Dark ecology and disaster in Planning: reevaluating how we work with and define humanity (blog 5)

Readings this week reflected my interests in dark ecology and posthumanism where nature functions at a remove from humanity because, although the living world houses human beings as well as plants, animals, and any manner of scape, the world is Nature, and humans simply live in the world. Nature does not live in the world, but because human brains place conceptual labels onto their lives, the idea of Nature comprises a setting, a place, and ultimately a separation and disconnection through which humans adopt the mindset of the self as conqueror of Nature and the impression that humanity lives with Nature.  In actuality, human beings live in Nature, but attempt to alter and force it into shapes modeled after and benefiting the human image. Creating the world around humanity has engendered the theories of posthuman ecology that examine the problem of the man versus insert-idea-here in response to literature. With posthumanist theory, one can analyze the relationships in different societies to question “what it means to be human” and “the relationship between humans and their non-human others” to re-think Nature and identity (Aretoulakis 2014). Aretoulakis’ work supports the connection with current ecological ideas in different cultures and how our cities are structured, especially around the effects of colonialism on the conglomeration of identities within the land. Whether these identities represent “deep ecology,” or an “alleged inevitability of an empathic collaboration among different species,” citizens can parallel their own relationships with each other, the land, and their conflict within themselves (Aretoulakis). Planners can develop these conflicts and try to understand citizen’s relationships, using themselves as example from their own first-hand experience, and review the Triangular model to create a more understanding city and society.

A literary theorist, John Figueroa expresses a “shame to those modernists who long to be rooted somewhere or in some Nowhere” (Figueroa 1991).  Through this idea, Figueroa questions what it means to connect to a place and whether that focus on one’s identity holds importance, especially when those people cannot or refuse to accept their hybridity. Moreover, he suggests this hybridity connects to posthumanismto reveal that we all “have complicated patterns” and must come to terms with the transnationalism of the world (Figueroa).

. Therefore, to accept this constant definition of self, Planners must recognize the importance of redefinition by understanding that humanity is all connected no matter who they are or where they come from because, as dark ecology theorist Timothy Morton explains: within the mesh of dark ecology, “there is no here or there, [and thus] everything [can be] brought within our awareness” (Morton 2010). The mesh correlates to Morton’s strange stranger that examines how “we can’t really know who is at the junctions of the mesh before we meet them [and] even when we [do] meet them, they are liable to change before our eyes,” as will “our [own] view of them” (Morton). These unknown beings, which can be non-human, and our perceptions of them and of ourselves by reflection are called the strange stranger.

Not only does everything flow, but we are also all connected like a spider’s web or the mycelium in a forest’s floor. In both of these comparisons when a piece of the web breaks or a tree falls on one edge of the forest, the other side knows it through the underground connection, and, thus, braces for the change in and to the whole. Just like a spider will begin to repair its home, Planners must work first-hand with citizens to understand the needs of the city to listen to what people care about, are confused about, and what they want, and thus educate them on the necessary components of how to make these factors work or explain why they can’t work. And yet some things cannot be one way or another, yes or no, right or wrong, and so we must continue to be flexible, adaptable, and keep working towards and with this continuous fluctuating world.

I was especially interested in the natural disasters chapter and Hurricane Sandy’s damage. I had family who have lived in Vermont for decades and I’ve never had the experience of being scared for peoples’ lives in a natural disaster. I grew up 20 minutes west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and know the reality of hurricanes, but the mountains of Vermont don’t have that experience, nor do they have the infrastructure to be prepared at ALL for a natural force like they endured. My mom’s best friend was evacuated from her home and had to leave her two cats there. I visited a year later and was shaken up by the damage that was still very much visible and had totally altered peoples’ livelihoods. Luckily my family and friends lived (and so did the 2 cats), but it has completely changed those communities, the people, and how they live and make a living. The book only focused on New York City, which obviously there was way more people concerned there, but in the small mountain towns in Vermont, people were equally effected.

 

Aretoulakis, Emmanouil (2014). “Towards a Posthumanist Ecology.” European Journal of English Studies 18.2.

Figueroa, John. (1991). “Omeros.” The Art of Derek Walcott, edited by Brown, Stewart, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales: Seren Books.

Morton, Timothy. (2010). The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

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