Broken Worlds

Don’t take this wrong, but will at the end of this week all this ‘direct action’ change the world, or only bolster the positive feedback between a few humans across the planet that we at least tried to do something (“Look at us, we tried to wake you up! etc.”)? What I fear is that the truth is that nothing will be done to stem the tide, that in the end it will be like those Burning Man festivals that mark a high point in peoples nostalgia for something indefinable, but once the party is over all that is left in its wake is just a wasteland of deserted dunes where the trash-bins of history keep nothing but the silence…

Maybe I am too pessimistic, but having lived through such things before and listened to climate activism for sixty years I tend to think we are doomed to lethargy and decay, that humans want other humans to do something rather than be bothered to do it themselves. People will buy into something for a few days, weeks, months but in the end will go back to their failed lives like the passive and disturbed creatures they are… at least till the next best thing once again lights them up. But as we both know this is just a game of narcissistic lament rather than a sustained revolution against the order of stupidity on our planet.

What we need is a harsh and bleak accident (Virilio) to disturb our sleep, to awaken us permanently from our lethargic nightmare. We live in denial of reality, drifting in the illusions of all our sundry cognitive biases. Even if we feel that nudge in the carcass of our thought that speaks to us of death we will cover it over in some urgent scheme of radical denial. We cannot bare to much truth, we would rather accept our lies, our fictions.  Striping our minds of the deliriums of our desires we slip into the cage of indefinable nostalgia for the pristine, the pure. In the end it is like the universe itself a decaying and fragmented display of a mindless process that for all its grandeur will end in nothingness, its fractured lights all going out one by one till all that is left is an eternal darkness and cold infinity of zero.

The Final Warning

Merely by existing, people and their dependent animals are responsible for more than ten times the greenhouse gas emissions of all the airline travel in the world.

We do not seem to have the slightest understanding of the seriousness of our plight. Instead, before our thoughts were diverted by the global financial collapse, we seemed lost in an endless round of celebration and congratulation. It was good to recognize the huge efforts of the IPCC with the Nobel Peace Prize and to have a brave ten thousand people make the long journey to Bali as a salutation, but because they failed to see the Earth as alive and responsive they ignored at our peril the extent of its disapproval of all we do. As we hold our meetings and talk of stewardship, Gaia still moves step by step toward the hot state, one that will allow her to continue as the regulator, but where few of us will be alive to meet and talk. Perhaps we were celebrating because the once rather worrying voice of the IPCC now spoke comfortably of consensus and endorsed those mysterious concepts of sustainability and energy that renewed itself. We even thought that this way somehow we could save the planet and grow richer as well, a more pleasing outcome than the uncomfortable truth.

Just think, as I write this in 2008, more than one thousand of the world’s best climate scientists have worked for seventeen years to forecast future climates and have failed to predict the climate of today. I have little confidence in the smooth, rising curve of temperature that modelers predict for the next ninety years. The Earth’s history and simple climate models based on the notion of a live and responsive Earth suggest that sudden change and surprise are more likely. My pessimism is shared by other scientists and openly by the distinguished climate scientist James Hansen, who finds as I do that the evidence now coming from the Earth, together with the knowledge of its history, is gravely disturbing. Most of all I am pessimistic because business and governments both appear to be accepting uncritically a belief that climate change is easily and profitably reversible.

– James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

The Anthropocene: Platonov and the Tragedy of the Commons

One should keep one’s head down and not revel in life: our time is better and more serious than blissful enjoyment. Anyone who revels in it will certainly be caught and perish…
………..– Andrey Platonov, On the First Socialist Tragedy

McKenzie Wark in his latest work Molecular Red: A Theory for the Anthropocene tells us that the Anthropocene is a “catalog of the reasons why the ever-expanding commodifcation of everything is on a collision course with planetary limits”.1 Of all the authors he explicates it is Andrey Platonov as Wark reminds us who has a masterful intuition of what the Anthropocene future is going to be like. (Wark, p. 31) He’ll provide a short story of Platonov’s On the First Socialist Tragedy (translated by Tony Wood) as an opening toward a series of meditations of the impact of humans in the era of the Anthropocene. The Guardian talking of Robert Chandler’s translation of The Foundation Pit would say of Platonov that Stalin called him scum. Sholokov, Gorky, Pasternak, and Bulgakov all thought he was the bee’s knees. But when Andrey Platonov died in poverty, misery and obscurity in 1951, no one would have predicted that within half a century he would be a contender for the title as Russia’s greatest 20th-century prose stylist.

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