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Tune In

Embedding in the post-Anthropocene

As we are preparing ourselves for the coming walk(s), we are keen about trying out different routes, times, places and ways of walking. Our previous walk was early in the morning, when we started to harvest some delicious plants next to the road around the Delftse Hout. It had started dry but soon it would start drizzling. We enjoyed our little expedition, where we tasted grasses, weeds, raindrops and nettle with our mouth and skin, and we felt tuned to our surrounding ecologies.

Sitting on grass, my fingers through the soil, my feet itching from the nettle I did not see, I sink in the world of connections… The weather changes, faster than ever. I wonder and question the heat and cold switching off like a light switch. Open – closed – cold – warm – cold again, a wakeup call from ancient lessons – the weather gods spell out the need for a new direction. 

Our living on this planet is a quest for embeddedness. Embeddedness suggests a certain acceptance of a situation. Embedding oneself creates an idea that there is no escape, there is no reversal – no possibility to move an opposite direction. With the naming of the post-Anthropocene it calls for the embedding of ourselves within this epoch – with the multispecies surroundings. As Colebrook suggests, the reversibility of a situation would only be a dream. And a dream occurs in the absence of action and possibilities; when there is a lack of ability to propose and construct other options – reducing the clinical unease. 

Let’s transfer our perspective from the reversible to re-making and resisting alternatives. While it seems we enjoy the dream state of a reversible option, yet, at the same time complexity generates an ever higher possibility of entropy – with consequences affecting our imagination. Only acknowledging the irreversibility of our actions gives a deeper layer of relatedness to our planet. When tuned in we could experience the environment as more than merely ‘things, matter, stuff or energy’ – leading to an understanding of changing processes which are created by us and at the same time create us (Colebrook 2014, 51).

I stand up, pick a plantago leaf, start squeezing and rubbing it on my feet. The itchiness disappears, only the little white dots on my red skin remain. I am still sitting on the grass as the weather changes. It changes me – my mood, my vision, my behavior – and my surroundings. It is all about this co-creation of the nettle remainder, making me aware of my present within this changing weather.

When we start to see the co-creation of our culture with our ecologies, we can start establishing different relations by using a different ‘means/end rationality’. How do we want to inhabit our planet? Which tools construct our habits and how do we take them at hand? Or, as Stengers indicates, how do we shape the game? 

‘If relevance, not authority or objectivity, had been the name of the game, the game would have meant adventure, not conquest. If we had seen this [the environmental crisis] before, we would never allow the extension of a practice which maybe means a possibility of disembodying. […] Redefining it in relation of the question it should answer. It would then include an intrinsic indifference or the prospective witness’

(Stengers 2014, 33:00)

The architectural practice creates habitats, and habits par excellence. The matter is not ‘self-organized’ and suggests the possibility to organize it differently, or as Colebrook (2017) suggests: ‘change would occur not just by the whim of fate, but emerge from making, building and transforming (p 18).’ Rehabilitating within the post-Anthropocene would suggest to frame climate changes not as disturbing the human life, but rather as an altering of ‘the very unit of “the human” (Colebrook 2014, 56).’ It would frame the continuation of human life without any further calculation or prediction of future events and start with building new concepts. 

So, while standing still with the plantago in my hand, the grass still tickling my feet while the wind is bringing them into motion, I breathe deeply the air of resistance. Attentively looking around, I breathe the air of re-making. I start liking it as there is this deep vibration and energy in it. The nettle is still itching a bit, but the encounter is part of me now… 

  • Colebrook, C. 2017. “Irreversibility.”
  • —. 2014. “The Sustainability of Concepts: Knowledge and Human Interests.” In Death of thePostHuman, Essays on extinciton, Vol. 1, by Claire Colebrook, 29-46. Michigan: Open Humanities Press.
  • Stengers, I. 2014. “Cosmopolitics, Learning to think with sciences, peoples and natures.” To See Where It Takes Us. London: St. Mary’s University.
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Delicate stories

 

We feel touched and called upon,

New data coming out every month; warnings,

Changing weather; the 6th summer of the year just went by,  Changing moods

We feel touched and called upon

Let us not ignore but see

Let us not hesitate but act

Let us not push away, these feelings and emotions

Instead

Telling delicate stories 

 

Stories can explain observations and relations easily and pleasant, not as warnings or threats [1]. They make us more aware of the message we send, and thereby at the same time making us aware of  the impact on a perceiver. Telling stories is making sure you use relatable connection, imaginable images and compelling language. [2]

I guess it was when you were a child, when you were able to make everything alive; everything relatable, everything mattered. “Your teddybear wants to drink” instead of “your teddybear is thirsty”, indicating at a great imagination. The stories before bedtime were affecting your dreams and maybe even the days ahead. The stories and imaginative power made you able to invent endless amounts of games and new, exciting things which were not there before. Now the wild virtue of curiosity has been cultivated [3], and imagination and wild plans seem only attractive when it would generate profit. A profit mainly counting for human species; the rules of the game have changed. Can we changes them again? Can we tell different stories again?

 

[1] Also, the text of Isabelle Stengers was of great help to make me understand how to deal with the problematic developments. 

[2] This text was inspired by a lecture of Donna Haraway where she is explaining her book: ‘Staying with the trouble’ from 2016.

[3] And her book itself ‘staying with the Trouble – Making Kin in the Chthulucene’

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Earth

 

This image was taken by the astronaut William Anders. An earth rise photograph on the first mission to the moon; the Apollo 8 mission. This moment on December 24 1968, was a moment for many of us to see how beautiful and tiny our earth is. It shows itself as a revealed treasure, that we should preserve.

Hereby the podcast of the William Anders where we can listen to his story.

Another fellow of the NASA team was James Lovelock. He was asked to join the team as scientist and try to find bounding to detect if the atmosphere around a planet would be suitable for life. The planetary explorations were set up to expand human territory beyond the atmosphere. Lovelock, now able to have a top-down view on the earth, first detected the substances of the earth, and defined the odds of the inorganic chemistry making life processes possible. Seeing the earth constantly changing, but still able to maintain organisms alive, Lovelock saw the whole earth itself as a living organism. He named her Gaia (a suggestion of the novelist William Golding). By naming the organism Gaia, he saw the earth as  a scientific topic related to the Darwinian evolution creating climatical changes.[1] But, why now, was this needed?

Naming the earth is actually much older. In old pagan ritten you can find lots of evidence they worshipped the earth (they even used the name Gaia for earth). In many ancient civilisation they brought offers to keep mother earth at peace (as she is not always a loving mother). We all know the little statues or talisman of women with big breast and hips; a sign of fertility. It seems as if a travel to the moon had to be undertaken to relate back to the earth again, but did it help?

In his studies, Lovelock made a little scheme where he did some prediction for Gaia (see paper). Until the 1970s he had to revise his theory constantly a little to be taken seriously. But, even then the several dialogues he had to discuss the Gaia theory seemed still very much rejected. Until, in 2001 more scientist came with the alarming news that the ‘ice was melting’. As he himself proposed: “Perhaps its greatest value lies in its metaphor of a living Earth, which reminds us that we are part of it and that human rights are constrained by the needs of our planetary partners.” (p. 770) [2]

The fact that the climatical problem were named, made it easier to talk about it. We do not have to use metaphors which only allude the known to the unknown. It illustrates the relation between the two. However, naming is still a tricky action. The question of interpretation, nuance and how to relate is left. 

Hand drawn diagram of Gaia: the Earth system and feedback loop.

 

[1] Lovelock, J. (2003). The living Earth. Nature, 769-770.

[2] Ibid.