“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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kate Rigby at ASLEC-ANZ (Liveblog)

“Creation and Catastrophe: Troubling ‘Natural Disaster’ ”
Self-respecting moderns are unlikely to attribute agency to Earth and sky.

“I have lost my faith in Mother Nature, but my faith in human nature has been restored.” (ABC interview of a public figure)
At the very moment when we do need to acknowledge our more than human others.

The invention of natural disaster was predicated on the medieval theology of natural evil. “We must acknowledge that evil is in the world” (Voltaire). De-divinized. Humanized. Nature handed over to scientific knowledge, economic exploitation etc. Humanities to confine themselves to culture.

Concept of natural disaster assimilated to mainstream progressive Christianity. Instead of discerning a need to confess and repent, most Christians simply asked to pray for the humans affected. And shell our a few dollars.

This is a kairos, a moment of risk. Self limiting and self giving love.

Rationalist perspective is blind to nonlinear causation (hmm not sure about that Kate).

Take the ecopoetics of the Book of Jeremiah. Northcote: The breaking of the covenant and transgressing laws that proscribe care for the land, and so on, the ruling elite have grown great and rich, fat and sleek, through treacherous trading practices. Linked by Jeremiah to crop failures. Desertification. 600BCE agricultural collapses << over farming and class issues.

Jeremiah as first ecological prophet. The ecoprophet must attend to what Morgan calls Earth's cry.

It's all so contemporary.

Michael Fagenblatt on Levinas. Creation has become a corrollary of our political responsibility. Divine causality has become human responsibility.

Stuart Cooke on Mapudungun Poetics at ASLEC-ANZ (Liveblog)

“What Is an Ecologically Sensitive Poetics?”

Leonel Lienlaf and Elicura Chihuailaf.

This is the indigenous language of the Mapuche (Earth) people of Chile/Argentina.
It is highly enactive.
Carefully proportioned breath.
Flows of energy that return to the potential of the virtual or of the dreaming.
Oral writing. Need to write our language back into the land (David Abram)
Kürüf: exploiting complexity of European signs

Miserable poetry << suffering country
Poet consoles himself with the presence of surrounding words
Singing in the threshold of misery

Tom Ford ASLEC-ANZ (Liveblog)

Tom Ford, “The Scenery of Vapour”
landscape, scenery, picturesque, prospect: common grammar of vision
print capitalism <> Nature
naturalizing the social, dark side only for chiaroscuro
domesticating otherness
it naturalizes and it acculurates
the aesthetic at its most ideological
these symmetrical criticisms require the picturesque to work in opposite ways!

But what is doing the framing? Sometimes the world gets inside the form and erodes it away.
It makes form uncertain and framing indefinite and ambiguous

clouding the subject: one of Wordsworth's favorite strategies
blankness, disappointment, anticlimax
unfathered clouds, unremarkable; atmospheres of privative description
“Written with a Slate Pencil...” (1815): not a prospect poem

Lessing: every circumstance is contained therein (in an epigram)
epigrams contain their own physical surface
a modern epigram is only about the disappearance of this surface
displacement into the title
classical epigrams were untitled; the modern one needs to tell you where and what it is
historical anxiety about poetry's destiny

Hartman: Wordsworth reinvented the inscription
a monument to spontaneity; a poem that coincides with the act and passion of its utterance
self reflection; the title as index of the poem's absent setting; but setting is now enlarged to include its moment of composition
identity of poem and its moment of creation is always incomplete or unachieved

text remains disrupted and discontinuous
to write with a slate pencil is to compose an erasable description

Freud: memory needs to contain permanent traces; but its medium also needs to remain receptive to the new; slate tablet
moment of act of writing <> stony medium; and the gap
what proves permanent is the loss of solidity itself

This means that one ends up talking to the atmosphere--“transparent clouds”

Gravestone inscription creates a geotext <>
vectors of deterritorialization; Akenside's invocation of transaparent flux
poem written on the still atmosphere it evokes

no news--what is conveyed instead is the pure medium in its absolute state
Wordsowrth's poem identifies a historical condition: we must past through this aerial negation
pass through this interspace in which writing becomes invisible, in which all description melts away
introduces difference into thinking and saying

WW's poem transmits the disappearance across 2 centuries

Adeline Johns-Putra, ASLEC-ANZ (Liveblog)

What do we mean by ecological vision? The ecological thought. Using Tim Morton to think about that.

What is the difference between ecological thought and ecological vision. There is an implied opposition of seer and seen, seemingly inimical to connectedness.

But vision also implies a looking beyond. Imagining beyond, beyond the possible. This aspect is what I want to address today. Challenging comfortable notions of being.

Copy of ET in the ANU library: someone has underlined it and said “impossible” in the margin...hadn't read to the end of the para where I say “can we even imagine it?”

Karen Barad: problem of representationalism. “The belief in the ontological distinction between representations and that which they purport to represent.” The word–world binary (as it is called in ecocritical circles). This >> preoccupation with the ties that bind the word and the world.

Barad: we tend to complicate it into,knowledge, known and the existence of knower joins them. Obsession of ecocriticism with mimesis.

Representationalism also informs social constructivism. Assumes we need only study the representations and not the entities to be represented.

All these things have agency, according to ecological vision. The idea of strangeness. The moment of encounter. Crucial to thinking with the many discursive and material units that make up our reality. Intra-action acknowledges that subject and object only exist in the encounter with each other (hot potato-ism baby...)

Latour: false division of world into subjects/objects/language/history; instead need to think of quasi objects.

Brave New World (with word crossed out) section. How does this vision work in fiction? Morton has a lot to say about dark ecology. But he doesn't mention fictional texts very much. All these destabilize our sense of identity.

Focus on fiction. Much less is done in fiction than in ecopoetics. Fiction is a little more stubborn.

Word and world as actants that have identity in coming together. Such novels are in danger of falling into a social constructivist trap of overprivileging representation. Shared materiality of books. Nabokov, Lolita, disgust at pedophilia all agents.

Holding agents together and recognizing the intra-active pull they exert on one another. All have meaning in a local condition of coming together (Barad likes to use this phrase). (Funny local realism...) Form of novel stretches to accommodate climate change. Very often it's genre fiction not the literary novel that lays bare its thingies.

Are we subaltern studies like feminism and Marxism. But are we like that? There can be a politics of opposing anti-intellectualism. Tim Clark: simply adapting habitual ideas of the human and culture, or questioning the seeming self evidence of those categories.

Linda Williams Liveblog (ASLEC ANZ)

Contemporary visual culture, its banality, its cheesiness. Consider some questions around the role of art in response to this predominantly visual culture.

Response of art in late 60s and early 70s, despite postmodernism.

Robert Smithson's reclamation project for a vast mining pit in Utah.

Joseph Beuys idea of social sculpture: art as a process of social transformation. Piece called I Like America and America Likes Me. Spent a few days with a coyote in a gallery in NYC. Saw coyote as a messenger, totemic animal. He used several issues of the WSJ as toilet paper for the animal and slept with it in a bale of straw.

Bonita Ely. River Punch 1980. Got polluting elements and did a cheesy cooking demonstration of stinking punch...

Jill Orr, Bleeding Trees.

Peter Dombrovskis, photo of Rock Island Bend, Franklin River Tasmania. Photo as part of campaign to stop the damming.

Spatial Dialogues Project, Melbourne 2012. Hidden trade in water worldwide. A piece called Drowned World.

Earthrise 1968

John Quigley Melting Vitruvian Man 2011

Drowning polar bear image. 350 art. Community, collaborative art.

Mark Wilson and Brinda Snaebjorndottir, HEAT: Art and Climate Change
documenting all the taxidermied bears they can find.
There are loads of stuffed polar bears in Australia. Put in crates: you look into a crate at it.

Olafur Eliason, The Weather Project (Tate Modern 2003–2004). 

Ha Ha, Nuage Vert (Helsinki 2010). As people turned off their appliances they could see the cloud changing.

Flooded McDonalds, Superflex.

Tony Lloyd, We Have All the Time in the World (2008)

Jill Orr, Southern Cross

Sam Leach Granrojo (2008); inscription on jellyfish

Hubert Drupat, The Idea of the Animal (2006)

Jazmina Cinimas female werewolves. From The Idea of the Animal (2006)

2112: Imagining the Future show. Kenji Yanobe, Atom Suit Series (2003). Out of his mouth come Buddhist sutras and Boddhisattvas around him with actual geiger counters. Holding a staff with a crystal in which to see the future.

Freya Matthews (ASLEC ANZ Liveblog)

Ecological humanities lacks the will to act on its visions of ecology. Ecology as a discourse is not enough so what else is needed?

Vision itself might in part be the probem. It implies a one way specular relationship with reality. It is as if the world is spread out passively for our gaze. Whether you use old mechanistic or new relational ecological terms, it doesn't matter—both >> nihilism, solipsism. Residual unconscious solipsism. We can't be moved by the world this way.

We will only be moved when the world moves up from the passive plane of representation. Only this way can we escape solipsism (through a subject–subject relation).

To vacate the old two dimensionality of representation in favor of the three dimensionality of communicative encounter. It's not we who make sense of the world but the world that inscribes our life with pathways of its own.

Meaning conveyed through symbolic resonance of things. In language such as this the world is able to respond. Numinous legends and tales of ancient societies. Same resonance. Smitten and moved. The response of the world is unmistaken in its poetic appositeness. Like dreams. Imprinted with the strangeness of a source beyond us. A call that draws us inescapably into intimacy. A world still dripping with the dew of creation. We cannot help but surrender to it.

Invocation. Festivals, rituals. Pilgrimage. “Sing up the world.” The psycho-physical nature of reality. To feel graced or even loved by the world. Dreaming. Craig Roth, “this sweet thing.” What does it really mean? This thing that women depict in sand drawings? Reverence breaking into song. Lightly held with exquisite gravity. Perhaps the most misunderstood and exploited phenomenon in this country. (Quotation from Roth.)

Communicative encounters with the world that seems to ready to entwine its poetics with us. Simply for the joy of wrapping us in layer upon layer of narrative meaning. This is the background love. Akin to the background radiation within physics. Background desire for poetic attention of our world.

(Freya is crying while reading her talk. It's pretty awesome.)

Science may need to be oriented to larger poetic invocation.

Clive Hamilton (ASLEC ANZ Liveblog)

Heidegger. Newton's view changed how the world was seen. Newton's law of motion. Bodies are indifferent to location. “Every place is like every other, each moment is like any other” (Heidegger). This new way of viewing the world was possible only because of a prior decision to privilege clarity and distinctness as the most fundamental criteria for the existence of a thing. Duns Scotus (Catherine Pickstock's argument). Being as an object; also redefines knowledge as that which is distinct, subordinate to the human subject. No deeper quality of reality to be known.

Vs Thomist being as something with unknowable and unanalysable depth.

The age of the world picture. The blue planet image was not a break from tech but tech affirmation: “we can see the Earth as a whole system.” Humanity's ability to free itself from the constraints of Earth. As a system, Earth becomes a graspable entity. Nothing with unknowable and unanalysable depth. Lovelock: Earth as cybernetic system, defensive; we should only imagine it to be alive.

Watch in Horror as Global Warming Cooks Earth in 3D (video)

This is the video that Professor Griggs just showed us:

Re-Imagining the Global Forum (mp3)

Last night's shenanigans. Lots of good intensity. Harry Nankin, Darryn McEvoy, Ursula Heise, Tim Morton, Linda Williams.

Dave Griggs, Climate Scientist (ASLEC AUS-ANZ Liveblog)

(This guy did the slides for An Inconvenient Truth.)

What kinds of images speak to us most powerfully about climate change?

Most of my audiences are very different and there is a very different gender demographic. If I showed a page of equations as my first slide, my colleagues would get very excited, but I'm not sure you would. (Ahh...bless.)

So here is a diagram of Earth' heat trending upwards since 1880.  Not only is Earth's surface warming, but the temperature of the whole atmosphere is warming. The world has not cooled since 1998.

Now we have a 3D map developed from 1 million plus lines of code. The most complex computer program ever written on planet Earth. Shows warming since 1880. When the globe goes blue it's 2 degrees lower, red and black, 15 degrees higher. Met office, Hadley Centre. A1B scenario.

Up to 2100 the land areas warm way quickly. As we get further there's not a lot of blue around but an awful lot of red. That's a mid-range scenario.

Now same computer model, but looking down at the North Pole. We predicted the Arctic sea ice would disappear by 2100. No one believed us. Now, because of the reduction we've already seen, no one is disputing that. It's just a matter of when in the century the ice is going to go.

Species loss is trending towards 10 000 times the background rate.

Massive rise in food prices.

“It will just ruin the economy to fix climate change.” Then a series of slides: expenditures cosmetics, ice cream, pet food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, military...vs cost of eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, ensuring environmental susainability: 50-60bn. The former list is in the trillions.

Cartoon: “But what if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

This is the critical decade. Governments have decided that 2 degrees max increase. But to do this we need to reduce emissions to almost nothing by 2100.

ASLEC Australia New Zealand Liveblog

Kate Rigby acknowledges the traditional owners of the land in her intro speech. We have Auntie Di, an elder here today.

“This is part of the traditional country of my mother and grandmother and ancestors. These greetings make me feel very good for the day.”

“I've been brought up to care for country, and that's been a part of my life. I've lost many places in my country disappear. I've watched rivers go, plants go, different species of trees, animals, and I miss a lot of things and I can't show my children a lot of things. I can tell them about it but I can't show them. Mother Earth is crying in pain at the moment. It's like we've really left it to the last minute to look after the place in which we live, the place that gives us life.”

“Some places are quite devastated. It's really sad. It takes a long time to fix things and hopefully we can. Hopefully we can change the cycle. I'm glad that there are people with passion in this world.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here"

Banco de Gaia, “Sheesha.” Fantastically psychedelic, which means that it's a little bit threatening.

Re-Imaging the Global Place and Time


Place: Lecture Theatre, Storey Hall, 342-344 Swanston Street, RMIT University
Date: Friday, August 31st.
Time: 5.15 – 7.30

Timothy Morton (Professor, Rice) Ursula Heise (Professor, English, UCLA)
Darryn McEvoy (Professor, Climate Change Adaptation Program, RMIT) Harry Nankin (Australian Environmental Artist)
Chair- Linda Williams – (Assoc. Prof. Art, Environment & Cultur

Re-Imagining the Global

Forum tonight at RMIT Melbourne.

Nonhuman, the Conference: Schedule

It is here. I'm doing two talks: “Buddhist Objects” and “Closer the Hands and Feet: Plato's Cave and the Proximity of Things.”

Your Actual Pub

A very nice one, The Last Jar just around the corner from this hotel. Heard very good things about the food. Pie and a pint of Guinness in cold weather. Life could not be sweeter--well it could but that would involve finishing the last few pages of this essay version of "They Are Here" which I'm doing for Richard Grusin. (See Past Talks.)

We Kiss in the Shadows

Paul Thomas and I have put together a little book of photographs called We Kiss in the Shadows. I'm going to write some things for it and I think he may too, then we'll be good to go.

It is about intersections between things. In these intersections, we found other things.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In Melbourne

It's big. It's a city. It's a bit cold. You can eat lovely risotto. And if like me you have work to do, happily there is time to do it. And there are trams!

No Time to Waste

This is quite nice. : )

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Check It

When the View is constant,
The flow of Rigpa unfailing,
And the merging of the two luminosities continuous and spontaneous,
All possible delusion is liberated at its very root,
And your entire perception arises, without a break, as Rigpa.
A term such as meditation is not really appropriate for Dzogchen practice, you can see, as ultimately it implies meditating “on” something, whereas in Dzogchen all is only and forever Rigpa. So there is no question of a meditation separate from simply abiding by the pure presence of Rigpa. The only word that could possibly describe this is non-meditation. In this state, the masters say, even if you look for delusion there is none left. Even if you looked for ordinary pebbles on an island of gold and jewels, you wouldn’t have a chance of finding any.
Sogyal Rinpoche

Monday, August 27, 2012

Talking in Portugal

Twice in later October. On dark ecology. Details to follow...

This Is Not My Beautiful Biosphere (MP3)

I think this went quite well really.

Sense of Planet Roundtable (MP3)

Featuring Ursula Heise, Nick Mirzoeff, Jennifer Gabrys, me, Marko Peljhan, Terry Smith, Douglas Kahn, and Jill Bennett.

Good Conference

Well, it's been marvelously good so far. I've been asked to do some more art. Oh did I mention that Paul Thomas and I are putting together something too? It's going to be called "Loving in the Shadows" and it's going to be text and photographs. Seeing through his eyes yesterday afternoon was quite a revelation. What a good guy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Autism, Ecology, Allergy

We had parasites that suppressed our immune systems. Now we don't. And now we have autism. And there is a link. HT Cliff Gerrish.

He's Back

He's back, he's back, he can never be wack: Dark Chemistry on OOO.

ANU Conference Today

We are staying at University House, a lovely facility with a most excellent restaurant and a beautiful quad with a low long rectangular fish pond with huge goldfish. Also, soaking showers with nice taps and hot water.

Sydney Wrapup

Now I'm in cold blue Canberra for this keynote tomorrow.

Douglas Kahn and Jill Bennett are incredible people and very very creative symposium organizers.

Newtown is a place where you must be a goth to walk freely.

Paul Thomas is an astonishing pair of eyes and we are making something called "Kissing in the Shadow." Stay tuned.

Paula Dawson makes holograms and I explored haptic 3D drawing inside and outside a sphere using the most sensitive tool I think I've ever used. She is a Norn.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Of Planet-Sense (Sydney talk) (mp3)

Encounter with a Strange Stranger

Marilyn Minter, Green Pink Caviar. If only all ecological were like this.

Friday, August 24, 2012

On Entering the Anthropocene (MP3)

This was my talk and Q&A at the Environmental Humanities symposium at UNSW yesterday. Thanks so much to Thom Dooreen and Deborah Rose for being so awesome.

Yesterday's Pleasure

What a lovely seminar that was. The inaugural meeting of the Environmental Humanities group at UNSW. Intimate, introverted, introspective, reflexive. Laughter. I was at my ease and I think I did a pretty good job.

They will be uploading a video somewhere, and in the mean time I shall upload audio here.

Sense of Planet, Sydney, Saturday (New Details)

Note the change of venue: the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, 27 O'Connell St.

Starts 9:30am.

Registration starts 9.30am, program begins 10am, networking drinks 5.30-6.30pm
The acceleration of climate change, species extinction, and other ecological crises, enjoins us to find ways of grasping historical and evolving circumstances at earth magnitude. The Sense of Planet symposium concentrates together an international array of artists, eco-theorists and scholars to address the issues and activities of representing the earth in its entirety, and of representing and self-representing regions or localities amid the complex global systems in which they are enmeshed. The symposium follows the lead taken by Ursula Heise in her book Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global to investigate the possibilities and difficulties of sensing the planet, in all senses of sense.  
Ursula Heise, Department of English, Stanford University
The Database and the Ecological Imagination of the Planet
Media theorists have argued that the digital database is not just a clerical or scientific tool, but a new cultural form of the contemporary age that calls for its own aesthetics and poetics. Art historians, literary critics and media scholars have debated the forms and functions of the database in relation to other representational genres such as narrative and map over the last decade. My presentation will focus on how global biodiversity databases such as the EoL (Encyclopedia of Life) or the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species mobilize the formats of the encyclopedia, of storytelling and of mapping so as to articulate a vision of the entirety of biological life on planet Earth. Such databases can be understood as a contemporary form of digital epic that may ultimately useful for rehtinking humans' relations to other species and for conceptualizing an environmental form of posthumanism.

Jennifer Gabrys, Design and Environment, Goldsmiths, University of London
Planet Sensing
Ecological Observatories and Technonatures of Sense Environments are increasingly under surveillance. But the monitoring that takes place consists not just of closed-circuit television installed to track and trace everyday human activity, but also of sensor technologies deployed to monitor ecological processes through distributed and micro-sensory modalities. This presentation will present fieldwork and observations gathered from several ecological observatories where experimental sensor environments have been established. Based on this material, I will consider how sensor technologies give rise to new modes of environmental data gathering, as well as technonatural configurations of sense. I will ask how these new arrangements of environmental monitoring and distributed sensing shift the spaces and practices of environmental participation and imagining, both within environmental citizenship actions and through creative practice projects that take up “citizen sensing” as a tactic for engaging with sites of environmental concern.
Timothy Morton, Department of English, Rice University
Of Planet-Sense
My talk plays on the possibility that the phrase "sense of planet" is in fact a subjective genitive.  Even if humans are the only people on Earth, which now seems astonishingly unlikely, they act as the planet's sense organs insofar as they are its direct outgrowths, and insofar as sentience just is an "interobjective" system's emergence as information-for some "perceiver." But Earth senses us in a far deeper and more disturbing way, since environmental awareness is predicated on an always-already. We are fearful that global warming has started only to the extent that we are no longer sure what the weather is telling us, because global warming has already started.  Unable to see it directly, we assess global warming insofar as it takes the measure of us. A tsunami assesses the fragility of a Japanese town. An earthquake probes the ability of humans and their equipment to resist the liquefaction of crust. A heatwave scans us with ultraviolet rays. These largely harmful measurements direct our attention to human coexistence with other life forms inside a gigantic object that just is, yet is not reducible to, these life forms and ourselves. The Anthropocene, the term for direct human intervention in geological time, is the ironic name for a moment at which the nonhuman is discerned to be inextricable from the human, a variation of the noir plot of the Oedipus story in which the measurer turns out to be the measured. To understand the contemporary age then is to understand the form of the Oedipus story, namely, how we still remain within the confines of agricultural ritual, a plot that plots the world as graspable, technical object and horizon, a plot that eventually leads nowhere but to what I shall define precisely as a specific kind of doom. What underlies sense of planet then is "planet-sense," experienced by humans as physical enmeshment in a trap that is by no means free, pleasant or utopian, precisely to the extent that it is a "global" awareness--but cognitively liberating nonetheless.

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Department of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University
Anthropocene Aesthetics
Why are the effects of climate change so readily accommodated? In this presentation, I will argue that the Anthropocene era of geology created by the human burning of fossil fuels is also and not coincidentally the era of transformation of aesthetics from that which was felt or perceived to the modern concept of disinterested beauty following Kant. I track the ways in which climate change and its effects were aestheticized at the heart of the Western canon and also within popular culture. I will suggest three means of countering the aestheticization of the Anthropocene: the legal theatre of small island states questioning the perception of the global; the resurgence of traditional navigation in the Pacific as a means of counter-visualizing the ocean; and the counter-aesthetic of the global Occupy movement in reclaiming the beautiful for participatory direct democracy.

Marko Peljhan, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, University of California at Santa Barbara
One Degree at a Time—Creating Systems of Systems for Interpolar Constructiv(ist)e Engagement
The high southern and northern latitudes are functioning as defining sensors of fundamental changes in planetary systems. During the last International Polar Year (2007-2008) an enormous amount of data about polar regions has been gathered and a large number of initiatives aimed at the understanding of complex inter-relationships between geophysical, biological, geopolitical and geocultural systems has started. We are positioned to understand more and deeper than ever before. Most of this knowledge was gathered through advanced technological sensing systems, from interferometry based instruments, to oceanographic and land based probes, sensor networks and observations. If it is to mirror the complexity of the observed systems, the inclusion of local and traditional knowledge and scientifically un-orthodox approaches is of utmost importance in processes of interpretation and paradigm creation. The talk will focus on the approaches taken by the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation in the Antarctic and the Arctic Perspective Initiative in the Arctic to create conditions for integrative practices and the creation of autonomous systems for constructiv(ist)e engagement with these interpolar realities.

And also:
Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh and National Institute for Experimental Arts
Jill Bennett, National Institute for Experimental Arts
Douglas Kahn, National Institute for Experimental Arts
9:30-10.00 am   
10:00-10:15 am
Jill Bennett and Douglas Kahn
10:15-11:00 am
Ursula Heise
The Database and the Ecological Imagination of the Planet
11:00-11:30 am
Morning Tea
11:30-12:15 pm
Nicholas Mirzoeff
Anthropocene Aesthetics
12:15-1:00  pm
Timothy Morton
Of Planet-Sense
1:00-2:30    pm
2:30-3:15    pm
Jennifer Gabrys
Planet Sensing
3:15-3:45    pm
Afternoon Tea
3:45 -4:30   pm 
Marko Peljhan
One Degree at a Time—Creating Systems of Systems for Interpolar Constructiv(ist)e Engagement
4:30-5:30    pm
NIEA panel with Terry Smith, Jill Bennett and Douglas Kahn
5:30-6:30   pm
6:30            pm


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I'm about to teach my first grad class here and I'm going ape with enthusiasm.

I had the usual (for me) despondency and fear last week. It's nice to find the mojo again.

tarp Essays by Harman and Morton

I just got my copy (thanks guys!). The issue is called “Not Nature” and it has essays by me and Graham on the subject of ecology. Here's how you can order a copy.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Campana's Piece on Jane Alexander

In the Chronicle. It's about her Humanimals exhibition.

The Cabinet of Craving

Thanks Joe Campana. This looks excellent. What's not to like about a spider you can inhabit?

Architectural Design

Wow, Jon Goodbun and the Architectural Design team did such a beautiful job with this Scarcity issue, which has a piece by me in it and a piece by my Ph.D. student Duskin Drum. See if you can get a copy.


I finished Realist Magic. Palpable liberation! Now I can concentrate on finishing my class, which starts Wednesday. I'm nothing if not methodical.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


You know what this footnoting is like? It's like the final phase of a Japanese oryoki meal, a staple of Zen monasteries.

You have a setsu, a cleaning stick, round which you've wrapped a piece of cloth at one end.

You clean out your bowls with it, so no washing up is required. You get little tastes of everything you've eaten. It can be a little gross.

Yeah it's like that: cleaning your bowl thoroughly. Reading through endless philosophy texts getting little tastes of them. It can be a little gross.

In Which I Try to Finish This Sucker

Fifty notes, five hours. Fifty notes out of six hundred that is. I like notes. It's unfortunate that I left the book so unfinished when I first sent it out. Now I pay the price... Let's see if I can do it by 5pm...

Gordon Bennett as they say.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Almost done with the notes.

I hate this part of editing.

But it has to be done.

I didn't even have lunch!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Whole Bunch of New Talks

Click the Future Talks tab for details of all the next three weeks' things.

Jane Alexander's Human-Animal Hybrids

Thanks to Joseph Campana.

“Jane Alexander’s hybrid mutants speak to the porous borders between humans and other forms of animal life. Alexander acts as a surveyor mapping the forces, interests, and passions at play in human behavior. Her sculptures, installations, and photomontages are firmly rooted in her South African experience. They also transcend their locality, revealing the disparity felt every day around the world between the rhetoric of peace and decorum and the human capacity for oppression and violence. Alexander’s body of work throws into relief the asymmetric relations and practices that preclude access for so many people to a free and dignified existence.”

Environmental Criticism in Paperback

Published by Routledge with an essay by me. Coming soon. Environmental Criticism for the 21st Century.

Podcasts in Future

I shall be livestreaming and podcasting all my future talks as before.

But if you want to hear my classes at Rice, you'll have to get it together and come study with me.

Surprisingly, it isn't so hard to be here, because there's a lot of financial support for students. In that respect it's a lot easier than UC.

Of course all my previous classes will remain here online.

Quantum Theory Autotuned

You won't learn much from this. But it's pretty darn cute. And Morgan Freeman autotuned talking about the Universe: that's quite strong, isn't it? Also, respect yet again to the minor seventh chord. I love that opening chunky one. And Richard Feynman.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Anne Carson's Antigonick

You know what's awesome? This.

"Many terribly quiet customers exist but none more / terribly quiet than man / his footsteps pass so perilously soft across the sea … and every Tuesday / down he grinds the unastonishable earth / with horse and shatter … Every outlet works but one / : Death stays dark.”

Oh. Yes. 

Harry Nankin's Syzygy

Exposed by the sky on clear moonless nights at Lake Tyrrell near Swan Hill, Harry Nankin’s remarkable glass-mounted photographs of scrambling insects and twinkling galaxies are literally made of congealed starlight. Unprecedented in the history of photography Syzygy reflects “photo-poetically” upon time, space and our increasingly troubled relationship with the non-human world.

Regarding the Earth Conference

At RMIT, August 31 to September 2. Ursula Heise and I are keynoting. Awesomely, Tom Bristow will be chairing my talk. Hi Tom!

Melbourne Public Forum

With Ursula Heise and Harry Nankin, the artist, and Darryn McEvoy. And me. Chaired by Linda Williams.  Click to download or magnify.

Another Sydney Environmental Humanities Event

Unfortunately it's the day when I'm smeared out over the Pacific in a non-time...

Liam Heneghan on Humanities and Environmentalism

You should read it.

Australian National University Conference Schedule

The Cultural History of Climate Change
Conference Programme
Humanities Research Centre
Sir Roland Wilson Building, McCoy St, ANU

Monday 27 August

8:30-9:15    Registrations and Coffee

9:15-9:30    Welcome and Introduction

9:30-10:30    Keynote
       Timothy Morton, This Is Not My Beautiful Biosphere

10:30-11:00    Tea/Coffee Break

11:00-12:30    Session 1: Climatic Theory
Chair: Neil Ramsey

    Nick Mansfield, Deconstructing the Sovereignty of the Earth: Bataille, Derrida and the Natural Politics of Climate Change

Elaine Kelly, Dwelling in the Future

Linda Williams, The ‘Little Ice Age’ and the 18th Century European concept of the Sublime

12:30-1:30    Lunch

1:30-3:00    Session 2: Communicating Climates
        Chair: Tom Bristow
Deb Anderson, Life Narratives, Drought and Climate Change

Devin Bowles, Holding back Chaos: Climate Change Denial and the Need to Believe

Catherine Simpson, Gaia & Ecological thinking in the Age of the Anthropocene   

3:00-3:30     Tea/Coffee Break

3:30-5:00    Session 3: Climates of Writing
Chair: Gillian Russell

Deborah Jordan, Climate Change Narratives in Australian Fiction

Kate Rigby, Unnatural Disasters: Rereading Extreme Weather Events from Jeremiah to Carpentaria

Adeline Johns-Putra, Why Care? Reinventing Ecofeminism in a Time of Climate Change

Tuesday 28 August

9:00-10:30    Session 4: Climatic Histories
        Chair: Adeline Johns-Putra

Tom Bristow, Necessary Impurities and the Geological Sublime: Reading Standpoint in the Literary Anthropocene
       Tom Ford, Some Climates of Literary History
        Chris O’Brien, Rethinking Seasons: Changing Climate, Changing Time

10:30-11:00    Tea/Coffee Break

11:00-1:00    Session 5: Picturing Climate Change, Curating Climates
Helen McDonald, Fred Williams and ‘A Dry Aesthetic’

Karla McManus, Photographing Nuclear Power in the Evolving Age of Climate Change

Ann McCulloch and Alan Woodruff, Climate Change: ‘The Event’ as Metaphor and Transformation

Guy Abrahams and Jodi Newcombe, Changing Climate Culture: What Role for the Arts?

1:00-2:00    Lunch

2:00-3:00    Session 6: Climate Law

Nicole Rogers, Climate Change Litigation and the Awfulness of Lawfulness

Christine Black, An Arctic Narrative: Understanding Climate Change History through Lawful Behaviour

3:00-3:30    Tea/Coffee Break

3:30-5:30    Artists Roundtable: Art in the Era of Climate Change
        Convened by Ursula Frederick and Josh Wodak
        Moderator: Martyn Jolly
       Mandy Martin
       Josephine Starrs & Leon Cmielewski
       Mitchell Whitelaw

5:30-6:30    Drinks


Guy Abrahams
Changing Climate Culture: What Role for the Arts?

CLIMARTE and Carbon Arts are organisations that believe the cultural sector can be harnessed to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change and sustainability. We believe the arts has a major role and responsibility to encourage the transformational thinking required to move us away from our current destructive practices, and towards the environmental sustainability that we need to protect life on our planet. We seek to promote and facilitate climate and sustainability related awareness and imagination through arts commissions, events, exhibitions, research and advocacy.

This presentation will give an overview of international and Australian arts initiatives that are engaging with climate and sustainability issues at an individual and institutional level. It will demonstrate that the strong sense of community amongst individual and organisational members of the cultural sector ideally situates this sector to play a pivotal role in disseminating, exploring and sharing information through creative reciprocal learning. The variety and breadth of arts initiatives indicates that the cultural sector, and its core constituent - creativity – can provide many positive models for engaging the public in imagining and shaping a more sustainable future.

Deb Anderson
Endurance: Life Narratives, Drought and Climate Change

This paper draws upon oral histories recorded during a recent, remarkable period of contestation over climate knowledge in Australia to investigate cultural conceptions of climate. It explores what drought means for rural Australia?for identity?in a climate-change world, arguing that, through an examination of how the past shapes present understandings of climate, drought can be viewed as a cultural concept whose primary connotations are less related to rainfall than to an overarching, mythic narrative of endurance.

An extensive oral history collection (for Museum Victoria) was conducted in rural Australia?annual recordings in the Mallee wheat-belt of Victoria?from 2004 to 2007. Fortuitously, the timing of the study coincided with a momentous shift in Australian public awareness of climate change. The oral histories captured significant moments of reflection and self-reflexivity on the meaning of climate, revealing contestation over expertise and experience as inherently partial forms of knowledge, and exposing the core interpretive problems of climate change. Despite shifts in climate change perception, however, the oral histories were found to embed discourses of survival, uncertainty and adaptation that arguably represent a historical, battler narrative of endurance?revealing livelihoods and identities at stake.

Thus, this paper argues for the significance of the historical and cultural dimensions in understanding issues of climate in Australia, while canvassing the broader power and application of oral history in cultural research on anthropogenic climate change.

Christine Black
An Arctic Narrative: Understanding Climate Change History Through Lawful Behaviour

This paper is written in a politico-poetic genre so as to loose its theoretical content from the colonial constrictions of academic engagement, and instead bring forth the relatedness with the reader and in so doing draw their attention to the importance of lawful behavior towards the earth. The paper takes the reader on a journey into the wilds of the cultures that border the Arctic Ocean and questions the validity of their laws to protect both Native Women and the earth. Through a close examination of the practices of security gangs and their said duty to protect, those laws are questioned and given another reading; a reading that asserts Native Women have much to offer the realm of security, due to their experiences as both victims of violence as well voices that can speak for the earth.

Devin Bowles
Holding back Chaos: Climate change denial and the need to believe

Scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect is well-established, yet substantial climate change scepticism persists. If the level of intellectual and emotional acceptance of the state of the planet is less than that warranted by the science, even less is it translated into action to curb climate change. This initially appears incongruous with credible warnings that continued warming threatens economic growth, reduces food production, and increases conflict risk. 

Retreat from scientific or common-sense thinking about climate change is consistent with Clifford Geertz’s contention that religious belief is called upon when reality’s chaos exceeds a person’s analytical powers or capacity for moral understanding. The chaos of climate change challenges on both fronts. While the basic science of climate change is clear, the causal processes between turning on a light and drought intensification in India are complex, and evade complete understanding. Specific weather events cannot be forecast even in the medium -term, relegating prediction to a (mere) statistical exercise.    

Basic to a moral understanding of the world is the assumed value of human life. Scientific revolutions which challenge the pre-eminence of Homo sapiens and oust humanity from its chosen and inevitable place in the universe have always faced stiff opposition, as Galileo and Darwin might attest. Climate change threatens the assumptions of inevitable human progress and hence of human immortality. That climate change imperils people’s lives and ways of life through weather’s capriciousness suggests a randomness to suffering that tests the limits of moral comprehension. The present moment is crucial to the future of the climate and indeed of civilisation. The saga of our species swings on the pivot of our response to the challenge that climate change poses to our analytical and moral faculties. How we think and what we believe about the climate will determine the path of human events.

Tom Bristow
Necessary Impurities and the Geological Sublime: Reading Standpoint in the Literary Anthropocene

This paper takes a conceptual starting point from the impossibility of simile as indicated by the travel writings of Aldous Huxley.  Locating this 'limit' as a problem of communication within a climate change context, this paper attends to an extensive ecopoetics as a methodology for reading voice, address, simile and metaphor within standpoint as a means to question the representation of the subject of poetry.  How might a synthesis of theoretical issues in the public understanding of science and pro-environmental behavioral change articulate poetry’s resistance to ‘information reduction’ in literature of the anthropocene, as witnessed in a stance that refuses paraphrase? Is difficult poetry of use to understanding climate change, or do modern literary modes lend themselves to a fresh understanding of the individual within a planetary imaginary? A brief excursion through a post-Movement and post-Romantic landscape of J.H. Prynne and John Burnside, respectively, offers some notes toward a British response to these questions.

Tom Ford
Some Climates of Literary History

Considered as a theme or topos of literature, climate has become an increasingly vital site of cultural research over the last decade or so. Literary theorists have also begun to question how climate change might compel us to rethink the way literary history has traditionally been carved up, proposing period schemas that are based on climatic epochs, for instance, or dominant energy sources. My paper tries to position these recent efforts within a longer history of critical reflection on the climates of literature. It focuses on climate as an operative concept within literary history, rather than as a condition or subject of imaginative writing.

The concept of climate, I want to argue, intervened in some formative ways in the disciplinary development of literary history—moments that continue to shape much of what literary historians do, but which have tended to be forgotten, occluded, or rewritten in entirely non-climatic terms. Recovering this history is important given our current critical position, I suggest, because climate’s fitful interventions within literary history help to account for some of the inherent paradoxes of that discipline. As many of its most skilled practitioners have recognised, these are paradoxes that make practicing the discipline effectively impossible. But perhaps they now also provide some potential purchase on the well-known conceptual impasses that confront our understandings of natural and social time, and of historical agency, in the Anthropocene. For the most part, I’ll be looking at Hippolyte Taine, author of what Kenneth Rexroth once called the first “ecological theory of literature,” and Virginia Woolf, who I will read as a similarly climatic historian of literature.

Adeline Johns-Putra
Why Care? Reinventing Ecofeminism in a Time of Climate Change

Is our experience of climate change gendered? The merest of glances through a list of climate change fiction will reveal a significant number of writers whose work is often designated as concerned with gender: Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterson, for example. The presence of such novels suggests—indeed, it insists— that the only way for fiction to render the global, ‘hyperobjective’ experience of climate change is to gender it.

Yet, by distilling the human experience of climate change to the question of gender, such novelistic treatments of climate change draw on a long critical history of ideals and expectations around women and the natural environment. This history includes not simply what one might think of as pre-twentieth-century idealisations of both femininity and nature, but the critical expectations that fall under the rubric of ‘ecofeminism’. Significantly, because these novels seemingly decontextualise gender, they tap directly into ideas about an unmediated link between women and the environment that have long undermined ecofeminism. They tend to replay rather than revise simplistic strains of ecofeminism, which would have it that core characteristics of womanhood may be aligned with core characteristics of—for want of a better word—nature.

Where, then, are the novels that activate a more nuanced critique of care, one that does justice to the complexity of the human experience of climate change? Works such as Margaret Atwood’s ‘simultanial’ novels, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods gesture to this common ground between women and nature. Arguing that Atwood and Winterson, contrary to expectations, make a surprisingly reductive investment in a feminised and maternalised ethic of care, this paper presents, as an alternative, a reading of Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army. I approach Hall’s novel via Catriona Sandilands’ theorisation of feminist environmentalism as ecological citizenship, inflecting this (if time permits) with Donna Haraway’s anti-dualist critiques and Karen Barad’s concept of agential identity. Such a reading, I argue, usefully reveals the risks that attend the over-investment in care in a time of climate change, risks boded by the enthusiastic ecofeminism of Atwood’s and Winterson’s novels.

Deborah Jordan,
Climate Change Narratives in Australian Fiction

The mediation of an environmental awareness becomes the democratic foundation for political and ethical decisions on how the environment can be managed. The literary imagination provides one strand of investigation of how a culture defines its relationship with the natural world. When climate change is represented as a new phenomenon, surprisingly few novels, both in Australia and overseas, address the issue. On the other hand there is a rich tradition in Australian white and Indigenous literary fiction addressing the impact of extreme weather events and ‘natural’ disasters, rapid environmental change, and even in the immigration/migration frame the rupture and disjunction of environmental contexts, human adaptation and maladaptation to new environments. This paper addresses the key novels, past and present, in Australian literary fiction that offer readers insight into climate change, both in a critical literary context and the context of the history of the book.

Elaine Kelly
Dwelling in the Future

This paper outlines some historical junctures of climate and human migration in order to think through the political and ethical issues of dwelling and mobility today. Migration studies have tended to remain strongly within the nation-state structure when analysing movement across and within borders. In this paper I draw on some preliminary research into various scientific perspectives on the climate-migration nexus. From here, I will unpack its findings and assumptions in an effort to think through the relationship between borders, migration and belonging. In 2009, scientists Carto et al. wrote a paper titled ‘Out of Africa and into an Ice Age’ in which they hypothesised that migration out of Africa over 100,000 years ago may have been climate-driven. What does such an insight reveal to us? What sorts of political, ethical and cultural insights can we draw out of this?

Engaging with the works of Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas and Timothy Morton, this paper will speculate on futuristic dynamics of dwelling and mobility by looking into the past. How can an ‘ecological thought’ accommodate the issue of migration and dwelling?

Nick Mansfield
Deconstructing the Sovereignty of the Earth: Bataille, Derrida and the Natural Politics of Climate Change

Through a Bataillean reading of Derrida’s discussions of nature, as well as an analysis of the literature of the cultural politics of climate change, I attempt to show how on both sides of the environmental debate, the human belief that its role is to control the earth (either by exploiting or saving it from exploitation) misunderstands the fundamental asymmetry of the human relationship with Nature. Edwards (1996) and Demerritt (2001) have compared national approaches to climate change to the command and control systems of the Cold War, arguing that they exhibit the same “closed world discourse” – an understanding of the world as a single entity to be managed authoritatively in order to ward off apocalypse. I argue that the understanding of Nature as a varied but ultimately single thing, implying an ecological consistency and co-ordination between an infinite number of collocated phenomena and processes, feeds our misapprehension that we are stewards of the earth. The “earth” and “nature” function then in the same quasi-transcendental way as sovereignty, justice and democracy-to-come in Derridean thought: as tropes of an indefinite and irreducible excess, they orient and govern our projects, without being reachable, promising our extension and threatening our reduction to nothing in the same double event. In this way, by overcoming the concept of Nature, Derridean thinking can be developed towards an account of the politics of the environment.

Ann McCulloch
Climate Change: ‘The Event’ as Metaphor & Transformation

This paper will commence with a presentation of an 8 minute Australian National television coverage of an exhibition of Artists responding to the problem of Climate Change. Attention will be given to the Deleuzian ‘becoming’ that existed at each part of the relationship between the artists, the artwork and its/their response to Climate Change that led to an exhibition that led to a media coverage/event. In the first instance in attempting to bring public attention to the problem of climate change an expression and consequence of interaction between forces emerged, with each interaction revealed as an event. Each artist’s response to climate change, drew together a power to create new potential through a contingent and productive encounter. The field of metaphors produced by the encounters was comprised of a multiplicity of philosophical insights in which nature becomes metaphor and metaphor becomes nature serving to dismiss any hierarchical distinction between the products of ‘culture’ and those of ‘nature’. This paper will examine what was made actual by the aesthetic perceptions of art and how each event, at its different place of becoming, is, to quote Cliff Stagoll ‘the potential immanent within a particular confluence of forces’. By looking at a selection of individual artistic responses to the question of climate change, the impact of their coming together as one exhibition, and the media response to both the exhibition and documentary footage taken of the processes leading to it, this presentation will examine ‘event’ as an underlying force that marks moments of ‘the state’ (new consciousness) as a transformation.

Helen McDonald

Karla McManus
Photographing Nuclear Power in the Evolving Age of Climate Change

Climate change has become of central importance for cultural producers in the 21st century as theoretical and aesthetic concerns about humanity’s relationship to our environment have complicated the traditional dialectic of man and nature and inspired new ways of representing the world. Nowhere has the relationship between climate and culture been more fully explored than through the medium of photography, where the documentary role of the camera has functioned as mediator between the out-of-reach changes taking place in the world’s climate and the everyday experience of the average viewer at home. Photography has come to inform and shape our historical understanding of ecology, environmentalism, and climate change, representing complex ideas in simplified and often visceral visual forms.

This paper will explore how photography has been used to represent the changing social, cultural and political response to climate change through a single subject: nuclear power. Scholars have increasingly become interested in the photographic representation of the atomic age, concerned with the visual representation of the Cold War ethos found in much of the mass media and vernacular photography of the second half of the 20th century. While the atomic age is undoubtedly an artefact of the Cold War era, what will future historians name this age of ecological crisis that has led to disasters such as Fukushima, brought about by decaying Cold War technology and heightened by fears of global environmental instability? By looking at the recent work of contemporary photographers concerned with the ecological impact of nuclear power, this paper will demonstrate how photography has contributed to the cultural shaping of climate. Equally, I will argue that the photographic response to nuclear power has shifted to reflect a changing historical understanding, in which climate is now a central concern for the future of our contemporary global society.

Chris O’Brien
Rethinking Seasons: Changing Climate, Changing Time

In Western thinking weather, climate and time are bound in a seldom-explored conceptual nexus. Hesiod, Hellenistic Greeks, the Romans, British Almanacs, and, since the Seventeenth Century, official scientific studies of weather have understood climate in terms of regular and typical kinds of weather at particular times of year. Nature was like a clock, working to time. Weather happens in time, but also often marks time. With British colonialism these ideas were exported to this continent. So, culture shaped climate.

Examining both the weather history and the history of weather observation in Australia’s far north this paper will show that colonisers imposed a temporal regularity on the region’s weather and climate discordant with its recorded weather history. It also demonstrates that this notion of climate linked to regularly timed weather events was blind to a salient feature of the region’s atmospheric dynamics: its temporal variability from one year to the next.

With climate change we now have the complexity of additional variation to an already variable climate. Generally discussed in terms of quantities - rising average temperatures, increasing or decreasing mean rainfalls – climate change also has crucial and often overlooked temporal dimensions. This paper will highlight the need to understand historical patterns in the timing of weather in understanding climate and climate change, as well as the implications of these patterns for current Western ideas about seasons. It will also argue that a more sophisticated understanding of the weather-climate- time nexus will not only help us better grasp the implications of climate change, but also will yield many signals as to its progress. Finally, I will speculate on how climate change might manifest in northern Australia on a variety of time scales.

Dr Nicole Rogers
Climate Change Litigation and the Awfulness of Lawfulness*

Law as a mode of cultural discourse appears singularly ill-equipped to engage with futuristic predictions of climate change.  I am not referring here to new Acts as Parliaments can freely legislate in response to futuristic predictions of climate change, subject only to constitutional and (very real) political constraints. I am referring to judge-made law. The ongoing triumph of legalism, or continued conservative application of existing laws, necessitates a reining in of the judicial imagination. To indulge in futuristic climate change imaginings or to factor futuristic climate change predictions into judicial decision-making constitutes a radical departure from the coherent, consistent, incremental development of judge-made law which is widely celebrated in that popular ‘fairy tale’: the doctrine of precedent.

In climate change litigation we find radical attempts to adapt existing doctrines to new climate change contingencies. Some judges have proved sympathetic to such attempts. Others have stubbornly continued to read such doctrines within the commercial or other contexts in which they developed. Yet downplaying the importance of climate change considerations in the application of existing legal rules does not mean that dire climate change predictions will simply go away. In fact, it is more than likely that a conservative judicial aversion to futuristic climate change predictions and a stubborn application of ‘normal’ rules within, only, ‘normal’ contexts will simply hasten the advent of an apocalyptic climate-changed future. Herein lies the ‘awfulness of lawfulness’.

*The phrase, ‘the awfulness of lawfulness’, comes from an article by Sam Blay and Ryszard Piotrowicz: ‘The awfulness of lawfulness: Some reflections on the tension between international and domestic law’ (2000) 21 Australian Yearbook of International Law

Catherine Simpson
Gaia & Ecological thinking in the Age of the Anthropocene

“There is no such thing as ‘bad weather’, only inappropriate clothing, and likewise there is no such thing as ‘saving the planet’. Gaia is well beyond our capacity to destroy, although we are making it horribly uncongenial for ourselves, our symbionts and other organisms we love” (Garrard, p. 205).

Since James Lovelock proposed the Gaia hypothesis in 1982, conceptualising the Earth as a self-regulating, evolving system, notions of equilibrium and harmony have pervaded ecological thinking. Gaia is “a powerfully productive scientific metaphor and has considerable value as a way to imagine the planet as at once vulnerable and vast, enduring and evolving” (Garrard 201). Climate change and the contemporary ecological crisis have provided an impetus and opportunity for collaborative scholarship and alternative engagements across the science/humanities divide. Deborah Bird Rose and Libby Robin argue that it's essential for humanities scholars to be part of the ecological conversation as it seeks to develop new knowledge practices in order to “engage with connectivity and commitment in a time of crisis and concern” (Rose and Robin). Applying ecological thought to contemporary “matters of concern” (Latour) can alert us to the limitations of our knowledge, while simultaneously impelling us to act from our enmeshed position in a precariously balanced world.

Since the “failed” Copenhagen Summit, there has been a shift in climate change discourse from “experts”. We have moved away from doom and gloom discourses and into the realm of what I shall call “situated” hope (Simpson 2009). “Situated” hope is not based on blind faith alone, but rather hope grounded in evidence, informed judgments and “situated knowledge” (Haraway). Describing the importance of Mike Hulme’s book, Why we Disagree about Climate Change, Sheila Jasanoff argues that, that “without downplaying its seriousness, Hulme demotes climate change from ultimate threat to constant companion, whose murmurs unlock in us the instinct for justice and equality”. Might the “murmurs” that Jasanoff gestures to here, also be articulated as hope? This paper ponders what an ethics of hope might look like in the Age of the Anthropocene.

Jodi Newcombe
Changing Climate Culture: What Role for the Arts?

CLIMARTE and Carbon Arts are organisations that believe the cultural sector can be harnessed to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change and sustainability. We believe the arts has a major role and responsibility to encourage the transformational thinking required to move us away from our current destructive practices, and towards the environmental sustainability that we need to protect life on our planet. We seek to promote and facilitate climate and sustainability related awareness and imagination through arts commissions, events, exhibitions, research and advocacy.

This presentation will give an overview of international and Australian arts initiatives that are engaging with climate and sustainability issues at an individual and institutional level. It will demonstrate that the strong sense of community amongst individual and organisational members of the cultural sector ideally situates this sector to play a pivotal role in disseminating, exploring and sharing information through creative reciprocal learning. The variety and breadth of arts initiatives indicates that the cultural sector, and its core constituent - creativity – can provide many positive models for engaging the public in imagining and shaping a more sustainable future.

Kate Rigby
Unnatural Disasters: Rereading Extreme Weather Events from Jeremiah to Carpentaria

In Tim Morton’s analysis, the concept of “nature” is an impediment to what he considers truly ecological thought. Extending that argument, this paper proceeds from the premise that the related concept of “natural disaster” is blocking the recognition of human agency in the etiology of today’s extreme weather events. In problematising this paradigmatically modern concept, the paper considers a number of literary representations of extreme weather events from pre-modern, or non-modern, and post-modern contexts, which can be seen from a contemporary material ecocritical perspective to disclose the distributed or heterogeneous agency involved in such events, while enjoining human responsibility in response to them. Among the texts to be considered are biblical prophetic writings (especially Jeremiah), the poetry of Judith Wright and Alexis Wright’s novel Carpentaria.

Alan Woodruff
Climate Change: ‘The Event’ as Metaphor & Transformation

This paper will commence with a presentation of an 8 minute Australian National television coverage of an exhibition of Artists responding to the problem of Climate Change. Attention will be given to the Deleuzian ‘becoming’ that existed at each part of the relationship between the artists, the artwork and its/their response to Climate Change that led to an exhibition that led to a media coverage/event. In the first instance in attempting to bring public attention to the problem of climate change an expression and consequence of interaction between forces emerged, with each interaction revealed as an event. Each artist’s response to climate change, drew together a power to create new potential through a contingent and productive encounter. The field of metaphors produced by the encounters was comprised of a multiplicity of philosophical insights in which nature becomes metaphor and metaphor becomes nature serving to dismiss any hierarchical distinction between the products of ‘culture’ and those of ‘nature’. This paper will examine what was made actual by the aesthetic perceptions of art and how each event, at its different place of becoming, is, to quote Cliff Stagoll ‘the potential immanent within a particular confluence of forces’. By looking at a selection of individual artistic responses to the question of climate change, the impact of their coming together as one exhibition, and the media response to both the exhibition and documentary footage taken of the processes leading to it, this presentation will examine ‘event’ as an underlying force that marks moments of ‘the state’ (new consciousness) as a transformation.


Guy Abrahams
Guy Abrahams is a Co-founder of CLIMARTE, a not for profit organisation that promotes the role of the Arts in informing, engaging and inspiring action on climate change and sustainability, and Director of the Art+Environment consultancy. Guy has worked as a lawyer and a gallery director, he has been on the Boards of numerous organisations, and has recently completed a Master of Environment at the University of Melbourne.

Deb Anderson
Deb Anderson teaches at Monash Journalism and writes on higher education for Melbourne’s broadsheet, The Age. Her doctoral thesis (2011) examined oral histories of the lived experience of drought and shifting perceptions of climate change in rural Victoria. Her fascination with climate likely stems from her youth, spent in Queensland's Wet Tropics.

Christine Black
Dr. C.F. Black is a descendant of the Kombumerri and Munaljahlai peoples of South East Queensland. Christine is the author of The Land is the Source of the Law: An Dialogic Encounter with an Indigenous Jurisprudence (Routledge, 2011).

Devin Bowles
Devin Bowles is a PhD candidate in population health and epidemiology at the ANU. He has previously published articles on cultural history and psychology, among other topics.

Tom Bristow
Tom Bristow is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of New England, New South Wales. Tom previously taught at the University of Edinburgh; he is currently the Vice President (Australia) of the Association for the Study of Literature, Environment and Culture –Australia, New Zealand (ASLEC-ANZ).

Tom Ford
Thomas Ford is an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, ANU. He is currently completing a book on Romantic Atmospheres: The Poetics of Aerial Culture, 1774-1848.

Adeline Johns-Putra
Adeline Johns-Putra is currently a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Exeter; from September 2012, she will be a Reader in English Literature at the University of Surrey. She has written books on epic poetry and Romantic women's writing, and is completing a monograph on climate change and the contemporary novel. She is Chair of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (UK and Ireland).

Deborah Jordan
Deborah Jordan, literary historian and writer, is currently working on a wider project on climate change narratives across literature, film and media with others at the University of Queensland. She is a cultural historian and writer.

Elaine Kelly
Elaine Kelly is Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her research looks at the renegotiation of sovereignty and rights in the context of climate change, with a particular emphasis on how these affect the politics and ethics of dwelling.

Nick Mansfield
Nick Mansfield is Dean, Higher Degree Research at Macquarie University. He has written extensively on subjectivity, sovereignty, war and climate change, with an especial focus on the work of Jacques Derrida. He is one of the general editors of the journal Derrida Today, published by Edinburgh University Press.

Ann McCulloch
Ann McCulloch, Professor of Literary studies in The School of Communication & Creative Arts, Deakin University, Melbourne Campus, is the author of A Tragic Vision: the Novels of Patrick White and  Dance of the Nomad: A Study of the Selected Notebooks of A.D. Hope.  A playwright and director, she has also published widely on aesthetics, philosophy and its interface with literature, biography, Australian literature, the theory of Tragedy, and the visual and literary representation of depression, trauma and environmental ethics.

Helen McDonald
Helen McDonald is a Research Fellow in the Art History Program, School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.  She is the author of Erotic Ambiguities: The Female Nude in Art (London & New York: Routledge) 2001 and Patricia Piccinini: Nearly Beloved (Sydney: Piper Press) 2012. Focusing on contemporary and late modernist art, including Australian Aboriginal art, her recent research explores aesthetics of dryness and dry country through the lens of climate change.

Karla McManus
Karla McManus is a PhD student in the Interuniversity programme in Art History at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec and a part-time lecturer in the department of Art History. Her research focuses on the presentation and interpretation of landscape photography as environmentalist in contemporary visual culture.

Timothy Morton

Chris O’Brien
Dr Chris O’Brien is a Post-Doctoral Researcher with the Northern Research Futures Collaborative Research Network (CRN) based at Charles Darwin University (CDU), Darwin. CRN is a research initiative linking CDU with Australian National University (ANU) and James Cook University (JCU). Chris is also affiliated with ANU’s Centre for Environmental History. On July 13 Chris was awarded with a PhD in History from ANU for his thesis A Clockwork Climate: An Atmospheric History of Northern Australia. An historian with research interests in weather, climate, oceans, modern scientific and environmental knowledge, northern Australia, southern Asia and time, Chris also holds a first-class honours degree in History from Sydney University.

Nicole Rogers
Dr Nicole Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross University. She is interested in the intersection between law and climate change, and law and performance studies theory. Her other research interests include wild law and environmental activism.

Catherine Simpson

Jodi Newcombe
Jodi Newcombe is a curator and creative producer specialising in artistic responses to environmental challenges. Jodi is director of Carbon Arts, an organisation working to facilitate an increased role for artists in generating awareness and action on climate change. An environmental engineer and economist by training with an international career in consulting to business and government, Jodi is committed to multi-disciplinary and creative approaches to progressing a low-carbon future.

Kate Rigby
Kate Rigby FAHA is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature in the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies at Monash University. Her research brings an ecophilosophical perspective to the study of literature and religion, and her publications include Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism (2004) and Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches (2011).

Alan Woodruff
Alan Woodruff has a Master's degree in script-writing from the University of Melbourne and is currently lecturing in film theory and practice at Deakin University whilst working on his PhD.  His specialty area is documentary and feature film post –production. Recent work includes Return to the Border, a documentary about Burmese refugees from Australia returning to the Thai-Burma border, and the pilot documentary with Ann McCulloch : Aesthetic Perceptions of Climate Change which investigates artistic responses to the global environmental crisis with a focus on regional Victoria.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Good Sign

The orientation is being held in Duncan Hall, the most astonishing and beautiful engineering building on Earth. Look it up if you think I'm bluffing...


-ation today at Rice. Looking forward to it. They would have to try hard to make it worse than the previous one.

Everything Is Okay

"This restless mind is buddha nature. Because it is so intelligent, therefore it is restless. It is so transparent that we can’t put any patch on it to mask over the irritation—if we do, the irritation still comes through. We can’t hold the irritation back or maintain ego-style comfort anymore. In tantric literature, buddha mind is referred to as a lamp in a vase. If a vase is cracked, the imperfections of the vase can be seen because of the light shining through from inside. In Mahayana literature, a popular analogy refers to enlightened mind as the sun and ego’s security as the clouds that prevent the sun from shining through.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bennett, Harman, Morton in New Literary History

Graham told me our essays on objects and literature were out today on Project Muse, so if you can then you can get them now.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Suckmaster Burstingfoam"

This has caused endless, endless bouts of hilarity.

Tweeting My Edit

I'm tweeting some quotations from Realist Magic as I run through my final edit. @the_eco_thought is my handle.

I Love You Julian

Because you sent me this from Hong Kong.


This among many is an hilarious moment of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

After Queer, After Humanism

Here is the schedule for the conference.

Failing Objects

I just got this book at the Menil about failing designs from this professor at Duke. More soon.

Monday, August 6, 2012

There Is No Cure

I just ran very fast and remembered when I received mind transmission, and subsequently when I first hit rigpa for the first time by my ownsome, decisively. It's like devotion, the healthiest emotion on Earth. This song just plays itself really. Totally a song of devotion to the Vajra Master.

I Am Completely Calm

I can't begin to describe to you how tranquil I feel. Everything is ticketty-boo. I have a few books to write, a few talks to finish, and some essays to polish. I'm about to start teaching in my nice new job.

Sydney Talk in August

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Brother's Drum Teacher's Other Student 2.0

Yes indeedy. The drumming on this is so fucking hard. God bless my brother.

Ready to Melt?

Oh good. “Cherry Colored Funk” (Cocteaus) remixed by Seefeel.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I like to write them. Harvard asks you not to micromanage their designers, so I've supplied aphorisms to suggest the covers I've wanted.

Now to get to work finishing my aphorisms for Tammy Lu's animation of my stuff.

"Ecology Is Not about Nature" (Latour)

From a recent talk in Brazil (video). HT Bill Benzon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Realist Quantum Theory Strikes Again

Told ya. From a very recent New Scientist. The wave function may be real, not a heuristic device. So De Broglie's stock is going up...

Steve Wilcox Gets His OOO On

Not a bad intro at all. Sort of a one stop shop.

Trotting Along

I do seem to have put in the revisions to Realist Magic, but I need to fix some references. Sheesh. Then I'll be done.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Byron 2013 (CFP)

In London! With me in it, for good or ill.


BYRON: the poetry of politics and the politics of poetry
The 39th International Byron Society Conference
King’s College London, UK
1-6 July 2013

‘It is a grand object – the very poetry of politics. Only think – a free Italy!!! Why, there has been nothing like it since the days of Augustus.’ (Ravenna Journal, BLJ VIII 47)

The Byron Society and King’s College London are pleased to announce the 39th International Byron Society Conference, which will examine Byron’s engagement with politics in the widest sense: as a poet, as a member of the House of Lords, as a commentator on his time, and latterly as a would-be revolutionary.

The conference will be held at King’s College London’s Strand Campus in the heart of London from Monday 1 July to Saturday 6 July 2013. Accommodation will be available in single ensuite rooms 10 minutes’ walk from the conference venue, at a cost of about £50 per night, or at a choice of nearby hotels.

Academic sessions might include:
Byron and the politics of culture
Political style in Byron’s writing
Byron and the politics of the ‘Other’
Byron and the politics of emergent nations (Italy, Greece, the Americas)
Byron and the House of Lords
Byron and Napoleon
Byron as social satirist
Byron and revolution
Byron as liberal and/or libertine
Byron and religion
Byron and social class
Byron and gender/sexual politics
Byron and British political parties
Byron and imperialism
Byron’s posthumous political influence
The ‘Byron legend’ (construction and/or appropriation)
‘Words and things’ (literature versus action in Byron’s life and work)

Proposals for papers on these and other aspects of Byron and politics, or the politics of Byron’s poetry, are welcome. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes in length. Please send 250-word proposals by 15 January 2013 to Professor Roderick Beaton (rod.beaton@kcl.ac.uk) or Dr Christine Kenyon Jones (christine.kenyon_jones@kcl.ac.uk), if possible by email, and including the subject line: ‘Byron politics CFP’. Postal address: Centre for Hellenic Studies, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK.

Please note that you must be a current member of a national Byron Society in order to present a paper at the conference. For a list of Byron societies worldwide see www.internationalbyronsociety.org

In addition to the academic sessions, the conference programme will include:
• Exhibition and private view: ‘Byron and Politics’. Manuscripts, printed books and memorabilia from the John Murray Archive and the Foyle Special Collections Library, King’s College London, curated by David McClay (National Library of Scotland), Stephanie Breen and Katie Sambrook (King’s College London)
• ‘Byron, Elgin and the Marbles’: readings and reception hosted by the British Museum
(including a private viewing of the Parthenon Sculptures)
• Byron, The Two Foscari: a dramatised reading, with excerpts from Verdi’s opera, I Due Foscari, performed by students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama
• Debate on the motion: ‘that Lord Byron has had no meaningful impact on European history or politics’ (proposed by Peter Cochran, opposed by Jack Gumpert Wasserman)
• Orthodox Vespers in King’s College London Chapel, sung by members of the renowned King’s College London Choir
• Reception at the House of Lords, with a guided tour of the Palace of Westminster
• Conference dinner

The conference organisers will be announcing details about the conference over the next several months, so please check the website periodically at [URL TO BE ADDED]

Academic committee:
Roderick Beaton, Bernard Beatty, Peter Graham, Christine Kenyon-Jones, Alan Rawes, Jane Stabler

IBS conference 2013. Byron: the poetry of politics and the politics of poetry
Provisional programme [updated 1 August 2012]

Monday 1 July
15.00-16.00    Registration  (tea and coffee provided)
16.00-16.45    Welcome and opening of the conference by Lord Byron and Professor Sir Richard Trainor, Principal of King’s College London, followed by an address by Lord Lytton
16.45-17.30    Opening plenary: Professor  Jonathan Gross, Historiography of Byron’s politics
17.30-18.00    Introduction to the special exhibition (David McClay)
18.15-20.30 Reception and opening of the Exhibition, Maughan Library

Tuesday 2 July
9.00-9.15    coffee/tea
9.15-11.15    Plenary 2. Politics of culture and language [3 speakers]
11.15-11.45    coffee/tea
11.45-13.15    3 papers (or 6 in parallel sessions)
13.15-14.00    sandwich lunch (provided)
14.00-16.00    4 papers (or 8 in parallel sessions)
16.00-16.30    coffee/tea
16.45-17.30    Orthodox Vespers in King’s College Chapel
18.45-21.00    Byron, Elgin and the Marbles (reception and reading, British Museum)

Wednesday 3 July
9.00-9.15    coffee/tea
9.15-10.35    Plenary 3. Politics of the ‘Other’ [2 speakers]
10.35-11.00    coffee/tea
11.00-12.30    3 papers (or 6 in parallel sessions)
14.00-16.00  Byron, The Two Foscari: a dramatised reading, with excerpts from Verdi’s opera, I Due Foscari, performed by students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Guildhall School, Silk Street, Barbican, London EC2
16.00-16.30      coffee/tea (at the Guildhall School)
16.30-18.00  3 papers (or 6 in parallel sessions) at the Guildhall School [Wednesday afternoon timings subject to alteration]

Thursday 4 July
9.00-9.15    coffee/tea
9.15-11.15    4 papers (or 8 in parallel sessions)
11.15-11.45    coffee/tea
11.45-13.00    Debate on Byron and politics (plenary session)
13.00-14.00    sandwich lunch (provided)
14.00-15.30    3 papers (or 6 in parallel sessions)
15.30-16.00    coffee/tea
16.00-17.30    3 papers (or 6 in parallel sessions)
18.30-21.00     Reception at John Murray’s [numbers limited to 80 max]

Friday 5 July
9.00-9.15    coffee/tea
9.15-10.45    3 papers (or 6 in parallel sessions)
10.45-11.15    coffee/tea
11.15-13.15    Closing plenary [3 speakers]
13.15-13.30    Closing of the conference and concluding remarks
13.30-14.30    sandwich lunch (provided [tba])
14.30-16.30     IBS council meeting
19.00     Reception at House of Lords, preceded by optional tour of Palace of Westminster at 18.00
20.30     Conference dinner (either at House of Lords or at nearby Church House)

Saturday 6 July social programme, optional

Maximum academic sessions (excluding plenaries): 52, down from 54 [down from 56

Provisional plenary titles

all plenaries are 30 mins (max), each paper followed immediately by a 10-minute discussion. If papers are shorter, more time will be available for discussion

Plenary 1. Opening session [30 mins + 10 discussion]
Jonathan Gross: Historiography of Byron’s politics

Plenary 2. Politics of culture and language [2 hour session, 30+10 x 3]
Andrew Stauffer: Byron’s lyrics and the politics of publication
Charles Robinson: Byron and Hazlitt
Peter Graham: Don Juan, Politics, and the English Language

Plenary 3. Politics of the ‘Other’ [1 hr 20 mins session, 30+10 x 2]
Stephen Minta: Byron and the politics of altruism
Timothy Morton: Byron’s Nonhuman

Closing Plenary. The politics of others: imperialism and nationalism [2 hour session, 30+10 x 3]
Jane Stabler: Byron, the Pisan Circle and “Boccaccio’s lore”
Malcolm Kelsall: Byron and the Ottoman empire
Roderick Beaton: Byron and the politics of the Greek Revolution

31 July 2012


Blurbing Erik Belgum

He tells me that this book of stories is somewhere between La Monte Young and Jackass. Can someone help me figure out where the fuck that is?

Sawyer Seminar at U Wisconsin Madison

In mid-October. Here is what I shall do:

Dark Ecology: Philosophy in the Anthropocene
Tim Morton, Rice University

In roughly 1790, humans began to deposit a thin layer of carbon in Earth's crust, as a result of fossil fuel burning. This layer can now be detected deep in the Arctic ice and in large lakes. This marked the beginning of what is now known as the Anthropocene, a distinct moment in which human history intersects decisively with geological time.

In 1945, the Great Acceleration began, a logarithmic upturn in the momentum of the Anthropocene. A thin layer of radioactive materials began to be deposited in Earth's crust, thanks to the detonation of The Gadget in Trinity, New Mexico, and the subsequent deployment of the nuclear bombs Little Boy and Fat Man.

The intersection of human history and geological time now means that no distinction can be drawn, no clear, thin bright line, between humans and nonhumans, or, in the old and now outdated (and mystifying, even dangerous) terminology, Nature. Everything—bonobos, Toyotas, plankton and toothpaste—are now on “this” side of history and social space. Which is to say, since there is no other side, that there is no “world” any more, no stable background against which human events seem meaningful. It is the end of the world, precisely, not as an apocalypse, but as the loss of an illusion, and as psychotherapy knows, losing an illusion is much more painful than losing a reality.

We are not living in the end times, as the title of a recent book by Slavoj Žižek puts it. This is the afterlife: we are already dead. Ecological awareness thus takes the form of noir fiction, that is to say, it is an Oedipal loop in which the detective finds out that he is the culprit: the difference between knowing and being known collapses, but not in the liberating manner some expect. Rather, we find ourselves caught in a reality from which we cannot extricate ourselves in a deep, ontological sense.

The implications of the end of the world are the subject of this talk.