WALK ABOUT IT
The Anthropocene calls for something unheard of:
first person science. It means deriving the most abstract
theorems from lived experience. Drawing on phenomenology,
the biologist Francisco Varela made that his ideal.
Today, who could deny that the most determinant truths
of Nature are created in the first person plural by humans?
Not just the urban surround, but the entire global ecology
has become an artefact of society.
The call for an ethics and aesthetics of scientific practice isn't
just a matter for specialists. To explore the urban realm with
both senses and sensors is to grapple with the world-creating
powers of contemporary civilization.
Let's do it.>
The Anthropocene calls for something unheard of:
Black Gum (Nyssa Sylvatica)
SEPT 17: THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF TREES
We start the reading group with a breakthrough text of radical environmental law: Christopher Stone’s 1972 essay Should Trees Have Standing, which laid the legal foundations of the contemporary “rights of nature” discourse.
Alongside it we will read the first chapter of an extraordinary 2013 book by Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Drawing on his experiences with the Runa people of Upper Amazonian Ecuador, Kohn asks about a form of thought outside language, opening up the possibility of conversations with plants, animals and uncanny forest spirits.
Are people the only ones who think? What if exactly that were our own parochial myth? How to find mind beyond speech? What kind of philosophy and what kind of society could admit the conscious ethical presence of non-human others?
Chuck Cannon, Director of Tree Science at Morton Arboretum, will be our guide on Sunday, September 18 at 2:00pm, for Walk About It:
“We think of trees as behaving slowly, over long periods of time, but it is the accumulation of daily behaviors, of a chronic water deficit or nutrient imbalance, too hot with low humidity, that leads to the eventual decline or vigor of a tree. You walk by a tree for years and then you suddenly notice one day that a substantial part of the crown is leafless and might be dead and we think how did that happen? We don’t have any easy cues to understand the ‘mood’ of a tree.”
“I promote tree kinkiness. We emphasize diversity and freedom of expression in humans but we demand an unnatural level of consistency in nature. As we enter the Anthropocene, there is no way to predict the future climate or most appropriate land use or the dominant economic drivers of the future. We cannot hold trees to a level of fidelity that we don’t expect of ourselves. Going forward, we should be willing to imagine unnatural sex in trees in order to create a new type of tree that meets the needs of the future.”
Sunday October 16: 2-5 pm:
Visit to Site A/Plot M
Red Gate Woods Forest Preserve
Artist Jeremy Bolen and theorist Brian Holmes will take us to the entombed and largely forgotten site of the first nuclear reactor, connected to the wartime “Metallurgical Laboratory” at the University of Chicago, which lies at the origins of today’s Argonne National Laboratory. The walk through the forest will include two readings, all senses, and a contemplative moment beneath the trees, talking about what’s beneath our feet.
Restoration & Resilience Walk
Sunday December 4 at 12 noon, LaBagh Woods, Chicago
Join us for an introduction to hands-on stewardship practices with Daniel Suarez and Michael Swierz of Habitat 2030. We will visit LaBagh Woods, learn about the ecological history of the area, cut and burn invasive buckthorn from a prairie renewal site and discuss the concepts of restoration and resilience next to the fire. The meeting point is at the Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove parking lot. Bring warm clothes, a snack and lots of curiosity.
April 29 at 12pm-3pm
Deep Time Bloc, People’s Climate March, Federal Plaza
Is it a protest, a performance, or just a bare necessity?
Meet on Federal Plaza at 12pm, or 11:30 if you want to find us in the crowd. Catch up when you can and look for the Deep Time banner. Cultural change in the Anthropocene just might begin in the streets!
Saturday May 6, 1-4 pm:
Walk around the BP Refinery
Come for a close-up look at the biggest Midwest destination for Tar Sands oil. Artist, scholar, and environmental and climate justice activist Thomas Frank will lead us on a walk entirely around the BP Refinery in Whiting. Meet at 1 pm at Whiting Lakefront Park, right at the center of the series of parking lots along Park Road (maplink here).
Related event: some other day you can also visit the Southeast Chicago version of the exhibition “Petcoke: Tracing Dirty Energy,” at SkyART, 3026 E. 91st Street, Chicago (maplink here). The show is open till May 30.
Some warmup texts, videos and websites:
Malfunction at BP Whiting Refinery sends oil into Lake Michigan
The true cost of oil | Garth Lenz
Petropolis | Brian Holmes
–> and definitely read Tom Frank’s pick:
Confronting Industrialism | Derrick Jensen