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Environmental Catastrophe, or the Catastrophe of the Environment?

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10/26/2010

When pondering the subject of ecological catastrophe, it seems we often think in terms of catastrophe to the environment – as if the environment were an abstract entity subject to, but ultimately distinct from, human action. If, however, we pose challenges to such a distinction, how are we to understand the meaning of ‘environment’ and the manner in which ‘we’ relate to it? Further, if we contest the distinction between human and nonhuman worlds, how would this change what we understand as ‘environmental catastrophe?’  

In this talk, Harlan Morehouse takes a critical look at conventional approaches to the environment in order to suggest that it is the idea of the environment in abstraction that marks a disastrous and catastrophic relationship to the world. Following this, he draws from ethnographic research conducted in rural Vermont to discuss how alternative political practices and oppositional forms of community might be adequate to meet the challenges of a reworked conception of this world.

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