The futures of our world and symmetrical responses

Even aggressive reduction in CO2 emissions look bad for the majority of the world’s population. The more likely scenarios put New York and Bangkok under water; leave Spain, Italy and Greece as deserts; a third of corn and wheat yields gone; tropical storms at least 25% more destructive; and over a third of existing species extinct.

It would seem to me that not using every means at our disposal to prevent this amounts to a monumental evil of which the human species has never seen. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that a world-wide, multi-species Shoah looms. And yet, more commonly, people speak only of pragmatic and feasible solutions. These have more to do with discursive and ideological battles (i.e. stressing education, research, etc.) than material rearrangements of our communities.

The energy and oil industries, the cultures of mass production, and those who would defend the status quo are condemning billions to death, and eradicating the Earth of countless species.

What would be a symmetrical response even look like?

How many gigatons of Carbon Dioxide...?

How many gigatons of Carbon Dioxide...?


A thought and question on the nomad

The nomad contains the history of the diaspora and the refugee, but also the colonial settler and conqueror. While domestication often signifies being bound to property, the narratives we frequently pull from as regards nomadicism are after agrarianism and the development of civilization. The uprooted one is either unseating others or the unseated other. Even the nomadic trader signifies both surplus production and specialization, accumulation and division of labor. In a century of the climate refuge and the migrant laborer, one that will see hundreds of millions moving for safety and work, and in an era of social theory that is suffused with Deleuze’s nomad and Agamben’s refugee, what does it mean to “prefer flows,” to “Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic” (as Foucault famously wrote)?

Frankenstorm: ‘a monstrous hybrid vortex’

All along the East Coast, Americans are bracing for a weather disaster of some sort. The further north Hurricane Sandy travels, those of us in the mid-Atlantic and New England anticipate its merger with a Nor’easter and at a time when pressure systems will cause the hurricane to take a sharp westerly turn.

We are now hearing that degraded satellite and other weather monitoring equipment is likely to impact the accuracy of prediction. The infrastructure hasn’t been maintained as well as it should, and glitches and poor data quality are probable.

What they used to call ‘global warming’ had transformed into ‘climate change’ since, after all, weather wasn’t merely heating up, it was also cooling, and other weather events were significantly altering. It eventually got so out of whack that many now call it ‘global weirding,’ which seems to me an appropriate phrase. But when a National Weather Service meteorologist referred to this unprecedented storm that is about to ravage the East Coast, he called it ‘a monstrous hybrid vortex.’

Such a description seems to describe the climate events we should anticipate, not only over the next few days, and along a few hundred miles of coastline on one particular continent. Instead, we might recognize that in what some are calling the Anthropocene, the atmosphere around this planet is an aggregation of monstrous vortices that rejects accurate modelling, not purely because of our decaying technological infrastructure, but because the unfolding events confound human cognition and the devices we use to scaffold our feeble minds to an unhinged and uncontrollable natural universe. In this age, our monsters are the air we breathe, and they are far more restless than Frankenstein’s.

STSers, we have work to do!

A colleague of mine, David Banks, pointed out an article written by Naomi Klein called “Capitalism vs. The Climate”. “Naomi Klein keeps doing our job and I don’t appreciate it,” he complained. By “our,” he means those of us in the field of science and technology studies. And by “our job,” I’m presuming he means usefully articulating deep structural problems combined with a meaningful call to action. But, of course, we might be skeptical of terms like “economic Armageddon,” and we certainly wouldn’t end an article, writing “a very different worldview can be our salvation.” How silly and sophomoric! How moralistic!

I pointed to a similar article published by al-Jazeera. By similar, I mean that it points to deep structural problems that must be changed in order to significantly impact climate change. This article, “Nature is the 99%, too” wouldn’t make it past the cursory glance of the average STSer: don’t they know that ‘nature’ doesn’t exist! It’s a mere social construction!

I decided to do a quick search on Google to see if I could identify a ripe area for career-building as a smug academic who prefers semantic games rather than civic engagement. I stumbled upon an opportunity!

The Social Construction of Melting Polar Ice Caps