Showing posts from May, 2013

"I Don't Like the Idea of the Anthropocene"

This argument, a sort of argument from optics, is a typical at present humanities response to this term.

It's a reaction to the use of "anthropos."

In form it is precisely the conservative argument against global warming (the same thing, or a symptom of it): "Humans are so arrogant to presume they can change nature/be a geophysical force."

The humanist reaction is a symptom of its sclerosis. Exactly the wrong ideas at the wrong time.


Eco Humanities Symposium CFP

Come one and all!

Rice University English Symposium

September 13-14, 2013
Ecology and the Environmental Humanities
Keynotes: Prof. Claire Colebrook, PennState University
Prof. Timothy Morton, Rice University

The 2013 English Symposium at Rice University invites responses to the ecological and nonhuman turns in the humanities. These turns are undoubtedly responses to environmental crises, food shortages, global warming, factory farming, and species extinction, but this symposium is also interested in discussing the emergence of nonhumans, such as matter, objects, animals, systems, technology, and media, in our critical conversations surrounding these problems.

While the humanities have an opportunity to challenge the problems and solutions put forth by scientific discourses, the Anthropocene, the post-Natural, and the Posthuman come to challenge humanism. What are humanities scholars able to contribute to the conversations concerning ecology and nonhumans?

Papers can address the…

Tuned City Brussels 2

Tuned City Brussels: Sound, Philosophy, Space

Here are some short details about my contribution, "Earworms." My panel is called "Operative Ambience" and I believe it's on Saturday 6.29 at 11am.

Copy Editing Hyperobjects

The press did a great job choosing a very good copy editor, I reckon. Not all are as good as that. I should have this part done by tomorrow I think, having started today.

10 Days 6 Talks

Chicago, Sussex (x2), The Hague, Rotterdam (x2).

That was a real humdinger of a trip. I'm going to space them out a bit after this. It was incredibly educational for me. But I'm pretty tired now!

Anthropocene OED

I think I've successfully persuaded my friend John Simpson to put the term Anthropocene in the Oxford English Dictionary. Result!

I do occasionally get words put in the dictionary. Chasp was quite a recent one, as were some etymological discussions of dude.

Martin Amis Gets It Right

I like how explicit he gets about American health care in this interview in the Financial Times Sunday

“There are several veins of madness in American life. Health is another one. Can’t the bloody fools see they pay more than anyone else for this absolutely vile and gangsterish system?”

He just moved to New York,  you see. I remember when I first showed up. Deeply deeply shocking to see Penn Station: all the disabled homeless people shuffling about like in New Delhi.

"All Entities Have Dasein"

A little light went on over the head of the very very kind Heideggerian at EUR in Rotterdam as I delved into OOO. This is what he said. He was into it!

Andre Ling's Fuzzy Objects

Andre reminded me of this when I'd posted my talk "Things Are Fuzzy."

Some Problems in Ecological Philosophy (MP3)

Two hours of fantastic conversation, I thought. Hosted by the Philosophy Department at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Sjoerd van Tuinen presiding.

What Is Ecological Philosophy? Q&A

It was long and thanks to Henk it was very detailed. Featuring drawings on blackboards!

What Is Ecological Philosophy? (MP3)

Henk Oosterling is

(1) A very nice chap
(2) An excellent mind
(3) Deeply interested in martial arts and Buddhism
(4) Last but not least, someone who has created the most extraordinary school, sort of Plato's academy for 4 to 12 year olds in a struggling neighborhood of Rotterdam. Earth measuring (geometry) as philosophy, judo and growing things class(es).


Anyway--more on that in another post. Here is what we did last night.

Things Are Fuzzy Q&A

This was a short but very helpful (for me) Q&A from my talk at Yes Naturally.

Things Are Fuzzy (MP3)

This is the Yes Naturally talk. It was extraordinary as I've said to see the art of Ai Wei Wei and so on, all exploring the idea of ecology without nature, which was the brief of the exhibition. I was struck by the exemplarity of Person Broersen and Margit Lukacs's movie Mastering Bambi, which was by turns an idyllic pastoral and a horror movie—yet without actors and with only one single shot, simply changes in color and music, a Möbius journey through a dark forest. Wow. I'll post more on everything as time goes by. Q&A mp3 to follow.


Yes Naturally is an incredible exhibition. It was profoundly touching and also very humbling to see one's ideas expressed in a nonverbal form, so much better than one could have done oneself. If you are near it you should go. Ai Wei Wei is in there. This incredible video piece is there--I shall try to describe it later. And on and on. Infrastructural art that points out how things just function in our background ("nature") is there, being all object oriented. I couldn't believe it.

Also, scholarly life has started working even better now I talk about the lineage of French feminism. More soon.

Environmentality (MP3)

This was a "masterclass." Nicholas Royle opened the discussion by asking what I thought of the notion of "mastery." Wow! There thus devolved an enormous excursus on this issue that blended strangely nicely into the discussion of weird environmental poetics...

Reflections on Creativity in the Anthropocene (MP3)

Sussex University is incredible and Lewes is incredible and Nicholas Royle is incredible. And the Q&A was incredible!

A Primer on Ohio Millipedes

Millipede - Abacion sp.
I've been doing some research lately on a few millipede genera and have found myself lamenting the lack of well-written and accessible resources for millipedes. I have a good enough knowledge base to navigate through the published literature, but it's too inaccessible for general audiences. BugGuide's millipede page is probably the best online resource, but it still lacks good introductory resources for people wanting to learn more about the many-legged critters. You're able to submit a picture, and if you're lucky, someone will help you get it down to genus and maybe tell you how they identified it.

Concise keys for the millipedes don't really exist like they do for other arthropods, due to the characteristics used to identify millipedes. It's not like identifying a moth or a beetle, where coloration, pattern, and overall look can go a long way. You can get to Order from a photograph relatively easily with millipedes, but …

This Today

Gil Sans! And very good design.

How to Assess the Classical/Quantum Boundary

Does it even exist? Here is a thought about it.

Mark Payne

One of the great benefits of being in Chicago was to have hung out just now with Mark Payne, a classics scholar and old and rekindled friend. We used to live adjacent to one another in New Buildings 1 at Magdalen College. He is a very very smart guy. And a very very funny guy. It turns out we are both fans of Joe Wenderoth, the Ali G of agonized laughter. And we both think about ecology.

Symposium wrap up soon. It was incredible, is the headline.

Concentric Temporalities

The World Has Already Ended

Isao Hashimoto, visualization of every nuclear detonation since 1945.

Iterability and the Local

Exploding Foam

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Anya Zilberstein

C17 and C18 North America
variations on themes in cultural history of climate
Samuel Williams, “Change of Climate in North America and Europe” (1790)
“The whole earth is less subject to extreme cold than it was formerly. Every climate has become more temperature, and uniform, and equal and this will continue to be the cse so long as diligence, industry, and agriculture shall mark the conduct of mankind”

1988: “Since greenhouse gases are chiefly the result of human industry and agriculture, it is not an exaggeration to say that civilization itself is the ultimate cause of global warming”

Colonial elites had a stake in talking about climate
1638: descriptions of New England include language about the climate
to produce feeling of security
Edward Long C18 response to Buffon, 1784: “phlogistic particles from myriads of reeking dunghills, from the fumes of furnaces from the fire s and smoke of ten thousand crowded cities...”
He can’t believe humans can change climate

Nova Scotia and New England thou…

Ecology and the Environmental Humanities CFP

We are extending the deadline for applications for this year's Symposium to July 1. Here's a copy of the CFP. Note that we have decided on our keynotes: Prof. Claire Colebrook from Penn State, and our own Prof. Tim Morton. We're very excited to have them keynote!

Ecology and the Environmental Humanities
Keynotes: Prof. Claire Colebrook, PennState University
                Prof. Timothy Morton, Rice University

Rice University English Symposium
September 13-14, 2013

The 2013 English Symposium at Rice University invites responses to the ecological and nonhuman turns in the humanities. These turns are undoubtedly responses to environmental crises, food shortages, global warming, factory farming, and species extinction, but this symposium is also interested in discussing the emergence of nonhumans, such as matter, objects, animals, systems, technology, and media, in our critical conversations surrounding these problems.

While the humanities have an opportunity to challenge the proble…

Adam Nieman on Very Large Finitude

Imagine rolling all the water on Earth into a sphere. What would it look like? And the air?

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: John McNeill

I want to reflect on what we’ve just heard. It began with the proposition that this term isn’t useful for public policy. But I can also see the reverse. Cost benefit analysis as conventionally undertaken seems not all that useful for problems of the Anthropocene. Maybe we need to change the concept! 

People’s discount rates are even steeper than economists’: 50 years from now, who cares? 

My own topic here is going to be a bit disorganized. I haven’t spoken on this theme before. Stray thoughts on cases for the term. 

Agassiz, Vernadsky, Stoppani (the most crucial that Jan mentioned): the Anthropozoic (1873)
humans acquired power that they did in modern times
Word cropped up 1958 (first of all) according to Google. 
becomes part of vocab after Crutzen
Journal of the Anthropocene
Anthropocene Review
Elementa: J. of Anthropocene Science

Duetsches-Museum Munich/Haus der Kulturen der Welt
National Geographic

I’m going to begin with a very theoretical case
One should expect Anthropocene like events on a…

The History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Eric Posner and David Weisbach

“Public Policy over Massive Time Scales” 

David and I are law professors focused on public policy. How to make the world better through it. My first reaction was that the idea was not useful at all. But this is a topic we can discuss. There is a related issue of massive time scales. 

I’m not going to say the word Anthropocene again. But you’ll see why what we say might be relevant. 

Question: when the government implements a project, how far into the future should it calculate the costs and benefits? 
Amortization rate of benefits: economists assume this
Examples: bridge (ca 30 years)
Reform of judiciary (<100 font="" years="">
Radioactive waste (lasts 10 000 to 1 million years)
Power plants (climate change--indefinite time scale)

future benefits discounted by economists; build bridge, or you can set aside money in bank let it accumulate interest then 10 years from now people can use that to benefit themselves
3% growth >> .97 discount factor

Discounting: typical …

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Jan Zalasiewicz

Dipesh: the way to make this work is not to have discussants and respondents
Now Jan Zalasiewicz will speak, the only non-social science/humanities scholar here
geologist at U of Leicester
The Earth after Us (2008)
he is part of the push to make the Anthropocene acceptable >> International Stratigraphy Association
this is as political as naming something “genocide” or “famine”
he will address us on the history of the term and the current status of the concept

It’s useful to study this phenomenon not simply in terms of rock! 
International Stratigraphic Chart. There is a problem in the study of Earth. We have to deal with 4.5 billion years of complex history. No way to deal without resorting to some means of trickery. 
We take dynasties of time and simply categorize them into successive units that we can handle. To give us labels that we can use. It simply tries to represent the major events and turning points in Earth history. 
Where are we? Currently we are at the top of this mountain of…

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Fredrik Albritton Jonsson

I’m going to give an autobiographical slant. 
I started as Scots Enlightenment historian >> environmental history
I was often disappointed by US environmental historians
Preservation (Muir >> Carson); sustainability, equilibrium ill defined
global transnational history not there
race, cold war science, etc etc not quite there
this scene has changed drastically in the last decade or two
“envirotech” historians do draw attention to the social bases of forecasting
we are also moving from an ethos of false clarity of preservationist idealism towards a much more pessimistic and anxious recognition of moral and political complexity and failure
it’s a dark picture but it’s also a salutary one
dubious distinction between human society and pure wilderness must go
economy <> geophysics <> ecology
how to manage over the very long run
pandora’s jar of unexpected and wicked trade offs
can we curtail emissions without abandoning human rights and social justice? 
must we abandon economic gr…

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Dipesh Chakrabarty

Dipesh welcomes all of us. What a fantastic chap he really is. 
What is fascinating about climate change is how different disciplines have to scale the problem up or down and do different things with their tools. 
While David Archer will talk about 100 000 year scale, some will talk about global warming archive
Then economists speak of decades until the end of the century
Politicians will speak of electoral cycles
Scalar aspect of the problem: Tim Morton’s expression of feeling “outscaled”
I represent a discipline that is not particularly useful, history (!), there are some who are even less useful (literature) (!). (Of course Dipesh doesn’t agree.)
Sahlins: “just look at U Chicago. We don’t do anything that is fashionable or useful. 
Climatologists who think in terms of millions of years. They don’t obviously lend themselves to policy decisions. 
David Archer: is it possible for human beings to care beyond three generations?
Can you care for humans who come thousands of years after us? Or is i…