“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Death of the Death of Environmentalism

I was disturbed as ever by this editorial by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger in today's LA Times.

Greens and Democrats are toast, say they, because we didn't argue for cheaper energy through new technology. Instead, we expected things to move via more expensive gasoline and emissions capping. The “Green Bubble” has burst.

Only in their heads I'm pleased to report.

Did I hear anyone Green or Democrat arguing against cheaper alternative energy? Thought not.

And since when did scientific truth become a reason to shy away from Green action just because it wasn't tasteful or popular? N and S are claiming that we shouldn't have moved on Green policy because “people” were less into global warming than “we” thought.

Imagine N and S writing an editorial just before slavery was abolished. Slavery shouldn't be abolished, they write, because people are less into abolition than the Washington "elites" think.

The more I read them, the more N and S come across as zombies programmed by the right.

Either that, or they're deliberately messing things around. Which is worse?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The nature of the economy

Luckily this is all going down in an election year.

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

Richard Wright

Pioneer of far away intimate spaces Richard Wright is gone.

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.

The Ambient President

2001: 9/11 (Bush on holiday with dossier that says “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in Mainland USA”)

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


Quotation of the week from my man Thomas Merton.

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.”