Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Emergency Room: Art and Climate Change
This is a Teaser for my Chicago U-N-F-O-L-D talk coming up on Wednesday:
Today I want to introduce you to a way of thinking about climate change that's been helping me out, and I hope it will speak to how art can think these things through with us.
As we know more about biology, evolution, ecology and climate change, the stranger things become. In no sense are we demystifying anything at this point. In a peculiar way things are becoming more weird the more we know about them.
For instance, the more we know about how environments are made up of lifeforms and their extended phenotypes—spiders and their webs, beavers and their dams, bacteria and their oxygen, bacteria and their iron—the less we can hold on to some idea of Nature or “environment” that isn't reducible to just these lifeforms and their phenotypes.
Global warming would be a poignant example of the extended phenotype of homo sapiens. That's why some scientists want us to call the current era the Anthropocene. Traditionally environment and Nature have served as backgrounds for meaningful activity. For instance, we talk about the weather at busstops. This talk is redundant in terms of content but socially useful. We acknowledge a shared neutral space. But in an age of global warming, you hesitate to even talk about the weather. Or one of you brings up global warming. Or you skirt around the issue, bringing up anyway by your silence.