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Making Post/Anthropocentric Futures in Agrobiodiversity Conservation

Franziska von Verschuer

Abstract

Since the mid-twentieth century global modernization of agriculture, seed banking has become a core technoscientific strategy to counteract agrobiodiversity loss and ensure future food security. This article develops a post-anthropocentric reading of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as a nodal point of global ex situ conservation efforts. Based on qualitative expert interviews, I explore the rationality of crisis and salvation that underlies these efforts and discuss its roots in an anthropocentric relation to nature as a resource. By arguing that the latter produces the crises that conservation measures intend to counteract, I show how the Seed Vault conserves this resource-orientation. I then illustrate a concurrent unruliness of more-than-human worldly becoming the embracing of which, I argue, is a way for conservationism to cultivate different, non-crisic futures.

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Posthuman Prehistory

Tim Ingold

Abstract

This article asks what part prehistory could play in establishing a posthumanist settlement, alternative to the humanism of the Enlightenment. We begin by showing how Enlightenment thinking split the concept of the human in two, into species and condition, establishing a point of origin where the history of civilization rises from its baseline in evolution. Drawing on the thinking of the thirteenth-century mystic, Ramon Llull, we present an alternative vision of human becoming according to which life carries on through a process of continuous birth, wherein even death and burial hold the promise of renewal. In prehistory, this vision is exemplified in the work of André Leroi-Gourhan, in his exploration of the relation between voice and hand, and of graphism as a precursor to writing. We conclude that the idea of graphism holds the key to a prehistory that not so much precedes as subtends the historic.

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“Rights of Things”

A Posthumanist Approach to Law?

Doris Schweitzer

Abstract

We can identify a legal vanishing point within neo-materialist and posthumanist approaches—either explicitly, for example, when things are regarded as political actors or contractual partners; or implicitly, when authors hint at the anthropocentric limitations of the granting of rights to human beings. Conversely, “rights of things” appear as a posthumanist approach to law as they decentralize “the human.” But do “rights of things” actually surmount the strict divide between humans (persona) and nonhumans (res) within law? By referring to three empirical cases—animal rights, rights of nature, and robot rights—I will argue that “rights of things” do not necessarily push against the anthropocentrism of law. Rather, we can identify a re-centralization of humans within a given milieu. Thus, the critical impact of the concept “rights of things” must be reconsidered; furthermore, we can draw some conclusions for the theoretical approaches of New Materialism and Posthumanism itself.

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The Alchemy of a Corpus of Underwater Images

Locating Carysfort to Reconcile our Human Relationship with a Coral Reef

Deborah James

Abstract

Through an ecocinema lens, an unconventional corpus of photographs of Carysfort Reef, one of seven iconic coral reefs along the Florida Reef Tract, represents something of an extreme time-lapse series. In the absence of a cohesive underwater documentary record at the time when the Florida Reef Tract is undergoing the most extensive reef restoration in the world, speculation allows us to search for patterns in damaged places with incomplete information and practice a form of multispecies storytelling of our encounters. Taken in 1966, 2003, 2014, and 2019, these images are evidence of cultural moments in our changing relationship with this reef in the context of anthropocentrism, the emergence of an alternative environment spectatorship of awareness, and a baseline for localized social change.

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Artificial Intelligence

Faith in Machine or Man?

Jan Martijn Meij

Lovelock, James. 2019. Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

McKibben, Bill. 2019. Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? New York: Holt.

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Making Sense of the Human-Nature Relationship

A Reception Study of the “Nature Is Speaking” Campaign on YouTube

Ulrika Olausson

Abstract

Gaining knowledge about laypeople's representations of nature is crucial to meeting the sustainability challenges ahead. However, the ways laypeople discursively construct nature in digital settings have received scant attention. Guided by Stuart Hall's theory of encoding/decoding and multimodal critical discourse analysis, this study aims to contribute knowledge about the ways laypeople construct the human-nature relationship on social media. This is accomplished through a reception study of YouTube users’ discussions about two of the films in the campaign “Nature Is Speaking.” The results show that the human-nature dichotomy largely prevails notwithstanding the pluralist nature of YouTube users’ interpretations, but also indicate the (embryonic) potential of social media to open up for a politics revolving around new visions of the socio-environmental future.

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More than Darkness Preservation

The Importance of the Dark, Star-Filled Skies in Urban Areas

Yee-Man Lam

Abstract

Enveloped in artificial light, many urban dwellers have never experienced real darkness. Seeing this as a loss, scholars and organizations have initiated discussions on light and darkness and advocated the preservation of the dark skies. This article aims to further this study by emphasizing the importance of the stars. Instead of studying lights, stars, and darkness ethnographically, the article examines the ideas of stars and darkness in Thierry Cohen's photographs and two of Vincent van Gogh's paintings. This article will suggest that the dark, star-filled skies represented in van Gogh's paintings provide a visual blueprint of what the article calls the “star-lit cities,” which goes beyond a simple preservation of darkness, and may be significant in driving vital changes in combating the current environmental crises.

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Symbolizing Destruction

Environmental Activism, Moral Shocks, and the Coal Industry

Alison E. Adams, Thomas E. Shriver, and Landen Longest

Abstract

Emotions can play an important role in the perception of grievances, yet we know little about how environmentalists strategically utilize emotions to bolster activism and garner support. Drawing on social movement and environmental sociological research, we analyze how moral shocks can be used to mobilize activists against environmentally destructive activities. We study the case of Libkovice, Czech Republic, where environmentalists battled against the coal industry to save a city from being razed to access coal reserves. The data come from in-depth interviews, organizational and documentary video, and archival documents. Findings indicate that environmentalists drew upon symbols of destruction, such as threats to the local church, to fuel anger and mobilize the campaign. Results show how symbolic environmental campaigns can serve as beacons for future protest.

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Automobility and Oil Vulnerability

Unfairness as Critical to Energy Transitions

Ana Horta

Abstract

Climate policies in the European Union require a substantial reduction in carbon emissions from road transport. However, in the last decades the system of automobility has expanded considerably, establishing a process of path dependence that is very difficult to reverse. Changes in current patterns of automobility may increase oil vulnerability of citizens dependent on the use of the car, aggravating forms of social inequity. Based on an analysis of how television news framed a period of oil price rises in a country highly dependent on car use, the article shows that oil vulnerability may resonate with socially shared sociocultural meanings such as lack of trust in political leaders, which may aggravate the social perception of unfairness and compromise public support for energy transitions toward sustainability.

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“Litigation Is Our Last Resort”

Addressing Uncertainty, Undone Science, and Bias in Court to Assert Indigenous Rights

Bindu Panikkar

Abstract

The permitting of large-scale industrial mines is often controversial and litigious. This article examines three legal battles over the exploratory permitting of the Pebble mine in southwestern Alaska to examine the logics and rationalities used to legitimize the permitting, the alternate epistemic arguments made by the resistance movements to redraw state-constructed boundaries, and differing definitions of land-based resources, pollution, and bias. It asks how conflicting knowledge claims and epistemic injustice are debated and settled in court. All three legal cases observed demonstrate conditions of scientific uncertainty, undone science, and bias, failing to hold space for diverse representations within legal claims. Citizen science is partially successful in addressing epistemic injustice, but to effectively mediate justice, law must distinctively question both knowledge construction and phronetic risks, including values, intent, bias, privilege, and agency, and take into consideration the ontological multiplicities and civic epistemologies of the parties within legal claims.