[-empyre-] Introducing Week 2: Mediated Natures, Speculative Futures and Justice and thank you to Week One

Brian Holmes bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com
Thu Oct 12 04:43:44 AEDT 2017

On 10/09/2017 04:52 PM, Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa wrote:

> Calhoun was engaging in a reactionary brand of co-written speculative 
> fiction with his animal test-subjects, which had lasting effects on his 
> political and cultural milieu. How might we design our own models for 
> such collaborations? How can we produce not only visions of the future 
> in which animals continue to exist, but also create systems that allow 
> animals to participate in the process of speculation itself? What 
> institutions need to be created for such speculations to have a lasting 
> impact?

These are brilliant questions.

The behaviorist researchers you discuss operated under the belief that 
they were absolute masters of all the environmental conditions framing 
their laboratory experiments. That stance allowed them to believe 
themselves dispassionate observers of whatever animal behavior was at 
stake in the experiment. It is an historical irony that only in the 
present period, when the consequences of laboratory science have become 
a notorious threat to all species, have.the practitioners of today's 
environmental sciences come full circle, understanding themselves as 
integrally part of an all-enveloping open-air experiment.

The characteristics of CO2 (longevity in the atmosphere) as well as the 
characteristics of increasing human population (exponential growth), 
suggest that there is no way back to a world undisturbed by humans. 
Environmental conditions will now force new experiments in land 
management,  and perhaps ultimately ocean and atmosphere management as 
well. The question is what kinds of practices will emerge? Under what 
scientific and ethical guidelines?

Increasing attention to the behaviors of animals, birds, reptiles, 
plants, fungi etc seems to me crucial for the development of any 
bearable way to live in deeply transformed environments. Over the 
weekend I was with the group Deep Time Chicago at a place called South 
Pond in Lincoln Park, where the very contours of the land and depths of 
the pond have been reshaped (or "naturalized" as they say) to encourage 
population by plants and animals. Our guide for the day, who works as a 
wildlife manager for the Urban Wildlife Institute, showed us Bushnell 
cameras with batteries and straps that are being installed on trees as 
wildlife cams across the Chicagoland region. She was visibly excited 
about all the new knowledge coming in about animal behavior in the 
metropolitan area. Today I suppose that knowledge can primarily be used 
to affect land-management policies in the Cook County Forest Preserves, 
which is a 70-thousand acre parkland system that mobilizes around two 
thousand volunteers in addition to paid staff.

Can we imagine a world in which ever-larger numbers of people change 
their own behavior according to the cues they receive from animals? 
There is, I'd say, a dawning realization that we really need to imagine 
that world, with all its fraught complexity. The currently unfurling 
reactionary wave seeks to go back to the stance of complete domination. 
A more progressive pathway leads toward carefully conducted open-air 
experiments in coexistence.

Thanks for your post, Benjamin -

Brian Holmes

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