In 2003 the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term solastalgia to mean a “form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change”. Albrecht was studying the effects of long-term drought and large-scale mining activity on communities in New South Wales, when he realised that no word existed to describe the unhappiness of people whose landscapes were being transformed about them by forces beyond their control. He proposed his new term to describe this distinctive kind of homesickness. Where the pain of nostalgia arises from moving away, the pain of solastalgia arises from staying put. Where the pain of nostalgia can be mitigated by return, the pain of solastalgia tends to be irreversible. Solastalgia is not a malady specific to the present – we might think of John Clare as a solastalgic poet, witnessing his native Northamptonshire countryside disrupted by enclosure in the 1810s – but it has flourished recently. “A worldwide increase in ecosystem distress syndromes,” wrote Albrecht, is “matched by a corresponding increase in human distress syndromes”. Solastalgia speaks of a modern uncanny, in which a familiar place is rendered unrecognisable by climate change or corporate action: the home become suddenly unhomely around its inhabitants. Albrecht’s coinage is part of an emerging lexis for what we are increasingly calling the “Anthropocene”: the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record. And what a signature it will be. We have bored 50m kilometres of holes in our search for oil. We remove mountain tops to get at the coal they contain. The oceans dance with billions of tiny plastic beads. Weaponry tests have dispersed artificial radionuclides globally. The burning of rainforests for monoculture production sends out killing smog-palls that settle into the sediment across entire countries. We have become titanic geological agents, our legacy legible for millennia to come. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Rainforest burning in Brazil, 1989. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features The idea of the Anthropocene asks hard questions of us. Temporally, it requires that we imagine ourselves inhabitants not just of a human lifetime or generation, but also of “deep time” – the dizzyingly profound eras of Earth history that extend both behind and ahead of the present. Politically, it lays bare some of the complex cross-weaves of vulnerability and culpability that exist between us and other species, as well as between humans now and humans to come. Conceptually, it warrants us to consider once again whether – in Fredric Jameson’s phrase – “the modernisation process is complete, and nature is gone for good”, leaving nothing but us. There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through. Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Read more…
From the vantage point of being at COP21, I have to agree with the statements made here. And I’ll add this; despite the halting agreements and the commitments (double-talk not withstanding), the advances in technologies for methane capture (such as those dairy herds that the New Zealand Prime Minister is so determined to hang onto), it remains my conviction that the kind of change required for long-term survival of the remaining ecosystems can only be effected from the ground up. That is where the real will resides. Nonetheless I share the concern of fellow climate activists and concerned citizens, that the greatest challenge of all may be to convince our fellow human occupants of the planet. And not only them. I may be willing to give up driving a car, but my smart phone? my iPad? my laptop? That is the rub.
“A major sticking point to getting all countries to sign onto any agreement is the question of historical responsibility and the concern of poorer nations that climate mitigation not hamper their continued “development.” China’s President, Xi Jinping, said in a speech on the first day of the Paris talks that “addressing climate change should not deny the legitimate needs of developing countries to reduce poverty and improve living standards.” Another key question is whether the Paris agreement will be legally binding. In this, countries’ preferences may come down to their political realities at home. It’s kind of hard for President Obama to commit to a legally binding agreement (which would require ratification) when he’s busy trying to fend off Congressional attempts to undo his Clean Power Plan and block US contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund. So at the end of this historic meeting we may well wind up with a nonbinding agreement that badly overshoots the 2°C target, doesn’t go into effect until 2020, ends ten years later, and counts on unproven technologies and unspecified promises of financial aid to countries most at risk. It’s hard to square that with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening admonition: “We cannot afford indecision, half measures or merely gradual approaches. Our goal must be a transformation.” Despite all this, I happen to agree with those that believe an agreement in Paris is absolutely critical, even if it is woefully, dangerously insufficient – especially if that agreement has transparency provisions and legally-binding periodic reviews, which President Obama champions. It’s much easier to build momentum when you’re already moving forward, however slowly and haltingly.
“Syria can seem an endless black hole of misery, but in the northern, largely Kurdish region of Rojava, it is also the scene of a profoundly democratic and humanist revolution, which places the rights of ethnic minorities and women’s liberation at its centre.
Ironically, given the horror that surrounds it, Rojava is the site of the most profound experiments on grassroots, participatory democracy outside of the revolutionary projects in Latin America. Like in Venezuela, the ideal of “the commune” is at the heart of Rojava’s burgeoning democracy…..
“We believe that a revolution that does not open the way for women’s liberation is not a revolution. There have been revolutions in Libya and Egypt and Tunisia … but the same status for women has persisted.” Because of the war, devastation and isolation that Rojava is subjected to, its economy is largely geared toward survival. However, its socialist-oriented emphasis is on providing universal housing, nutrition, healthcare, childcare and education — none of which were provided by the Syrian government during peacetime. The revolution in Rojava is explicitly a multi-ethnic revolution. In its preamble, the constitution of the Rojava autonomous cantons describes Rojava’s cantons as “a confederation of Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Arameans, Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens”. It continues: “In building a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, centralism and the intervention of religious authority in public affairs, the Charter recognises Syria’s territorial integrity and aspires to maintain domestic and international peace.”
“Ah, this dear old planet! All is clear now. We know ourselves; we now know of what we are capable.” —Albert Camus, The Fall
“It is the worst of times and the best of times; the end of the world and the beginning of the world. The tipping points between creation and extinction, between apocalypse and revelation, are everywhere you look. Like the fabled kingdom of God, the tipping points are inside you and all around you.
It’s easy to get lost in the information age, and a vague foreboding sense of doom sprinkled with distractions isn’t the best path to peace and justice through the turbulent times ahead. Edward Gibbon, writing about the decline and fall of empire, wrote that, “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” So we must learn to navigate. A survey of the tipping points that define our precarious calendars and geographies may help – to understand our world, to understand ourselves and to guide both into better harbors.
As Camus said, all is clear now – we know we are capable of both dreadful and beautiful deeds. We need only to look at the world, and then look into the mirror, and decide if we will fulfill or betray the mission history has put before us; we who live at the tipping points; we who are the tipping points. … ”
see more of this important essay at…
by Henry A. Giroux
You write in order to change the world knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that [writing] is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it. – James Baldwin
The Violence of Neoliberalism
We live in a time of deep foreboding, one that haunts any discourse about justice, democracy, and the future. Not only have the points of reference that provided a sense of certainty and collective hope in the past largely evaporated, but the only referents available are increasingly supplied by a hyper-market driven society, mega-corporations, and a corrupt financial service industry. The commanding economic and cultural institutions of American society have taken on what David Theo Goldberg calls a “militarizing social logic.” Market discipline now…
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