“Catastrophism and Its Critics: On The Bad Politics of This Changes Everything and Racing Extinction” with Michael Truscello

Join us on Friday, January 29 for a discussion with Michael Truscello (Associate Professor in English and General Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary) entitled “Catastrophism and Its Critics: On The Bad Politics of This Changes Everything and Racing Extinction“. 

This talk examines what some leftists call “catastrophism,” the doomsaying that has characterized much of the environmentalist literature of the past few decades. Some leftists believe the emphases on catastrophic ecological realities demoralize and demobilize potentially radical communities. As Doug Henwood writes in the foreword to the 2012 collection Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, “Wouldn’t it be better to spin narratives of how humans are marvellously resourceful creatures who could do a lot better with the intellectual, social, and material resources we have?…. Dystopia is for losers.” I will argue that prominent liberal and progressive filmmakers have taken this advice seriously, but in their attempts to produce anti-catastrophistic messages they have understated the crises we face and promoted solutions that are dramatically inadequate. In particular, I examine the recent documentary films This Changes Everything and Racing Extinction, because they exemplify both the most catastrophic ecological crises (climate change and mass extinction) and promote the worst forms of politics in response.


Speaker Biography:

Michael Truscello is an Associate Professor in English and General Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, and a member of the Petrocultures research cluster at the University of Alberta. His research interests include anarchism, the politics and poetics of infrastructure, petrocultures, and media studies. In 2011, he released the documentary film Capitalism Is The Crisis: Radical Politics in the Age of Austerity. He is currently developing a short film on suicide and politics, based on an interview with Franco “Bifo” Berardi. He has three book-length projects in the works: Art, Infrastructure, and Cultural Theory examines the politics and poetics of infrastructure; Why Don’t The Poor Rise Up?, which he co-edits with Ajamu Nangwaya, analyzes contemporary obstacles to popular insurrection; and Infrastructuralism and Communication Theory, which he co-edits with Daniel Paré, assembles writings on the infrastructural turn in communication theory. In August 2015, he participated in the After Oil initiative at the University of Alberta, a collaborative, interdisciplinary research partnership designed to explore, critically and creatively, the social, cultural and political changes necessary to facilitate a full-scale transition from fossil fuels to new forms of energy.


“Freedom in the Anthropocene: Twentieth-Century Helplessness in the Face of Climate Change” with Andony Melathopoulos

Join us on Friday, January 15 for the first of our Winter 2016 series of discussions in the Future in Question lecture series featuring Andony Melathopoulos  from the Natural Sciences Program at the University of Calgary.

Freedom in the Anthropocene: Twentieth-Century Helplessness in the Face of Climate Change

While it is clear that the Holocene/Anthropocene transition marks the unprecedented transformation of human societies, scholars have not been able to account for what this transition entails, how it could give rise to our current ecological predicament, and how we might plausibly move beyond it. Without such an understanding, we are left with an inadequate analysis that creates the condition for ill-informed policy decisions and a self-sustaining cycle of unsuccessful attempts to ameliorate societally induced environmental degradation. The talk will illuminate our current ecological predicament by focusing on the issue of history and freedom and how it relates to our current inability to render environmental threats and degradation recognizable, and by extension, subject to its conscious and free overcoming by society. Working through the writings of three twentieth century critical theorists (Georg Lukács, Theodor W. Adorno, and Moishe Postone), Stoner and Melathopoulos argue that the idea of the Anthropocene is a historically specific reflection of helplessness, which only becomes possible at the close of the twentieth century.


Andony Melathopoulos Biography

Andony Melathopoulos is a postdoctoral scholar in the Natural Sciences Program at the University of Calgary. His research is motivated by our current paradox: ecological degradation continues to accelerate even amid growing environmental attention and concern. How is it that our increasing technical ability to measure this degradation grows in parallel with a seemingly runaway pattern of unsustainability? His current research poses this question against the rapid expansion of pollinator-dependent crops and the problem of wild pollinator conservation in agriculture. He combines traditional environmental science methodologies—field research, pollination ecology, statistical modeling—in parallel with scholarship in the environmental humanities—ecological economics, political economy, and critical social theory. Through relating these two disciplinary areas he has been able to demonstrate how certain environmental science questions (e.g., the value of wild pollinating insects to agricultural output) veil unsustainable social processes behind a set of technical problems. His work in this field has been recognized internationally in journals such as Ecological Economics, in fora such as the International Conference on Global Food Security, and he was recently invited to be an expert reviewer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production for the United Nations.


MARK YOUR CALENDAR :: Upcoming Speakers

Mark your calendar for the next set of speakers in the ‘Anthropocene, Ecology, Pedagogy: The Future in Question” series!

Winter 2016 Series Speakers

Time  |  Noon-1PM +

Location  |  Arts-Based Research Studio (Education North 4-104)

Friday, Jan. 15, 2016   |   Andony Melathopoulos   |   University of Calgary, Natural Sciences, Post-Doctorate

Friday, Jan. 29, 2016   |   Michael Truscello   |   Department of English, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta

Friday. Feb 5th, 2016   |   Matthew Tiessen   |   School of Professional Communication, Faculty of Communication and Design, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario

Friday, Feb. 12th, 2016   |   Janae Sholtz   |   Department of Philosophy, Alvernia University, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA