ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

(P07)
The Ecological Footprint of Literacy
Location Senate House - Bedford Room
Date and Start Time 27 May, 2016 at 11:30
Sessions 1

Convenor

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Is there a connection between climate change and the cognitive changes that the internalisation of writing has introduced? What is the ecological footprint of literacy? This panel invites proposals that reflect on the link between the cognitive and the environmental from a myriad of perspectives.

Long Abstract

What is the ecological footprint of literacy? As a 2014 IPCC report shows, over the last 40 years humans have released into the atmosphere about half the total amount of CO2 emitted since 1750, with rates of emissions increasing rapidly since the year 2000 - coinciding precisely with the latest information revolution! It is noticeable that what the climatologists call "the great acceleration" temporally coincides with what Derrida termed the "explosion of writing", and Ong the advent of "secondary orality". According to the French ADEME, 8 emails emit the same amount of CO2 as driving a car 1 km. And yet even more electricity is needed to stream or download a video than send a single email. The recent phenomenon of the "youtubisation of music and knowledge" may tell us that our impact on the environment is escalating fast. What does this mean? Does it mean that to reduce the human pressure on the environment it is also necessary to reduce the use of smart phones and the like? Or is it possible to fight climate change without abandoning such technologies of writing? Is it fair to say that if the so-called "oral cultures" were hegemonic all over the world, then we would not find ourselves in the midst of an ecological catastrophe? For which reasons?

This panel invites proposals that reflect on the links between the cognitive and the environmental from a myriad of perspectives. In particular, the panel invites, but not exclusively, proposals that can address energetic issues as well as anthropological/philosophical questions.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Anthropocene is the Right Word: Singing, Visual and Knowing

Author: Emilio G. Berrocal  email

Short Abstract

This paper suggests that "anthropocene" is the right word to mean what Crutzen suggested. We cannot certainly call it "Yanomamicene": it is the legacy of "anthropos" that is at stake here.

Long Abstract

Since the term "anthropocene" was suggested by Paul Crutzen to mean the geological epoch in which human activities are causing climate change, some have argued that perhaps the term is a wrong one, that we cannot charge the entire human species for something that only Western industrialism and capitalism is responsible for. In agreement with these observations, I suggest however that the term "anthropocene" is probably the best candidate to describe the current situation. The reason lies in its Greek roots, "anthropos", suggesting that it is the Western cognitive legacy, stemming from Ancient Greece, that is at stake here. We cannot certainly call it "Yanomamicene", for instance, as Yanomami call humans "Yanomami". But since Plato and the first philosophers used the word "mortals" to mean humans, and saw nature as that immutable horizon that "was created by neither gods nor men": we should ask when and why is it that "anthropos" started to mean the Western relation with the environment responsible for the anthropocene? The paper develops a comparison between Western reason and Amazonian ways of knowing. In particular, between hip-hop music-videos and shaman songs.

Minority languages degrowth and performative growth

Author: Manuela Pellegrino (Smithsonian Institution)  email

Short Abstract

My paper explores the implications of the shift from oral to written languages in the context of minority languages; I draw attention to competing language ideologies as they emerge in the engagement with writing by the elderly, semi-literate population of Griko-speakers of Grecìa Salentina (Italy).

Long Abstract

The emergent field of degrowth studies assumes a multi-disciplinary investigation of economic, ecological and cultural sustainability. It contests growth strategies that privilege resource expenditure and accumulation (Kallis, 2011, Kallis-et-all, 2012, 2013) rather than "human relations and values" (Scheider-et-all, 2010). Building on this premise, my proposed paper aims to explore the implications of the shift from oral to written languages. This happens largely in relation to minority languages embedded in the European framework of legal recognition. At first, this shift seems to reproduce the dominant language ideology - a language becomes such when it is written, as it were. Through the analysis of the ethnographic data, my proposed paper explores the productivity of Griko, a 'dying language' of Greek origins spoken by the elderly population in the south Italian province of Lecce (Grecìa Salentina); in particular, I draw attention to competing language ideologies as they emerge in the engagement with writing by the elderly, semi-literate population. By investigating the potential of minority languages to become symbolically as well as economically valuable 'assets', notwithstanding their reduced use as communicative tools, I explore, therefore, the ways in which cultural degrowth may occur.

Using Space Data to Create Perspective and Empathy on Long Term Goals in Climate Change

Author: Adrian Fartade (Link2Universe)  email

Short Abstract

As a species we have evolved thinking "local", reacting and empathising with immediate dangers. Climate Change is by its very nature a long and global process. Space satellites can offer a global perspective, making us feel local on a global scale.

Long Abstract

Climate Change is a global threat that requires a global solution. We can rightly argue that such a situation is the result of the technological progress brought about by the industrial age and that this is somehow all due to the the Western legacy of literacy. In fact, it this this legacy that, at the end of the day, made us think "globally" in the way we do today. If this is true, however, it may also mean that the global solution that we all need can be provided by some other outcomes stemming from this legacy. This paper argues in favour of using outer space data and technologies to create perspective and empathy on long term goals to fight climate change. The ecological movement was precisely born with a picture of the Earth taken from the Moon. Our task is therefore to continue to raise ecological awareness by using space satellites and powerful narratives.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.