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

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We had to destroy Nature before ecology could save it

Hi everyone,

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?


Christopher Schaberg said...

Dear Tim, does "the ecological thought" involve something like a "post-apocalyptic imagination?" I have noticed this trend recently in Cormac McCarthy's novel _The Road_, and in films such as "An Inconvenient Truth," "I Am Legend," "Children of Men," and the new Pixar film "Wall-E." This imagination affords human visions of a humanless (or nearly humanless) world of rubble and decay. Humans, in other words, get to glimpse a future world not only empty of humans but also full of their garbage. It is a paradox that seems designed to inspire progressive thoughts about 'saving' an otherwise doomed planet, precisely *not* for humans, but for the planet 'itself'. Could this be the obverse of the "beautiful soul" syndrome that you trace in _Ecology without Nature_? Or is this just more "dark ecology"? Or is this not quite 'dark' enough, because this vision still relies on a distancing gaze, a Google Earth zooming feature, as it were? I'm looking forward to seeing the development of this blog and your new book.

Timothy Morton said...

Very interesting, Chris. I will have to think about this. My first thought is that in some strange way the post-apocalyptic visions you discuss are still, finally, in anticipation mode. To the extent that they're impossibly “seeing” an empty world from the point of view of the future, they're anticipating some future catastrophe. The catastrophe point remains in our future.

You could almost imagine this future point as equidistant from our own viewpoint. Like standing in front of a mirror: the mirror image is exactly as far “behind” the mirror as you are in front of it.

I would strongly argue that one thing we must face is that the catastrophe has already occurred and this is how it looks.

What if “saving the planet” were not the issue? What if ecological practice was a real drag?

Christopher Schaberg said...

I find this idea of a "real drag" quite compelling. One could almost imagine a chapter of your new book called 'drag theory': a way of explaining how human expressions create, reflect, or sometimes try to diffuse the 'drag' effects of living on a planet. In this case, does "dark ecology" reveal such drag effects? Rather than building wingtip devices on the end of flying machines to reduce lift-inflicted drag, would dark ecology seek to *ground* technological acts of innovation, or simply linger in their drag?

Timothy Morton said...

Interesting, Chris.

It strikes me that the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson might come closest to drag ecology. There are constant debates about how to terraform Mars, reactionary and progressive positions, endless discussions...

I like your “What is Literature?” page.

jeron said...

could either of you explain what you mean when you say "what if saving the planet not the issue?" and "what if ecological practice was a real drag?" this seems interesting to me but I'm not sure if I'm on the same page as either of you.

p.s. i especially like you comment tim that we are already at the catastrophe. what does this mean for liberal and "radical" reforms? are they meaningless and just a (political) Fantasy? If they are, then what?

Christopher Schaberg said...

What I take Tim to mean by "what if saving the planet were not the issue" is that this idea of "saving the planet" relies on a conceptual distance that is precisely part of the problem: as if humans could ever think about or act on the world from 'the outside'. Ecological practice is "a real drag" in the sense that humans have *always* been ecological—we've never *ever* been 'apart from' the planet (even in space), and our "ecological practice" has been (thus far?) a real drag. Consequently, we must accept this "real drag" (the fact of no distance between humans and 'the world') to imagine and actualize different circumstances on earth. Is this at all what you had in mind, Tim? And if so, does this help, Jeron?

jeron said...

very helpful chris...thanks!

Timothy Morton said...

"Drag" could also mean a lot of boring hard work!

(See the most recent post.)

Derek Wall said...

Just finished your book which I loved, as a practising green party activist and ecosocialist it gave me a lot to think about...

You don't shy away from irony and discourse but don't obscure the need for political action.

'Nature' in the sense that it moves and changes and has a cultural dimension is unnatural.

Well I will keep working for the monkey revolution inspired by your stuff.