Walking the Woods

Now comes artist Julie Poitras Santos, with a creative perambulatory digression, as relayed from the pages of the esteemed Brooklyn Rail. Images are from her related video, The Conversation. In times of pandemic, the sense of personal agency experienced via the simple act of walking through the natural world becomes especially precious.

 

 

 

 

The entire DP staff will now set forth on a slow woodlands ramble, in conversation through uncertainty.

 

˜˜˜˜˜


Violations of the Commons

Now comes evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace with excerpts from a 2017 interview in which he critiques the search for Patient Zero, and argues for a deeper understanding of zoonotic microbial pathogens. Italics added by DP. Images are relayed from the visually rich archive of Sonja Hinrichsen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Finally, two stanzas from Corona Radiata, a much longer poem by Fady Joudah:

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜


Adagio Against Fear

Parallel to the coronavirus pandemic, we have a toxic infodemic that magnifies the sense of helplessness and fear. Here at DP, we struggle every day with the question: what more can we do to help navigate such riptides?

At the very least, we can keep a close ear to those who best understand the genesis of what we are facing, such as the voice of David Quammen whose Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic was published in 2012. Excerpts from a recent Orion interview below.

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

For a book, we would encourage settling in with Richard Powers’ The Overstory. Two of our favorite quotes below:

“People aren’t the apex species they think they are. Other creatures-bigger, smaller, slower, faster, older, younger, more powerful-call the shots, make the air, and eat sunlight. Without them, nothing.”

“You and the tree in your backyard come from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions, that tree and you still share a quarter of your genes. . . .” 

˜˜˜˜˜

And finally, a link to an outstanding performance of the Albinoni Adagio, offered as protection against useless panic and fear:

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜


Sleep of Reason

We begin this week with a favorite passage from Albert Camus’ classic exploration of the psychology of an epidemic, The Plague:

 

Next come excepts from an interview (2003!) with sociologist Ulrich Beck, who explored related themes of embedded risks and uncontrollability, by other means. Images are bounced from the studio of data artist Laurie Frick, based on visual/material representations of her sleep patterns.

 

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

And finally, returning to Camus:


Untitled Future Mutation

We are grateful to a DP correspondent for steering us towards an outstanding report by Sonia Shaw in the pages of The Nation, shedding fresh and necessary light on the genesis of COVID 19 and other microbial pathogens. Excerpts below, with images from the studio of Luke Jerram, offering different perspectives on his sublime Untitled Future Mutation, from which we borrow this week’s title.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, resources for risk reduction have recently been eviscerated by a political entity who appears not to believe in science, any science.  Yet denial and obfuscation only work until blazing realities on the ground clear the fog and make us face the implications and consequences of past behaviors.

Returning to Sonia Shah, whose book titled Pandemic is on order here at DP:

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜


Because They Were Here

Now comes Charles Homans with perceptive comments about the ever-expanding archive of online wildfire videos. The entire essay is worth close consideration. Brief excerpts below, with images from the remarkable video at the heart of his observations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

From Pliny’s second letter to Tacitus, we read:

“Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood.’Let us leave the road while we can still see,’I said,’or we shall be knocked down and trampled underfoot in the dark by the crowd behind.’We had scarcely sat down to rest when darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room.

You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.

There were people, too, who added to the real perils by inventing fictitious dangers: some reported that part of Misenum had collapsed or another part was on fire, and though their tales were false they found others to believe them. A gleam of light returned, but we took this to be a warning of the approaching flames rather than daylight. However, the flames remained some distance off; then darkness came on once more and ashes began to fall again, this time in heavy showers. We rose from time to time and shook them off, otherwise we should have been buried and crushed beneath their weight. I could boast that not a groan or cry of fear escaped me in these perils, but I admit that I derived some poor consolation in my mortal lot from the belief that the whole world was dying with me and I with it.”

 

WE DID NOT LIVE TO TELL THE TALE

 


Along the Highway of Tears

Scientific evidence across a wide range of phenomena confirms acceleration of climate/ecocidal breakdown at a rate beyond even the most grim predictive models. For example, temperatures in Antarctica recently reached a record 65 degrees Fahrenheit while data elsewhere suggests that bumblebees are disappearing at a rate “consistent with mass extinction”.

What can be done? Given the abject failure of so-called global “elites” to develop emergency mitigation policies, alternative leadership has emerged, rooted in the wisdom, courage and sovereignty of indigenous peoples.

Witness the ongoing struggle against TransCanada’s four hundred mile Coastal GasLink pipeline through the words of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Molly Wickham, spoken during a recent interview on Democracy Now. We take particular note of the convergence of violence against nature with the murder/disappearance of indigenous women.

 

 

 

 

 

WHY IS A RCMP SNIPER RIFLE BEING AIMED AT UNARMED AND COMPLETELY PEACEFUL LAND DEFENDERS ON THEIR OWN SOVEREIGN TERRITORY?

 

˜˜˜˜˜


Just How Blind, America?

We have received a number of emails from correspondents far and wide, asking us to explain how “drain the swamp” became “grow the cesspool”.

For decades, we have been stuck in the corrosive and demoralizing limbo zone that philosopher Antonio Gramsci called “the interregnum”, a time during which the Old Order is dying yet keeps itself alive through active vampiric suppression of the new body politic that struggles to be born.

During this time, Gramsci notes, “a great variety of morbid symptoms” are likely to be present. Limbo limbo, how low can we go? Thus we bend an ear to the voice of Gil Scott-Heron from the year 1974; the year of H2O-Gate Blues. The image within the interregnum — an untitled Car Crash by the German artist Dirk Skreber.

Beneath the audio file, a few choice GS-H lyrics that underscore the tragic fact that we have been here before, though now at an even lower level of the limbo. And we will be here again and again — lower and lower — unless we can break the deadly cycle, such that new life might enter the world with a fresh, powerful voice and take us somewhere else.

 

 

 

 

[….]

 

And then the last four lines……..

Four more years,

Four more years,

Four more years,

Four more years of THAT?

 

˜˜˜˜˜


Rescue Into Emergency

Now comes philosopher Santiago Zabala, in an interview from the invaluable ongoing Histories of Violence series convened by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Images are from an environmental installation by artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho: Lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

About Lines, Niittyvirta and Aho offer the following thoughts:

The installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with nature and its long-term effects. The work provokes a dialogue on how the rising sea-levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and land usage in the future.

Art has the potential to convey scientific data, complex ideas and concepts, in a powerful way that words or graphs fall short of. Hopefully, through this work, people can better visualise and relate to [the] reality. 

Humans have been influencing the climate since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the effects have only been accelerating. LED lights visually resonate with contemporary consumer society. 

We felt that this solution possibly illustrates dystopian projections of the sea-level rise in the most tangible way: a threat that is encountered within coastal communities all over the world.

˜˜˜˜˜


Tyranny of Mammon

There was a bit of nervous tittering and tweeting among the clotted toffs and nabobs assembled at Davos when even the Crown Prince of the Windsor dynasty suggested the need for a “revolutionary paradigm shift”.  Wait — what?

Below, we turn to a few crystalline paragraphs written by Humanities professor Eugene McCarraher way back in 2011, yet ringing ever more truly during the present “forever hunger” omnicide. Italics and images added by DP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We highly recommend Professor McCarraher’s recently published The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity,  through which he amply expands on the above with rare historical insight, subtlety and wit.

˜˜˜˜˜

We also take a moment to commemorate the comic genius of Terry Jones, as embodied by our favorite avatar of Mammon here at DP: the immortal Mr. Creosote. The setting is a well-known bistro at Davos frequented by peckish members of the World Economic Forum, who observe Mr. C. from an unsafe distance……..

 

˜˜˜˜˜