“The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse”

February 9, 2016

This book was a lot to take in, as Bruckner systematically dissects forms of power and their faults in relation to our overall treatment of the environment, ultimately placing the existing dominant form, neoliberalism and its associated policies, as the ultimate demise. In this way, he draws parallels among opposing ideologies, communism and Christianity, to a term he refers to as ecologism.

The arguments go further, in examining how forms of power have the ability to disseminate a mindset or feeling, in turn exposing this western fixation on catastrophe, and the ways in which it’s presented through the media. These ideas place society as a cog in the machine, part of an increasingly interconnected world, the results of which force us to confront our actions, as their repercussions reach further and further away from our “own little lives”, as Bruckner continually refers to them as. (No doubt attempting to mitigate our perceived importance)

Above all, Bruckner really conveys this sense of impending doom, arousing fear, something which he explains can take two forms: “a salutary one that mobilizes us, and the deleterious one that weakens us” (45). Honestly I felt myself shift from the former to the latter on multiple occasions, and I think part of this reaction is due to what Bruckner explains in saying “the enormity of the diagnosis, the absurd inadequacy of the remedies” (32). What good does recycling do when we’re told just a few pages previous that the general consensus among oncologists and toxicologists is that by 2060 there will be a “generalized sterility of male sperm” (18)? We are headed for disaster, and Bruckner scathingly proves that in examining how things are, causing the reader to defend this postmodern status quo.

Neoliberalism, Globalization

  • political philosophy that emphasizes liberty and equality: freedom of speech, religious freedom, free market, civil rights, democratic society, international cooperation
    • stems from Enlightenment, French and American revolution (18th c.)
  • Economic liberalism: Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776
    • free competition without restrictions
  • 1980’s: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (mentioned on p. 10)
    • Rule of the Market
      • privatization, means less regulation
    • “individual responsibility” vs. “the public good”

Bruckner places much of the blame on the way that the world operates in a political/economic schema, much of which has been facilitated through neoliberal policy. The ideology reflects the deregulation of companies and privatization, a method that has allowed the rich to get richer, amassing wealth from the middle class as they slowly go bankrupt. Moreover, it emphasizes individual responsibility rather than the public good, placing less hands responsible for the plight of the Earth.

“daily exercise of our powers, which makes the routine of modern civilization possible and which we all depend on, becomes an ethical problem” (28)

Bruckner is aiming this assertion directly at westerners, in that our whole society is simply not moral in terms of the obsessive materialism that has resulted in production across the globe. Not only does it cause detriment to the Earth, but also for people, a further effect of neoliberal ideology: multinational, private corporations gaining increasing autonomy and control over state power.

“colonized peoples – [are] gradually replaced by the Planet, which has become the paragon of all the wretched. The absolute outcast” (16)

I find issue with this argument, but I suppose from his perspective, or at the least the point he seems to be making, which is that humans are parasitic and shouldn’t exist altogether, it softens the blow. On some level though, I still find it blatantly rude to ignore major sources of trauma among humans that still operate today, especially in light of globalization — easily considered modern day cultural imperialism.

Bruckner challenges the idea of individual responsibility in light of globalization, in that every one of our actions has a ripple effect that extends far past our personal spheres. As communication expands, so does the brevity of our impact, to the point where we don’t fully understand the consequences of our actions, lending to this attitude of passivity. If anything, I think Bruckner is really challenging the idea of individual responsibility (a mainstay of the modern), as fixing the planet can only be achieved through collective action.

Man vs. Nature

“the earth has been partly devastated, but we have in no way tamed it” (76)

Bruckner presents the idea that the more technology we generate, the paths of communication subsequently expand. The paradox is in the fact that “space is expanding and our means of transportation are re-creating the distance that they were supposed to abolish” (23). In these efforts, we’ve caused mass detriment to the earth, but as he aptly points out, we’ve in no way tamed it – reinforcing the notion that humans lie in direct odds to nature. He furthers the sentiment though, marking our efforts towards modernization on a global scale as in vain and near sighted.

“There are only two solutions: either capitalism dies, or Mother Earth dies” (14)

This quote furthers that idea, citing an economic construct that reflects the human desire for greed at direct odds with the environment. Placing an aspect of human nature at odds with the Earth ultimately places humans at odds, not just their technology or innovations, as argued in our previous books. Bruckner really brings this home in saying that catastrophe was bound to happen “as soon as primitive humans invented the first tools and moved away from Being” (42). In essence he’s saying that the first steps towards humanity were also the first towards catastrophe.

Fear as Political Tool

“fear is injected by the repetition of the same themes, and it becomes a narcotic we can no longer do without” (29,30)

“when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn’t really have any effect”, Andy Warhol

“the more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away”, Andy Warhol

This idea reminds me a lot of Andy Warhol’s comments and works aimed at calling out consumers on their fixation on the media, and its effect. We’re aware of catastrophe that happens all over the world, somehow crossing our experience with that of trauma. Bruckner argues that it “reminds us of the fragility of our own well being”, but I think it has the opposite effect. Though what we see on the news is contemporaneous, the screen from which we view such trauma serves to accentuate the divide. As we are accustomed, or as Bruckner would argue, fixated on catastrophe, it is presented to us in various capacities, both real and not real, all via the same device.

christies_051607_01

Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), 1963, part of Death & Disaster series

Humans are King Cancer

“Man is a cancer on the Earth […] a throwaway species, like the civilization he invented” (13)

“human beings behave like cancerous metastases, proliferating at the expense of the whole” (15)

I find this idea of comparing the mass movement among humans to metastasis really interesting, as it traces our movements to that of a parasite.

Questions

  1. On page 42, Bruckner discusses various opinions as to when our downfall began. Among these is the “manipulation of the atom and DNA, ‘two boundaries that man ought not have crossed.'” To me, this is the most philosophical answer, as it addresses the question of whether or not we should be able to manipulate our own species, advancing the argument towards more ethical grounds. Do you agree with this sentiment?
  2. “That is why … peaceful industrial enterprises have become as destructive as world wars: they reawaken the unhealthy dream of being a god” (73)

I agree with Buckner in that humans are experiencing a good dose of hubris, but does it really apply to all humans or do you think that perspective is tied up in a western construct that deems itself inherently superior?

3. Bruckner continually comments on this need to commodify catastrophe, drawing a comparison with the associated guilt and potential events to the moral grounds of the Christian church — putting a postmodern backdrop to an age old ethical dilemma. With that, do you think that this desire to predict our demise is inherent to human nature?

 

 

 


Current Event: Why seafood just isn’t worth it

February 9, 2016

The oceans are suffering greatly – rising temperatures, acidification, pollution, overfishing, and more – all at the hands of humans. While individual efforts could help mitigate all of the damages the human population is bestowing on the oceans, one can very easily be terminated if individuals would act together: overfishing. By choosing to eliminate seafood from our diets, we could end the cycle of overfishing.

Commercial fishing has detrimental effects on not only the target species of fish, but the entire ecosystem. First, the act of fishing itself is highly negative. The boats used are a source of pollution to the water, both chemical and sound for marine life. Bycatch is a huge problem as it leads to marine mammal entanglement and capture of non-target species leading to a great loss of life. Finally, trawling is known to destroy the ocean floor and coral reefs.

The next issue with commercial fishing is the targeted species. The species that fuel are seafood diet are largely top predator fish (i.e. tuna). By depleting the number of these key predator species, we are disrupting the delicate food web. It should be noted that a marine food web is much more complex than a terrestrial food web and harvesting animals at such high trophic levels can lead to chaotic imbalance.

Eating lower on the food chain isn’t the best solution either. Crustacean harvesting is another main cause of habitat loss as the techniques are quite invasive, destroying ocean floor and mangroves.

Farmed fish is not the answer either. Aquaculture is almost as deadly to the ecosystem as the smaller fish used to feed them must still be caught commercially. Escaped salmon have caused huge declines in wild populations. Additionally, aquacultured fish usually contain more chemicals, antibiotics, and nitrogen levels than are healthy for human consumption.

Lastly, consumption of many fish species, especially tuna, have health risks from the high levels of mercury created by consumption of plastics and bioaccumulation. If the above aren’t reasons enough to eliminate seafood from your diet, isn’t your health?

The video below persuaded me to eliminate seafood from my diet (as much as I love[d] it). As if you need more motivation to avoid fish, here are 35 more reasons.


Amanda Marshall -The Fantasticism of the Apocalypse

February 9, 2016

Pascal Bruckner discusses a growing movement towards living a more basic lifestyle. People are disgusted with out frivolous consumerism and romanticize third world life. Bruckner argues for a balance. We can live in comfort, but without excess.

 

graph geo

There is a disconnect between human welfare and our impact on the earth. The U.S. has the largest CO2 emission per capita in the world, but our average citizen’s happiness is declining. Our families are getting smaller, but our houses are getting bigger. This excess lifestyle that is harming the environment is not making us happier. Our throw-away culture is not sustainable for the planet, and our psyche.

drivebase picscenerykweziI really like how Bruckner emphasized a BALANCE between basic, and utilizing technological advancements, because you know…. shit happens

car

It’s difficult to do environmental work when there are struggling people in poverty. Bruckner makes the argument that we need to have an inclusive approach at healing the planet. People are part of the environment.

Environmental issues are complex. Right and wrong are not always easy to identify. For example most poachers in Africa poach antelope in protected areas to keep their families from starving. Even poaching for rhino horn becomes complex when studied closely. Usually the poachers are pressured locals pressured by large companies. These companies threaten to kill their families if they don’t give them a horn. In addition, most people in South Africa have never seen a rhino. It would be difficult for them to revere something they have never experienced. What would you do if you had to choose between your family and a random animal you have never seen?

Jane Goodall is a good role model for an inclusive approach. While researching in Gombe national park she did community work and currently still has programs to help people in poverty. Even if for those who don’t want to be inclusive, (which we really should be inclusive) helping people better their situation allows them to afford to care about the environment. Helping them helps the environmental goal as well.

nelson mandela daykresh

This book focuses a lot on fear in our society. Have we become brainwashed to our “doomed world?” Have we been acclimatized to indifference?

He also brings up how people fail to understand that science is an investment. People complain that funding goes towards research in green energy, with failing results. Research and the science process don’t find answers overnight. It’s an investment, and we might not receive returns for a while. That doesn’t mean that research is a waste of money though. We will find no sustainable energy alternatives if we don’t look for them.

Good research science is one that creates more questions than finding answers


Environmental Issue

February 9, 2016

Waste from Ohio Fracking

As speaker Sarah Moore discussed in her talk on waste patterns, the classification and treatment of hazardous waste poses a number of problematic consequences. The lack of appropriate classification of hazardous waste materials creates loopholes in waste regulation for companies who create or encounter these materials. Many of us think of radioactive waste as being the product of nuclear plants or big chemical production companies, however, it can arise naturally from the earth as well.

frack·ing1 ˈfrakiNG/  noun
  1. the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

    Ohio has been one of the leading states in the fracking industry. “According to the industry-funded Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, Ohio contains an estimated 20 trillion cubic feet of “untapped” natural gas with a value of over $100 billion. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that, in addition to natural gas and shale gas, 1.3 to 5.5 billion barrels of tight oil may be contained within Ohio, with a market value of up to $550 billion.[1]” wiki entry Ohio & Fracking

The process of extracting oil and natural gases from beneath Ohio shale reserves not only unearths gas, but naturally occurring radium and other hazardous deposits. The toxic sand, rocks, and soils pulled from beneath the shale are often disposed of in Ohio landfills instead of processed at radioactive waste plants as a way to save money. Here’s where the free market + democracy clash comes in: the wave of government sponsored privatization of Ohio’s natural gas resource exploits have allowed this mistreatment of waste to get out of hand. Not only are these wastes being disposed of in the wrong place, but the mere transportation of the materials overtly violates State of Ohio waste regulations. The waste trucks do not meet hazardous material transportation standards, exceed maximum capacities, and drive without the required $5mil per truck hazardous material insurance. Not only is the build up of these materials in our dump sites troublesome, but the lack of financial accountability for accidents and the exposure to all of the workers who work in the fracking and waste industries.

It leaves me wondering  — if the privatization of fracking is so great because it creates Ohio jobs and supports the in-state economy, then why is our health left out of consideration? Who does this really benefit?

If waste regulation falls under government responsibility, but, out of their solidarity with big business, they overlook overt and dangerous defiances of the laws which they are charged to uphold …. then who the hell is going to fix this?

7161744040_b070c9cf62

 


Reading Notes

February 9, 2016

In Bruckner’s book The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse, he makes several interesting points about our society and how we treat our environment. I like the point he makes on page 56 where he explains that it is our obligation to future generations to protect our environment. I do believe that we have a responsibility to ensure the state of our environment and make it a better place than we found it.  Early on in the book, Bruckner points out that many people in our society are selfish with the needs of ourselves. We have a thirst for trying to be the best that we can but often times we fall short of seeing the damage that we do while trying to strive for a great society. On page 93, he discusses how for the beginning of time we have taken advantage of our environment. At the start of chapter 7, Bruckner turns our attention to idea of frugality. This is where he makes a excellent point of Rousseau’s idea. Rousseau believed that luxury would be the downfall of our society, which leads to corruption and deprives the poor. That statement by Rousseau is very powerful but not surprising. We see everyday that greed and power can only spell disaster for human society. On page 140 Bruckner makes a wonderful argument about the idea that we should take notes essentially from Africa because they have withstood deprivation  for so long that they truly understand the idea of frugality.

Today’s society is based around instant gratification we want things immediately. The idea of frugality yeah sure it sounds good on paper but people today would never be able to this idea into practice. We unfortunately are a society which has no problem taking shortcuts to make our lives better.

 

 


Current Event

February 9, 2016

Though Catie and I are nixing the idea of actually selling diva cups/ cloth pads as part of our project, we would still like to include some information about the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products on the environment, and suggest more eco-friendly alternatives.

In the United States, an estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed each year. In considering the impact that has on the environment, the issue operates at multiple levels, especially in considering not only the waste itself, but also the packaging, plastic applicators, as well as production.

In a study published by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the main environmental impact lies in processing raw materials, namely plastics used in pads, and the cotton used in tampons. In this capacity, tampons have less of an impact, as pads require more plastic, much of which doesn’t biodegrade. Tampons, on the other hand, take 6 months to do so.

Cultural attitudes towards female health are often derogatory, placing women in a position of inferiority, especially when menstruating. This is evident in the luxury tax placed on hygiene products, which Obama speculates  “it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” (thanks Obama for acknowledging the inherent sexism written into our legal codes) Why should we be made to feel worse because of the environmental impact on something we have no choice over?

The good news is, we don’t! There are many options out there that create far less of a negative impact, or pretty much eliminate it altogether. These include tampons made with organic cotton and reusable pads made of cloth. The most favored among eco-minded women is the menstrual cup, which is made of silicone and pretty much infinitely reusable. With that, it is also the most cost effective.

menstrual cup

saving the environment and money

 

 

 


Project/ CurEvent/ Reading

February 8, 2016

Project:

I have taken a completely different route that what I started with, which was the Meek Retention Pond Native Species project. I have decided to begin a journey into becoming vegan as my term project. This is something I am very enthusiastic about, because I have been attempting vegetarian and have been successful for a while now. I am in the research section of veganism, exploring the environmental, ethical, and health reasons many are becoming vegan today.

I plan to, like others in our class, explore OWU and the vegan options we are limited to on a meal plan here, and keep track of my experiences through blogging, or tweeting. I felt inspired to take on this project by learning of all of the natural resources that go into raising animals for food- creating wasteful, inefficient and costly repercussions on our limited supplies. While it is a long stretch, actually the longest stretch, going vegan seems to be a simple solution to a large problem.

Current Event: COP 21

COP 21 was the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place in Paris during November. 55 countries from across the globe met to create a binding and universal standard for action against climate change. Obviously, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to lower the increasing global temperature. Besides the main focus, this conference was a stepping stone for actions to come in the future on our changing climate. The Paris Agreement officially calls for zero net greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved in the next half of the 21st century.

During the time of the Paris Agreement conference, I was interning for the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ . This was a hectic time at work, because all hands on deck were preparing for Obama’s contribution to the new climate change protocol, along with my boss accompanying him as the head of the CEQ. The President admitted to being the largest contributor to this environmental downfall alongside China, and is focused on turning emissions 180 degrees. Environmental politics are now the only way that make a difference in our hiking temperature, because it calls for the attention of all people in search of a healthier planet.

images.jpeg

Reading: Bruckner: The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse. 

Bruckner’s novel stunned be like no other book so far in this class. He caused me to take conscious recognition of the social factors behind our scientific theories and how we make them. It was very different to read about the fate our of environmental state from a catastrophist who believes in a future, yet hates when people fantasize and diminish the anthropogenic death we are leaning towards. He delves into the concept of “catastrophe” and the idealism it creates in today’s society.

Bruckner states, “If a generous defense of the environment is to develop in the course of the next century, it will exist only as the servant of humans and nature in their mutual interaction and not as an advocate speaking through an entity called ‘the planet’ The friends of the earth have for too long been enemies of humanity; it is time for an ecology of admiration to replace an ecology of accusation.” The fear of science and technology is applauded by Bruckner, comparing to how environmentalists these days are taking the thought of world catastrophe.

On page 16, it stood out to me when he declares “The slightest accidents, oil spills, floods, heavy rains, heat waves; are fateful harbingers of what awaits us.” He does not deny the reality of the current ecological crisis, but only hates the culture it creates of “joylessness.” I am a bit confused on the intertwining and role of Christianty and marxism- is he declaring that today’s modern climate activists involved with this climate movement have made a religion?

 


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