Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Of course, we should oppose these words not only from the basis of queer theory, but from the position of ecology itself. Why? Because ecology is queer down to the genomic level and below. As I've been writing an essay for PMLA called “Queer Ecology,” I see the Pope's address as a perverse Christmas present. It's like a ghastly pair of socks. You didn't really want it, but you have to be kind of grateful for it in any case.
Stay dialed for a full account of my essay.
Will Slavoj Zizek figure out a way of defending the Pope on this one, as he has done in the past? Or will the Pope's yin-yang language of natural harmony be too much for him to stomach?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wow. I read on David Monbiot's blog that David Bellamy, English childhood eco-hero, is now a global warming denier.
What happened? Who bought him off?
I so vividly remember Bellamy's children's show about the ecology of back gardens, during which he shrank down to miniature size through old school TV trickery. Beautiful stuff.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
And I was glad to see this piece about the Berkeley talk in a local paper.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
You can get the essay online on JSTOR if you have access to it.
The issue contains essays by Slavoj and Cary Wolfe. Slavoj expresses his liking for Ecology without Nature. This is good for me, since I wrote it thinking all the while of Zizek's brilliant way of showing what you think of as B as really a distorted version of A. In my case, Nature and capitalist ideology...
Derrida fans/enemies should recognize the nod to the recently departed sage (peace be with him).
Monday, December 8, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Hugh McGuire put a great essay on Huffington Post encouraging academics to blog. I like the third point: that the ideas are just too important to waste on preaching to the choir in the in-house language (or jargon).
Sunday, November 30, 2008
You can lease a solar system from a company like Solar City (their office is in Sacramento). For about $80 a month you can become part of a massive distributed power grid that will:
(a) save the planet
(b) prevent Enrons from reforming
Righteous, no? Every day you can log on to a web site like the one in the picture. It gives you an accurate summary of what you generate each day, and how much carbon you offset.
Sorry about the lack of numbers in the graph—they didn't translate when I converted the file. But basically, it being a rather cold day late in the year, solar production peaked at about 1.2 kilowatt hours today. Can't wait to see what it gets up to in July...
Saturday, November 22, 2008
What do you think?
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
I'll be on UCTV fairly soon (also on iTunes) doing a symposium called “Creativity in the Face of Climate Change.”
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Never been so involved in any election in my life. I made about 900 phone calls to undecided voters and others, and to get out the vote. Obama created a gigantic movement, as well inspiring people to vote. It was like being part of a gigantic democracy rave. I couldn't stop thinking of my man Shelley:
Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number;
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few. (The Mask of Anarchy)
My interactions with people will fill my mind for some time to come. I'll try to post on them here. I've spoken with people from Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.
A special shout out to Briana, a 20-year-old woman from Denver. Amazingly, she was voting at a school I know well near my sister in law's house. I walked her through her first time voting. She was so into voting for Obama and she was very nervous. One of the Latinas who swung it in CO.
Monday, October 13, 2008
One difference between this moment and the Depression is, we have the internet to make us see how things connect globally.
I never thought I'd live to see the day, honestly, when Milton Friedman's theologians ran the economy so hot that it ran off the road and had to be saved by John Maynard Keynes!
William Blake said it best: “If the fool were to persist in his folly, he would become wise.”
And all this just in time for massive government intervention to avert global warming.
Attorney General Gonzalez intimidated state prosecutors into purging the rolls—so much purging in fact that there are twice as many people purged from CO's rolls than newly registered voters. And guess which party they are mostly voting for? See Greg Palast's website Steal Back Your Vote for details.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Then you must cut and paste the url and send it on.
You'll see what I mean. John McCain will make George Bush II himself look like an honorable, sensible, ordinary guy. Really. I'm not kidding. McCain's life runs the gamut from misogyny to alcohol to rage to...wow, just read it. From downing his plane on an aircraft carrier and watching on the monitor while 139 people died in the flames, to calling his second wife the c-word.
Even Bush a) respects his wife, b) admitted he had a drink problem, c) oh good heavens I can't believe I'm writing this.
Oh yeah, then there's the Keating Five corruption thing.
Relevant to ecology? Why yes. The entire planet may go up in flames between 2008 and 2012.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
We the people are figuring out that we, the people are—the people.
Not just little individuals in our cul de sacs with big old govt. intruding and doing it wrong, and/or protecting our nation (whatever that is). No: we are the nation.
We have the power. We hold the purse strings.
It's our choice what we want to see on Wall St. and it's our choice to pay, and how to pay.
"The economy" has suddenly ceased being this weird thing happening "over there" like a mountain range.
It's in your wallet. It's in your debts. It's in your bills. It's just like ecology: nature+consciousness = ecology - nature. When you realize everything is connected, nature withers away. We give up an illusion and realize that "Ecology may be without nature. But it is not without us" (last sentence of Ecology without Nature).
What a wonderful learning curve we're on! It feels good to be alive.
Blink Charlie! Blink! It'll moisten your eyes.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Music of afternoons. The wide open streets of children smaller than I am now. The sound of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” oozing loud through hi fi speakers from an open window at the top of my uncle's next door neighbor's house in Norwich, UK. High summer. The synthesizers and found sounds grinding like a cosmic hurdy gurdy.
Childhood memories of playing in eternal sunday afternoon. Wet Richmond afternoons with Syd.
The unspeakable beauty of “The Great Gig in the Sky.”
That penultimate chord of the opening riff of “Breathe.”
“Us and Them,” with the unexpected shocker “Black—and blue / And who knows which is which, and who is who.”
The first ambient music. Strange, so strange, keyboard solos in “Welcome to the Machine” and “Dogs” (and the light but intense work on side 1 of The Wall) will haunt me until my grave. Penetrating, ghostly, shuddering. Coming from far future and far past, far inside the body, far outside. Simultaneously.
The suburban London melancholy of haunted railway lines arcing away into the trees, the green lights looking at us as we stood on top of the bridge.
Richard Wright's music was always already the sound of grief.
2003– Iraq (“Stuff happens”)
2005 Hurricane Katrina
2008 Wall Street implodes
Anyone see a pattern here?
Apres moi le deluge needs to be updated to “Simultaneously with moi, le deluge”—no?
Capitalism is reactive. The environmental crisis demands proactive attention (as does everything else on this list...).
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
This is apopros of Sarah Palin, Pentacostalism, and the prospect of another end times apocalypticist in control of the planet.
This is where the ecological rubber meets the road folks! Are you registered to vote yet?
Here is my favorite part of a favorite essay, called “The Moral Theology of the Devil”:
as might be expected, the moral theology of the devil grants an altogether unusual amount of importance to … the devil. Indeed one soon comes to find out that he is the very center of the whole system. That he is behind everything. That he is moving everybody in the world except ourselves. That he is out to get even with us. And that there is every chance of his doing so because, it now appears, his power is equal to that of God, or even perhaps superior to it …
In one word, the theology of the devil is purely and simply that the devil is god.
New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1972), 90–7
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I'm writing an essay for the theory journal, SubStance.
It's a study of Solaris, the incredible science fiction story of a psychologist's encounter with a radically other mind. (See links below.)
It claims that just as Derrida argues that logocentrism underlies Western philosophy's attempt to ground meaning in an essential form, so ecologocentrism underpins most environmentalist philosophy, preventing access to the full scope of interconnectedness.
Thinking, even environmentalist thinking, has set up “Nature” as a reified thing in the distance, “over there,” under the sidewalk, on the other side where the grass is always greener, preferably in the mountains, in the wild. This “Nature” accords with Walter Benjamin's proposition about the aura: it is a function of distance. Benjamin uses an image from “Nature”—or from the picturesque? But that is my and his point—to describe the aura: “We define the aura . . . as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close [the object] may be. If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch.”
Friday, August 29, 2008
If you didn't see his acceptance speech you can find it on YouTube.
He wants to increase funding for wind and solar by an awful lot, it seems. And do other things.
I write as one who persuaded his partner (now wife, Kate) to vote for Nader in 2000. (That won't be happening this time...)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
It's an essay in Der Spiegel on an environmentally sustainable club that uses the energy of dancing to power itself.
It will make clubbing less wasteful than sitting at home!
Talking of energy efficiency, the Terry's Cafe series appears to be rather helpful. I just fell for number 10.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I'm working on a theory of life forms as "strange strangers" and have thus given up using terms such as "animal." I'll be delving into this in the new project, The Ecological Thought.
This fly sure was strange. I've always been keen on aliens.
Friday, August 15, 2008
To live together ecologically—does that mean a “return to Nature”? Or a progression to an different future?
There's a very cool discussion of this going on on the Romantic Circles blog. Check it out.
Cue a thousand environmental maxims, poems, views. (For a good intro, see my colleague Louise Economides's essay online.)
Something is so right about it. But something feels so wrong as well.
For example--what do we let be? When letting-be becomes a political question, the Being really hits the fan.
Do we let Exxon be? Do we let global warming be? Do we let the sixth mass extinction event (for which we ourselves are responsible) be?
There are Heideggerians who seriously suggest this. Any kind of intervention into the substance of reality is seen as yet another inevitably failed attempt to not let be.
What I've read of them recently convinces me more than ever that the ideological language of immersion in the lifeworld—profoundly environmentalist language, derived from Heidegger—is complicit with current social and ecological conditions.
This sounds counterintuitive, but it's no different than driving past what looks like two separate buildings that turn out to be part of the same structure, a kind of parallax.
Insisting on our embeddedness (like Iraq War reporters) in the “world” is—shocking thought—part of the problem.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It's very impressive, actually. Solar might soon no longer be a rich person's toy. Get it now before Congress decides not to renew the clean energy tax credit!
It doesn't make much “economic” sense. It's not in our immediate “rational self-interest” to pay a little extra for electricity each month until we can afford to buy the system. (Of course, if we spent loads on energy it would make more sense.)
For many people this realism is entirely “natural.” For them, the “laws” of supply and demand are as natural as green grass.
With “realism” like this, who needs reality? I'm tempted to quote the Situationists here: “I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.”
But it's within the bounds of not so crazy. And it is certainly in our long-term self-interest, or in the best interests of an expanded, modified self-interest that includes larger groups. For instance, it will certainly be good to wean ourselves off of carbon and avoid the war and colonialism that it brings.
But just to be honest, there's a purely irrational element to this, or maybe I should say elements.
(1) Feeding the superego beast by assuaging major guilt over carbon usage. The less energy you use, the more you want to save. The more you want to save, the more you enjoy your savings. The more you enjoy, the more you are guilty, so this is a tight little loop. This has nothing to do with sitting comfy in a smug little lifeworld. Kierkegaard: “Against God we are always in the wrong.”
(2) Exorbitant love of actually existing life forms. Love in this sense is strictly correlative with evil. Out of the Universe of things I select you (and you, and you) to love. Nothing to do with holism, then—with upgraded versions of “self” or “self-interest.”
(3) Childlike joy I've had since I was nine over these sparkling polygonal surfaces that absorbed light. There was an exhibition called The Energy Show at Earl's Court in London. I was transfixed by the solar cells. There is no “self,” no “interest,” no “reason” in this.
Clearly this is not a case of thinking globally and acting locally (remember, this is not strictly in our self-interest). We are acting with the planet in mind, by using less of its carbon energy. We are acting globally.
If Nature = the will to exist = self-interest, who needs it?
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
To save carbon, my family and I decided not to fly. Instead, we drove to our relatives in Colorado, through Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
As we entered Wyoming, we saw some giant wind farms. Some British environmentalists have objected to wind farms—not because of the risk to birds, but because they “spoil the view.” Quite recently, a plan to put a wind farm near a remote Scottish island was, well, scotched, because residents of the island complained that their view would be destroyed.
This is truly a case of the aesthetics of Nature impeding ecology, and a very good argument for why ecology must be without Nature.
So just for a minute, let's talk aesthetics.
How come a wind turbine is less beautiful than an oil pipe? How come it “spoils the view” any more than pipes and roads?
You could see turbines as environmental art. Wind chimes play in the wind; some environmental sculptures sway and rock in the breeze.
The wind farms had a slightly frightening size and magnificence. One could easily read them as fitting the aesthetics of the sublime (rather than the beautiful). But it's an ethical sublime, that says “We humans choose not to use carbon”—a choice embodied in gigantic forms on the high bluffs of southern Wyoming. A visible choice. Perhaps it's this very visibility of choice that makes the wind farms disturbing.
A visible choice, rather than secret pipes, running under an apparently undisturbed “landscape” (a word for a painting, not actual trees and water).
As a poster in the office of Mulder in The X-Files used to say, “The Truth is Out There.” Ideology is not just in your head. It's in the shape of a Coke bottle. It's in the way some things appear “natural”—rolling hills and greenery, as if the Industrial Revolution had never occurred.
These fake landscapes are the original greenwashing.
What the Brits are saying, in their objection to wind farms, is not “Save the environment!” but “Leave our dreams undisturbed!”
Thursday, July 31, 2008
In this age of insane gas prices (and insane gas use, period), Science (the big science journal along with Nature) has picked up the story about the videoconference I did.
I gave a keynote speech at the University of Edinburgh, which was hosting the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment conference. But I gave the talk first at UCD, to save an air fare and carbon, and sent them the dvd. Then I did the Q&A by videoconference.
It was a very positive and very ecological experience. In fact, the medium was in every sense the message. (And this was also the topic of my talk, so we got a nice recursivity going...)
Here it is.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I've been thinking about reading today, because I was asked to provide a sort of mission statement for my other blog on ecocritical interpretations of poetry. I thought you might like to see it here.
Aside from other kinds of ecological reading, like exploring the nature imagery in a poem, or looking for how a writer talks about pollution, there's looking at artistic form as ecological. As in “environmental art”—art that makes you aware of space. More on this in later posts.
But there's a still further way of engaging with ecological reading, and that's my theory that reading itself is an ecological act. And this is what I lay out below.
I feel quite good today, like this critique thing might even work, you know? More on this soon I hope: but basically, you don't have to jump outside the Universe or pull yourselves up by your own hair. It's all possible, because reality is full of holes (4000 of them in Blackburn, Lancashire alone, I hear).
So here goes. Let me know if it works.
The ecological thought—mission statement
Think of a Rorschach blot: as well as looking like a cloud or a person, it is just a meaningless stain. Aside from content and form, texts are blobs of others' enjoyment, literally—they are made of ink—and less literally, but still fantasy is a part of reality. Therefore reading is fundamentally coexistence with others. To read a poem is a political act, a nonviolent one. At the very least, there is an appreciation, with no particular reason, of another's enjoyment. I would argue that (at least closely analytical) reading goes beyond mere toleration, towards a more difficult, disturbing, and potentially traumatic encounter with enjoyment—which is always “of the other,” even when it's your own.
Reading a text is a profoundly ecological act, because ecology, at bottom, is coexistence (with others, of course), which implies interdependence. What I call the ecological thought is the thinking of this coexistence and interdependence to the fullest possible extent of which we are capable. If we are going to make it through the next few decades, we will have explored deeply the implications of coexistence.
Some of these implications are highly disturbing to “environmentalist” ideology: that we are not living in a “world”; that there is no Nature; that holism is untenable; that personhood is a form of artificial intelligence; that ecology is queer down to the genomic level, and so on. These highly counterintuitive conclusions are forced on us by the ecological thought itself, which is thinking coexistence, coexistence as thinking.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is about reading as coexistence beyond mere toleration. On many levels, it presents ecological coexistence as a theme. At its most profound, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner forces us to coexist with coexistence itself, with the meaningless distortion of the real. It is a poem whose reading helps us to think the ecological thought. My blog is a contribution to this project. I am finishing a book called The Ecological Thought in which I explore these issues in a different way.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Several people have been wondering what the plan is, as in: “What the heck are we supposed to do now?!” Clearly we live in an ecologically volatile age. Global warming is happening. We may well be in the midst of the sixth mass extinction on this planet. And so on.
What a perfect time to sit back, reflect, and think.
I mean that very sincerely.
Aristotle declared that contemplation was the highest form of praxis; I agree.
While addressing the environmental crisis head on is absolutely necessary, there is also an ideology of speed, that separates action from reflection, doing from contemplating. We must resist this ideology.
This is a problem. The sky really is falling!
Chicken little is right—but let's not be headless chickens. There is nothing more dangerous than justifiable speed.
Environmentalism and capitalism are the same in this: they both keep asserting “Just Do It!” at the tops of their voices.
What's an introspective, introverted, humanities theory-head to do?
Marx said that philosophers had up until now interpreted the world, but the point was to change it. I agree with Slavoj Zizek that maybe it's okay to interpret right now. Interpret in addition to changing...
One of the things that modern society has damaged, in its ecological destruction, has been thinking. Slowly, gently, we need to put thinking together—maybe for the first time.
(Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Trinity: Because you've never used them before.)
So yes, of course—more solar, more wind, less carbon, more rights for animals, pause the fishing, fight environmental racism, interrogate global capitalism, and on and on and on...
But also—hesitate, slow down, carefully. Derrida's main advice to his students: decelerate. Feel the grief. Go through the sadness. (More on this later—some of you are interested in this topic, and so am I.)
Now we need to distinguish this slowing down from the easy-wipe version of Heidegger that's out there...maybe that requires a whole different post.
For now, here's a couple of lines from the Introduction to Ecology without Nature:
It sounds like a perverse joke. The sky is falling, the globe is warming, the ozone hole persists; people are dying of radiation poisoning and other toxic agents; species are being wiped out, thousands per year; the coral reefs have nearly all gone. Huge globalized corporations are making bids for the necessities of life from water to health care. Environmental legislation is being threatened around the world. What a perfect opportunity to sit back and reflect on ideas of space, subjectivity, environment and poetics. Ecology without Nature claims that there could be no better time. (10)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The talk is available here.
Thanks to my brilliant chair Margaret Ferguson for introducing me and supporting this event.
You will be interested in the talk if you are interested in:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Poetry and poetics
Animals in philosopy
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I believe that one thing we have to get used to is that the ecological catastrophe has already occurred.
The extent to which post-apocalyptic fantasies push the “catastrophe point” forwards into the future is directly proportional to how much we want to ward off the fact that it has already happened.
One way we can tell it has happened is that it's now impossible to measure certain things. Say you have some kind of self-interest theory (suppose you modify it to include lots of others like family members, friends, your social circle etc.). How is your self-interest theory going to deal with substances such as plutonium, which have consequences that far outlast you, your circle (however wide), even perhaps your species?
Global warming is the result of a few hundred years of certain processes occurring, but its effects may last for thousands of years.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
This is a blog devoted to my ecological criticism projects. I'm the author of a book called Ecology without Nature (Harvard UP, 2007), and I'm writing the “prequel,” called The Ecological Thought (also Harvard).
Ecology without Nature has attracted some interest, notably from Slavoj Zizek.
I'm looking forward to using this blog to develop “ecology without nature” beyond the book projects.
Have you any suggestions for the “prequel,” The Ecological Thought?