Category: Projects 2017 / Research Briefs
The New Body / The New Body Politic – Erica
Last semester I researched the idea that I called New Nature, the concept that due to this geological epoch known as the Anthropocene—specifically due to industrialization, deforestation, war, technological ubiquity, and fossil fuel reliance— we can see new elements as part of our environments that have blended with the natural environment either through camouflage (posing as what we understand to be natural) (i.e. cell phone towers that are meant to look like trees) or they have fused with nature (i.e. new minerals created as a result of nuclear radiation or the “Jefferson Grid” shaping the physical landscape for agriculture). (“Although minerals, by definition, must form via natural processes, Hazen’s team discovered 208 minerals mediated by humans—they did form naturally but in places such as man-made mines, where unnatural humidity or fires from mining operations created new minerals along the mine walls.”)
Humans and our societies have become a “global geophysical force” in altering the “biological fabric of the Earth”, thus shaping the Anthropocene. The force and impact of humans rival that of nature, which is now less forested, less biologically diverse, globally warmer, and intensely transformed. Over the past 50 years, humans have changed the world’s ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any other comparable period in human history, and will continue to for perhaps millions of years into the future, particularly since thus far these global changes are not intense or severe enough to majorly disrupt the global economic system in order for major global powers to take action to suppress further disaster.
So I proposed that over time during this period of time, Nature will further be taken over by human processes, primarily connected to capitalism, and will be a New Nature, one that looks like Mother Earth but is completely as a result of human abuse of the planet. What were once objects that defined nature, such as trees and natural minerals, are being replaced by human-made objects like electronics and plastics. Perhaps we will have more data centers that pose as hills and mountains. There will be more plastic islands. Our drinking water and the source of life for many organisms is polluted by microplastics including microfibers from our clothing and everyday artifacts. We drink this water. We consume plastics and pollutions. Our foods also rely on this water, so eat these elements. We have also become a new nature; our bodies as humans have shifted over time. We are becoming our objects, perhaps also hyperobjects, our own demons (referring to Timothy Morton) causing our own destruction as well as the destruction of many other lives, human and non-human.
So we are losing or changing nature and our own biological makeup and gaining new versions; this is a version that is a continuation of the mythology and denial that we have developed around climate change. David Attenborough writes in The Guardian how eighty years ago as a child he was told that the world has entered a new era, a plastic era, where plastic is wonderful because it does not decay.
Human lives are getting entangled into deep time geologies.
We are in a nightmare that can play itself out without intervention. Unfortunately, we are still relying on the powers, tactics, and tendencies that have been the cause of this mess, the forces of capitalism and colonialism that are still perpetuated and in perpetuity. Why do we rely on agreements like the Paris Accord to keep our nations in line? Do we really believe it will make change? I’m not sure.
Not only are our biologies changing, we are losing whole societies of people and languages. Resource scarcity, such as that of water, has pushed many into survival mode. There’s an increasing number of climate refugees who traverse the earth as borders are fortified and lands shift or are lost. So we have turned into objects to be governed. We have become dehumanized as the earth is anthropomorphized. Bruno Latour and Simon Schaffer ask what is the shape of the new body politic — and I add in terms of when our bodies are shaped by politics and shaped by these ecologies, when our bodies are new organisms or perhaps objects. What will be the new nation states and how will be form collectives? What has become of deep time; can we look at revolutionary time? Around the notions of the new body and the synthetic biologies, the artists “Aliens in Green want to generate ‘a crisis of the body’ that leads to non-prescriptive subjectivities, offering a kind of alien resilience called xeno-solidarity.” As objects and/or aliens how do we form a new body politic and resist?
Will Steffen, Paul J. Crutzen, and John R. McNeill, “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?,” Ambio Vol 8, No. 36 (2007): 614.
Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill, “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?,” 617-619.
What’s the body of the Body Politic?—Sovereignty, Identity, Ecology—A San Giorgio Dialog at the invitation of the Cini Foundation, 12th-15th of September 2017 (Bruno Latour & Simon Schaffer)