Artspace: 5 Times Nature Won Over Art: Natural Disasters and Culture

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By Artspace Editors

DEC. 19, 2019

Depending on who you talk to, the world’s environmental future runs the gamut from doomed to irrelevant, but one thing’s for sure: it is seldom poised to inspire anything less than rapturous anger in its discussants. Scientists say we have about a decade to turn this ship around, but Republican-inflected corporate interests and run-of-the-mill hubris seem fully prepared to sink us whole. It’s hard to focus on the preservation of art when the preservation of life itself seems so precarious, but it’s in our creative reflections of self that we embed life, fiery, punishing, and circuitous as it is. Art is as vital as it is deeply, deeply dumb.

The intersectional tectonics of politics and privilege have everything to do with how our cultural imprints are treated, protected, and lost. In her landmark 2019 text, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, Dr. Kathryn Yusoff makes a case against the assumed neutrality of a colonized geophysics, stating that “a material and temporal solidarity exists between the inscription of race in the Anthropocene and the current descriptions of subjects that are caught between the hardening of geopolitical borders and the material destratification of territory.” This speculation on the effects of “geotrauma” buoys post-humanist studies to its most radical conclusion—prejudice is a function of the anthropocene’s hubris, not some incidental symptom. Human cruelty finds its own sedimentary foundation, then; our tabular bifurcations bloom forth from thingness, from mineral existence. As we glance over the precipice of imminent disaster, our idiomatic assignation of female pronouns to the natural world seems all the more fitting, really; the aforementioned “geotrauma” of our earth parallels the brutalities that have been enacted upon women for centuries. Geology is humanity. Humanity is deeply flawed.

It’s little wonder, then, that when cultural legacies bow to nature’s vengeance, or sickness, or both, erasure typically lives downstream of accessibility. We rescue or reconstruct what we believe is important, often to racist, imperialist ends. Classics scholars regularly remark on translation’s inherent gatekeeping problem. Were the caustic, petty poems of Catullus the only remnants of Latin poetry left, or just the texts monks deemed worthy? What went unrecovered?

Here are five times nature has won against art, itemized.

I. Venice Underwater

The Basilica via Yahoo

In November, the Venice Biennale was temporarily canceled as rainstorms pushed water levels to the second-highest points on record. The Instagram stories of the art elite mirrored the flooding they documented, an endless stream of tourists wading through the wreckage of a city that had already become a symbol of itself. The mayor declared the disaster a direct result of climate change, a statement that flew in the face of many high-profile deniers in power all over the world. While none of the contemporary fare was inextricably damaged, over 50 churches, including St. Mark’s Basilica and Santa Maria Assunta, were. There’s been a world-wide outpouring from nonprofits and private foundations alike, but the reality of Venice underwater was sobering nonetheless.

II. Cimabue’s Crucifix

Crucifix via Wikipedia

In 1966, the beautiful crucifix of Santa Croce in Florence, which had been installed at the end of the 13th century, was damaged to the point of unrecognizability when the Arno river burst and flooded Florence. The Crucifix lost 60% of its paint, and it took a team of restorers led by Umberto Baldini to bring the masterwork back to the brink of legibility. Working in a pointillist, painstaking manner, the restorers eventually created a working semblance of the original, and the Crucifix was placed back on view in 1976.

III. Colossus of Rhodes

Colossus illustration via Ancient Origins

The bronze Colossus, erected on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos in 280 BC, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, standing at 108 feet high. It collapsed during the earthquake of 226 BC. After consulting their local oracle, the Rhodians did not build it again, although John Malalas implied, incorrectly, that Hadrian rebuilt it during his reign.

IV. Ribeira Palace

Terreiro do Paco’s Ribeira Palace via Lisbon Cruise

The stately Ribeira Palace in Lisbon, Portugal was home to the Kings of the country for around 250 years and housed one of the most beautiful and significant art collections in Europe at the time of its destruction in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. In its wake, King Jose I suffered an understandable hit to the system and chose to live out his life in a pavilion compound in the hills of Ajuda; as a result, the Palace was never rebuilt.

V. The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince

 The rubble via Smithsonian 

The world did not respond quickly or thoughtfully to the 2010 earthquake that decimated Haiti, leading to death tolls in the 300,000s. The Holy Trinity Cathedral in its capital, founded by African-American abolitionist bishop James Theodore Holly in 1861, boasted a variety of brightly colored murals, painted by local artists on its walls between 1949 and 1951. Only three of the 14 powerful images were left intact, and Haitian conservators sprang into action within 24 hours of the initial disaster. This incredible gesture of resilience became a symbol of hope in the city. The Smithsonian-led Haiti Cultural Recovery Project arrived months later, rehabilitating roughly 25,000 artifacts over the course of 18 months and training 150 locals in the art of preservation and restoration in the process.

NYTimes: How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

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Credit…Andrew Burton/Getty Images

How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.

By

SEE THIS LINK FOR FULL ARTICLE:

Mr. Linden has written widely about climate change.

For decades, most scientists saw climate change as a distant prospect. We now know that thinking was wrong. This summer, for instance, a heat wave in Europe penetrated the Arctic, pushing temperatures into the 80s across much of the Far North and, according to the Belgian climate scientist Xavier Fettweis, melting some 40 billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet.

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

Science is a process of discovery. It can move slowly as the pieces of a puzzle fall together and scientists refine their investigative tools. But in the case of climate, this deliberation has been accompanied by inertia born of bureaucratic caution and politics. A recent essay in Scientific American argued that scientists “tend to underestimate the severity of threats and the rapidity with which they might unfold” and said one of the reasons was “the perceived need for consensus.” This has had severe consequences, diluting what should have been a sense of urgency and vastly understating the looming costs of adaptation and dislocation as the planet continues to warm.

In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group of thousands of scientists representing 195 countries, said in its first report that climate change would arrive at a stately pace, that the methane-laden Arctic permafrost was not in danger of thawing, and that the Antarctic ice sheets were stable.

NYTimes: It’s the End of California as We Know It

The fires and the blackouts are connected to a larger problem in this state: a failure to live sustainably.

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Jose Carlos Fajardo/San Jose Mercury News, via Associated Press

I have lived nearly all my life in California, and my love for this place and its people runs deep and true. There have been many times in the past few years when I’ve called myself a California nationalist: Sure, America seemed to be going crazy, but at least I lived in the Golden State, where things were still pretty chill.

But lately my affinity for my home state has soured. Maybe it’s the smoke and the blackouts, but a very un-Californian nihilism has been creeping into my thinking. I’m starting to suspect we’re over. It’s the end of California as we know it. I don’t feel fine.

It isn’t just the fires — although, my God, the fires. Is this what life in America’s most populous, most prosperous state is going to be like from now on? Every year, hundreds of thousands evacuating, millions losing power, hundreds losing property and lives? Last year, the air near where I live in Northern California — within driving distance of some of the largest and most powerful and advanced corporations in the history of the world — was more hazardous than the air in Beijing and New Delhi. There’s a good chance that will happen again this month, and that it will keep happening every year from now on. Is this really the best America can do?

Probably, because it’s only going to get worse. The fires and the blackouts aren’t like the earthquakes, a natural threat we’ve all chosen to ignore. They are more like California’s other problems, like housing affordability and homelessness and traffic — human-made catastrophes we’ve all chosen to ignore, connected to the larger dysfunction at the heart of our state’s rot: a failure to live sustainably.

Now choking under the smoke of a changing climate, California feels stuck. We are BlackBerry after the iPhone, Blockbuster after Netflix: We’ve got the wrong design, we bet on the wrong technologies, we’ve got the wrong incentives, and we’re saddled with the wrong culture. The founding idea of this place is infinitude — mile after endless mile of cute houses connected by freeways and uninsulated power lines stretching out far into the forested hills. Our whole way of life is built on a series of myths — the myth of endless space, endless fuel, endless water, endless optimism, endless outward reach and endless free parking.

Image
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

One by one, those myths are bursting into flame. We are running out of land, housing, water, road space and now electricity. Fixing all this requires systemic change, but we aren’t up to the task. We are hemmed in by a resentful national government and an uncaring national media, and we have never been able to prize sustainability and equality over quick-fix hacks and outsized prizes to the rich.

All of our instincts seem to make things worse. Our de facto solution to housing affordability has been forcing people to move farther and farther away from cities, so they commute longer, make traffic worse and increase the population of fire-prone areas. We “solved” the problem of poor urban transportation by inviting private companies like Uber and Lyft to take over our roads. To keep the fires at bay, we are now employing the oldest I.T. hack in the book: turning the power off and then turning it back on again. Meanwhile, the rich are getting by: When the fires come, they hire their own firefighters. (Their gardeners and housekeepers still had to go to work, though.)

Does all this sound overdramatic? You might point out that if it seems like dystopian apocalypse in California, it’s because it has always felt like dystopian apocalypse in California. The California of Joan Didion, Charles Manson and Ronald Reagan was no picnic; nor was the California of Pete Wilson, Rodney King or Arnold Schwarzenegger. California has always been a place that seems to be on the edge and running on empty, and maybe the best you can ever say about it is, hey, at least we’re not Florida.

But this time it’s different. The apocalypse now feels more elemental — as if the place is not working in a fundamental way, at the level of geography and climate. And everything we need to do to avoid the end goes against everything we’ve ever done.

The long-term solutions to many of our problems are obvious: To stave off fire and housing costs and so much else, the people of California should live together more densely. We should rely less on cars. And we should be more inclusive in the way we design infrastructure — transportation, the power grid, housing stock — aiming to design for the many rather than for the wealthy few.

If we redesigned our cities for the modern world, they’d be taller and less stretched out into the fire-prone far reaches — what scientists call the wildland-urban interface. Housing would be affordable because there’d be more of it. You’d be able to get around more cheaply because we’d ditch cars and turn to buses and trains and other ways we know how to move around a lot of people at high speeds, for low prices. It wouldn’t be the end of the California dream, but a reconceptualization — not as many endless blocks of backyards and swimming pools, but perhaps a new kind of more livable, more accessible life for all.

But who wants to do all this? Not the people of this state. Sure, we’ll ban plastic bags and try to increase gas-mileage standards (until the federal government tries to stops us, which of course it can, because our 40 million people get the same voting power in the Senate as Wyoming’s 600,000).

But the big things still seem impossible here. In a state where 40 years ago, homeowners passed a constitutional amendment enshrining their demands for low property taxes forever, where every initiative at increasing density still seems to fail, where vital resources like electricity are managed by unscrupulous corporations and where cars are still far and away the most beloved way to get around, it’s hard to imagine systemic change happening anytime soon.

And so we muddle on toward the end. All the leaves are burned and the sky is gray. California, as it’s currently designed, will not survive the coming climate. Either we alter how we live here, or many of us won’t live here anymore.

the Guardian: Naomi Klein: ‘We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism’

The No Logo author talks about solutions to the climate crisis, Greta Thunberg, birth strikes and how she finds hope

Read an extract from her new book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal here

Naomi Klein: ‘We are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption.’
Naomi Klein: ‘We are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption.’ Photograph: Adrienne Grunwald/The Guardian

Why are you publishing this book now?
I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?
When I look back, I don’t think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It’s more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that’s always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What’s stopping the left doing this?
In a North American context, it’s the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we’ve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what’s left, we’ve got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we’re not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there aregoing to be benefits: we’ll have more livable cities, we’ll have less polluted air, we’ll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

SEE LINK HERE

BBC: Pompeii archaeologists uncover ‘sorcerer’s treasure trove’

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Archaeologists working in the buried Roman city of Pompeii say they have uncovered a “sorcerer’s treasure trove” of artefacts, including good-luck charms, mirrors and glass beads.

Most of the items would have belonged to women, said Massimo Osanna, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

A room with the bodies of 10 victims, including women and children, was excavated in the same house.

Pompeii was engulfed by a volcanic eruption from Mt Vesuvius in AD 79.

The fatal eruption froze the city and its residents in time, making it a rich source for archaeologists.

The trove was found in what remained of a wooden box. The wood itself had decomposed and only the bronze hinges remained, preserved by the volcanic material which hardened over it.

In it were crystals, ceramic, amethysts and amber. Scarabs (beetle-shaped amulets) from the Middle East were identified, along with various gems, including a carnelian with a craftsman figure and a glass bead engraved with the head of Dionysus, the Roman god of wine, fertility and ritual madness.

Stones, bones and other artefacts on display in Pompeii (12 August)Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThe chest contained many valuable items, but no gold
Artefacts from a chest found in Region V of the Pompeii Archaeological ParkImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe objects in the trunk were for use in rituals, archaeologists think

It was more likely the objects belonged to a servant or a slave, rather than the owner of the house, Mr Osanna told the Italian news agency Ansa. None of the artefacts was made of gold, much favoured by the wealthy of Pompeii.

They are objects of everyday life in the female world and are extraordinary because they tell micro-stories, biographies of the inhabitants of the city who tried to escape the eruption,” Mr Osanna said.

Archaeologists are now trying to establish kinship ties between the bodies found in the house via DNA analysis.

“Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims,” Mr Osanna speculated. The items in the box may have been worn during rituals as charms against bad luck, rather than as ornamentation, he said.

The chest was uncovered in the House of the Garden in Region V of the archaeological park – the same area where an inscription was discovered last year, indicating that the eruption may have taken place in October 79, two months later than previously thought.

The house itself would have belonged to a man of high status, confirmed by the quality of the amber and glass beads found in the trove, archaeologists say.

Most people in Pompeii were not killed by slow-moving molten lava, but by a vast cloud of hot gas and fragments, called a pyroclastic flow. The cloud surged over the city, killing its residents wherever they were, and burying them in ash, preserving their final moments.

Edgeeffects: Reflections on the Plantationocene: A Conversation with Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing

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This is the sixth piece in a series on the Plantationocene—a proposed alternate name for the epoch often called the Anthropocene. The Plantationocene Series aims to create a conversation about multiple forms of plantations, both past and present, as well as the ways that plantation logics organize modern economies, environments, and social relations.


Few scholars have been as influential as Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing in imagining new ways of being in a multispecies world at the edge of extinction. We were delighted to have these two creative and inspiring thinkers join us in a wide-ranging conversation on the Plantationocene on April 18, 2019. The conversation took place on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the ancestral lands of the Peoria, Miami, Meskwaki, Sauk and Ho-Chunk peoples, who were forcibly displaced from their home areas through acts of violence and dispossession.

Over the course of the evening, the discussion spanned from the possibilities and limits of the Anthropocene as a new geologic epoch, to the enduring legacies of the plantation, to the symbiotic and mutualistic associations that constitute all forms of life, to the capacity of joy and play in a world facing warming temperatures, rising seas, accelerating species extinction, and widespread land dispossession.

Stream or download our conversation here. Interview highlights and a full transcript, edited for clarity, follow.

Audio Player

Interview highlights:

These transcribed interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity. Find the full transcript of their conversation available as a PDF here.

Gregg Mitman: I want to start with this concept that we’ve been hearing a lot about lately, the Anthropocene—this notion of the age of the human, that we are now living in a geologic age where humans are a geomorphic force on the planet at the planetary scale. I know both of you have somewhat different relationships to this concept, and I’m wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about what possibilities it offers, what limitations it poses, and why it angers you so, Donna?

Donna Haraway: Or does it still?

GM: Let’s begin there.

Anna Tsing: I use the concept of the Anthropocene despite acknowledging the importance of many criticisms, including Donna’s, concerning how this word can mislead us. There are two reasons that I use the word anyway. Maybe a third reason is my general philosophy that it’s better to try to add meanings to words rather than to subtract words. But there are two substantive reasons. The first is that it’s the term that allows interdisciplinary conversation between natural scientists and humanists, and I think that conversation is essential to learning anything about what’s going on in our planet these days.

 

The second reason has to do with some of the very worst things about the term’s Enlightenment legacy. The term appeals to a false universal of homogeneous “Man,” which was created with a white, Christian, heterosexual male person as the basis for the universal. Paying attention to that legacy can help us to figure out what’s happening on the planet. It allows us to ask, for example, why so many landscape modification projects were made without thinking at all about what their effects might be on the people who live around them as well as local ecologies. That problematic legacy can help us focus in on the uneven, unequal features of planetary environmental issues.

DH: It’s not that I disagree with anything that Anna said, and I also tend to want to work by addition and not by subtraction, multiplying terms to a point where you can foreground them and background them to do different work differently situated.

The cover of the PDF booklet Reflections on the Plantationocene

Also, I think the term Anthropocene has simply been adopted, and that it is no longer a question about whether to work within this category in productive ways and in the kinds of alliances that it encourages. I share very much with Anna the sense that my natural science colleagues understand the Anthropocene and can speak to me or to others about it while other terms—like Capitalocene, for example—kind of put them off. But this strength is also a problem.. My natural science colleagues—and for that matter myself and my colleagues in general—have a tendency to think that apparatuses and terminologies like, for example, climate change are going to be translatable somehow to all parts of the world, even if the phenomena in question are experienced differently.

For example, the astute peoples of the circumpolar north have developed Indigenous vocabularies and both analytical and experiential ways of talking about the changes in the ice, the changes in the waters, the changes in the position of stars in the sky because of the way sea ice and fog will refract differently and so on. These people, who live on the land might react to the notion of climate change as another southern importation that tends, yet once again, to make it almost impossible to propose local terms for analytical work.

I want to nurture—to somehow force, if necessary—the attachment sites and contact zones so that all of the players have to somehow learn each other’s idioms in a way that changes everybody so that no one remains the same as they were at the beginning and can perhaps find more collaborative, decolonial ways to address urgent problems. Often, Indigenous people are forced to learn southern idioms, but the reverse is much less true. That is not tolerable.

I want to nurture the attachment sites and contact zones so that all of the players learn each other’s idioms.

The power of a term like Anthropocene, it’s importance, has a very problematic quality. Then I’m also less generous than Anna about the potential of remembering the Enlightenment dimension of the “Anthropos” and of “Man” because I experience, in fact, among my colleagues across activist and scholarly worlds, a tendency to think that Anthropocene really does mean a species act. That the problem really is humanity, not “Man” in the Enlightenment sense, but humanity in its evolutionary social history on this planet— its increase in numbers, its increase in demands. This strengthens the illusion that turning all that is Earth into resource for humanity is inevitable, if tragic.

There’s a way in which the Anthropocene is considered a species act as opposed to an historical, situated set of conjunctures that are absolutely not a species act. Most peoples on this planet have precisely not lived and exercised the same kinds of processes that break generations, that radically simplify ecologies, that drastically force labor in a mass way that creates a kind of global transformation and global wealth that is in and of itself genocidal and extinctionist. That is not a species act; it’s a situated historical set of conjunctures, and I think to this day the term Anthropocene makes it harder, not easier, for people to understand that.

An aeriel view of strawberry fields, with workers bent over in planted rows picking berries.

GM: You talked about proliferation of terms and the importance of that in terms of generative thinking. You yourself have really helped us with that in generating some more ‘cenes beyond the Capitalocene. In the midst of a conversation around the Anthropocene that you and Anna had at Aarhus a few years ago, you said, “Well, what about the Plantationocene?” So, what is the Plantationocene? Why did you feel the need to introduce that term? Maybe we could just begin with this question: what is a plantation? This is actually not so simple. We’ve been wrestling with that definition here in the conversations and seminars we’ve been having.

DH: We were wrestling with it, too. There is a way in which the Plantationocene forces attention to the growing of food and the plantation as a system of multispecies forced labor. The plantation system speeds up generation time. The plantation disrupts the generation times of all the players. It radically simplifies the number of players and sets up situations for the vast proliferation of some and the removal of others. It’s an epidemic friendly way of rearranging species life in the world. It is a system that depends on forced human labor of some kind because if labor can escape, it will escape the plantation.

The plantation system requires either genocide or removal or some mode of captivity and replacement of a local labor force by coerced labor from outside, either through various forms of indenture, unequal contract, or out-and-out slavery. The plantation really depends on very intense forms of labor slavery, including also machine labor slavery, a building of machines for exploitation and extraction of earthlings. I think it is also important to include the forced labor of nonhumans—plants, animals, and microbes—in our thinking.

The capacity to love and care for place is radically incompatible with the plantation.

So, when I think about the question, what is a plantation, some combination of these things seems to me to be pretty much always present across a 500-year period: radical simplification; substitution of peoples, crops, microbes, and life forms; forced labor; and, crucially, the disordering of times of generation across species, including human beings.

I’m avoiding the word reproduction because of its productionist aspect, but I want to emphasize the radical interruption of the possibility of the care of generations and, as Anna taught me, the breaking of the tie to place—that the capacity to love and care for place is radically incompatible with the plantation. Thinking from the plantation, all of those things seem to be always present in various combinations.

AT: I’ll just add briefly that the term plantation for me evokes the heritage of a particular set of histories involving what happened after the European invasion of the New World, particularly involving the capture of Africans as enslaved labor and the simplification of crops so as to allow enslaved laborers to be the agricultural workers. In many small, independent farming situations, dozens of crops are raised that need to be tended by farmers who are invested in attending to each one. In designing systems for coerced labor, ecological simplifications entered agriculture.

The plantation was precisely the conjuncture between ecological simplifications, the discipline of plants in particular, and the discipline of humans to work on those. That legacy, which I think is very much with us today, is so naturalized that many people believe that that is the meaning of the term agriculture; we forget that there are other ways to farm. The plantation takes us into that discipline-of-people/discipline-of-plants conjuncture.

Want more of their conversation? Edge Effects is excited to provide a full transcript of Gregg Mitman’s interview with Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing, in an accompanying booklet designed by Nicole Bennett with Addie Hopes and Laura Perry. Click here to read—and we hope you’ll share it, too.

Featured image: An oil palm plantation in Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia, operated by Sime Darby Plantation. Sime Darby is the world’s largest palm oil plantation company by planted area. It was granted a concession by the Liberian government in 2009 for a 63-year lease on up to 220,000 hectares to grow monoculture oil palm. Still from The Land Beneath Our Feet (2016). Photo by Sarita Siegel.

Podcast music: “Gloves” by Julian Lynch. Used with permission.

Donna Haraway is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Attending to the intersection of biology with culture and politics, Haraway’s work explores the string figures composed by science fact, science fiction, speculative feminism, speculative fabulation, science and technology studies, and multispecies worlding. Her recent books include Making Kin Not Population, co-edited with Adele Clarke and Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Website. Contact.

Gregg Mitman is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His most recent work includes The Land Beneath Our Feet, a documentary co-directed and co-produced with Sarita Siegel on history, memory, and land rights in Liberia, and Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene, co-edited with Marco Armiero and Robert S. Emmett. He is the founding director of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History and Environment (CHE) and co-organizer of the multi-year John E. Sawyer Seminar, Interrogating the Plantationocene, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His previous contributions to Edge Effects include “Plantation Legacies” (January 2019) and “A History of the Anthropocene in Objects” (May 2018). Website. Twitter. Contact.

Anna Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Between 2013 and 2018, she was a Niels Bohr professor at Aarhus University where she led the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA) group. She is the author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins and a co-editor of Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (with Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt). Her newest work is a digital project, in preparation, entitled Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene. Her previous contributions to Edge Effects include the podcast episode “The Best of End Times: A Conversation with Anna Tsing” (September 2017). Website. Contact.

SWI: Climate warming is global and fast, say Swiss experts

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Melting glaciers is just one of the consequences of climate change.(Keystone/Arno Balzarini)

 

Swiss scientists have discounted allegations that the current climate change is a recurring phenomenon in the history of mankind.

A team of researchers from the Swiss university of Bern gathered evidence showing that the previous periods of rising and dropping temperatures from the 14th to the 19thcentury were limited in space and not a global occurrence.

“It’s true that during the Little Ice Age it was generally colder across the whole world. But not everywhere at the same time,” says Raphael Neukom of the Oeschger centre for climate change researchexternal link.

The statement was published in a press release by Bern Universityexternal link on Wednesday. It is based on two separate studies in the British science journal, Natureexternal link and in a supplementary publication, Nature Geoscience.

Faster than ever

“In contrast to pre-industrial climate fluctuations, current anthropological climate change is occurring across the whole world at the same time. In addition, the speed of global warming is higher than it has been in at least 2,000 years,” the university said in its release.

“Regional climates in pre-industrial times were primarily influenced by random fluctuations within the climate systems themselves. External factors such as volcanic eruptions or solar activity were not intense enough to cause markedly warm or cold temperatures across the whole world for decades, or even centuries,” according to the researchers.

In contrast, the two new studies show that the latest warming beginning in the 20thcentury has covered 98% of the Earth’s surface and is most likely the warmest period of the last 2,000 years.

“This shows – once again – that modern climate change cannot be explained by random fluctuations, but by anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases,” the scientists conclude.

The authors of the report say that the lowest temperatures during the Little Ice Age were recorded in the central and eastern Pacific regions in the 15th century. Later the cold shifted to north-western Europe and to the south-east on the North American continent.

The findings on the five pre-industrial climate periods are based on data from the international research consortium Past Global Changesexternal link, which provides an overview of climate data from the last 2,000 years.

The consortium was set up by Swiss and United States institutions in 1991.

The consortium was set up by Swiss and United States institutions in 1991.

 

New Yorker: The Really Big One An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.

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EXCERPT> Soon after that shaking begins, the electrical grid will fail, likely everywhere west of the Cascades and possibly well beyond. If it happens at night, the ensuing catastrophe will unfold in darkness. In theory, those who are at home when it hits should be safest; it is easy and relatively inexpensive to seismically safeguard a private dwelling. But, lulled into nonchalance by their seemingly benign environment, most people in the Pacific Northwest have not done so. That nonchalance will shatter instantly. So will everything made of glass. Anything indoors and unsecured will lurch across the floor or come crashing down: bookshelves, lamps, computers, cannisters of flour in the pantry. Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens, unplugging themselves and toppling over. Water heaters will fall and smash interior gas lines. Houses that are not bolted to their foundations will slide off—or, rather, they will stay put, obeying inertia, while the foundations, together with the rest of the Northwest, jolt westward. Unmoored on the undulating ground, the homes will begin to collapse.

Across the region, other, larger structures will also start to fail. Until 1974, the state of Oregon had no seismic code, and few places in the Pacific Northwest had one appropriate to a magnitude-9.0 earthquake until 1994. The vast majority of buildings in the region were constructed before then. Ian Madin, who directs the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (dogami), estimates that seventy-five per cent of all structures in the state are not designed to withstand a major Cascadia quake. fema calculates that, across the region, something on the order of a million buildings—more than three thousand of them schools—will collapse or be compromised in the earthquake. So will half of all highway bridges, fifteen of the seventeen bridges spanning Portland’s two rivers, and two-thirds of railways and airports; also, one-third of all fire stations, half of all police stations, and two-thirds of all hospitals.

Certain disasters stem from many small problems conspiring to cause one very large problem. For want of a nail, the war was lost; for fifteen independently insignificant errors, the jetliner was lost. Subduction-zone earthquakes operate on the opposite principle: one enormous problem causes many other enormous problems. The shaking from the Cascadia quake will set off landslides throughout the region—up to thirty thousand of them in Seattle alone, the city’s emergency-management office estimates. It will also induce a process called liquefaction, whereby seemingly solid ground starts behaving like a liquid, to the detriment of anything on top of it. Fifteen per cent of Seattle is built on liquefiable land, including seventeen day-care centers and the homes of some thirty-four thousand five hundred people. So is Oregon’s critical energy-infrastructure hub, a six-mile stretch of Portland through which flows ninety per cent of the state’s liquid fuel and which houses everything from electrical substations to natural-gas terminals. Together, the sloshing, sliding, and shaking will trigger fires, flooding, pipe failures, dam breaches, and hazardous-material spills. Any one of these second-order disasters could swamp the original earthquake in terms of cost, damage, or casualties—and one of them definitely will. Four to six minutes after the dogs start barking, the shaking will subside. For another few minutes, the region, upended, will continue to fall apart on its own. Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin.

Among natural disasters, tsunamis may be the closest to being completely unsurvivable. The only likely way to outlive one is not to be there when it happens: to steer clear of the vulnerable area in the first place, or get yourself to high ground as fast as possible. For the seventy-one thousand people who live in Cascadia’s inundation zone, that will mean evacuating in the narrow window after one disaster ends and before another begins. They will be notified to do so only by the earthquake itself—“a vibrate-alert system,” Kevin Cupples, the city planner for the town of Seaside, Oregon, jokes—and they are urged to leave on foot, since the earthquake will render roads impassable. Depending on location, they will have between ten and thirty minutes to get out. That time line does not allow for finding a flashlight, tending to an earthquake injury, hesitating amid the ruins of a home, searching for loved ones, or being a Good Samaritan. “When that tsunami is coming, you run,” Jay Wilson, the chair of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (osspac), says. “You protect yourself, you don’t turn around, you don’t go back to save anybody. You run for your life.”

 

BBC: Stromboli: volcano erupts on Italian island

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A volcano has erupted on the Italian island of Stromboli, killing one person and sending frightened tourists fleeing.

The victim is a male hiker who was hit by a falling stone, while other people were injured.

The navy has been deployed for a possible mass evacuation, with 70 people already evacuated.

The volcano is one of the most active on the planet and has been under a regular state of eruption since 1932.

“Unfortunately one man is dead, there are a few injured, but none seriously,” emergency worker Calogero Foti told Italy’s Rai television.

The victim was a 35-year-old man from Sicily who was hiking when the volcano exploded twice. His Brazilian friend was discovered dehydrated and in a state of shock, the AGI news agency reported.

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A plume of ash exploding from Stromboli following the explosionImage copyrightEPA
Image captionAsh rising from Stromboli after the explosion
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Firefighters are battling flames on the island.

“We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar,” said Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel on the island.

“We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us. The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud,” she said.

Media captionColumns of smoke rise from the eruption of the volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli.

Fiona Carter, a British tourist on the island of Panarea, some 17 miles from Stromboli, heard the eruption.

“We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra,” she told Reuters.

Smoke rising from the volcano with the island of Panarea in the frontImage copyrightAFP
Image captionView of the volcano from the nearby island of Panarea
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Holidaymakers were reported to have run into the sea after seeing ash rising from the volcano. The island is a popular location for holiday homes of the rich and famous.

Stromboli is known as the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean” and has a population of around 500. The last major eruption was in 2002, when a blast destroyed local buildings and piers, injuring six.

Map of Stromboli

Oarfish bring omen of an immanent earthquake

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Philippines on earthquake and tsunami alert after giant 14ft oarfish washes up on shore

THE Philippines is on earthquake and tsunami alert following the discovery of an almost 14ft oarfish on their shores.

Oarfish: Geologist explains their ‘link’ to earthquakes

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The fish, said to swim in shallow water ahead of an earthquake, comes as a warning to the residents. Measuring at 13.9 feet, the fish washed up in Barangay Poblacion in Compostela town in northern Cebu yesterday. The deep-sea fish died when locals tried to pull it from the rocks where it was hiding and ripped off its head.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office shared a photo of the fish on Facebook.

The group said: “Those who found the fish said it suddenly appeared hiding on the rocks located near the dike.

“They caught it by the head and started to pull it hard not knowing that it had a soft body, the reason why its head was ripped off.”

One resident said it was the first time the fish had washed up on their shorelines, according to CDN.

READ MORE: Rare MONSTER fish which only surfaces after earthquakes caught

Oarfish

Oarfish reportedly warn residents of an imminent earthquake (Image: (L)GETTY-STOCKIMAGE/(R)FACEBOOK Compostela Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office)

Oarfish

Oarfish are deep sea fish making it a rare occurence they are spotted in shallow waters (Image: GETTY)

The fish are traditionally known as “Ryugu no tsukai” in Japanese, or the “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace”.

Legend has associated the huge fish as an omen.

The myth gathered believers after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which killed more than 20,000 people.

The quake had a magnitude of nine and was one of the biggest recorded in a century.

Oarfish

Oarfish are considered an omen (Image: GETTY)

A dozen oarfish had washed up onto Japan’s coastline in 2010 before the disaster.

But scientists dispute such claims.

Uozu Aquarium keeper Kazusa Saiba told CNN that global warming or subtle changes in the Earth’s crust could “cause the current to stir and push creatures at the bottom to the surface.

“There is no scientific evidence at all for the theory that oarfish appear around big quakes. But we cannot 100 percent deny the possibility.”