In the aftermath of this year’s Hiroshima Day, we offer a few excerpts from a wide-ranging interview with Elaine Scarry roaming the key themes of her book, Thermonuclear Monarchy, published (and largely ignored) five years ago.
Page images are from Shomei Tomatsu & Ken Domon’s Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document that first appeared in 1961.
Scarry’s ultimate prognosis?
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen this year, or whether it’s going to happen this century, but it’s almost inconceivable that nuclear war isn’t going to happen.”
No, this week’s title does not refer back to last week’s snapshot of hubris and delusion; rather, we relay the most recent assessment of the Greenland ice sheet from a keen observer of climate collapse in the Arctic, Jason Box. Below, excerpts from today’s interview with Amy Goodman:
Now please consider a simple graphic depiction of the number of passengers conveyed via air travel between the years 1970 and 2019, charting an increase from four hundred thousand to four billion. That’s a ten thousandfold increase, well within a single lifetime!
We no longer fly here at DP; anyone who thinks that we can address the climate emergency without dramatic and immediate changes in human behaviors is not honestly confronting the implications of the data.
As we have noted previously, surely Jeff Bezos occupies a cosmic category all his own within the Annals of Hubris and Delusion. The below excerpts are from a February 2019 interview; images, from the website for this spectacularly toxic and dystopia vision of the future, with captions added by DP.
WOW, LOOK AT THAT COOL DESOLATION WE CREATED DOWN THERE!
THE ULTIMATE INVERTED UTOPIAN
We do not pretend to know the future here at DP. Yet the above nonsense reminds us of the famous lines from Tacitus in Agricola: Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
In the Peterson translation: To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.
And then there is the passage from Gunther Anders to which we return again and again, and that we recommend to Mr. Bezos for his evening meditation as he gazes ad astra:
Neoliberalism, representing the subjection of all life forms to the economic needs of a single supremacist species, incorporates a concentration of violence so extreme that resistance often appears futile. Yet, as we have long proposed, the Gandhian concept of “satyagraha” offers a viable path towards some other orientation for living on earth, an orientation based in connections and relations rather than dominance, extraction and commodification. Embracing the spirit of satyagraha, Extinction Rebellion (XR) represents the single best chance we presently have to avert irreparable and irreversible climate breakdown, with horrific implications for all species, including Homo Sapiens.
Below, excerpts from a recent essay by XR vision coordinator Skeena Finebaum-Rathor elaborating on the ethos of non-violence as both a tactic of disruption and as the direct embodiment of a deeply transformative love and respect for all life forms. When we “draw the line” against ongoing neoliberal plunder (such as opportunistically expanding resource extraction in those regions that are most vulnerable to climate collapse), it is not a line of “battle” but a line from the heart, in the spirit of compassionate self-sacrifice.
Now come a few brief passages from a lucid December 2016 conversation with philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, as transcribed from a radio program affiliated with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Entitled Opinions.
The mission of such conversations, as described by host Robert Pogue Harrison: “To practice the persecuted religion of thinking; to think in the midst of the wasteland; to make sure the wasteland does not grow within.” Such is also the mission of DP; onwards to the Zarathustrian rope-walkers.
The above three images are from the studio of Heather Pickwell. She writes:
My subject is growth, the imperceptible growth of cells, of plants; the incremental growth observed in shells and coral and the explosive growth of mutating organisms. I take my inspiration from close observation of the woods, fields and coastline of Lincolnshire. I work with natural materials – rope, wool and charcoal – these materials best reflect the physical world for me as I strive to suggest natural forms without reproducing their likeness.
We are grateful to a distant DP reader for steering us to the illuminating, amplifying and enlivening work of artist Lena Herzog, above all the body of writings and audio-visual media related to her project Last Whispers. Below, the opening paragraphs from a talk given at MOMA, linked via the first image.
Clicking on the second image will bring you into the world of the silenced, a world where everything that was once possible to think within a specific language has been irretrievably obliterated; yet another dimension to the mass extinction event that will, in time, deal with our lethal, murderous arrogance.
We close with her final paragraph from the same talk, something to think about during this holiday weekend:
Now comes the voice of one our favorite writers here at DP: Robert Macfarlane. Below, brief excerpts from a. recent interview conducted in the philosophical environs of his most recent book, Underlands. Images are three iterations of Bruce Nauman’s Three Dead End Adjacent Tunnels Not Connected, dating from 1981.
It seems logical that reversing the vast environmental damage caused by the Great Acceleration will require an equally as forceful Great Deceleration. Yet at exactly the time when humans need to do less via dramatic contraction, both economic and biological, we prefer to sustain the delusion that we can fix the broken world with yet another spasm of frantic human activity.
This week, we relay brief excerpts from a December 2018 article by Eileen Crist that provides a concise delineation of the human supremacist self-understanding we must overcome if we are to avert the worst consequences of the deepening ecological emergency.
Images are from recent mass civil disobedience protests against the perpetuation of lignite coal mining in Germany.
Now comes Ronald Purser, author of the recently published McMindfulness: How Mindfulness became the New Capitalist Spirituality. His recent “long read” essay in the Guardian summarizes the central thesis. The entire essay is worthy of serious consideration; we find the below excerpts particularly compelling, including a lucid description of neoliberalism’s most pernicious ideological mantra. Images are relayed from the studio of Greg Dunn.
From the imperative of love springs the need to re-conceive and re-member that most essential conversation: the dialogue between humans and the rest of life.
Below, a few excerpts from a wide-ranging interview with Paul Kingsnorth, whose writing and philosophy revolves around the recuperation of stories and voices embedded within the natural world. Images represent different seasons in Natalie Jeremijenko’s MASS MOCA installation, Tree Logic.
More from the voice of Paul Kingsnorth, this time in a more recent essay relayed from his own website:
And finally, linked through the below image, a VPRO documentary about Kingsnorth and his County Galway homestead, highly recommended for consideration: