[-empyre-] November -empyre- discussion, DURATION: PASSAGE, PERSISTENCE, SURVIVAL

Hans Baumann hans at hbaumann.com
Tue Nov 20 11:14:15 AEDT 2018

Thank you for the introduction Tim. The exchange that has occurred
over the past several weeks has been exceptionally rewarding to follow
and I would like to extend this discussion. I am specifically
interested in the following question raised by Kate Brettkelly:

"When we celebrate the deep time of earth, do we actively overlook the
durations and experiences of indigenous peoples?"

My contribution to the CCA Biennial, "The Crystalline Basement", was -
in short -  an examination of geothermal energy extraction from a
humanist perspective. All of the themes that Kate mentions in her post
- deep time, earth history, universalist frameworks - are embedded in
the science and practice of geothermal engineering. Regardless of its
"green" credentials, geothermal energy extraction is guided by
utilitarian concerns: how much can the system produce, is it
economically viable, et cetera. Within this paradigm of extraction,
"deep time" and other geological concerns have the capacity to enact
the sort of erasure that Kate refers to in the above quote. At
Standing Rock, Black Mesa and countless other sites, indigeneity has
come into direct conflict with the desire to exploit the material
remains of deep time.

Over the past year, I have led a series of storytelling projects with
members of the Navajo community. Early in the genesis of this project,
I was introduced to the Navajo concept (and I am paraphrasing here)
that narrative, identity and geography are mutualistic concepts. As
one storyteller - a man named Ron Maldonado - explained it:

“As people lose their stories, they lose a sense of their own being.
You can’t tie yourself back to the landscape anymore … In order to
know who you are, you have to know where you came from … It's a
different way of seeing the world … and it’s a history that goes back
to the beginning of time”

Over the course of working with Ron, I came to understand "deep time"
as something that grounded him and that acted as a source of his
identity. Is this the same universalist concept to which Kate refers?
I would argue that it is not, and I would like to suggest that
concepts of deep time, earth history and the geological realm are
inherently benign. Their generative capacity and their potential to
erase, suppress or silence ultimately reflect the spectrum of our
relationships to the nonhuman world, whether this is as a source of
difference or one of connection.


Hans Baumann

H. Baumann

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