With a loud shout-out to those assembling throughout the world to deliver a sharp rebuke to those who live in the delusional world of alternative facts, we continue our exploration of the deepening environmental crisis as a crisis of spirit and imagination. The below excerpts from an essay by Thomas Berry date from 1990, though the subsequent years have done little to diminish the significance and urgency of Berry’s message:
Now comes the voice of Paul Kingsnorth, with an excerpt from an essay recently published in Orion magazine, The Axis and the Sycamore:
Paul Kingsnorth is a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, with its strong emphasis on conceiving new forms of storytelling as a way of reimagining the world, outside the toxic bubble of human supremacy. The word-coupling “dark mountain” descends from a Robinson Jeffers poem:
Man is not in the persons but in the
Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain
As the earth’s biosphere continues to be sacrificed to the short-term requirements of human economies, we turn to an essay written jointly by Eileen Crist and Tom Butler in 2014, marking the centennial of John Muir’s death.
First published in Resilience, the last paragraphs of the essay are excerpted below, with images from Mark Adlington’s Painting the Ice Bear project.
Note to those who place their faith in de-extinction and other arrogant expressions of hubris: technology will not save us! We are “inverted utopians”, unable to imagine the implications of our inventions and interventions.
Now comes Sandra Lubarsky, Chair of the Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University, with an essay first published in Tikkun magazine in 2011, and excerpted below. The images are from the studio of Gail Boyajian, whose work unabashedly sustains and celebrates the life-affirming exuberance of beauty.
Professor Lubarsky expands on these ideas in a conference lecture that includes a critique of human supremacist aesthetic relativism that results in mindless celebrations of ugliness, as exemplified by the obscene Sugartop condo development excreted by shameless developers upon a once-beautiful Appalachian ridgeline.
EGO DUMP ON DISTANT RIDGE
Returning once more to the words of Sandra Lubarsky:
We are indebted to a faithful DP correspondent for steering us to an excellent 2014 lecture presented by Eileen Crist, in which she articulates a concise overview of what she calls the Human Supremacy Complex, or toxic anthropocentrism.
Professor Crist begins with a reference to an October, 2013 article published in The Economist reporting on a clot of jellyfish inside cooling pipes at a Swedish nuclear reactor, a report that swiftly mutates into an infomercial for a new technology named with the perverse acronym JEROS: Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm. According to its creator, JEROS will chew through even the most exhuberant clot of jellies, and thus keep our nuclear reactors humming.
The entire lecture is linked below, followed by a montage of her slides that convey a useful summary of core questions and arguments. The final image is taken from The Herd, an installation project by Tasha Lewis, whose studio we shall revisit in future posts.
If we refuse to learn how to live responsibly within this “community of unique and exquisite beings”, clinging to the delusion that no matter what ruinous consequence we inflict upon the natural world, our clever technologies will always save us: we shall be obliterated.
Though JEROS robochops jellyfish into mush, it will take more than robot swarms to chew through the lethal clot of our own hubris and arrogance, such that we might embrace the “abundant and ravishing” planet, “inhabited with respect.”
Now comes Eileen Crist, with excerpts from her brilliant essay, I Walk in the World to Love It; images are from the Aviary of Sara Angelucci.
The quotation from Mary Oliver descends from her essay, Waste Land: An Elegy. Here are the lines that follow:
This week we return to the work of David Abram, in his masterful recuperation of embodied knowledge, Becoming Animal; excerpts from the introduction below, interwoven with images from the studio of Morgan Bulkeley.
WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS
SPRING AND RUMBLINGS
VENUS AND SPATS
Grizzly Times publisher Louisa Willcox bears witness to the National Park Service “management” of bison deemed excess to requirements; images added by DP.
SCORE FOR THE BUFFALO REQUIEM
THE INCIDENT COMMANDER SURRENDERS TO THE UNTHINKABLE
Now comes the Alliance for Wild Ethics, or AWE:
“A consortium of individuals and organizations working to ease the spreading devastation of the animate earth through a rapid transformation of culture. We employ the arts, often in tandem with the natural sciences, to provoke deeply felt shifts in the human experience of nature. Motivated by a love for the more-than-human collective of life, and for human life as an integral part of that wider collective, we work to revitalize local, face-to-face community – and to integrate our communities perceptually, practically, and imaginatively into the earthly bioregions that surround and support them.”
AWE is directed by David Abram, whose Spell of the Sensuous should be on the bookshelf of every DP reader. We excerpt his 2005 explication of Depth Ecology below, with a couple of images from Jo Whaley’s exquisite Theater of Insects.
Declaiming that American pipelines will be made from American steel brings waves of ecstatic applause from the sleepwalking “elites”, lost in the narcotic haze of their violent pipedreams; yet the deep truth that our own intelligence is entangled with — and dependent upon — the wild intelligence of the wolves and wetlands that we hunt and desacrate fails to move us from the path of hubris and delusion.
Faced, or rather footed, with an absurdly early mud season here in New England, we excerpt an essay by John Burroughs first published in The Atlantic in 1908. The images are from a series of dirt paintings by Donald Bracken.