Contemplative Ecologies 12

This week, I was caretaking, hosting family, and recovering from shingles, so I made very few posts. Still, I managed 5 posts about eco-Marxism, biopunk, contemplative ecology, eco-democracy, and mindfulness for sustainability. Hope you enjoy!

1. The Ecologist published a short history of ecological Marxism:

“…in the closing decades of the twentieth century an ecological Marx was unearthed, thanks to the work of David Harvey and many others. Then, at the turn of the millennium, Paul Burkett – in Marx and Nature – and John Bellamy Foster – Marx’s Ecology – presented Marx as a thinker whose core concerns were ecological… These authors, together with the recently departed scholar-activists Joel Kovel and Elmar Altvater, as well as Jason Moore – Capitalism in the Web of Life – and Andreas Malm – Fossil Capital – have ‘brought capitalism back in’ to discussion on nature-society relations, sparking a sustained regeneration of ecological Marxist thought. Moore – alongside Marxist feminists such as Carolyn Merchant – have helped the renascent ecological Marxism converse creatively with feminist and social reproduction theory. The upshot has been a radical rethinking of Marx’s project. No longer can ‘nature’ be seen as playing a bit part. His anthropology, after all, is premised on the understanding that human creatures fashion their relationship with the rest of nature through the production of their means of subsistence.”

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Contemplative Ecologies 11

Hello everyone! This week, my favorite 5 posts are about the commons-based phase transition, affective ecology, transition design, Theory U, and solarpunk. Hope you enjoy!

1. Michel Bauwens has a new interview and article on the postcapitalist commons-based phase transition. The Symbiosis Research Collective also published a nice article on the topic. Here are excerpts from the former:

“Our best hope is to strengthen the social forces aligned with p2p and the commons during the brief intermezzo in which our civilization prepares for major catastrophes, and to have enough seed forms ready to attract those that will be vitally interested in resilient economic and social alternative forms. Things will probably get a lot worse before they can get any better, but we hope the ‘imaginal cells’ of the commons will be a significant factor in diminishing the amount of damage in the transition period.”

In his interview, Bauwens mentioned the contemplative commons, saying “We need to work on a culture of cooperation for a ‘more-than-human-commons’ (i.e. Zack Walsh in the Arrow), that has strong spiritual and ecological aspects, and overcome the subject-object split introduced by the Enlightenment, but without abandoning the aspirations for human equality.”

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Contemplative Ecologies 10

Happy May Day celebrations and Happy 200th Birthday to Karl Marx! My favorite 5 posts this week are about building climate resilient social infrastructure, a meditation on deep time, a thermodynamic critique of the circular economy, an essay on environmentally induced epigenetic trauma, and a report on this year’s Ecological Civilization conference. Hope you enjoy!

1. This article about the importance of building community resilience for climate adaptation tempers the mainstream emphasis on economic and technical solutions to climate change:

“…the variable that best explained the pattern of mortality during the Chicago heat wave was what people in my discipline call social infrastructure. Places with active commercial corridors, a variety of public spaces, local institutions, decent sidewalks, and community organizations fared well in the disaster. More socially barren places did not. Turns out neighborhood conditions that isolate people from each other on a good day can, on a really bad day, become lethal.

This is important, because climate change virtually guarantees that, in the next century, major cities all over the world will endure longer, more frequent, and more intense heat waves—along with frankenstorms, hurricanes, blizzards, and rising seas. And it’s inevitable that cities will take steps to fortify themselves against this future. The first instinct of urban leaders is often to harden their cities through engineering and infrastructure, much of which is indeed pretty vital. But research keeps reinforcing [that]… it’s the strength of a neighborhood that determines who lives and who dies in a disaster.”

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Contemplative Ecologies 9

I made several big data dumps this week. My favorite 5 posts were about cyborg urbanization, urban resilience, regenerative capitalism, the astrobiology of the Anthropocene, and an animated short film on consumerism. Hope you enjoy!

1. An artificial intelligence named Michihito Matsuda is running for this year’s mayoral elections in Tama city, Japan. The AI mayor’s platform consists of 3 selling points: “(1) The ability to discover and analyze relevant petitions pertaining to Tama City, as well as break down the positives and negatives and statistically dictate whether this would have a positive or negative effect; (2) Intake the dialogue and wishes of residents, carefully calculating what the best way to implement them would be if they match the people’s desires; (3) Find level-compromise in common interest conflicts amongst the people of Tama City.”

This is yet another example of how smart cities could become increasingly conscious cities. Another blog post I read explored this evolution from smart cities to posthuman architecture. I’m increasingly interested in how cyborg urbanization (see here and here) would evolve what it means to be ‘human’ as biological and digital worlds become enmeshed.

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Contemplative Ecologies 8

I posted much less last week, because I was at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) conference in New Orleans and a symposium on Ecological Civilization in New York. So, this week’s top 5 posts will include more excerpts:

1. Last week, the BBC reported that “You’re more microbe than you are human’… Human cells make up only 43% of the body’s total cell count. The rest are microscopic colonists… [which] includes bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea.” At AAG, I attended sessions on postgenomics, which is an emerging way of thinking about living organisms as open, malleable, responsive multiplicities based on sciences like epigenomics and microbiomics. The image below is from an article reviewing epigenetic influences from various environmental sources.

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Contemplative Ecologies 7

This week’s top 5 posts from my daily feed include frameworks for systems thinking, a buddho-philo-fiction called Xenobuddhism, several papers on the psycho-social dimensions of sustainability, a critical review of the circular economy, and an interview exploring the politics of pixelisation and collage. Hope you enjoy!

1. I posted several rubrics for understanding system dynamics, including: Donella Meadows’ twelve leverage points to intervene in systems (of which, shifting goals, mindsets and paradigms are most effective); Rob Hopkins’ three key design principles to enhance community resilience (incl. increased diversity, modularity, and tightness of feedback); and a transdisciplinary framework for addressing health issues (pictured below).

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Contemplative Ecologies 6

This week’s top 5 posts from my daily feed include a VR meditation on aural ecology, a typology of eco-mental landscapes, a history of degrowth, photographs of the Anthropocene, and an article on space junk. Hope you enjoy!

1. Last week, the New York Times featured a fantastic virtual reality Op-Doc that “provides an immersive experience into the Hoh Rain Forest, told from the perspective of the acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton.” He says, “Silence is the poetics of space— what it means to be in a place. A whole topography of the surrounding landscape is revealed to me in the many layers of the echo that comes towards me. And I think to myself, I know exactly where I am. Silence isn’t the absence of something, but the presence of everything… Silence is the presence of time undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. It nurtures our nature. And silence is on the verge of extinction… When I listen, I have to become quiet. I become very peaceful. And I think what I enjoy most about listening, is that I disappear. *I* disappear.”

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Contemplative Ecologies 5

Happy Friday everyone! Here are this week’s top 5 posts curated from my daily feed:

1. Mary Woodbury published a three-part series on New Weird fiction. She argues, “[The Weird] is as much ‘a sensation as it is a mode of writing’… ‘because the Weird exists in the interstices, because it can occupy different territories simultaneously… Weird stories can take any subject and bend it around into non-Euclidean geometry… Weird fiction has permission to go outside our usual perceptions.”

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Contemplative Ecologies 4

It’s been a busy week! I just completed 4 qualifying exams in 7 days (yippee!). And I still managed to curate plenty of content for y’all! Here are this week’s highlights:

1. Eurozine published a review of archaeological and anthropological data that contests fundamental assumptions about cultural evolution. The authors argue, “it no longer makes any sense to use phrases like ‘the agricultural revolution,’” considering that the transition “to a life based on food production typically took something in the order of three thousand years.” Even more surprising, they claim it “makes even less sense to talk about agriculture as marking the origins of rank or private property… Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace… and there is absolutely no evidence that top-down structures of rule are the necessary consequence of large-scale organization.” These are bold claims, so I’m curious to learn more. A friend directed me to this manifesto explaining Foundations of an Anarchist Archaeology and this text on An Introduction to Anarchism in Archaeology, which I plan to read later. If you have other resources or opinions, feel free to post them in comments (below) or email me.

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Spiritual Education in the Twenty-First Century: Ethics, Mindfulness, and Skillfulness

A public conversation between Prof. Deborah Orr and Galen Watts

By Rohit Revi

“Action based in wisdom/prajna and compassion/karuna is moral action. Enlightenment is living a moral life based on moral actions.”

On the 7th of March 2018, the Spirituality, Nature and Culture Laboratory organized its fourth public conversation. Dr. Deborah Orr (Associate Professor at York University) spoke with Galen Watts (PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University) about Spirituality, one of the four grounding themes that are central to SNCLab.

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Contemplative Ecologies 3

Happy Friday everyone! I’ve been busy completing qualifying exams, so this week’s post will feature more excerpts and less links. Hope you enjoy it:

1. I recommend two recent Aeon articles. One on The African Anthropocene:

“[There is] a common critique of the Anthropocene concept: it attributes ecological collapse to an undifferentiated ‘humanity’, when in practice both responsibility and vulnerability are unevenly distributed. While the Anthropocene continually inscribes itself in all our bodies – we all have endocrine disruptors, microplastics and other toxic things chugging through our metabolisms – it manifests differently in different bodies. Those differences, along with the histories that generated them, matter a great deal.”

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Contemplative Ecologies 2

This is the second blog post in a new series by Zack Walsh. Each Friday, I highlight the top 5 posts curated from my personal Facebook page. I hope you enjoy this week’s highlights:

1. The Great Transition Initiative just ended their round table on Vivir Bien / Buen Vivir. I recommend reading the original article and follow-up discussion which explains both the relational aspects of its cosmovision and how an alliance of autonomous movements supported by the commons can prevent its co-optation by state legislators. If like me you’re interested in the spiritual culture of degrowth, I’d also recommend this earlier article comparing the non-dual cosmologies of Buen Vivir and Theravāda-Buddhism. To stay up-to-date with publications, subscribe to GTI’s bimonthly bulletin or Facebook page.

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Contemplative Ecologies 1

This is the first blog post in a new series by Zack Walsh. Each Friday, I highlight the top 5 posts curated from my personal Facebook page. I hope you enjoy this week’s highlights:

1. There are several new pieces related to my #ContemplativeCommons project. Peter Doran published a new article, Towards a Mindful Cultural Commons. Uneven Earth published a cli-fi about the psycho-social affects of enclosures. My favorite quote: “The fences were strongest in the mind.” For those unfamiliar with the commons, I’d recommend David Bollier’s accessible introduction, Think Like a Commoner; and for a more contemplative perspective, check out Ugo Mattei’s First Thoughts for a Phenomenology of the Commons.

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A Pedagogy For Change

By Victoria Sicilia

One of the key questions at SNC Lab is: How do we develop modes of education to equip future generations to face challenges still unknown? We seek to foster pedagogical experimentation and innovation within humanities and social sciences. Using a piece by Amelia Jorgensen, I’m interested in discussing the ways in which pedagogical practice can be [re]constructed in order to encourage the growth of critical and adaptable student populations.

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Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning for a Flourishing Planet

A public conversation with James Miller and Jason Kelly

By Rohit Revi

“A flourishing human society is dependent upon a flourishing planet. This should be the structuring principle of education.”

The 21st century brings unprecedented challenges to human wellbeing. Ranging from rapid environmental destruction and the threat of an impending nuclear disaster, to growing economic, social and psychological crises, these challenges exist at a global scale, demanding great urgency. At the same time, universities appear to not only be fundamentally unsuccessful in addressing them, but even instrumental in their perpetuation. In the light of this specific problem, the Spirituality Nature Culture Laboratory organized a public conversation between Prof. James Miller and Prof. Jason Kelly, titled Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning for a Flourishing Planet, on the 31st of January, 2018. Continue reading “Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning for a Flourishing Planet”

What does it mean to be spiritual?

Galen Watts, Queen’s University, Ontario

Spirituality has become a kind of buzzword in today’s culture, especially for the millennial generation. Increasingly, North Americans identify as spiritual as opposed to religious.

What is behind the rising popularity of spirituality without religion? Some critics have suggested it is a byproduct of the self-obsessed culture of today, evidence of a narcissism epidemic. This criticism is similar to that launched at the millennial generation (born between 1980-2000) in general, what some scholars have called “Generation Me.

Although I don’t disagree with these characterizations, I believe there is more to the story. Since 2015 I have conducted in-depth research with Canadian millennials, interviewing 33 Canadian millennials who self-identify as spiritual but not religious — in order to better understand their beliefs and practices.

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Eight Billion Bodhisattvas

By Joshua Noiseux

Though our lives are beset by misery and suffering, and though we are constantly faced with delusion and ignorance, according to the Buddha we are incredibly lucky to be human. Indeed, being born human requires vastly more luck than winning the lottery. This is exceptionally hard to believe in 2017, but it is a perspective worth considering.

Tradition has it that the Buddha put it this way:

Monks, imagine a limitless ocean in which a turtle, blind in both eyes, swims incessantly in random directions. Only every 100 years does this turtle surface for air, always in a random location. Floating on the surface of this ocean is a golden ring which is carried away in all directions by tides, currents, and winds. Even in an incalculable space of time, how likely would it be for the turtle to rise in such a place as to put his head through the golden ring?

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Watching Contemplative Ecocinema as Engaged Mindfulness Practice

By Zack Walsh

Through this short blog, I would like to introduce you to a group of films that I watch as a part of my spiritual practice. I have been watching these films for over a decade, and find that they are some of the most powerful catalysts for spiritual cultivation, especially in the context of social and ecological transformation. As part of my day job, I regularly ask myself how society can move toward a socially just and sustainable mode of civilization— toward an Ecological Civilization.[i] The power of these films is that they develop certain observational and empathetic qualities that strengthen my personal and professional commitments while enhancing my capacity to respond to planetary suffering. Therefore, I use them as objects of spiritual guidance.

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Moral Double Standards and the Failure of Education

By Rohit Revi

How do we learn how to conduct ourselves in life? I begin with the assumption that it is primarily through schools and universities, and in the close proximity of classmates, colleagues, teachers and professors that our moral frameworks are formed. Educational institutions are places that shape our sense of an ideal human who we may strive to become for the rest of our lives. Our notions of virtue and virtuosity are formed in places and with people that we spend a large majority of our first 20-odd years.

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Democracy without Dignity: A Confucian Critique of President Trump

By James Miller

The events of the past week have marked the point of absolute contrast between the world’s two most important countries and their leaders. In China, President Xi Jinping has consolidated his power throughout the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), beginning with the bravura performance of a three and a half hour opening speech, during which he touched not a drop of water. By the end of the congress, he was confirmed in his position for another five years, his supporters were elected to key government positions, and his thinking established as part of the CPC’s ruling doctrine for decades to come.  Continue reading “Democracy without Dignity: A Confucian Critique of President Trump”