Living on a damaged planet challenges who we are and where we live. This timely anthology calls on twenty eminent humanists and scientists to revitalize curiosity, observation, and transdisciplinary conversation about life on earth.
As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent "arts of living". Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene. The essays are organized around two key figures that also serve as the publication's two openings: Ghosts, or landscapes haunted by the violences of modernity; and Monsters, or interspecies and intraspecies sociality. Ghosts and Monsters are tentacular, windy, and arboreal arts that invite readers to encounter ants, lichen, rocks, electrons, flying foxes, salmon, chestnut trees, mud volcanoes, border zones, graves, radioactive waste – in short, the wonders and terrors of an unintended epoch.
Ghosts on a Damaged Planet
Introduction: Haunted Landscapes of the Anthropocene
Elaine Gan, Nils Bubandt, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, and Heather Anne Swanson
1. A Garden or a Grave?: The Canyonic Landscape of the Tijuana-San Diego Region
In the Midst of Damage
2. Marie Curie's Fingerprint: Nuclear Spelunking in the Chernobyl Zone
3. Shimmer: When All You Love Is Being Trashed
Deborah Bird Rose
Footprints of the Dead
4. Future Megafaunas: A Historical Perspective on the Scope for a Wilder Anthropocene
5. Ladders, Trees, Complexity, and Other Metaphors in Evolutionary Thinking
6. No Small Matter: Mushroom Clouds, Ecologies of Nothingness, and Strange Topologies of Spacetimemattering
7. Haunted Geologies: Spirits, Stones, and the Necropolitics of the Anthropocene
8. Ghostly Forms and Forest Histories
Andrew S. Mathews
9. Establishing New Worlds: The Lichens of Petersham
Coda: Concept and Chronotope
Mary Louise Pratt
Monsters and the Arts of Living
Introduction: Bodies Tumbled into Bodies
Heather Anne Swanson, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Nils Bubandt, and Elaine Gan
1. Deep in Admiration
Ursula K. Le Guin
Inhabiting Multispecies Bodies
2. Symbiogenesis, Sympoiesis, and Art Science Activisms for Staying with the Trouble
3. Noticing Microbial Worlds: The Post Modern Synthesis in Biology
4. Holobiont by Birth: Multilineage Individuals as the Concretion of Cooperative Processes
Scott F. Gilbert
5. Wolf, or Homo Homini Lupus
6. Unruly Appetites: Salmon Domestication “All the Way Down”
Marianne Elisabeth Lien
7. Without Planning: The Evolution of Collective Behavior in Ant Colonies
Deborah M. Gordon
At the Edge of Extinction
8. Synchronies at Risk: The Intertwined Lives of Horseshoe Crabs and Red Knot Birds
9. Remembering in Our Amnesia, Seeing in Our Blindness
Ingrid M. Parker
Coda. Beautiful Monsters: Terra in the Cyanocene
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, where she codirects Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). Heather Swanson is assistant professor of anthropology at Aarhus University. Elaine Gan is art director of AURA and postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University. Nils Bubandt is professor of anthropology at Aarhus University, where he codirects AURA.
"Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet exposes us to the active remnants of gigantic past human errors – the ghosts – that affect the daily lives of millions of people and their co-occurring other-than-human life forms. Challenging us to look at life in new and excitingly different ways, each part of this two-sided volume is informative, fascinating, and a source of stimulation to new thoughts and activisms. I have no doubt I will return to it many times."
– Michael G. Hadfield, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
"Facing the perfect storm strangely named the Anthropocene, this book calls its readers to acknowledge and give praise to the many entangled arts of living which made this planet liveable and which are now unravelling. Grandiose guilt will not do, we need to learn noticing what we were blind to, a humble but difficult art. The unique welding of scholarship and affect achieved by the texts here assembled tells us that learning this art also means allowing oneself to be touched and induced to think and imagine by what touches us."
– Isabelle Stengers, author of Cosmopolitics I and Cosmopolitics II
"What an inventive, fascinating book about landscapes in the anthropocene! Between these book covers, rightside-up, upside-down, a concatenation of social science and natural science, artwork and natural science, ghosts of departed species and traces of our own human shrines to memory [...] Not a horror-filled glimpse at destruction but also not a hymn to romantic wilderness. Here, guided by a remarkable and remarkably diverse set of guides, we enter into our planetary environments as they stand, sometimes battered, sometimes resilient, always riveting in their human – and non-human – richness. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet is truly a book for our time."
– Peter Galison, Harvard University
"Calling a book 'mandatory reading' usually feels hyperbolic, but it's justified in the case of Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. A stunning collection of essays from scientists, writers and artists on humankind's impact on the planet, and how we all can survive it."
– Shelf Awareness
"This vibrant, moving, and philosophical two-sided essay collection reminds us of all the ways that human beings and the natural world are interconnected. Deborah Bird Rose's piece on the "shimmer of life" alone makes the book worth reading."
– Chicago Review of Books
"There's a poetry in facts. And as this book reveals, there is an increasing amount of courage and acceptance to be found in understanding even the most destructive changes in plant and wildlife that the overheated Anthropocene will bring us."
– Santa Fe New Mexican
"Well worth reading: a frank, luminous set of dispatches from future worlds and fractured pasts."
– Full Stop
"Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet is a strikingly aesthetic object, carefully curated at the level of form as well as content. It makes a convincing case for the relevance of 'hard science' to art and politics."
– Glasgow Review of Books