Two highly significant environmental justice victories over the past year flow from courts extending legal rights to two rivers: the Whanganui in New Zealand, a living ancestor to the Maori people; and the Ganges, together with its main tributary the Yamuna, sacred to all Hindus. The decision in favor of the Maori emerged from one hundred and forty years of negotiation, and was cited as a critical precedent by the court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
Extending from Thomas Berry’s ideas of nature-based jusrisprudence, we excerpt the 2011 manifesto for earth justice, Wild Law, by Cormac Cullinan:
In a related story, we take note of a clueless tourist and former Playboy model named Jaylene Cook, photographed in her birthday suit in front of Mount Taranaki, considered a sacred burial ground and ancestor by the local Maori. We will not compound Ms. Cook’s naked ignorance by reproducing the image here; it has gone toxic-bacterial in the meme-swamp formerly known as the world wide web.
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
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.”
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
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.
Digging more deeply into the theme of the sentient forest, we turn to an essay by ecologist Suzanne Simard published in 2015 by SGI Quarterly, excerpted below. The images are from the studio of Jorge Mayet.
Despite copious evidence to the contrary, many technologically advanced humans cling to the belief that they embody the pinnacle of evolutionary biology. Once we accept the possibility that such deadly arrogance is misplaced, we might open our selves to the living world beyond and beneath us, and learn from far more evolved beings such as trees in their forests, or what survives of them after hundreds of years of human extraction.
Consider the following excerpt from Peter Wohlleben’s pioneering book, The Hidden Life of Trees. Images are pinged from the trailer for the important new documentary, Intelligent Trees.
Many humans suffer from the delusion that whatever they senselessly eradicate can be replaced with clever inventions, like — in the most recent perverse iteration — robobees. Scientists like Wohlleben and Suzanne Simard blaze a different path, one long embraced by surviving remnants of indigenous cultures, those the “advanced” humans have not obliterated. Guided by a deeper understanding of our living world, can we find the courage and wisdom to follow it?
Taking note of unhinged draft executive orders regarding increased use of Guantanamo Bay for renewed extrajudicial detention and torture of unspecified “bad dudes”, we turn to the voice of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a detainee from 2002 until his release this past October due to the lack of any evidence beyond unsubstantiated statements made to interrogators while undergoing torture.
Below, an excerpt from Slahi’s extraordinary memoir, Guanatamo Diary, with two images from Jenny Holzer’s series, Dust Paintings:
As reported in the Guardian, Steve Kleinman, chairman of the research advisory committee to the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), thus with access to actual facts and not to “alternative” (read: delusional) facts regarding torture, stated:
“If the US was to make it once again the policy of the country to coerce, and to detain at length in an extrajudicial fashion, the costs would be beyond substantial – they’d be potentially existential.”
Now comes the gentle yet fierce voice of John Berger, who died this past Monday, in excerpts from a 2003 essay written for Le Monde Diplomatique. The image is from the Rothko Chapel.
For all his literary gifts, Berger was most at home in conversation, his thoughts closely tied to his limitless capacity for dialogue, and to his vigilant ears. The below conversation with Susan Sontag highly recommended.