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.
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.