Friday, May 26, 2017

A response to Heather A. Swanson's "The Banality of the Anthropocene"

This article really reminds me of the a Sustainability Theory and Practice commodity lifecycle assignment, as well as the way that just sustainabilities suggests an inclusive turn to both understand the roots, in the way of environmental racism, the grandmother of just sustainabilities, via environmental justice, as well as inviting us into the future. Just sustainabilities directs our attention and hones our skill at touching in both ways - in the Macyian language, to see both the historical and futurity, the ancestors and the future beings. Agyeman, Bullard, and Evans (2003) argued for this important dimension, noting that “sustainable development requires that we give consideration to our own developmental needs, as well as those of generations still to come" (p. 188).

So when the author Swanson (2017) suggested:

"Donna Haraway has called for curiosity as both scholarly method and political practice, as an antidote to these learned blindnesses. In her book When Species Meet (Haraway 2008), she becomes curious about who and what she touches when she reaches out to pet her dog. That curiosity becomes a radical practice of tracing and inheriting histories, such as the dog-herding practices of livestock-based Australian colonization efforts and the making of purebred dogs. But in a world of structural blindness, such kinds of curiosity do not come naturally. They must be cultivated. But how? How, in the words of Joseph Dumit (2014), do we wake up to connections?

"Can we imagine corollaries to Bible study meetings or consciousness-raising groups in which people would be encouraged to trace the histories of the landscapes they inhabit, a process that might draw them into new ways of seeing themselves and their worlds? I imagine such practices as a multispecies analogue to Foucauldian genealogy (see Foucault 1970). Might exploring the genealogies of Iowa cornfields, for example, denaturalize them and counter the power of their banality? Might they enable Iowans and all of us to become more curious about the conditions of our own subjectivities and, in turn, how we might transform the landscapes with which they are entangled? This is the important work of making curiosity more common, of troubling the Anthropocene." (para. 15-16)
I imagine something extra, too. Thinking of the active hope practices (Macy & Johnstone, 2012), I imagine we can cultivate a way of touching the dog and turn both ways, virtually, in the way the present contains the past AND the future. I can conduct the kind of "multispecies ...Foucauldian geneology" that Swanson suggested (para. 16) as well as touch out and sweep forward, into a potentially regenerative future, how this being, this moment of connection, contact, and conscious shift, how my gaze can become a dedicated glance (in the spirit of Casey, 2007), including a prophetic touching out towards the future beings. Macy and Johnstone described "learning to reinhabit time" (2012, p. 117). Deep time is expansive and invitational.
"Could future generations, for example, discover a way to communicate with us? And if so, what might they say? Perhaps they could only do this if we play our part too by extending ourselves forward in time to meet them. We can do this through our imagination. We don't know whether the communications we would receive this way would be real or imagined -- and we don't really need to know. They still offer useful guidance....By giving future beings a voice, we bring them closer in a way that helps us be guided by their perspective. Hearing ourselves reply to them also helps us to step into a larger view of time" (pp. 158-159).

In this way, I would suggest sustainability and regenerative education invite us to to both/and geneological and futurecasting, future-sensing connectivity and relationality. This sensitization can be sustaining and opening. As Macy and Johnstone suggested,

"We can bring deep time to mind as we go about our daily lives. Even as we wash the dishes, pay the bills, go to meetings, and so on, we can school ourselves to be aware, now and then, of the hosts of ancestral and future beings  surrounding us like a cloud of witnesses. We can remember the vaster story of our planet and let it imbue the most ordinary acts with meaning and purpose. Each of us is an intrinsic part of that story, like a cell in a larger organism. And in this story, each of us has a role to play." (p. 160)
I wish for us each this recombinant and life-giving inclusion of the future beings as well, to sustain us for the work we are called to do, "a cloud of witnesses" (p. 160) and encouragers as we become re-imbricated, re-woven into awareness of the flourishing of the universe in and through us.

This might well help us embody Swanson's invitation, to "become more curious about the conditions of our own subjectivities and, in turn, how we might transform the landscapes with which they are entangled" (2017, para. 16). We might sense that part of this invitation is not only how we might transform these landscapes; it might also be a matter of how these landscapes themselves are transforming us. In a futurecasting of the disintegration of theme parks and the resurging Earth, I imagined a terrapsychological resurgence, "Gaia Taking Back Disneyland" (Hauk, 2016). This involves a collaborative, co-creative re-animation of the living Earth as a co-imaginer of the regenerative possibilities also rippling out from touching the dog. With the land in and through us, with our polychrest capacity to touch out and connect in temporally with what has been wrought and what the future beings are summoning us to, I ask: What stories of the regenerative future are you touching into, carrying, and birthing?


Agyeman, Julian, Bullard, Robert D., & Evans, Bob. (Eds.). (2003). Just sustainabilities: Development in an unequal world. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
Casey, Ed. (2007). The world at a glance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Hauk, Marna. (2016). Gaia taking back Disneyland. In Julie C. Garlen & Jennifer A. Sandlin (Eds.), Teaching with Disney (pp. 149-160). Counterpoints, 477. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Macy, Joanna, & Johnstone, Chris. (2012). Active hope: How to face the mess we're in without going crazy. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Swanson, Heather A. (2017, February 22). The banality of the Anthropocene. Dispatches. Cultural Anthropology. Retrieved from

Image Reference 
Morrison, Geoffrey. (2014, February 11). Hobbiton, New Zealand. CNET. Retrieved from