robertogreco + holocene   4

Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces | Aeon Ideas
"We are accustomed to the idea of geology and astronomy speaking the secrets of ‘deep time’, the immense arc of non-human history that shaped the world as we perceive it. Hawkes’s lyrical meditation mingles the intimate and the eternal, the biological and the inanimate, the domestic with a sense of deep time that is very much of its time. The state of the topsoil was a matter of genuine concern in a country wearied by wartime rationing, while land itself rises into focus just as Britain is rethinking its place in the world. But in lying down in her garden, Hawkes also lies on the far side of a fundamental boundary. A Land was written at the cusp of the Holocene; we, on the other hand, read it in the Anthropocene."



"Deep time represents a certain displacement of the human and the divine from the story of creation. Yet in the Anthropocene, ironically we humans have become that sublime force, the agents of a fearful something that is greater than ourselves. A single mine in Canada’s tar sands region moves 30 billion tonnes of sediment annually, double the quantity moved by all the worlds’ rivers combined. The weight of the fresh water we have redistributed has slowed the Earth’s rotation. The mass extinction of plant and animal species is unlikely to recover for 10 million years."



"There is also something disturbingly banal about the Anthropocene. Arguably, it’s in the encounter with everyday objects, surfaces and textures that we get the best sense of its scope and scale. Some 60 billion chickens are killed for human consumption each year; in the future, fossilised chicken bones will be present on every continent as a testimony to the intrusion of human desires in the geological record. Plastics, which began being mass-produced in the middle of the 20th century, give us back the world as the West has been taught to see it – pliable, immediately available, and smoothed to our advantage. Yet almost every piece of plastic ever made remains in existence in some form, and their chemical traces are increasingly present in our bodies. It is ironic that the characteristic ‘new’ smell of PVC is the result of the unstable elements in the material decaying. Although ostensibly inert, like Chernobyl’s ‘undead’ isotopes, plastics are in fact intensely lively, leaching endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Single-use plastic might seem to disappear when I dispose of it, but it (and therefore I) will nonetheless continue to act on the environments in which it persists for millennia.

The Anthropocene is a product of our fantasies of a frictionless, hyper-connected world. Humans created 5 billion gigabytes of digital information in 2003; in 2013 it took only 10 minutes to produce the same amount of data. Despite the appealing connotations of ‘the cloud’, this data has to go somewhere. Greenpeace estimates that the power consumption of just one of Apple’s immense data centres is equivalent to the annual supply for 250,000 European homes. Traces of this seemingly ephemeral data will persist into the deep time of the future, as rising concentrations of carbon warms the atmosphere."



"Deep time is not an abstract, distant prospect, but a spectral presence in the everyday. The irony of the Anthropocene is that we are conjuring ourselves as ghosts that will haunt the very deep future."
anthropocene  plastic  deeptime  science  time  longnow  humans  chickens  2016  davidfarrier  environment  earth  holocene  consumption  materialism 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"



"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."



"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.



As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing  jedediahbritton-purdy 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Puget Sound River History Project
"The Puget Sound River History Project studies the historical landscape of Puget Sound's lowland rivers and estuaries as a dynamically linked geophysical, ecological, and human system. The historical emphasis is on conditions at the time of earliest Euro-American settlement in the mid-19th century, but also includes the landscape's post-glacial, Holocene (10,000 yrs BP) evolution and the last century and a half of change. We undertake interdisciplinary research that integrates archival investigations, field studies, and the tools of geographic information systems and remote sensing. We also apply the results to, and make data available for, regional problems of resource management, restoration and planning."
earthscience  quaternary  holocene  geology  geography  landscape  water  cascadia  pugetsound  washingtonstate  history  from delicious
january 2012 by robertogreco
FOP [Friends of the Pleistocene]
"FOP produces & carries out research & design projects. Our projects respond to conjunctures of landscape & human activity shaped by the geologic epoch of the Pleistocene, & geologic time more generally. Our interactive events & devices (for visualization, interpretation, imaginative & cognitive projections) invite humans to project their imaginations from present land use back into geologic time & forward into speculative geo- & bio-futures. Our mission is to extend humans’ capacities to sense & live in relation to geologic time…

…We study, document, & creatively respond to how the geologic epoch of the Pleistocene continues to shape our daily lives & how humans use geologic-shaped landforms & environments. Our projects include photographic image-sensations; "take away" speculative tools for exploration & cognitive recalibration w/in the geologic timescale; printed works such as posters, newsprints, booklets, field guides, & diary-maps; & informal public education events."
landscape  art  brooklyn  nyc  fop  friendsofthepleistocene  time  geology  earth  humans  human  perspective  science  environment  timescale  geologictimescale  fieldguides  projectideas  glvo  maps  mapping  education  anthropocene  holocene  quaternary  from delicious
november 2011 by robertogreco

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