Hide this

What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

YouTube Preview Image

Slavoj Zizek – Ecology without Nature

This lecture by Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek – never mind the crappy sound & image quality: this is philosophy folks! – should provide all next nature explorers with a feeling of recognition.

Zizek convincingly explains Darwinism learns us that nature is not a harmonious pattern of seasons, change, balance, reproduction. Rather, nature is one big catastrophy which is from time to time contained in a fragile balance, but then explodes again. Nature itself is not natural: rather it is naturalised.

Another thing he mentions is how human waste has become so integrated into the functioning of the ecosystem that (as some ecologists suggest?) an imaginary, sudden removal of all human pollution could ITSELF be an ecological catastrophe.

Discussion

  1. Presumably, Slavoj Zizek did read Timothy Mortons book Ecology without Nature.

  2. Let me describe my feeling of recognition here:

    I see a man. He has a beard, sunken eyes and while lecturing, he is nervously picking on himself. I know he is a Yugoslavian philosopher speaking to a college(?) audience, but some of the people do not seem to pay attention and continue their disrespectful mumbling. I hear his words, but I keep thinking: “This man must have (had) a mother that gave ‘natural’ birth to him”. So wat happened in the time between his birth and me seeing this video? Why are subjects like ‘the nature of nature’ and the ‘human effects on ecology’ so popular?

    I think part of the answer is because – in the now – the more we seem to know about the space–ship we inhabit; the more we come to realize that there is no one at the wheel. (This is where Zizek points out that nature is not a balanced whole; rather one big chaos catastrophy) This is scary. Why? Because since we lifted that bone*, we knew we liked to be in control of things. That’s where – in our minds – nature and culture began their seperation.

    But in fact there is no distinction between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. If nature does not exist (Zizek), then in this meta-vision neither does culture! These concepts exist in the eye of the beholder and are a product of thought. All of a sudden it becomes one process and I like to try and think like that. I think on this blog we try to call it NextNature.

    Perhaps – like Zizek mentions – there is only something like ecology and it is a process that adapts to existing parameters; a game between living things and the elements. Not too many rules.

    So having thought that and when I look at Slavoj Zizek’s added value… I can come to this conclusion: he is learning me to try and deal with the elements; lispingly trying to fight the mumbling scolars and hopes to find some guidance in the wild and unpredictable ecology we are all subject to. Like me, he is trying to survive.
    * Opening scene of ‘A space odyssey’

  3. Some more recognition:
    In fighting the mumblings of these (let’s assume they are) scholars with his talk Zizek makes a point about our human ‘problem’ to create abstractions of nature instead of living it. There’s another monkey story explaining this from a less controlling-nature perspective then Kubrick does. “When a monkey threw a stone in a pool he saw perfect circles in the water. He was so amazed by it that he picked a stick and carved these circles into the sand next to him”.
    This seems to be one of the first moments where an organism created a mental abstraction of a natural phenomenom he perceives (Plato’s cave). In modern times where we’ve gone even so far by creating a whole body of abstractions of abstractions of etc. (like language studies) it makes sense we have lost our touch to what this all refers to, hence the popularity of ‘the nature of nature’ topic.
    I like NextNature’s attempt to see this less a loss but rather as a status quo in human development that opens up possibilities rather then the dualistic approach that cynically claims man is doomed.

  4. Hi everyone, you will be into my next book The Ecological Thought if you like this talk–it is all Darwin all the time…I’m also writing something called “Queer Ecology” for PMLA (you can go to pmla.org to find it eventually–probably next year). Slavoj and I just published essays side by side in SubStance.