Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rutgers Eco conference: Rob Nixon's talk + mp3




The Madison Pizza place now only takes orders from the protesters. Via Paypal they take orders from Egypt to feed the protesters and so on...

The conference brings up the relation of public intellectuals and artists to popular struggles.

“Slow Violence” and its negative impact on the poor. And the generative responses that have emerged from these social movements.

Slow violence: we think violence as spectacular, instantaneous, event focused. What Nixon is interested in are forms of incremental violence, slow moving, transnational, or occurring at a cellular level. (Scalar problems.) It's a threat multiplier that fuels conflicts.

For instance: climate change, deforestation, toxic aftermaths of war, toxic drift.

Rachel Carson: innovative and rhetorically creative ways of talking about “oblique deaths,” “death by indirection.” Use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Intergenerational deaths discounted by temporal framing of Vietnam war (bookended by certain dates).

Edward Said's role as public intellectual: “the normalized quiet of unseen power.” Versus the hushed havoc and injurious invisibility that attends slow violence.

Johan Galton: structural violence. Structures that have violent effects that are invisible.

Time is mobilized as camouflage by anti-environmental forces. Noeliberalism as a systemic way of internalizing profits and externalizing costs. Offshoring. Risks moved. But now let's think in temporal terms as well. Externalizing of risk is intergenerational externalizing as well.

Our culture of speed is far more acute than when Galton was developing his theories in the 1960s.

Speed becomes its own self-propulsive ethic. Digital connection and distraction. How to accommodate our degraded attention spans to environmental degradation. Speed of news cycle and of electoral cycle also present challenges. Environmental issues are first out because they don't have the immediacy, not good campaigning material.

Image of Ken Saro-Wiwa—beautiful mural (above). Spokesperson for the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta. Unanswerable transnational corporations. Epic figure in the mobilization of the counter-movement.

Oil spillages of Exxon Valdez every year for 50 years in Niger Delta. (This is almost impossible to let sink in.) Offshore platforms, flaring.

The mural is in the west of Ireland, an impoverished county. Part of a larger effort to link the struggle against Shell in the west of Ireland to that in the West of Africa. Names of the Ogoni Eight on the top.

One of Saro-Wiwa's poems translated into Gaelic. Some street names in Roscommon were changed to Ogoni names. Sharing creativity across boundaries.

Toxic aftermath of war in era of “precision warfare.” Depleted uranium: a half life of 2.7 billion years. Heartless words of Colonel James Naughton: “I'm sure every soldier would thank God that he lived another forty years [after surviving a depleted uranium shell] to contract lymphoma.”

He doesn't address at all the impact on Iraqi civilians and the impact on the water, and so on.

Wangari Maathai, Greenbelt movement in Kenya to oppose slow violence of soil erosion. Incremental threat that if you sped it up would call for the mobilization of an army in defense—“Losing topsoil should be considered analogous to losing territory to an invading enemy.”

Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Mix of oil and Correxit (even worse! the dispersant). Correxit is banned in Europe for its renal repercussions. Incorporation of images and stories in legal stories.

Maldives: sea level rising, because island eroding, because coral reefs dying, because of global warming. Highest point is seven feet. Group in Maldives got together with 350.org. They held an underwater cabinet meeting.



A ghostly sea change that is being brought to life visually. (This guy has a way with words.)

Russian claimed some of this underwater territory, sparking competition for it. Militarized rhetoric. The flag of desperation versus the flag of territory, another race to the bottom for carbon extraction.

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