This place has been a bit quiet the past few weeks. This is because I’ve been unable to settle down. This has been a month of traveling and other excitement – last week I was in Maine doing some blood worm research. I spent the week helping the biologists go through piles of seaweed in search of snails, bugs, and crustaceans. It was tedious and tiring work, but I learned a lot about their part of the research, and think of it as an opportunity to do participant-observation with them.
Next week I’m off again – this time to Michigan for a wedding. I’ve never been, so it’ll be nice to see a new part of the country. However, that also means that things will be pretty quiet here for a little while longer – it’s just hard to keep up with posting while I’m out and about with only intermittent internet access. I do have some really quick thoughts to post before I head out, though.
This week I’ve been reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars – the last in his Mars Trilogy. I’ve written a lot about Robinson before – in fact, the title of this blog is taken from one of his books (see the quote on the left sidebar). His writing is engaging and the characters are complex and intriguing. I especially love the political drama that plays out in these books – everyone trying to make things work in their own way, and always having to negotiate and compromise with others. What’s more, I find that the planet itself plays a major role in the novel. It’s not simply a background for the characters’ lives to play out or to be shaped by human hands at will (though the massive amounts of technology deployed allow them to create some amazing things). Mars is something to be negotiated with as well. The terraforming effort is a complex balancing process with variables constantly going out of control. For example, in the first novel a massive storm rages around the planet for decades as the changes in the atmosphere begin to take hold.
For this reason, I find much in Robinson’s books that fits with the cosmopolitical, and ontological constructivist theoretical position I embrace. Everything is political – existence itself is politics. It’s a continual process of negotiation and renegotiation – a struggling forever towards the good. In our desire to survive and make the world better, we always contact other beings, other bodies besides our own – both human and non-human. It’s through this process of connection that we can grow and create new ways of being. This is true for plants, animals, and rocks no less than for humans. These beings don’t simply exist “out there” as a reified “natural environment.” To think of them as such does a disservice – it reduces their being to mere essences and denies their ability to actively, vibrantly live and affect one another and us. Sustainability is not just a matter of “thinking like a mountain,” it’s a matter of contacting the mountain, attempting to understand it, and learning to co-exist and co-construct a world with it.
That’s it for now – a quick rant, I suppose. Maybe I’ll have more to day later. There are a few days before I leave, so I’ll try to get a few posts up before then. Either way, I hope you all are having a nice summer – or winter if you’re in the South!