Remembering A Voice for Earth: American Writers Respond to the Earth Charter (2008).
“April is the cruelest month” T.S. Eliot
Recent natural catastrophes might come as a cruel nemesis about the urgent call to (re)consider ecology. Not just in April, on Earth Day. But every day.
Katherine Hayles stated in a prophetic way in her 1999 book titled How We Became Posthuman (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press):
“Given market forces already at work, it is virtually (if I may use the word) certain that we will increasingly live, work, and play in environments that construct us as embodied virtualities. I believe that our best hope to intervene constructively in this development is to put an interpretive spin on it—one that opens up the possibilities of seeing pattern and presence as complementary rather than antagonistic. Information, like humanity, cannot exist apart from the embodiment that brings it into being as a material entity in the world; and embodiment is always instantiated, local, and specific. Embodiment can be destroyed, but it cannot be replicated… As we rush to explore the new vistas that cyberspace has made available for colonization, let us remember the fragility of a material world that cannot be replaced” (48-49)
Hiking is a good way to touch base with our connection to the earth and to Earth. The materiality of stones, their hardness under our feet, their weight down the slopes. The overpowering sensory elements that wash over us. Engaging with the physicality of our world.
Remembering, too, other peoples and their connection to the world. And their disappearance when deprived of it in the wake of the destruction caused by war, greed and the ruin of their natural habitat. A recent traveling exhibit titled The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky reprises the theme of loss with an urgent ring. As reviewer Thomas Powers notes, “Their fate was the one all cultures seem to fear and dread—a rubbing out to the very last person. The message of those pipes, a whisper of ultimate twilight, is what opens the Met show” (New York Review of Books LXII.8, May 7-20, 2015, p. 10).
The posthuman condition invites us to reflect on issues of agency. To forget that the planet is also endowed with a form of agency might be our tragedy. Its will might not be our will. Material devastation might turn the dematerialized fantasies of information technology into embodied nightmares.
Let’s dream an impossible dream: to return memory to its proper place and remember where we come from. Where we are.
And act on it.