Critical Zones. The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth

(c-X) 2020
Critical Zones. The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth

Date: May 2020
Publisher: MIT Press
Editors: Bruno Latour & Peter Weibel


You want me to land on Earth? Why?
— Because you’re hanging in midair, headed for a crash.
— How is it down there?
— Pretty tense.
— A war zone?
— Close: a Critical Zone, a few kilometers thick, where everything happens.
— Is it habitable?
— Depends on your chosen science.
— Will I survive down there?
— Depends on your politics.

As everybody learned at school, when the position of the Earth in the cosmos is modified, a revolution in social order might ensue. Remember Galileo: when astronomers made the Earth move around the sun, the whole fabric of society felt under attack. Today, again, four centuries later, the role and the position of the Earth is being revolutionized by new disciplines: it appears that human behavior has pushed the Earth to react in unexpected ways. And once again, the whole organization of society is being subverted. Shake the cosmic order and the order of politics will be shaken as well. Except that, this time, the question is not to make the Earth move around the sun, but to move it somewhere else altogether! As if we had to learn anew how to land on it.
— “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.