Sunday, September 28, 2014

News Roundup

Ialenti's final article for the NPR 'cosmos and culture' series was published today.

Check it out: Embracing 'Deep Time' Thinking.

In the article, Ialenti graciously mentions and links our course --this will probably be the first and last time submitting your homework appears as national news!

Also, if you haven't already seen it, Jim Robbins has an article in the NYT Sunday Review, Building an Ark for the Anthropocene that might interest you. The trope of the Biblical "Flood" is something we will be discussing when we read Nathaniel Rich's Odds Against Tomorrow (2012), but in the meantime I suggest you look through Genesis Chapter's 6-10 (not only does God speak in meteorological terms, he's also into "purifying" violence).

You might remember from Kolbert's chapters in the The Sixth Extinction, Cuvier and other naturalist of the 19th century saw themselves as piecing together a history of cataclysmic events framed by the imaginary context of Judeo-Christian versions of the Flood.

As Cuvier wrote in 1821:
"Life on earth has often been troubled by terrible events. Human beings without number have fallen victim to these catastrophes. Some, living on dry land, have been swallowed up by floods. Others, living in the midst of the waters, have been stranded as the sea bed has risen to the surface". 
While subsequent geological discoveries forced most scholars to abandon the project of historicizing the Bible, in many ways the myth of the Flood has retained its potency as an organizing metaphor for thinking through climatic catastrophe --what's changed is the temporal direction of the mythical projection. In Lucian Boia's The Weather in the Imagination (2005), there's an excellent chapter that traces this turn, from Camille Flammarion's La Fin du monde (1894) and into the early science fiction of H.G. Wells and others. More recently, Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic Noah (2014) gives us an interesting twist: voiced-over scripture read by Russel Crowe set to satellite imagery of an Earth blanketed by hundreds of hurricanes, reminiscent of what we see today used to illustrate climate change scenarios by NOAA (pronounced "Noah"). As the director explained in a panel on the nexus between faith and environmentalism (available here), "Noah is saving the animals. It's not about saving babies." Of course, in a time when climate change is often read as a "sin against nature" is it really any surprise that efforts to save critical species into the "deep future" are so often imagined through the Biblical metonym of the Ark?

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