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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Three Basic Hyperobjects Questions


1. We have suddenly become aware of the Anthropocene, the geological period brought about by human carbon emissions. But how does the Anthropocene affect human society, thought and art?  

2. How can humans think and plan for the scales sufficient to take global warming and radiation into account: scales that are measured in tens of thousands of years?

3. We often think and act towards the environment as if a horrifying cataclysm is about to take place. But what if the problem were precisely that the cataclysm has already occurred?

3 comments:

Bill Benzon said...

On 3, are you aware of the Transition movement?

http://www.transitionnetwork.org

It pretty much assumes that the disaster has already commenced and our job is to cope with it.

Henry Warwick said...

1. We have suddenly become aware of the Anthropocene, the geological period brought about by human carbon emissions. But how does the Anthropocene affect human society, thought and art?

That depends on actions taken now by those who are aware.

2. How can humans think and plan for the scales sufficient to take global warming and radiation into account: scales that are measured in tens of thousands of years?

They can't think and plan on that scale. They won't think and plan on that scale. There is no need to think and plan on that scale. Example: If you bury all of the nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, and cover the entrance with 100 feet of concrete, it will remain untouched. Why? Because no one who will live there in the next century and thereafter is going to have the energy or materials to dig the stuff up. Also, with global warming, that area will be inhospitable to life - nothing will live there and no one will be there. After the population crash and the resulting dark age and migration north, it will be left behind and forgotten. That's just one example.

3. We often think and act towards the environment as if a horrifying cataclysm is about to take place. But what if the problem were precisely that the cataclysm has already occurred?

As noted above - many already do - the transition movement is just one of many people actively engaged with this. I would also nclude other movements like urban farming, permaculture and simlar efforts.

agilekeys said...

I proposed something that deals with these questions (well perhaps not so much #3, which is indeed startling) in a conversation with Andrew Revkin of the Dot Earth Blog during his visit to Arizona State in 2010.

My suggestion was to begin building institutions that conceptualize and model what a "Greater Anthropocene Transition" might look like. [In other words, institutions that orient knowledge production enterprises toward the high-dimensional manifold of hyperobjects.] The premise is to combine, sequence, and collaboratively produce specific knowledge types (descriptive-analytic, normative, and instructional knowledge of past/present/future) for actively exploring the felicity conditions of a future paleological separation of contemporary earth history into two distinct epochs, the Lesser Anthropocene and the Greater Anthropocene. Between the two regions would be a Greater Anthropocene Transition, which would be inaugurated by the dawning of a thoroughly detailed but uncertain awareness of what deep shit we are in. On this view, perhaps directly transmitting the realization that the cataclysm has already occurred is somehow the linguistic inauguration of the actively-imagined Greater Anthropocene Transition.

In the near term, I imagine techniques like crowdsourced filmmaking, navigable/appropriable image and film clip databases, National Science Foundation/Templeton Foundation/et al interdisciplinary research projects, and various forms of democratic experimentalism or "Mode 3 research" could be organized.

The research enterprise at universities may need to be dynamited and rebuilt from the rubble in light of the magnitude of the human situation vis-a-vis hyperobjects. I have some familiarity with efforts to radically complexify university-based research programmes (through 'transformational sustainability research' grant proposals), but these have been met with conservative backlash at the NSF. Research funding institutions are not currently designed to cope with bundles of hyperobjects as active research domains. Evaluating proposals, combining and sequencing knowledge production from many disciplines, reaching into civil society/industry/government/network culture, all over many years -- this is not an easy task for institutions constructed post-World War II to catalyze productivity.
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In response to Bill Benzon's comment, see also the One Planet Communities @ www.oneplanetcommunities.org -- which claim to be "the world's greenest neighborhoods".