Tuesday, 25 August 2015

What are we meant to do when we are told the world is ending?

Reblogging this piece I came across by Clive Martin from March 27th 2014. It encapsulates a recurrent question students on ecological philosophy courses I run ask, and it's a 'hardy perennial' for anyone who makes a habit of staring into the interlocking and unfolding ecological and social crises of the twenty-first century.
[VICE] It's become commonplace to say that we, as "young people", have no future. We blame the shocking unemployment levels, we blame the Lib Dems' collaboration in the benign Vichy coalition we live under, we blame the baby boomers who are refusing to bequeath their wealth to the generation beneath them, we blame Thatcher for creating a society of bored and broken service industry workers whose jobs are constantly under threat. And we're right to.
I fully agree that these problems have sent everyone a bit mad, forcing us into a fruitless, childless existence that we can only escape with drinking games, Tesco Finest meals, cheap flights, gut-rotting drugs and shit games on our phones. But what is our generation going to do when the shit really hits the fan? Not when Carphone Warehouse pull out of the UK and universities cost 30 grand a year, but when Armageddon starts WhatsApping us?

Everyone’s been predicting the end of time since time began, obviously. God was going to kill us. Then the devil was going to kill us. Then the nuclear bomb was going to kill us. And now asteroids, or the sea, or our own shitty behaviour is going to kill us. Whatever happens, we know that one day it's all going to end in fire and for the media, this paranoia is a golden ticket. The ultimate paper-selling, SEO-friendly scare story – because most people are going to have at least some passing interest in hearing how and when their species is going to end. It's grade-A clickbait with a highbrow twist: the holy grail of the modern media.

Unfortunately, when you pick up the Guardian or whatever, it’s not mad men waving "THE END IS NIGH" placards, it’s really serious-sounding scientists. This gives weight not only to individual scare stories about bird flu or acid rain, but more significantly to the patchwork of terror, which suggests that – through a combination of gluttony, stupidity and cruelty – we’ve pretty much fucked the planet and the future is looking very much like a disaster film directed by Hieronymus Bosch.

The latest study I read comes from the pretty solid source of NASA, who've worked out that just because our society has managed to produce Citalopram, Itsu and Spotify, we aren't immune from the same kind of collapse that has eventually befallen every other human society in history. And that our resource-plundering modern habits aren't exactly helping our case for survival, either.

It's interesting, and somewhat sobering reading. Much like Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer's retort to Michael Gove, it's a piece that will make you wonder if it's worth just shuffling off this mortal coil with as little fuss as possible.

And that’s the real question: What we are we supposed to do with this information? Is there anything we can do? Or should we just get the patio chairs out of the garage, put some Stella on ice and wait for our neighbours to start barbequing Alsatians? I mean, it’s one thing for old people to hear that their legacy is fucked, but it’s another for young people to hear that they have no future. [CONTINUES]

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Agnes Török - 'Worthless'


[Youtube] "Poem by Agnes Török on the news of a new Conservative budget. Based on experiences of living in Britain under austerity as a young, queer, unemployed, female immigrant student - and not taking it any more. More info on: www.agnestorok.org "

Feminist Philosophy Quarterly

The Feminist Philosophy Quarterly launches today. Free pdf downloads of articles available.

The Stickiness of the Fossil Fuel Age

Interesting piece on the distortion of carbon dating caused by the fossil fuel age here. It seems like Tim Morton's analysis of global warming as a hyperobject, perhaps most notably its trait of viscosity, could be applied to this in an illuminating manner.

[Climate Progress] Those concerned with climate change spend a lot of time arguing that it’s not just an environmental problem, but also an economic, human rights, national security, and even mental health issue. Now a new study has found that greenhouse gas emissions could impact a range of unlikely fields due to their effect on radiocarbon dating, a much-heralded scientific method used to determine the age of objects containing organic material.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that emissions from fossil fuels are artificially raising the carbon age of the atmosphere, which makes objects today seem much older than they are when scrutinized by a radiocarbon dater. This change in the ability to date objects could impact measurements commonly taken in a broad range of endeavors, including archaeology, forgery detection, forensics, earth science, and physiology.

For instance, the study suggests that by 2050 — just 35 years from now — new clothes could have the same radiocarbon date as something worn during the Battle of Hastings in 1066. [MORE HERE]

Monday, 13 July 2015

Harvard Study on Bee Colony Collapse

[CS Globe] "One area we are waking up to is the massive amount of pesticides we spray (especially in North America) on our food that has not only been linked to human disease, but a massive die off in the global bee population within the past few years.


A new study out of Harvard University, published in the June edition of the Bulletin of Insectology puts the nail in the coffin, neonicotinoids are killing bees at an exponential rate, they are the direct cause of the phenomenon labeled as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Neonicotinoid’s are the world’s most widely used insecticides." [READ MORE]

Vernichtungsschlacht

Well, the Greek bailout is being described by many and is trending on social media as a coup (ThisIsACoup), but I'm not sure if even that goes far enough. Krugman's initial comment on the deal, that 'this goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief', seems to capture the direction of my own thinking. I accept that the Greek "choice" has often looked like one between 'starvation and slavery' as events have intensified over the last few weeks. But this now looks like a decisive victory for the Troika and Eurozone-instantiated monsters of finance and neoliberalisation, an economic vernichtungsschlacht. Time to revisit Graeber and the moralisation of debt.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Depressive Realism of Climate Scientists

If you can tolerate the ads, there is an excellent and pleasingly quite long article in Esquire exploring the attitudes and darker reflections of many leading climate scientists and activists. I found the response of the more moderate/hopeful scientist, Gavin Schmidt, the most personally provocative:
"Bad things are going to happen. What can you do as a person? You write stories. I do science. You don't run around saying we're fucked! We're fucked!  We're fucked!' It doesn't - it doesn't incentivize anybody to do anything."
Schmidt was responding here to the glaciologist Jason Box's now infamous July 29th 2014 tweet, "If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd." Unfortunately, on the question of how to incentivize people (a horrible term), it seems that the routes to human inaction and indifference with regard to global warming are many and varied. Not talking about it doesn't incentivize people, the facts don't incentivize most people, neither does the well-trodden path of presenting/peddling a hopeful or optimistic message incentivize people. The aesthetico-political, psychological and affective cocktail of forces needed to generate any significant response to the unfolding climatic catastrophe is likely to be more complex, and need to draw upon some fairly exotic pragmatic strategies, in order to meaningfully impact the systemic inertia of Business As Usual. Frankly, I consider a (large) number of well-informed and otherwise quietly reflective individuals shouting "we're fucked" to be a rather potent ingredient in any such cocktail.