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Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene

Donna Harraway

In the midst of spiraling ecological devastation, Donna J. Haraway offers new ways for how we can reconfigure our relations to the earth and all its inhabitants. She refrains from referring to current epoch as the Anthropocene, preferring to define it as the Chthulucene. The Chthulucene, more aptly refers to the situation in which humans and non-humans are inextricably connected. Learning to 'stay with the trouble' of living and dying together on a damaged earth will prove more conducive to the kind of thinking that would provide the means to building more livable futures for all living entities.

The Mushroom at the End of the World

Anna Tsing

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, is the story of Anna Tsing’s travels in search of the rare matsutake mushroom, and the people who forage for them in the forests of Oregon, Yunnan, Lapland and Japan. Mutsutake mushrooms only grow in forests which have been disturbed by humans, it’s said that after Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, “the first living thing to emerge from the blasted landscape was a matsutake mushroom”.

The Animal Catalyst

Patricia McCormack

Within The Animal Catalyst, Patricia McCormack starts from the premise that the human race is not the only race inhabiting Earth. She is critical of the use of the term ‘non-human’ as this terminology is still objectified by the notion of being human or not. Questioning what is a human and what is an animal, she leads a debate, offering new solutions for how we can live ecologically in our world which is not only ours. Through examining how society functions, Patricia, along with many other contributors, outline the speciesism and human centricity which defines our very existence.

Case Studies New Zealand

The local Māori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island, New Zealand fought for the recognition of the Te Urewera park, Mountain Taranaki and Whanganui river as their ancestors for 140 years. Te Urewera park had been protected by the government since 1954, but in 2014, the government gave up ownership and the territory assumed its own legal rights. In March 2017, the river was granted legal status as a living entity, this means that if someone harmed the river, the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same. In December 2017, Mount Taranaki in New Zealand was granted the same legal rights as a person, becoming the third geographic feature in the country to be granted a “legal personality”. Eight local Māori tribes and the government share guardianship of the sacred mountain on the west coast of the North Island, in a long-awaited acknowledgement of the indigenous people’s relationship to the mountain, who view it as an ancestor and whanau, or family member. While humans usually view nature as the property of man (and fully exploitable), the Māori people — along with many other indigenous groups — do not impose this hierarchy on the world. Instead, they view humans, plants, animals, and the natural world as having equal claims to life.

Lake Erie

In February 2019, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights was passed, a unique charter amendment that establishes the great lake as a person and grants it the legal rights that a human being or corporation would have. This was in response to the algae blooms, caused by agricultural phosphorus runoff which started to develop on the river in 2015. The new law means that the people of Toledo, Ohio, act as legal guardians for Lake Erie and polluters of the lake can be sued to pay for cleanup costs.

Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

Menno Schilthuizen

Menno Schilthuizen is an urban ecologist, and studies how our fabricated urban environments are accelerating the evolution of the animals and plants around us. The wildlife inhabiting urban spaces, are being forced to adopt fascinating new ways of surviving, and often thriving. In our cities, evolution can be seen to be happening at a much quicker pace than Darwin thought possible.

Case Studies India

Yamuni River and Ganges River

In March 2017, a court in the Indian state of Uttarakhand ordered that the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be given the status of living human entities. The decision meant that polluting or damaging the rivers will be legally equivalent to harming a person. However, the state government of Uttarakhand, where the Ganges originates, argued that the ruling was not practical and could lead to complicated legal situations, for example claims could not made against the river in the case of flooding or drowning. They took those objections to the Supreme Court, which agreed and in July 2017, the earlier ruling was overturned.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

The Hidden Life of Trees, What they Feel, How they Communicate is a book written by forester Peter Wohlleben. He speculates on how trees communicate underground via the ‘woodwide web’ and about the ‘brainlike things’ going on in trees that enable them to learn over their long lifetimes. He points to scientific research – by Aachen University, the University of British Columbia and the Max Planck Society – that he claims underpins all his vivid descriptions. Peter Wohlleben has developed his thinking over the past decade, while watching the powerful ancient beech forest he manages in the Eifel mountains of western Germany. He says that: “trees may recognise with their roots who are their friends, who are their families, where their kids are. Then they may also recognise trees that are not so welcome. There are some stumps in these old beech reservations that are alive, and there are some that are rotten, which obviously have had no contact with the roots of supporting neighbours. So perhaps they are like hermits.”

Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene

Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet challenges who we are and where we live. A series of collected essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics present critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene. The essays are organised around two key themes: Ghosts, or landscapes haunted by the violences of modernity; and Monsters, or interspecies and intraspecies sociality. The anthology was put together by: Anna Tsing, Nils Bubandt, Elaine Gan and Heather Anne Swanson.

Tabita Rezaire

Tabita Rezaire does not describe herself or her practice as Afrofuturist, but her work looks at similar themes, focusing on the role of the digital and especially the internet. Less than half of the world has access to the internet and usually at low speeds and high prices, 18% of the African population are active users. Tabita argues that, far from being an economic and social leveller, the internet reinforces further the hegemony of the West. “It’s electronic colonialism. It’s not the liberalising tool we’ve been sold. Instead it reproduces oppression and inequality; from racism, misogyny and homophobia to economic and racial exclusion. We are no longer colonial subjects, but we have become cyber slaves. Even the physical structure of the internet, the undersea fibre optic cables, is laid out onto colonial trade routes. The architecture of the internet is based on pain.”

Francois Knoetze

Core Dump is a series of 4 films, Kinshasa (2018), Shenzhen (2019), New York (2019) and Dakar (2018) by Francois Knoetze. You can watch excerpts here.The films are fragmented arrangements of found footage, performance documentation and recorded interviews, with each chapter forming links across different geographies and time. The project responds to the pan-African, Marxist utopias of early African cinema (specifically Ousmane Sembene’s films), and a range of writers and thinkers – from Donna Haraway, Sylvia Wynter and Louis Chude-Sokei to Gayatri Spivak, Franz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire.