Thursday, February 07, 2008

I went to hear Ignacio Chapela at the GSAÉD Interdisciplinary Conference

I attended the annual graduate student interdisciplinary conference this evening.I am kind of kicking myself for not having written a paper for this conference now that I have attended it. But I am too over worked to write a paper right now. I am an exhausted scholar and an exhausted worker. Here is the summary or abstract of the talk I heard this evening.

"Reason Exhausted: Science, environment and the end of progress"

The 21st Century will be marked by the ecology and politics of exhaustion. The manic euphoria of Western Civilization for the techno-fix against unresolvable environmental limits belies a stage of development in our relationship to the environment in which such solutions exist only as childhood memories or false propagandistic advertising. I will first probe the limits of our technical engagement with the environment, aiming at disentangling reality from corporate advertising, to show that no amount of virtualization of the world can purchase for us even temporary suspension of basic thermodynamics, geological cycles and historical sense. Such an analysis reveals the exhaustion of the mythologies of Progress, with obvious consequences for the 20th Century narratives of Sustainability and Rights. From this basis, I will then pursue the role played by the scientist, writ large, in the development of such a unique historical crisis. I understand that the current erosion of independent rationality (corporate, governmental, and religious takeover of institutions and their products, particularly the Public University) reflects not only the limit of physical exhaustion of so-called natural resources, but also the end of rationality as a cultural resource in itself. As others have pointed out, this double exhaustion marks the end of a 10, 000 year old story, and the beginning of an uncharted time for humanity and the world. I will attempt to engage with the audience in an exploration of the options available for young people in such a pregnant historical moment.

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