Brian Holmes on Fri, 15 Jun 2018 03:13:22 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Paul Mason: Trump is a symptom of the new global disorder, not the cause


Thanks for caring about it.

The political parties that could enable a dispersed transformation of the energy system, etc, do not yet exist, and the current reality is one of intense backlash against the slightest suggestion that we might not be living in the industrial-extractivist 1950s. This could yet become worse, it's obvious. But as you well know there are a growing number of people who want to move into institutional change, out of love, out of fear, out of a reasoned rejection of fascism and war and an unreasoned desire for everything that is beautiful about the way the living earth has evolved up to this point. These impulses are giving rise to social formations with agency. I see this very strongly in the Pacific Northwest where I am doing a project about bioregionalism. It is impressive how, for instance, a dozen major fossil fuel exporting terminals on the Columbia River have been stopped over the last six or seven years, including for example the Morrow Pacific terminal that would have exported more coal than the US now produces - and Wyoming's Powder River Basin would have just stepped up production, no problem. The next thing to be stopped is a giant methanol plant which would produce and export the key chemical for the making of plastic, a chemical derived from fracked natural gas, whose producers are seeking the Asian market (the plant itself is a Chinese project, but before cursing the Chinese I count the number of such plants the Americans and probably even the French have built around the world). You do not stop such things without large grassroots movements, but it also takes formal politics on every level to do it - especially munical governments, state governments and tribal sovereignties, with a key role for ecosystem advocates, aka lawyers, such as Columbia Riverkeeper from whom I'm learning so much about these things.

Now, I realize that you are a philosopher and it is totally impotant to draw absolute distinctions, and also never to forget that capitalism is engaged in an accelerated process of destruction of the earth. However, most people can't bear such thoughts, and even me, I can't do it continuously, although I know it's important. I think that if people do not gain some agency in these so-called reformist processes, and forge a new connections between ethics and politics - underlain by a new, or more likely, revitalized sense of the cosmic - then there will never be the capacity to move further, beyond the capitalist state and the state of things as they are. Therefore my philosophical position is one of lucid utopianism, as opposed to the blind variety (the difference is you have deliberately chosen to do what others will say is deluding yourself!).

Ecosystem services is a flawed concept, like Heidegger would say "the West" is a flawed concept. I agree. But many of the people developing it believe that in with this concept, they can establish a language to negotiate about things that are otherwise simply not mentioned, left off the account books, consigned to a theoretical non-existence and a real death. Those "things" include us, people, which it's wierd to pretend don't even exist as organic beings suceptible of getting, say, cancer, or dying from water pollution, or not being able to compare their inner sensation of what health might be, to an outer world where there is a robust and fragile variety of other living beings. Our current system denies the capacity to measure either cancer, on the one hand, or the value of a raindrop to a salmon or a tree, on the other. But if we chop down the tree and salt the salmon we can say, yes, they had a value because did 'em in. Ecosystem services says that if you want to salt the salmon and chop the tree tomorrow, you have to recognize not only their value as commodities, but also the web of life that sustains them, without which, tomorrow no salmon, no wood. The next step in the development of this technocratic concept is the notion that human beings have a responsibility to provide services to the ecosystems of which they are a part. Fortunately there is also a common word for sevices to ecosystems, it's called "stewardship." Long live the common words and let's put them into action!

As part of the desire to live, I would like to participate however humbly in the attempt to create a working language of political ecology. I mean working in the fully banal sense of the word. Because as a historian with the sobering name of Richard White said a few decades ago, "labor... involves human beings so thoroughly with the world that they can never be disentangled."

Is the unconstructable part of the Earth, which can be disentangled, not that real sense of the cosmic to which I just referred?

be well, my friend,

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