John Hopkins on Sat, 2 Nov 2019 16:55:35 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> The Watershed in Your Head

As an addenda to Brian's work -- w/ kudos to him -- I would highly recommend
the work of The Center for Land Use Interpretation in the US (West, and
elsewhere). Founded by Matt Coolidge in 1994, they have focused on precisely
this issue of the spatial manifestations (not only of capitalism) but with an
early focus on (the military-industrial complex in the western US as well as
moving through many many other 'systems').

"The Lay of the Land" is their publication

worth reading, all 33 volumes, for a deeper understanding of, to most people,
the invisible infrastructures that bring you your entire 'lifestyle'.

My formal work currently includes being the archivist for, among many other
items, the maps of now-abandoned coal and metal mines in the state of Colorado.
The state is literally riddled with holes -- somewhere around 25,000 abandoned
mines alone, not to mention huundreds of thousands of hydrocarbon and water
wells. Brian's pipeline mapping project only scratches the surface of such
manifestations, they are practically fractal, given that anyone using natural
gas has a pipeline right to their house, and so on. Historical coal mining in
the 'Front Range' of Colorado is present under many of the modern suburbs,
causing all kinds of problems in the grand scale of things. Thankfully, there is only one or two operational coal mines left in the state, at least most of the power stations have shifted to natural gas.

And, yes, the hydrocarbon infrastructure is ... everywhere.

Many local, state, and federal agencies engage in conflicting impulses to both
hide information about such infrastructures in the name of state security, while
much of it is available online (if you know where to look) via the movement to GIS mapping that is then shunted to the cloud for network consumption. And with 90% of that controlled by, a privately-held corporation driving the mapping of these 'territories'.

While these historical resources and current-use maps are of import to
understanding what kind of fragile existence we have on the planet, there are
many more worrying developments -- for example, with groundwater issues -- I am
preparing, with colleagues, a deep survey of Colorado groundwater. The only word
I can use to characterize it is "grim". And Colorado is relatively well-off compared to many other locations on the planet where groundwater supplies (as the *only* local source of water) are being overdrawn by 4-500%. We are making this information available to the public, though at the cost of participating in 'cloud computing' which should be an anathema, given its energy cost. (see, for example These kinds of conundrums are evidence that we yet have not fully understood where we stand as a species, thinking that we stand separate from everything else.

The fight to 'deal' with how we live, how we overdraw our most critical
resources, is something that the wider earth system will set the conditions on,
as we are mostly *not* dealing with it, despite our best efforts.

Brian's work begins to reveal the complexity of what we have 'achieved' as a
species, but also that all those achievements are predicated on access to
hydrocarbons. One crucial point, though, is that 'other world' is not 'other' in
any sense except within the space of our own ignorance -- it is inextricably
*ours*. Our ignorance of what Brian labels 'political ecology' is monumental.
And when he proposes the 'banality of economics' as a impediment to
understanding, it is only a proxy for what I would propose: that a deep look at
how one perceives their own usage of energy (in *all* forms - food, transport,
housing, lighting, water, thought, embodied action) will begin to reveal our
dependencies, and thus will also mandate a political pathway where the paradigm
"the most efficient use of energy is energy *not* used" will ground all actions.
(And those 'actions', which themselves use energy to express, will reflect and
be consequent at all levels of our participation in all levels of the planetary

And esthetics -- languages and methods of making this other world
visible -- are an important aspect in this struggle that can only succeed if it finds a language that informs action, a language to express multiplicity (of actors, and of cultures) and belonging (that is, a kind of
care for the place in which one finds oneself) at the same time.


Dr. John Hopkins, BSc, MFA, PhD
hanging on to the Laramide Orogeny
#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact:
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject: