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December 26, 2006

Worldchanging: User's Guide

reblogged via NEWSgrist, 10/26/06:

User's Guide for the 21st Century

Worldxing_1
New Book:
Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century
by Alex Steffen, Al Gore (Foreword), Bruce Sterling (Introduction)
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (November 1, 2006) [Link]
ISBN: 0810930951

via Bruce Sterling's Viridian Notes 00477 email:

If you are into cybergreen issues you can't call yourself informed without WORLDCHANGING.  Furthermore, the people involved in this effort are the absolute salt of the earth. They're bright, fluent, capable and they genuinely get it.  They don't merely "get it," they are inventing that which it is necessary to get. These are people you need to know a lot more about.

via Amazon : [links courtesy of ng]

Worldchanging is poised to be the Whole Earth Catalog for this millennium. Written by leading new thinkers who believe that the means for building a better future lie all around us, Worldchanging is packed with the information, resources, reviews, and ideas that give readers the tools they need to make a difference. Brought together by Alex Steffen, co-founder of the popular and award-winning web site Worldchanging.com, this team of top-notch writers includes Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity, Geekcorps founder Ethan Zuckerman, sustainable food expert Anna Lappé, and many others. Renowned designer Stefan Sagmeister brings his extraordinary talents to Worldchanging, resulting in a book that will challenge readers to personally redefine the conversation about the future.

June 26, 2006

Arts & Ecology Programme, London

 

via Arts & Ecology (new to the Blogroll) - http://www.artsandecology.org:

Arts & Ecology is a programme supporting the work of the arts in examining and addressing environmental concerns in an international arena.

Arts & Ecology explores the current practice of artists, writers, architects and film-makers through a series of conferences, publications and projects that looks at local and global projects that attempt to communicate, challenge and sometimes propose solutions to pollution, waste and loss of natural habitats. The issues at stake – from the broad one of climate change to thespecific problems of desertification, waste and dwindling biodiversities- are being examined through artists’ practices, and through interdisciplinary dialogue with scientists, industrialists, government and environmental groups.

A key notion informing the entire project is that of ecology as a study of an individual’s relationship with their cultural, social and economic, as well as natural, environment. As such this is a broad reaching programme and aims to locate the arts as a central player in providing creative, and sometimes radical, insights and solutions to the challenges facing contemporary society. The information hub of this website provides a growing bibliography and directory of the inspirational work of many artists, writers and agencies that is currently taking place across arts forms.

May 16, 2006

Battle for the North Pole


 via The Week, 5/12/2006:

The Battle for the North Pole
The melting Arctic ice cap may be bad news for polar bears, but it is prompting a frantic scramble for territory and resources. What's at stake?

How fast is the ice cap melting?
The size of the summer polar ice cap has shrunk 20 percent since 1979, reaching its smallest size last year. With average temperatures in the Arctic rising twice as fast as elsewhere in the world, climate scientists predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the summer of 2050. In place of the white wilderness that killed explorers and defeated navigators for centuries, the world would have a blue North Pole and a seasonally open sea nearly five times the size of the Mediterranean. Last August, a Russian vessel, the Akademik Fyodorov, became the first ship to reach the North Pole without having to use an icebreaker.

Who stands to lose from all this?
The melting of the ice could shut down the Gulf Stream and wreak havoc with the world’s coasts and climate. It would spell potential disaster for traditional Arctic communities, for ecosystems, and for plant and animal species—polar bears would drown or starve, and the species could become extinct. But fish would prosper. Warming Arctic waters are already creating new fishing grounds as fish migrate and adapt to new conditions. Pink salmon have been seen spawning in rivers far to the north of their traditional territory.

Who stands to gain?
The melting ice cap represents a colossal commercial opportunity. Russian icebreakers are already preparing to take tourists to the Pole for $30,000 each this summer, and the thaw could open up some highly lucrative shipping routes. A northeast sea route, north of Siberia, would allow shipping to sail from Europe to northeast Asia, cutting the journey by a third; and the fabled Northwest Passage through Canada's Arctic archipelago could be open to shipping in a few decades, cutting the journey from Europe to East Asia (now routed through the Panama Canal) by 4,000 miles. The greatest profits, however, are likely to be found under the ice.

What is being discovered there?
Oil and natural gas. A quarter of the world's untapped fossil fuels (including 375 billion barrels of oil) are thought to lie under the Arctic, and will become accessible as the ice melts. Industry experts now talk of a "black gold rush," as companies such as BP Amoco, Statoil of Norway, and the Russian giant Gasprom all race to tap already discovered reservoirs in the region. The Arctic, says Moscow-based energy analyst Christopher Weafer, "is the next energy frontier." [read on...]

May 02, 2006

Climate Change Casino?

Martucket2

 reBlogged via NEWSgrist:
via The Boston Globe
:
Artist, deadpan, floats a proposal
Cape turbines' critic offers a Vegas spin

By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff  |  May 2, 2006

Senator Edward M. Kennedy has flexed his considerable political muscle to try to block a wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Governor Mitt Romney strongly opposes the project.

But how would they handle this? A floating theme park, described by its designer, Provincetown artist Jay Critchley, as ''a Las Vegas version of the Cape and islands," to be built on an enormous triangular platform in the midst of the wind turbines.

Some dismiss it as an extravagant -- and expensive -- joke. But Critchley isn't laughing, at least not in public. He says that by proposing the theme park he is trying to bring attention to what he believes is the lack of oversight that the proposed wind farm has received and that he is challenging regulators to give his project similar treatment.

Dreamed up by Critchley, the plans for the Martucket Eyeland Resort & Casino read like classic political satire. Attractions would include the Climate Change Casino & Sweat Lodge, the Captain Ahab Fitness Center, and an amusement park ride called Jaws, Jaws, Jaws, which Critchley describes as ''a simulated eating by a shark -- for the kids."

To be taken even remotely seriously, the 59-year-old Cape Cod artist and provocateur has to insist he has every intention of actually building the theme park. And he does insist. He even filed an application in March with the US Army Corps of Engineers, seeking a permit to move forward with construction.

According to the application, the platform would be anchored between three of the 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound that would comprise Cape Wind.

But in this game of showmanship, federal officials, who admit they were initially amused by Critchley's submission, now caution that the artist is risking serious consequences by forging ahead with his permit request. Applicants found to have knowingly made ''false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations" may be fined $10,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, said Tim Dugan, a spokesman for the Corps' New England district.

''We're working at taxpayers' expense, and we don't want to waste their money," Dugan said with all deliberate earnestness.

Critchley said he is not worried about being prosecuted, though some of his friends are concerned. ''I have other things to worry about, like raising a billion and a half dollars to build the park," he said with equal earnestness.

Corps officials have conducted an initial review of Critchley's application and have asked him for more information. If he does not reply, a spokesman said, his file will be closed. If he moves the process forward, the Department of Justice could be called in to decide if he applied in good faith.

The fate of the Cape Wind farm, while farther along in the planning stage, is still uncertain.

Kennedy supported an effort by Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, to block the development by inserting a provision in a sure-to-pass bill funding the Coast Guard that would give the governor of Massachusetts the ability to veto the project. But the provision -- inserted without public debate, after being considered by only the handful of House members and senators negotiating the Coast Guard bill -- has rankled members of both parties.

A group of House members persuaded House leaders to delay a vote on the bill. In the Senate, the chairman and the ranking Democrat on the Energy Committee say they will try to block the Cape Wind provision when the bill comes to the floor.

April 07, 2006

Michael Mandiberg's Oil Standard

 

Check out artist Michael Mandiberg's new project, a plug-in for the firefox browser that converts all prices on any webpage into barrels of oil (w/ a live price feed from the New York Mercantile Exchange.) The script is at http://turbulence.org/Works/oilstandard along with screenshots of it in action. Commissioned by Turbulence. Read the Press Release

 

February 16, 2006

Uneasy Nature @ the Weatherspoon Art Museum

 

ROXY PAINE, Misnomer, 2005 (detail).
Stainless steel, 12.33 x 16 x 11.58 ft.
Image courtesy of James Cohan Gallery, New York.

Uneasy Nature

Lee Bul
Bryan Crockett
Roxy Paine
Patricia Piccinini
Alyson Shotz
Jennifer Steinkamp

February 18 - May 28, 2006
Opening Reception: Friday, February 17
6-7 pm Member's Preview / 7-9 pm Public Reception

Weatherspoon Art Museum
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Spring Garden and Tate Streets
Greensboro, North Carolina 27402-6170
336.334.5770

via e-flux:

The exhibition Uneasy Nature brings together sculpture, drawing, photography and digital animation by six internationally recognized artists who incorporate mythology and narrative to reflect on the evolving perception of nature in contemporary culture. Artists include: Lee Bul (Korea), Bryan Crockett (US), Roxy Paine (US), Patricia Piccinini (Australia), Alyson Shotz (US) and Jennifer Steinkamp (US).

Our impact upon the natural world is immense. We hear and see signs of it everyday, usually in terms of unseasonable weather, pollution and rising gas and water bills. But our influence thus far is miniscule compared to the idea of nature envisioned by biotechnology. The introduction of genetically engineered foods and animals and the ongoing research into stem cells present us with a whole new reality of potential organic forms and creatures. Today our idealistic concepts of nature are proving to be archaic, and we are re-awakening to a new version of nature that is of mythic character. The works in Uneasy Nature manifest this uncomfortable view of a nature strangely altered through cross-pollination with culture and technology.

Uneasy Nature is organized by Weatherspoon Art Museum curator of exhibitions, Xandra Eden. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with full color images of the work in the exhibition, artists' biographies, and essays by Eden and British cultural historian, critic and novelist Marina Warner. The catalogue for Uneasy Nature is made possible through the generous support of the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Panel Discussion: Fact or Fear? Genetics and Public Perception
Weatherspoon Art Museum: Tuesday, April 25 at 7 pm
Celebrate your unique genetic code on National DNA Day by joining artist Bryan Crockett, Uneasy Nature; Dr. Vincent Henrich, Director of Institute for Health, Science and Society and Professor, Department of Biology at UNC-Greensboro; and Dr. Barbra Rothschild, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Social Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill for an informative discussion on our fascination with and perception of genetic research and biotechnology. Free, limited seating.

For more information:
Loring Mortensen
336.256.1451
lamorten@uncg.edu

Deep North: a virtual expedition

 

Deep North: a virtual expedition...a year to the north pole
by jane d. marsching

deepnorth: a year to the north pole blog is complete and archived here for perusal--here are some ways to navigate through this year of research, information, ruminations, analogic connections, and wondering on the cultural imaginary of hte north pole and deep arctic
* click on the archived months in right column to view and read the year's entrie
* click on keywords in the right column to view groups of entries by topics
* type a word into the search field to find topics in the blog

Your comments are welcome and can be added by clicking on the comments link under each entry.

this year's blog, north2006: parallel conversations, is in development

Jane Marshing is 2006 recipient of a Creative Capital Grant

Jane Marsching (Roslindale, MA) Digital Arts
About Here and Later: Data Mining the North Pole – A series of digital images and sculptures, exploring both scientific and myth-based impressions of The North Pole, while detailing the collapse of the area due to environmental changes

February 14, 2006

Free Soil: international hybrid collaboration of artists, activists, researchers and gardeners

 

Check out our new favorite website: Free Soil

 from their "About" page: 

Free Soil is an international hybrid collaboration of artists, activists, researchers and gardeners who take a participatory role in the transformation of our environment. Free Soil fosters discourse, develops projects and gives support for critical art practices that reflect and change the urban and natural environment. We believe art can be a catalyst for social awareness and positive change.


Current members
amy franceschini
nis rømer
stijn schiffeleers
joni taylor



Website
The Free Soil website is a public resource for the exchange of related ideas and for learning. It is a way to connect discourses similar in content but separated by geography. The website includes features, news, and reviews about relevant artists, exhibitions, books, architecture, public projects and sustainability.
www.free-soil.org

Projects
Free Soil works collectively using various mediums. We realize workshops, public projects, articles, museum exhibitions and tours.
 
Check out their recent exhibition "Groundworks: Environmental Collaboration in Contemporary Art" held in October - December 2005 at Regina Gouger Miller Gallery Carnegie Mellon University.

February 12, 2006

Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art

Allora & Cadzilla
Under Discussion, 2004-05 (detail)
Single channel video projection with sound

Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art
A traveling exhibition co-oraganized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago and iCI, New York. Curated by Stephaine Smith

On view:
February 2 – May 7, 2006
Museum of Arts & Design
40 West 53rd Street
between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
New York City

http://www.madmuseum.org
http://www.ici-exhibitions.org
http://www.smartmuseum.uchicago.edu

Sustainable design has the potential to transform everyday life through an approach that balances environmental, social, and aesthetic concerns. Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art is a traveling exhibition that examines some of the ways in which contemporary artists are exploring a socially and environmentally conscientious – in other words, sustainable – way of living and working. This emerging strategy emphasizes the responsible and equitable use of resources and links environmental and social justice. By doing so, it moves past a prior generation of more narrowly eco-centered or ‘green’ approaches to architecture and industrial design. Enacted around the world in large and small ways by architects and designers, as well as, a growing numbers of activists, corporations, policymakers, Beyond Green ventures into the fertile new zone of sustainability in the arena of contemporary art.

Beyond Green, curated by Stephanie Smith of the Smart Museum of Art, explores the ways in which sustainable design resonates in the work of an emerging generation of international artists hailing from cities in the United States and Europe, including Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, Copenhagen, London, San Juan, and Vienna. The exhibition’s thirteen artists and artists’ groups combine a fresh aesthetic sensibility with a constructively critical approach to the production, dissemination, and display of art. They embed environmental concerns within larger ethical and aesthetic explorations, building paths to new forms of practice that go beyond green.

Artists in the exhibition
Allora & Calzadilla
Free Soil (Amy Franceschini, Myriel Milicevic, Nis Rømer)
JAM (Jane Palmer and Marianne Fairbanks)
Learning Group (Brett Bloom, Julio Castro, Rikke Luther, and Cecelia Wendt)
Brennan McGaffey with Temporary Services (Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin, Marc Fischer)
Nils Norman
People Powered
Dan Peterman
Marjetica Potrc
Michael Rakowitz
Frances Whitehead
WochenKlausur
Andrea Zittel 

Itinerary

February 07, 2006

Andrea Zittel: Critical Space

 

via Artnet (2/7/06):

A THORN TREE IN THE GARDEN
by Jerry Saltz

Andrea Zittel, "Critical Space," Jan. 26-May 27, 2006, at the New Museum, 556 West 22nd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011

The year 2005 was the hottest on the planet in recorded history; there is open water for the first time ever at the North Pole; the snows at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro will probably disappear within 25 years. A power grid the size of Houston is being added to China every month; the United States, with only four percent of the world's population, emits more than 20 percent of the world's carbon. "Fifty years from now," a noted scientist speculates, "you may be living in a world where you don't go outside between one and four in the afternoon." In short, our increasingly brutish country, with its end-time mentality and barbarian attitude toward the environment, would gladly trade the last frog for cheaper gas prices.

The gypsy-visionary, social-scientist, explorer-architect, eco-rogue, control-freak artist Andrea Zittel will not be able to stop any of these things from happening. But her circuitous journey away from New York to what she calls her "High Desert Test Site," 40 acres of parched land two and a half hours east of Los Angeles and two hours south of Las Vegas -- as Zittel puts it, "23 miles past the sign that says 'Last Service for 100 Miles'" -- where the weather is brutal, the snakes are poisonous and the water is trucked in, is a glimmer of selflessness, creativity and fearlessness in the face of a technologically advanced culture flirting with geo-meteorological suicide. Zittel uses HDTS as a part-time studio and a site for other artists to execute ideas. Its existence is a reminder that chaos is a choice breeding ground for art -- an unknown zone and mental garden that can produce new thought patterns and exotic artistic fruit.

You might not know this from her current survey at the temporary headquarters of the New Museum. While expertly organized by Trevor Smith and Paola Morsiani, the exhibition, though fascinating, is so cramped it looks like Ikea. Perhaps "Critical Space," as the exhibition is called, should have been postponed until the museum is located in its new building. But never mind. This is New York, space is always at a premium, most of the artist's key works are here, and the show is a chance to sample Zittel's art and to ponder what it's about.

The Chinese "Book of Changes," or the I Ching, talks about "limitation" in terms of "ruthless severity" and as "leading to freedom." These ideas fit Zittel to a tee. Her rage for rules and protocols is ever present, as is her attraction to Constructivism, Bauhaus design and modernist architects like Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler, not to mention artists like Dan Graham and Robert Smithson. You can see this in the plain but subtly sexy "uniforms" Zittel has designed, made and worn for over 15 years. It's in her "living units," "eating terrains," and "cleansing chambers," each made to organize an aspect of one's life. "I love rules," Zittel says. "The only way that I can think of to be free from external rules is to create your own personal set of rules that are even more rigid. Rules are a way of liberating oneself."

In 2000, Zittel followed these rules to their logical and illogical extremes and found herself in the desert, a place that is ruthlessly rule-less. Here, Zittel's work perked up. After living in a trailer, she built several small structures, including a studio made of three contiguous shipping containers in a horseshoe configuration. As many as 14 people have slept on her front patio at once, or out back in the brush. HDTS is run on what she calls "no budget." It receives no funding, and seeks none. Thus, connections to Donald Judd's extraordinary kingdom of minimalism in Marfa, Texas, don't hold. Zittel, 40, is as possessed as Judd, but she's more ephemeral and investigational. She is exploring the place where art, entropy and self-sufficiency fuse. She'sRobinson Crusoe and Mad Max by way of Walden Pond, St. Augustine and Greenpeace.

Zittel contends that in today's art world it is "necessary to find new ways to convey meaning and create experience." She says, "The desert opens enough thinking space to reimagine all sorts of parallel new art worlds." Artist Pierre Huyghe concurs and talks about this "parallel world" as "a kind of counter-place that is outside other places but that also includes them." The desert's total lack of structure and its indigenous chaos combined with Zittel's utopianism and American gumption creates what she calls "gaps in which invention or change can happen." Curator Lynn Cooke eloquently refers to such places as "a position of elsewhere," by which she means artists like Zittel create situations "where like-minded people can go somewhat informally to work." Zittel's art is bigger in the mind than it is in person. This is not a failing. Her project entices the imagination and is a resonant example of a kind of thinking and acting that, with luck, will become more prevalent.

 

The Internal City
One of the more intriguing things about Andrea Zittel is her name, or rather her initials. Clearly she knows this. Her company is called "A–Z Administrative Services." These initials are a sort of philosophical readymade or hieroglyph that signifies completeness (from A to Z), incrementality (A, B, C), generic corporateness, the personal and the public. Aloud, they also sound like Aziz, the Muslim doctor in E.M. Forster's A Passage to India.

In Foster's book, Aziz takes two English women, longing to see "the real India," to the mysterious Marabar caves. There, amidst the thundering never-ending echoes of caverns that multiply the sound of the self until the self is annihilated, the older woman has a sort of existential seizure and glimpses her own death; the younger believes she has been molested by Aziz. This triggers a chain reaction in which Aziz is imprisoned, tried and eventually released.

The connection to A-Z is not only in the echo of the name, but in the metaphor of the cave, which for Zittel is the desert. The cave, like the desert, is elemental and has been there since the beginning. It is a place to contend with the chaos of the world, to confront nothingness, and understand one's scale; there, the cycles of life supersede all else. The Earth Mother/Sacred Womb aspect of the cave is present in the way Zittel talks about the desert as "a place to create a new organism." In this way, it's a kind of reverse garden, a symbolic image of the universe where reincarnation and the overcoming of death are thrown into high contrast. Zittel's desert is a place where tire tracks, dilapidated shacks, burned out trailer homes, broken down windmills and art merge; where science fiction, archeology and esthetics blur.

Passage to India ends with the brutal realization that England must vacate India for the two cultures to co-exist. Zittel's insight is that for art to thrive, sometimes it needs to go elsewhere.

More about Andrea Zittel:
Andrea Zittel: A Place Outside the Art Basel Herd, NEWSgrist (2/2/06)

January 29, 2006

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

 

via NYTimes: 

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: January 29, 2006

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.

Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.

"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush administration and Vice President Al Gore.

In 2001, Dr. Hansen was invited twice to brief Vice President Dick Cheney and other cabinet members on climate change. White House officials were interested in his findings showing that cleaning up soot, which also warms the atmosphere, was an effective and far easier first step than curbing carbon dioxide.

He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews. [read on...]

January 20, 2006

James Lovelock on "The Revenge of Gaia"

 

via The Independent, Jan. 16, 2006:

The Earth is About to Catch a Morbid Fever That May Last as Long as 100,000 Years
Each nation must find the best use of its resources to sustain civilization for as long as they can
by James Lovelock 

[...] This article is the most difficult I have written and for the same reasons. My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news.

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilization are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 percent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This "global dimming" is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge. By doing this, we condemn ourselves to the worst form of slavery. If we chose to be the stewards of the Earth, then we are responsible for keeping the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface right for life. A task we would soon find impossible - and something before we treated Gaia so badly, she had freely done for us.

To understand how impossible it is, think about how you would regulate your own temperature or the composition of your blood. Those with failing kidneys know the never-ending daily difficulty of adjusting water, salt and protein intake. The technological fix of dialysis helps, but is no replacement for living healthy kidneys.

My new book, The Revenge of Gaia expands these thoughts, but you still may ask why science took so long to recognize the true nature of the Earth. I think it is because Darwin's vision was so good and clear that it has taken until now to digest it. In his time, little was known about the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, and there would have been little reason for him to wonder if organisms changed their environment as well as adapting to it.

Had it been known then that life and the environment are closely coupled, Darwin would have seen that evolution involved not just the organisms, but the whole planetary surface. We might then have looked upon the Earth as if it were alive, and known that we cannot pollute the air or use the Earth's skin - its forest and ocean ecosystems - as a mere source of products to feed ourselves and furnish our homes. We would have felt instinctively that those ecosystems must be left untouched because they were part of the living Earth.

So what should we do?

[read full article]

January 17, 2006

The Coded Utopia of Makrolab

via Rhizome.org: 

January 15th, 2006, 5:41 pm
By Brian Holmes

Makrolab is one of the more seminal and enduring projects to have developed out of the tactical media canon. Brian Holmes sets the project in the context of epochal shifts underway in the former Yugoslavia during its inception and fixes our vision firmly on the utopian horizon that this living laboratory probes.

Originally from Mute magazine - Culture and politics after the net - CULTURE AND POLITICS AFTER THE NET at January 15, 2006, 08:58, published by Marisa S. Olson

Permalink

continued: excerpts from MUTE Magazine:

Makrolab is a collaborative project that emerges from the vision of the Slovene artist Marko Peljhan. It offers some answers to these questions – singular answers. To make them useful in any general way, one would first have to approach the project in its multiple dimensions, to discover its stakes and challenges, to locate its contexts and learn to read its codes. Is it sculpture or architecture? A concept or a performance piece? A nomadic war machine, or a theater to replay history? The difficulty, when you want to perceive a project like this, is to let yourself enter the horizon of its possibilities, even while analyzing its specific features. [...]

Considerable stakes underlie this kind of project, though they are rarely formulated in any explicit way. No one can work on the recurrently traumatic structure of technological civilization without realizing how deeply its military origins reach into the fabric of our daily lives. Indeed, the American military expansionism of the Second Cold War (1980-89) is what sparked the globalization process, culminating in the events of September 11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. At the very outset of the eighties, Deleuze and Guattari conceived the heteronomous model of the 'nomadic war machine' as a way to dissolve the military hierarchies of contemporary civilization. This is what Peljhan more pragmatically calls the conversion to civil technologies. But to understand how this could even be attempted, is it really enough to say that art becomes life, and artwork becomes documentation?

The language of Makrolab suggests something else: a generative matrix, close to the models of social evolution developed in Guattari's complexity theory.23 Guattari tried to understand how people can displace their embodied routines, their existential territories, by transiting through a machinic assemblage capable of producing collective enunciations. Makrolab achieves this by bringing the deterritorializing force of scientific formulas and artistic images into play on the experiential level, the level of temporary habitation. What results for the participants is not a simple 'decoding' of encrypted contents. Rather, within a device that itself encapsulates certain aspects of the Slovene artistic experience, fragmented images from a wider variety of vanguard projects can knit together into complex sensorial refrains, interrupting the normalized modulation of time imposed by the commercial and military cultures of transnational capitalism, and loosening up subjectivity for original work with the most challenging scientific and symbolic material, at variance with the dominant patterns. Each of participants then adds something to the device, to its pool of references, tools, algorithms and images – to its horizon of evolutionary code.

The end-products of the 'dataesthetic' can therefore be interpreted somewhat differently, outside the gap between raw documentation and the ineffable immanence of lived experience. For the vital activity of the researcher does not just produce data in the etymological sense, mere 'givens' excerpted from the dominant flux. Instead these maps, images, films, diaries, programs, soundscapes, texts and streaming signals are artistic and scientific gifts – offered to other sites, other devices, other possible futures. [read full article]

 

January 09, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

 

[image source

The New Red, White and Blue
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
NYTimes OP-ED, Published: January 6, 2006

As we enter 2006, we find ourselves in trouble, at home and abroad. We are in trouble because we are led by defeatists - wimps, actually.

What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence - that is for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values eroded at home and abroad.

Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a national security imperative.

The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It's petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices - in oil states from Russia to Nigeria and Iran - that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil. Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one's citizens with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate or buy off one's enemies, and using oil profits to build up one's internal security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power, without any transparency or checks and balances.

When a nation's leaders can practice petrolism, they never have to tap their people's energy and creativity; they simply have to tap an oil well. And therefore politics in a petrolist state is not about building a society or an educational system that maximizes its people's ability to innovate, export and compete. It is simply about who controls the oil tap.

In petrolist states like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan, people get rich by being in government and sucking the treasury dry - so they never want to cede power. In non-petrolist states, like Taiwan, Singapore and Korea, people get rich by staying outside government and building real businesses.

Our energy gluttony fosters and strengthens various kinds of petrolist regimes. It emboldens authoritarian petrolism in Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Sudan and Central Asia. It empowers Islamist petrolism in Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It even helps sustain communism in Castro's Cuba, which survives today in part thanks to cheap oil from Venezuela. Most of these petrolist regimes would have collapsed long ago, having proved utterly incapable of delivering a modern future for their people, but they have been saved by our energy excesses.

No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil - thereby bringing down the price of crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the lives of our young people.

That's because there is a huge difference in what these bad regimes can do with $20-a-barrel oil compared with the current $60-a-barrel oil. It is no accident that the reform era in Russia under Boris Yeltsin, and in Iran under Mohammad Khatami, coincided with low oil prices. When prices soared again, petrolist authoritarians in both societies reasserted themselves.

We need a president and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to also impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with long-term incentives for renewable energy - wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

Green is the new red, white and blue.