“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, December 23, 2008

A perverse Papal prezzie

It's our duty to oppose Pope Benedict's words on ecology and gender in his address to Vatican staff today (12.23.08). The Pope declared that if tropical forests deserve our “protection,” then “the human being” (defined as “man” and “woman”) deserves it no less. He declared this, furthermore, in a proclamation that explicitly targeted “gender theory.” Pope Benedict asserted, “We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way.”

Of course, we should oppose these words not only from the basis of queer theory, but from the position of ecology itself. Why? Because ecology is queer down to the genomic level and below. As I've been writing an essay for PMLA called “Queer Ecology,” I see the Pope's address as a perverse Christmas present. It's like a ghastly pair of socks. You didn't really want it, but you have to be kind of grateful for it in any case.

Stay dialed for a full account of my essay.

Will Slavoj Zizek figure out a way of defending the Pope on this one, as he has done in the past? Or will the Pope's yin-yang language of natural harmony be too much for him to stomach?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Alas, Poor David, I Thought I Knew Him, Horatio

Wow. I read on David Monbiot's blog that David Bellamy, English childhood eco-hero, is now a global warming denier.

What happened? Who bought him off?

I so vividly remember Bellamy's children's show about the ecology of back gardens, during which he shrank down to miniature size through old school TV trickery. Beautiful stuff.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Allow me to lecture you

You can download some talks I gave by clicking on the links on the right hand side of this page, below the book icon. Or you can find them by going here to get to my home page. One is a lecture I did at Cambridge in May of this year, on animals and cognitive science. The other is part of a symposium on climate change and creativity at UC Berkeley from late October.

And I was glad to see this piece about the Berkeley talk in a local paper.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

350—the magic number

Watch, learn and be horrified by this speech by the CEO of a major, major coal corporation. He is a global warming denier who thinks that if you disagree with him, you are an atheist and a communist. Then read this essay by Bill McKibben. James Hansen, the original global warming congress-testifier, is back with a news-you-can-use number: 350. That's the parts per million to which we need to reduce CO2 if we are to have a chance of limiting the catastrophe that has already begun. We are currently at 385 and rising.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Just published an essay called “Ecologocentrism” in the theory journal SubStance, a special issue edited by Dimitris Vardoulakis called “The Political Animal.” I'll try to summarize it here in the next post or two as best as I can—the main point is, the term “animal” is pretty much bankrupt at this point. And as for “the animal question”—which is how some philosophers like to put it—well, that just sounds way too much like “the Jewish question” for me.

You can get the essay online on JSTOR if you have access to it.

The issue contains essays by Slavoj and Cary Wolfe. Slavoj expresses his liking for Ecology without Nature. This is good for me, since I wrote it thinking all the while of Zizek's brilliant way of showing what you think of as B as really a distorted version of A. In my case, Nature and capitalist ideology...

Derrida fans/enemies should recognize the nod to the recently departed sage (peace be with him).

Monday, December 8, 2008


I'm getting a solar oven for the family this holiday season. Not that the cloudly, misty Central Valley weather looks like it'll support it until about May, but oh baby, when the rain switches off (it really does seem to be a pretty digital set up here in Davis), around April time till October, it'll be time to cook! I got the oven from Solar Cookers International, an outfit that distributes ovens in Kenya and Zimbabwe. When I was in Tibet I saw a lot of them.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dissemination ahoy

My Literature and the Environment class has had 2000 hits on iTunes U. That, plus blogging, is more circulation than I've ever gotten for these ideas.

Hugh McGuire put a great essay on Huffington Post encouraging academics to blog. I like the third point: that the ideas are just too important to waste on preaching to the choir in the in-house language (or jargon).