Articles

Articles

(169)
Life on Earth is Hard to Spot
2019

Accepted for publication Timothy Lenton, Sebastien Dutreuil & Bruno Latour The Anthropocene Review

Abstract
The triumph of the Gaia hypothesis was to spot the extraordinary influence of Life on the Earth. “Life” is the clade including all extant living beings, as distinct from “life” the class of properties common to all living beings. “Gaia” is Life plus its effects on habitability. Life’s influence on the Earth was hard to spot for several reasons: Biologists missed it because they focused on life not Life; Climatologists missed it because Life is hard to see in the Earth’s energy balance; Earth system scientists opted instead for abiotic or human-centred approaches to the Earth system; Scientists in general were repelled by teleological arguments that Life acts to maintain habitable conditions. Instead we reason from organisms’ metabolisms outwards, showing how Life’s coupling to its environment has led to profound effects on Earth’s habitability. Recognising Life’s impact on Earth and learning from it could be critical to understanding and successfully navigating the Anthropocene.
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Ecology & Political Ecology, History of Science 🔗
(168)
Seven Objections Against Landing on Earth
2020

"Seven Objections Against Landing on Earth” Introduction to the book Critical Zones — The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth (a volume prepared at the occasion of the exhibition Critical Zones — Observatories for Earthly Politics, ZKM, May-October 2020, MIT Press 2020

Abstract
— “Landing on Earth? Why would anyone attempt to land there? Are we not already on Earth?” Well, not quite! And that’s the circumstance this book tries to present to the inquiring reader: it seems that there has been in the past some misinterpretation over what it means to be earthly. If you believe it means “practical”, “mundane”, “secular”, “material” or even “materialist”, you’re in for a surprise. If members of modern industrial societies prided themselves on being “down to earth”, “rational”, “objective” and above all “realist”, they seem to suddenly discover that they need an Earth to continue to live — and live well. Should they not have carefully surveyed the span, size and location of the very land inside which they were supposed to reside and spread? Is not surveying and mapping what they had been doing when they engaged for centuries in what they still celebrate as the “age of great discoveries”? How odd that, after having assembled so many maps of so many foreign lands, collating so many views from so many landscapes, drawing so many versions of what they called “the Globe”, they now appear taken aback by the novelty of this newly emerging Earth? Of all people, should they not have been the best prepared for such a discovery?
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Compositionism, Ecology & Political Ecology, History of Science, Politics, Technology, Viualization 🔗
(167)
Issues with Engendering
2019

Traduction par Stephen Muecke of ‘Troubles dans l’engendrement’, Bruno Latour interviewed by Carolina Miranda. Revue du crieur N° 14, La Découverte/Mediapart, 2019. Carolina Miranda could be a Chilean ethnologist and documentary filmmaker. They might have met on the 10th of June 2019 in Chatelperron. The form of the spoken language has been retained as much as possible. (unpublished in English but available on Academia)

Troubles dans l'engendrement
Abstract
CM — This time I’d like to talk to you about politics, rather than about your philosophy or anthropology. You will appreciate the importance of this, for me, coming from Latin America, especially after the publication of Down to Earth. We are all bursting with questions. BL—How do you mean, ‘we’? CM —Lots of people were surprised by this, your first really political book, very committed even, even left wing, and I’m acting as a go-between for a fair number of political groups, activists, not just academics. A lot of people back home are reading you in Spanish. BL —And yet The Politics of Nature came out in 1999, and politics plays an essential role in Inquiry into the Modes of Existence. And if you type ‘politics’ into my webpage, it is the most common word after ‘science.’ Are your friends just finding out that I’m interested in politics? For thirty years I have been worried about the danger of it disappearing as a fundamental practice, and as a unique mode of expression. CM — I know, I know. I hope we will have time to talk about it. But still, you wrote Down to Earth differently and for a different audience. And isn’t it the first time you have drawn connections in such a clear way with classical leftist ideas? BL — They are just more explicit, and yes, in another style.
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Ecology & Political Ecology 🔗
(166)
Politics - A Glimpse at Bodybuilding Afterword to What’s the New Body of the Body Politic? A Cini Dialog
2019

Afterword of the 2017 meeting at Cini Foundation, San Giorgio, Venice

Abstract
How in our right mind could we have the idea of convening in one three-day meeting political philosophers with scientists working on ants, baboons, cells, natural parks, together with historians of capitalism and — how totally bizarre! — specialists of the planet taken as a whole, namely Gaia — plus metaphysicians and historians of science thrown in, plus a bit of legal theory and a lot of social science to steer the pot further? What did we hope to achieve by linking corporate law with embryo development, the management of Amboseli with 19th century investment in railway or the competition between baboons and farmers, with the philosophy of Whitehead and the autotrophy of the earth system? And yet the only way to have a chance to renew the question of the extent, function and future of politics might well be to enter into this strange exercise and, against all odds, to carry it obstinately to the end. Why? Because whatever you expect from the future, you will indeed have to join in some ways in the same polity exactly those various types of beings that were brought to the table in September 2017. It is true that the term “body politik” has been disputed, but is there a better way to flag the goal of the new geohistorical epoch? No matter how disputed is the geological term of Anthropocene, this is exactly the sort of clarification that it triggers and the sort of occasion it opens for natural and social scientists to be able to collaborate. Indeed, it has provided a new breed of diplomats with the underserved chance of an improbable encounter, thanks to the generosity of the Cini Foundation, in one of the most beautiful setting there is: the Biblioteca Longana of San Giorgio.
Translations
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Actor-Network-Theory, Ecology & Political Ecology, Social Theory 🔗
(164)
Grundraum — Who Will Answer Gaia’s Challenge? A Few Comments on Carl Schmitt’s Dialog on New Space
2019

Unpublished

Abstract
I agree there is something most bizarre in transforming Carl Schmitt into the deepest thinker of political ecology, because his kind of depth is precisely the opposite of what people usually attribute to “deep ecology”. My argument is that thanks to his view of space and power, we finally escape the depoliticization that so far has gone with ecological concerns. I claim that by repoliticizing space in the most radical way, Schmitt allows us to see what went wrong in the depoliticization of space implied by concepts borrowed from “nature”.
Translations
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Ecology & Political Ecology, Politics 🔗
(162)
“We don’t seem to live on the same planet…” — a fictional planetarium
2018

“We don’t seem to live on the same planet…” — a fictional planetarium for the catalog in edited by Kathryn B. Hiesinger & Michelle Millar Designs for Different Futures, Philadelphia Museum of Art &The Art History of Chicago (initially given as the Loeb Lecture, Harvard, GSD) 2019, pp; 193-199.

Abstract
Architects and designers are facing a new problem when they want to build for a habitable planet. They have to answer a new question because what used to be a lame joke: “My poor fellow you seem to live on another planet”, has become literal: “Yes indeed, we do intend to live on a different planet!”. In the old days, when political scientists talked about geopolitics, they meant different nations with opposite interests waging wars on the same material and geographical stage. Today, geopolitics is also concerned with wars about the very definition of the stage itself. A conflict will be called, from now on, “of planetary relevance” not because it has the planet for a stage, but because it is about which planet you are claiming to inhabit and to defend.
Translations
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Compositionism, Ecology & Political Ecology 🔗
(159)
A Clear Inversion of the End Times Schema
2018

A Clear Inversion of the End Times Schema (with an (invented) picture of Neo Rauch by Ali Gharib) unpublished in Englist (kindly translated by Stephen Muecke)
The original in French in Revue de science religieuse

Sur une nette inversion du schème de la fin des temps
Abstract
To respond to the theme of this painting, I would simply like to begin with Laudato si’ and reflect on the originality of the idea, as anthropological as it is theological, that Pope Francis puts forward in his encyclical. I’d like to read this text in order to show how it brings about a clear inversion of the end times scenario. And I don’t think the consequences of this inversion have been drawn out enough (or their impact on iconography made visible in Rauch’s work). To take up the question of what the Anthropocene does to the theology of Creation, it goes without saying that I have no particular qualifications relating to the two elements that I want to link, except perhaps having followed the literature on the Anthropocene fairly closely.
Translations
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Ecology & Political Ecology, Religion Studies 🔗
(158)
Gaia 2.0. Could humans add some level of self-awareness to Earth’s self-regulation?
2018

Gaia 2.0 Could humans add some level of self-awareness to Earth’s self-regulation? (with Tim Lenton first author) Science14 SEPTEMBER 2018 • VOL 361 ISSUE 6407pp.1066-1068

Abstract
According to Lovelock and Margulis’ Gaia hypothesis, living things form part of a planetary scale self-regulating system that has maintained habitable condi-tions for the past 3.5 billion years (1, 2). In this concept, Gaia expanded from within the Earth system and came over time to alter the climate and dominate the surface cycling of nutrients. Gaia has operated without foresight or planning on the part of other organisms, but the evolution of humans and their tech-nology is changing that. Earth has now entered a new epoch termed the Anthropocene (3), and humans are beginning to become aware of the global consequences of their actions. As a result, deliberate self-regulation—from personal action to reduce carbon footprints, to global geoengineering schemes—is either happening or imminently possible (see the figure). We argue that making conscious choices to operate within Gaia constitutes a fundamental new state of Gaia. By emphasizing the agency of lifeforms and their ability to set goals, a Gaia perspective may be an effective framework for fostering global sustainability
Translations
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Ecology & Political Ecology 🔗
(157)
“Extending the Domain of Freedom, or Why is Gaia so Hard to Understand?”
2018

“Extending the Domain of Freedom, or Why is Gaia so Hard to Understand?” with Timothy Lenton, prepublication in Critical Inquiry

Abstract
In this paper, two specialists of Gaia theory, one from the humanities and the other from Earth System Science (Exeter University), make a sustained effort to list the misunderstandings created by those who have either rejected or accepted Gaia too readily. They argue that the uniqueness of the phenomenon and of the arguments made by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, has been under-recognized. Neither mechanical nor organismic metaphors can render justice to the originality of Gaia. They show that the core of the discovery is to grant agency back to life forms and that Gaia is the highly complex result of their extension in space and duration in time. They conclude that Gaia is different from the concept of nature, difference that opens a new way to look at the connection between biology and politics which they define as extension of the domain of freedom.
Translations
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Compositionism, Ecology & Political Ecology, History of Science, Politics 🔗
(156)
Against critique, for critique
2019

“Against critique, for critique” in Elizabeth Graw (editor) The Value of Critique, Campus Verlag Frankfurt, 2019, 15-30

Abstract
Although I'm not against critique, my paper has been put into a section called Against Critique. Critique is not one of the topics I have worked on very much apart from one single paper to explain why “it has run out of steam”. So I'm slightly worried that the other authors might not be happy because I'm asked to write about a topic I tried to convince Isabelle Graw I know nothing about. Nevertheless, I applaud the undertaking of having a symposium on the value of critique on the 18th January 2017 the day before the United States of America enters an extraordinary deconstructionist effort that will probably lead to its own irrelevance and maybe demise by inaugurating the new president whose name it is best not to pronounce. I also endorse the effort to publish our thoughts on the topic. The tragedy of the inauguration tomorrow is something, which I'm keeping in mind while writing.
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