MECO360: Notes to self: Life tips for the Anthropocene

  Tess Barber | August 2017

‘As glaciers melt, deltas flood, and we row our lifeboats down the middle of the River Anthropocene, it seems we need any valuable tool we can muster to negotiate the rising tide pushing in from the sea.’[i]


Mani Barber, ‘Lumen’, 2015.

 

  1. There are no simple solutions.[ii]
  1. Experiment with methods to cool down, preferably those not reliant on cheap, consistent energy sources. Failing this, adapt to suit hot environments.
  1. Develop a range of communally useful skills.[iii]
  1. Personal skills are also a necessity; these may include swimming, being generally fit, or developing high immunity.
  1. Learn methods for finding water.[iv] Or, again, consider adapting to not need water…
  1. Adapt. Adaptation is key and can be applied to all situations.[v]
  1. Forage.[vi] Keep a constant eye out for provisions.
  1. Find a good bag to carry things in. And then tell a story about it. [vii]
  1. Be aware of your nearest source of protein. Maintain reasonable expectations of what this may be.[viii]
  1. General expectation management. Hoping for a better ‘lifestyle’ is nice; however always maintain hope in direct relation to plausible outcomes—not reliant on         constant, accessible and affordable energy for instance.[ix]
  1. Make kin—human and nonhuman; also learn more about your current companions.[x] Again manage your expectations: not everyone you approach will reciprocate your kinship—wolf-folk, although attractive, are not suited to your climate or perhaps your friendship.
  1. Remember: everyone is different, and this is a good thing. [xi]
  1. Find methods for breaking with habits: such as energy use, water use, but also linguistic habit, habitual ways of seeing…[xii]
  1. Research mosquito avoidance and deterrence. Survival will be understood in terms of hand-eye co-ordination and dexterity. Otherwise you might approach an       amphibian, or arachnid as a companion.
  1. Learn Asylum Seeker and Refugee law. And then rewrite the law.
  1. Become familiar with strangeness: learn to live the uncanny.[xiii]
  1. Learn and contribute to the lexis of the Anthropocene: new wor(l)ds to understand, new stories to tell.[xiv]
  1. Study methods for engaging and coping with loss: for instance to express Solastalgia.[xv] However! Also learn to protect that which isn’t lost: engage             Soliphilia.[xvi]
  1. Accept your vulnerability.[xvii]
  1. Observe.[xviii]

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[i] Astrida Neimanis, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2017, p. 26.

[ii] I’m sorry.

[iii] Consider skills needed, or valued by a wide variety of human and nonhuman communities. For instance: fermentation, cooking food with limited resources, finding water, see point 2: methods for cooling down.

[iv] A starting point may be re-figuring an understanding of your own body as a ‘body of water’. See Astrida Neimanis, 2017. Also see James Linton, What is water?: a History of Modern Abstraction, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2010. Be prepared to reconsider notions of water, and rethink your body’s ‘situatedness’ in relation to the ‘hydrocommons’ and to other bodies of water. As Astrida writes: ‘For us humans, the flow and flush of waters sustain our own bodies, but also connect them to other bodies, to other worlds beyond our human selves’ (p. 2). What responsibilities are re-learned in such a figuring?

[v] The only certainty is uncertainty; the only thing determined is indeterminacy (see point 1). As Anna Tsing writes, ‘We hear about precarity in the news every day. People lose their jobs or get angry because they never had them. Gorillas and river porpoises hover at the edge of extinction. Rising seas swamp Pacific islands. But most of the time we imagine such precarity to be an exception to how the world works…What if, as I’m suggesting, precarity is the condition of our time—or, to put it another way, what if our time is ripe for sensing precarity? What if precarity, indeterminacy, and what we imagine as trivial are the center of the systematicity we seek?’

See Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2015 p. 20. If, at times this is overwhelming, remember: ‘Indeterminacy, the unplanned nature of time, is frightening, but thinking through precarity makes it evident that indeterminacy also makes life possible’. In her work Anna Tsing traces the biological and economical history of the matsutake mushroom, which thrives in precarious sites of deforestation.

Casper S, Tricholoma matsutake, n.d., David Rubeli, 2015, http://www.davidrubeli.ca/on-the-mushroom-at-the-end-of-the-world/, viewed 17 October 2017.

[vi] To start, see the work of Diego Bonetto, Diego Bonetto, n.d., https://diego-bonetto-weeds.squarespace.com/about/#bio, viewed 12 October 2017; as well as The Wild Food Map, n.d., http://wildfood.in/, viewed 12 October 2017.

[vii] See Ursula K Le Guin, ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ in Dancing at the Edge of the World, Paladin, Great Britain, 1992, pp. 165-170.

‘If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a soldier container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then next day you probably do much the same again—if to do that is human, if that’s what it takes, then I am a human being after all’ (p. 168).

[viii] Learn a few tasty insect recipes to ease yourself in. See Daniella Martin, Girl Meets Bug: Edible Insects: the Eco-logical Alternative, wordpress, n.d., https://edibug.wordpress.com/recipes/, viewed 12 October 2017.

[ix] Human Impact Lab, Climate Clock, Human Impact Lab, n.d., https://climateclock.net/, viewed 12 October 2017.

[x] For more reading see Donna Haraway, ‘Companion Species Manifesto’, in Manifestly Haraway, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2016a; Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham Duke University Press, Durham, 2016b.

[xi] This may seem like a given, but is surprisingly difficult to grasp and enact. A potential starting point: Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges’, in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, Routledge, New York, 1991, pp. 183-201. Language, too, is a key tool for learning to accept and celebrate difference; however may also be used as a method of subjugation. Linguistic intersubjectivity is one way to start to reconsider the ways you are using language, and the creatures that you talk to. See Donald Davidson, Truth, Language, and History, Oxford University Online, Berkeley, 2005. For more on breaking habits see point 13 and note 12.

Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘Figure 2’, 2004, Maria Popova, n.d. https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/10/21/telling-is-listening-ursula-k-le-guin-communication/, viewed 17 October 2017.

Genetic swapping during amoeba sex is Ursula Le Guin’s own model for intersubjective communication: ‘amoeba A and amoeba B exchange genetic “information,” that is, they literally give each other inner bits of their bodies…This is very similar to how people unite themselves and give each other parts of themselves—inner parts, mental not bodily parts—when they talk and listen.’ See Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘Telling is Listening’, in The Wave in the Mind, Shambhala, Boston, 2004, p. 189.

[xii] A beginning point could be reworking infrastructure—if the light-switch is too convenient, remove the switch; similarly, to break with linguistic habit the structure must be dismantled or reworked. Experimental language use, such as can be found in (but not limited to) science fiction is one way to rework language structures. Ideas arising from and inspired by: Jennifer Mae Hamilton, Astrida Neimanis & Pia van Gelder, Hacking the Anthropocene II: Weathering Conference, University of Sydney, Sydney, 26 May 2017.

[xiii] As author Jeff VanderMeer has said: ‘There are ways in which global warming is like a haunting, because it appears everywhere and nowhere at the same time.’ See ‘Apocalypse, Now’, On the Media, podcast, WNYC Radio, 7 July 2017, http://www.npr.org/podcasts/452538775/on-the-media, viewed 12 October 2017. VanderMeer’s own science fictional writing explores human relationships to environment and nature through the notion of the uncanny, particularly his Sothern Reach Trilogy (2014).

Also see Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, Nils Bubandt (eds), Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2017. In Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet the editors speak of the Anthropocene through ghosts and monsters alike: ‘Every landscape is haunted by past ways of life. We see this clearly in the presence of plants whose animal seed-dispersers are no longer with us.’ However, ‘Anthropogenic landscapes are also haunted by imagined futures. We are willing to turn things into rubble, destroy atmospheres, sell out companion species in exchange for dreamworlds of progress’ (p. G2).

[xiv] A resource to begin with is Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott’s Bureau of Linguistical Reality. See Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott, Ther Bureau of Linguistical Reality, 2014, https://bureauoflinguisticalreality.com/, viewed 12 October 2017. As well as the work of Robert Mcfarlane. See Robert Macfarlane, ‘Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet forever’, The Guardian, 1 April 2016, available from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/01/generation-anthropocene-altered-planet-for-ever, viewed 12 October 2017.

Image: Stanley Donwood, ‘Pencil Holloway’, 2012, http://archive.slowlydownward.com/ahway.html, viewed 17 October 2017.

[xv] Solastalgia: ‘the pain or sickness caused by the loss of, or inability to derive, solace connected to the present state of one’s home environment. Solastalgia exists when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under assault (physical desolation).’ In contrast to nostalgia, solastalgia is experienced as a home changes around you. See Glenn Albrecht, ‘Solastalgia’, Psychoterratica, 2013, http://www.psychoterratica.com/solastalgia.html, viewed 12 October 2017. For Glenn Albrecht language can be means to engage with Anthropogenic loss and change, his work begins to develop linguistic and conceptual framework for understanding ‘psychoterratic’ conditions, or mental states related to the earth.

Another method of engaging with loss, discussed by Robert Mcfarlane, is through records. He uses the example of conservation biologist Julianne Warren’s ‘Hopes Echo’, which responds to a recording made in 1954 of Maori man, Henare Hamana. The recording is of a mimicked bird call: a vocal replication of the Huia, a New Zealand bird now extinct due to ‘habitat destruction, introduced predators and overhunting for its black and ivory tail feathers.’ As Julianne Warren writes it is ‘a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today’. Robert Mcfarlane, 2016; Julianne Warren, The Poetry Lab: “Hope’s Echo” by Julianne Warren, The Merwin Conservancy, 2 November 2015, https://merwinconservancy.org/2015/11/the-poetry-lab-hopes-echo-by-author-julianne-warren-center-for-humans-and-nature/, viewed 12 October 2017. Another haunting perhaps.

Huia Edmonds, ‘Huia’, 2014, https://huianededmonds.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/huia-completed/, viewed 17 October 2017.

Finally, see also Lesley Head, Hope and Grief in the Anthropocene: Re-conceptualising human-nature relations, Routledge, London, 2016.

[xvi] Soliphilia: ‘is manifest in the interdependent solidarity and the wholeness or unity needed between people to overcome the alienation and disempowerment present in contemporary political decision-making. Soliphilia introduces the notion of political commitment to the saving of loved home environments at all scales, from the local to the global.’ Glenn Albrecht, ‘Solastalgia’, Psychoterratica, 2013, http://www.psychoterratica.com/soliphilia.html, viewed 12 October 2017.

[xvii] As Anna Tsing has written: ‘Precarity is the condition of being vulnerable to others. Unpredictable encounters transform us; we are not in control, even of ourselves. Unable to rely on a stable structure of community, we are thrown into shifting assemblages, which remake us as well as our others.’ Anna Tsing, 2015, p. 20.

[xviii] Furthermore Tsing writes: ‘To live with precarity requires more than railing at those who put us here (although that seems useful too, and I’m not against it). We might look around to notice this strange new world, and we might stretch our imaginations to grasp its contours.’ Anna Tsing, 2015, p. 3. Through the practice of observing and listening, new (and old but previously overlooked) methods of continuance might be learnt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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