On a day when large numbers of people appear to celebrate, endorse and reward malignant narcissism, we turn to the laudably contrarian pages of Emergence Magazine, with excerpts from an essay by Kara Moses, written after an immersion in the last surviving forest wilderness in Europe, Białowieża.
Answers to what ails us cannot be found within the human community, and surely not among the delusions and deceptions of the anointed ruling elites; yet elsewhere, among the remnants of the wild, if we can find the courage to listen, observe and be still, we might find some other path through the infinite woundscape of the anthropogenic affliction.
During a strange New England summer of extreme heat waves, monsoon rains and an unnerving paucity of flying insects and pollinators, it is difficult to avoid slipping into the dark selfie-swamp of radical dystopia, the one where we (homo sapiens) disappear from the universe; thus we turn to an illuminating excerpt from an essay by China Miéville, exploring the interplay between apocalypse and utopia.
The images are pinged from the studio of Ruth Ewan, selections from a series of nineteen woodblock prints titled Unrecorded Future, Tell Us What Broods There.
Miéville adds texture to the debris rotting beneath the Angel of History in an excellent interview that appeared earlier this year in the pages of the Boston Review:
And finally, from the hand of Paul Klee, and with a nod to Walter Benjamin:
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.
Returning once more to the words of Sandra Lubarsky:
The quotation from Mary Oliver descends from her essay, Waste Land: An Elegy. Here are the lines that follow:
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 desecrate fails to move us from the path of hubris and delusion.
We end map III of our navigations in Desperado Philosophy with excerpts from an Arne Naess talk first presented in 1986, articulating ideas that grow in resonance with each passing year within the ongoing ecocide. The images document Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater reef sculptures, about which we will have more to say in 2015; among our many sources of joy, even as the oceans suffocate in plastic.
A faithful DP correspondent encouraged us to bend an ear towards a distinctive American writer whose bravely contrarian voice, though widely known abroad, remained marginalized in the US during his lifetime: Joe Bageant.
Among Bageant’s last writings, notes for a series of lectures delivered during 2009 offer a critique of human arrogance resonant with the writings of deep ecologists such as Aldo Leopold and Arne Naess, yet with a feisty polemical edge that also brings Edward Abbey into the mix.
We excerpt a few of the final paragraphs for DP, with images from the studio of Morgan Bulkeley, whose entire body of work represents both a revolt against manufactured reality, and a celebration of our deep connectedness with all living things.
Since our return from walking north along the ridges of Vermont’s Green Mountains, we have been ruminating over Aldo Leopold’s essay, Thinking Like A Mountain:
Leopold slightly misquotes from Thoreau’s essay “Walking”; the context for the correct quote (DP emphasis added) adds tinder for the fire.
We are reminded of the lines from Robinson Jeffers’ Bloody Sire:
As for philosophers who think like mountains, we turn to the writings of Arne Naess, who we would like to imagine is still out there somewhere in the north of Norway, despite all these troubling and persistent rumors of his death.
The below video is worth a close listen, for the noble philosopher’s quietly deep sort of loving howl against the ecocidal wind:
And then, before we get carried away by the Naessian flow, we hear Jeffers again:
In recent days, we have been rediscovering the poetry and philosophy of Robinson Jeffers. In his remarkable preface to The Double Axe (1948), Jeffers writes:
By “inhumanism”, Jeffers is not proposing a standard of interpersonal conduct but rather a way of experiencing the world that breaks loose from the solipsistic assumption that the human species alone embodies meaning in the universe.
Meanwhile a DP associate, knowing of our interest in the arctic ice sheet and its potential chilling impact on the solipsistic worldview, alerted us to updated data regarding the arctic ice melt, as monitored by the National Snow & Ice Data Center. On the graph below, the left hand unit of measurement is millions of square kilometers. The blue line for 2012 is on track for a dramatically new record low, which appears to be in excess of six standard deviations from the norm. Statisticians will comprehend the implications of such extreme data:A second graphic provides a bird’s eye view, with the orange outline representing the median melt; keep in mind that as of this posting, we are still three weeks away from the normal September data point for the minimum extent.
A perspective of “inhumanism” may not be one that we freely choose, but rather one that is forced upon us, as mother earth harshly reminds us of our pathetic insignificance. It may be timely to meditate upon Jeffers’ poem, Vulture: