologize them. So much to say about this.
Ken Hiltner (UCSB) gave “Epic Geographies”’ second keynote address, memorable for many reasons, of which I note only four:
The fourth and final memorable moment of Hiltner’s talk was of the meta- variety. Hiltner began and closed with the point that this would likely be his very last talk at a conference! Not because he’s retiring, but because he sees us as having reached a point: the emissions caused by conference travel are huge and unjustified. Hiltner and colleagues at UCSB are indeed organizing an upcoming “nearly carbon-neutral” conference at UCSB, “Climate Change: Views from the Humanities,” in which people participate online (Details here / CFP here).
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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