Feverish World, the movie(s)

UVM grad Peter Ackerman has completed two short films about Feverish World: a 3-minute promo and a 9-minute documentary short. Both can be viewed at the EcoCultureLab YouTube site. Here they are. The opening and closing poetry in the longer film is by Vermont poet-laureate Chard deNiord; other credits are given in the video. For more details please visit the Feverish World web site and program and the YouTube page. Both of these films were made possible with generous funding from the University of Vermont’s Office of the Vice-President for Research.

Envisioning a post-carbon city

EcoCultureLab held its first Ecotopia Burlington gathering in May (more on that soon, including pictures) in part to envision what we’d like to have in a post-carbon Burlington. But is a post-carbon city even possible?

Writing in Current Affairs, Samuel Miller McDonald argues that decarbonizing our cities — and making them both more equitable and more beautiful — is possible. McDonald interviews a range of urban theorists and practitioners and provides examples from around the world to glean some ideas of what a “libertarian ecosocialist” city could look like.

He notes, for instance, that

If you remove cars, you suddenly have a lot more space for people, and can begin filling that space with the objects and activities that people enjoy.

and that

By disrupting standard models of housing—partly by incorporating food and energy production, such as gardens and solar panels—it’s possible to increase social bonds, give people more control over their space, and build carbon-free, equitable, climate-resilient housing.

How does your vision stack up against Miller’s?

Ecotopia Burlington: May 16 at Generator Makerspace

National Public Radio ran a series recently that imagined what cities will look like in 2050 after “we stopped climate change.” Stopped it in its tracks. (Their timeline was a little quicker than Feverish World’s invocation of 2068 as the year to aim for.)

In a similar spirit, EcoCultureLab would like to invite residents of the Greater Burlington Area to imagine what this place will look like in a post-carbon world, a world that is no longer reliant on the mining and burning of fossil fuels for its energy, transportation, communication, and other infrastructural needs. We would also like to add “just and equitable” to the “post-carbon” designation, as we don’t see the latter arising without overcoming some of the huge gaps in justice and equity that mark the current political-economic configuration.

What would an ecotopian Burlington look and feel like? An ecotopian Vermont, an ecotopian Lake Champlain Basin?

Unlike “utopia,” which literally means “no-place” — a place existing only in the mind — or “dystopia,” a “bad-place,” utopia gone awry, “ecotopia” at its most literal means “home-place” (oikos, the root of “economy” and “ecology,” referring to “the household”) — a place that has been made sustainable, reinhabited and turned into a viable life-region. Popularized in 1975 by film critic and novelist Ernest Callenbach, ecotopia has come to designate something beyond the current squeeze-point, on the other side of what Adam Frank has called the “sustainability bottleneck.” Ecotopian visions sometimes go hand-in-hand with dystopian scenarios, as in the late Ursula Le Guin’s remarkable vision of northern California many years after the eco-apocalypse, with sea levels having risen substantially and flooded the Californian central valley, but with a resilient and fascinating society having arisen in the aftermath.

Imagining an ecotopia by 2050 seems ambitious, to say the least, if not hubristic. At a time when many of us can hardly think beyond 2020 (imagining an election will improve things sufficiently to be able to think further), rekindling the ecotopian impulse might seem like a distraction. But in a place like Burlington, couldn’t we give it a try?

As it turns out, ecotopian visions abound (especially in California and the Cascadian U.S. northwest), with Burlington already being enlisted among them. The Ecotopia 2121 project included Burlington in its 100 “super eco friendly cities of the future.” Playing up longtime Burlington resident Murray Bookchin’s eco-anarchist visions (deep inspirations for some of us), the 2121 folks foresee Burlington’s city council disbanding itself in favor of self-organized groups and small businesses “vetted at public assemblies for their trustworthiness.”

UVM’s incoming president Suresh Garimella, in discussing his reasons for coming to Burlington, touted the 2013 book Sustainable Communities: Creating a Durable Local Economy, which focused on Burlington as its case study. The book documents the many things the city of Burlington has done to make itself more sustainable — such as vitalizing the downtown core, “incubating” non-profits and locally owned and socially conscious businesses, supporting the “creative economy,” and providing lending and training programs for women, refugees, and others.

But how will such efforts stand up to the challenges of the feverish world ahead? What other efforts will be needed? How might Burlington lead the way in coming to grips with climate change, threatened terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, a fossil-fuel based “infinite growth” economy (on a finite planet), and the vast inequalities that threaten the functioning of a globally connected society? Where do we even start?

On the hunch that only by feeling our way forward — with visions of what a good world could look, feel, smell, and taste like — can we even hope to garner the motivation to take on the challenges of the coming decades, EcoCultureLab will be soliciting contributions from residents, children, artists, and professionals. To kick things off, we are planning a public forum on May 16, which will also be the launch of a series of Third Thursday gatherings at Burlington’s Generator, a series that marks an evolving collaboration between EcoCultureLab and the Generator MakerSpace.

To prepare, we could do worse than to listen to the NPR series, and then to ask: What’s missing from the picture? What’s being left aside, glossed over, unrecognized? What’s unrealistic here? And what would apply to a mixed urban-rural region like northeast Vermont, the Winooski River watershed, the Lake Champlain basin, or whatever we call the place we (greater Burlingtonians) call home? Will it take new real estate developments? Or a de-real-estatization of the city? What will transportation options look like? What about the work- and food-scape? What will Burlington culture feel like?

EcoCultureLab’s hunch is that we need to begin articulating a sense of a goal before we can start to imagine how to get there from here.

Consider the May 16 event a launch for Ecotopia Burlington. 7:00-8:30 pm, Generator Makerspace, 40 Sears Lane, Burlington.

Ambulatory Art for Climate Justice

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A week from today dozens, if not hundreds, of Vermonters will begin a five-day sacred walk for climate justice. Organized by 350VT, the Next Steps walk covers over fifty miles from the town of Middlebury to the state capital in Montpelier. In keeping with the imaginative and artful theme, locals have been getting together to make artwork for marchers to carry and wear. There’s still time to get involved, both in the Next Steps walk and in the art-making! To register for the walk, visit the Next Steps web site.

Here are the details for the final art-build:

Tuesday, April 2, 2019
6:00pm to 10:00pm
The Hive on Pine
420 Pine St., 
Burlington, VT  
(near ArtsRiot)

Email kristian.a.brevik@gmail.com to RSVP.

If you can, please bring old sheets for fabric, old corrugated or other plastic campaign signs to cut up, and a shirt if you want to paint on one!

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Feverish World follow-up activities

The Feverish World Symposium elicited a lot of reactions. On November 30 of last year, EcoCultureLab hosted a half-day forum and search conference at UVM’s John Dewey Lounge that explored ways of following up on the goals of the symposium, specifically those of bridging the arts and sciences, and bridging academe and the greater Burlington/Vermont community, around the interlinked challenges of climate change, ecological disruption, social dislocation, and the like. Specifically, we considered:

  • What should we in the Burlington area be doing to anticipate and build capacity for dealing with these coming challenges of a "feverish world"?

  • In what ways can we build on the collaborations initiated or activated in the Feverish World Symposium?

  • What new connections and relationships should we cultivate with and between people, communities, organizations, and institutions in the local area and beyond?

  • How should we move forward with these efforts and find support for them?

  • How specifically should the arts be engaged in these efforts?

The November 30 event brought some three dozen participants together in a search conference format, with a session of group brainstorms around 5 pre-selected topics, followed by evaluation and development of specific ideas and proposals. The following emerged as the four key themes for future effort:

  1. Eco-arts and/or art-science gatherings: Participants were interested in organizing events (salons, encounters, potlucks, et al) that would bring together artists (visual, literary, performative) and other community members (scientists, tech/design professionals, and others) to share works, ideas, critique, and conversation around topics of eco-social concern. As this desire has long been a theme of discussions among faculty and students in the eco-arts and humanities, including at fora that led up to the creation of EcoCultureLab, it is a direction that we intend to keep developing.

  2. Public arts events: Participants expressed interest in organizing periodic large-scale events of a public, outdoor, artistic, and/or festive-ceremonial nature that could mark calendrical events (e.g., solstices and equinoxes, astronomical convergences), bring attention to sites in the local landscape (e.g., waterfront, Earth Clock, sewage or brownfield sites), and engage the broader community including partnering organizations (such as 350.org, Migrant Justice, Peace & Justice Center, Shelburne Farms, 2C Creative Community, VPIRG, the Intervale, ECHO, and many others) in collaborative, creative, and visionary ways. (Examples suggested included a “Green Santa Claus” event, water remediation efforts, solstice gatherings, et al.)

  3. Ecotopian Working Group: Participants expressed interest in the creation of a working group of local citizens (from all disciplines and walks of life) interested in envisioning and enabling the development of a sustainable, equitable, and post-carbon city-region of Burlington. Utopian thinking need not be at a deficit. But if “u-topia” means no place, “eco-topia” literally means “home-place,” the place of our relations as we might re-envision them for a hopeful future. A working group could involve readings and discussions, public forums, and other ways of eliciting visions from the public, as well as events that would share visionary ideas in tangible and accessible ways while recognizing the many challenges of getting from “here” to “there.”

  4. Organizational (& Landscape) Connectivity Network: It was considered important to develop some kind of coordinating body or forum that would work to connect and align organizational and activist efforts in social and environmental change across the Greater Burlington Region. The body could map out existing and potential relationships, identify needs and capacities, and facilitate novel collaborations through such initiatives as a community (meta-/mega-) calendar, a cross-organizational steering committee, and a Transition Town inventory (including an inventory of landscape connectivity for nonhuman biota).

There are clear points of connection between all of these ideas. And there are of course many groups already working toward similar goals as these. Among other educational and sustainability oriented initiatives, for instance, are the Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network, the Vermont Learning for the Future Project, Burlington Geographic, initiatives of the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Shelburne Farms, the Intervale Center, the City of Burlington, UVM Extension, local Abenaki communities, the Peace and Justice Center, and many others. Common themes in our discussions included the desire to be inclusive, to reach out to underrepresented communities (of New Americans, for example), and to balance an openness to tomorrow’s “climate refugees” with a need to manage ourselves sustainably and within the reasonable ecological limits of our place.

If you are interested in any of these initiatives, please stay tuned by following this blog and by joining our email listserv at ecoculture@list.uvm.edu. And if you are interested in taking an active role in any, please write us at ecoculture@uvm.edu. We look forward to many conversations, meetings, and actions.

Feverish World, or ecotopia now?

Originally published at Immanence: EcoCulture, GeoPhilosophy, MediaPolitics 

By Adrian Ivakhiv

Feverish World was premised on the acknowledgment that the coming decades will be feverish in more ways than one — climatologically, politically, economically, militarily — and that the arts will be essential in helping us come to terms with that feverishness. In my comments opening the symposium, I laid out the organizing committee’s thinking about this “feverishness.” In a follow-up event on November 30, EcoCultureLab will explore ways to move forward locally so as to be better able to “meet” that feverishness.

My hunch is that the only emotionally productive and sustainable ways forward will be to focus on transforming today’s (and tomorrow’s) challenges into ecotopian capacities: How do we remake society into one that can sustain itself ecoculturally (without fossil fuels and grotesque inequalities) into the longer-range future? What are the visions that can guide this process forward?   

The following were my opening comments at the Feverish World Symposium. The ecotopic visioning remains ahead of us.

FEVERISH WORLD

Welcome to Feverish World. Welcome to the Feverish World. Welcome to this Feverish World.

A fever is felt in the bones, the skin, the viscera; it is experienced bodily, sometimes accompanied (ironically) by chills. But we’ve come to rely on an expert — called a thermometer — to tell us if what we have is a “real” fever or not. Is it over 100 Fahrenheit, 38 Celsius, or not quite? Note that 38 is one Celsius degree higher than the baseline norm of 37.

A planet’s temperature — this one’s at any rate — is also measured in degrees Celsius (though it’s averaged out over the entire surface). And a one degree rise? According to IPCC reports: that’s not much at all, and we are practically there. And at the same time it is everything that a planet might want to tolerate without its getting us into a very risky zone. A 2-degree rise is the considered almost guaranteed. And anything above that is considered something like fatal — to the climate regime we’ve grown used to, called the Holocene.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5C  would  require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society…”

A planet can also come to rely on an expert — called science. But our planet is having some difficulty determining how much we should trust that expertise of science.

Feverish World — this symposium, which has grown into also being something of a festival as well, and certainly a convergence — is premised on the understanding that fever is still primarily experienced bodily, and not just as a reading on a thermometer. It is a felt form that becomes us: we become feverish, fever takes us over.

And perhaps more importantly, fever is a good thing. It’s an immune response that helps a body fight off an infection. Treating a fever is intended not so much to eliminate the infection as it is to make one more comfortable while one’s body deals with the infection. Fever itself is uncomfortable, but it is useful. It’s a good sign to pay attention to.

What kind of a sign is fever? Calling our world “feverish” takes us into the realm of metaphor. To avoid metaphor would be to speak in literalisms, which means to speak with a language that has become so settled, predefined, and predigested, that the words we use and the objects they refer to cannot be easily delinked. Their meanings are taken for granted, and with issues that have become, as we say, “politicized” (that is, polarized), we can simply line up on one or the other side of the polarity, like at a football or soccer match, and let the scoring begin.

With metaphor, language becomes alive again. This symposium, Feverish World, is premised on the search for a language — a language of images, narratives, and performative actions — that can bring this terrain alive, a language that doesn’t follow preordained destinies but that can experiment with new meanings, new ways of making connection, novel alliances. A language that can reach back to that level of the body’s felt reality — the fever that is felt in the bones and the viscera.

FEVERISH WORLD, 2018-2068

History doesn’t occur in 50-year chunks. But let’s imagine that it might.

Two such chunks ago, in 1918, almost to this day (give or take a few weeks), World War One formally ended. Soviet revolutionaries formally declared the first nominally socialist constitution, and executed the Romanovs, their aristocratic predecessors. And the Spanish flu engulfed the world, ultimately taking the lives of 50 to 100 million people — the second largest toll of any such disease in history, and far faster spreading than the first (the Black Death).

Fifty years ago, in 1968, the world was again awash in revolutions, riots, and protests — protests on campuses and against an unpopular war, and the assassinations of leaders, but this time of leaders who represented the new, not the old (MLK and Robert Kennedy rather than the Romanovs).

Much has changed since 1968: television has been replaced by the internet and the smart phone, and the seeming “nuclear stability” of the Cold War has been replaced by today’s poly-unstable, multipolar and multinuclear order.

We chose this 50 year window because today’s tensions, challenges, and struggles seem so urgent, so of the moment, and the big challenges — like climate change and ecological disruption (mass extinction and all the rest) seem so ill suited to the 24 hour news cycle, or the annual report, or even the 4 year electoral cycle. Even the 12-year turnaround period being offered us by the latest IPCC report seems far too little, far too late. We thought that by giving ourselves fifty years we might regain a bit of that sense of agency that we need in order to turn around the present crisis (the eco-crisis being, as Natalie Jeremijenko has argued, at heart a crisis of agency). 

FEVERISH WORLD, 2018-2068: Arts and Sciences of Collective Survival

There’s much more to life, of course, than mere survival. Beyond survival there is thriving. There is flourishing. Those are the ultimate goals.

Collective survival, however, implies that there is a collectivity that counts for something, and which our world doesn’t yet seem to have achieved. Torn and riven by inequalities — systemic, structural, institutionalized inequalities that keep us from being anything like a singular humanity — the forging together of a collective agent is still very embryonic.

We invite you to join us in envisioning how this embryonic task might proceed, here in the Burlington area and in all the other locales where it might be taken up.

How do we re-envision the possibility of flourishing, with and for others, in this place, this land, this Winosik corner of Ndakinna (as Fred Wiseman will relate to us shortly), a land between two mountain ranges and facing a lake that was once a sea and that still flows out to a sea through a circuitry of waterways and land-water interfaces? How do we draw on our collective capacities to tell new (and old) stories, envision new (and old) ways of relating, and move and act with them into a new (and old) future aligned with the others on whom we depend? How do we transfigure the top-heavy, carbon-choked machinery of colonial-capitalist governance into a network that’s nimble, agile, flexible, and open to the needs of all its constituents?

Let’s explore these questions together.

Feverish World Follow-Up Search Conference: November 30

How can the Burlington area respond creatively to climate change?

On the heels of a very successful symposium, we will be hosting a one-day mini-search conference to further the goals of bringing together the arts, the sciences, the academy, and the broader community in response to the multiple crises connected to climate change. Join us in community as we consider what we can do in the Burlington area to continue to meet the social and ecological challenges of the coming decades.

The goal of a search conference is to provide a structured opportunity for interested participants to deliberate over a desirable future goal and to develop a plan for achieving that goal. The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, November 30
3:30-5:00 and 5:15-6:45
John Dewey Lounge
Old Mill Building, 94 University Place, Burlington

All are welcome to participate in one or both segments.

"The Politics of Gaia" keynote available to be watched

Feverish World’s Burack Keynote Lecture by Bruno Latour, featuring Vermont poet-laureate Chard deNiord, historian of literature Robert Boschman, Molly Ruprecht speaker and artist Torkwase Dyson, and NPR’s Steve Paulson, can now be watched on YouTube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTeNn_mxhwk

Here’s the program:

0’00”: Introductory comments by Adrian Ivakhiv

9’50”: “Dispatch from Gaia” by Chard deNiord

16’00”: “Dispatches from Gaia” by Bruno Latour

1’01’20”: Panel discussion, featuring Robert Boschman, Torkwase Dyson, and Bruno Latour, moderated by Steve Paulson (with questions from audience)

The Politics of Gaia - Bruno Latour, PhD, with Adrian Ivakhiv (introduction), Chard deNiord (poetry), Steve Paulson (facilitation), Robert Boschman (discussant), Torkwase Dyson (discussant)

Feverish World is almost here (pre-symposium begins)

The pre-symposium events have begun with the launching of the ScreenWorks video series, displayed on monitors in the hallways of the University of Vermont’s new Cohen Hall for Integrative Creative Arts. This week students and other volunteers are helping Nele Azevedo with the construction of 1,000 ice figures for Minimum Monument.

Registration is now available for multiple events including Pauline Jennings’ “Seeking Nourishment in a Feverish World” (her work pictured below), both from the Registration page and from the Program.

Elizabeth Seyler’s article in Seven Days presents more about the symposium. Other details, including an updated Program, have been added to this web site and to our Facebook event page, Instagram account, and Press Gallery page.

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Feverish World is approaching...

“Feverish World 2018-2068: Arts and Sciences of Collective Survival” is rapidly approaching. A tentative program is available here and the list of speakers and featured guests is being updated regularly.

FW Logo designed by Jonathan Harris

We now have some 40 artists preparing TentWorks, which will be displayed indoors and (mostly) outdoors at UVM campus and around town. Registration will soon be available for a few of the events, including Pauline Jennings’ performative riddle-walk through the city and Anne Bourne’s Deep Listening and Community Sounding exercise, as well as for reading TextWorks in advance of the two roundtables (“Art versus Ecocide in a Feverish World” and “Transdisciplinary Strategies for a Feverish World”).

Best of all, Feverish World is entirely free and open to the public. This means that we do not provide much food (good and inexpensive food options will be available) nor any housing for visitors coming from out of town. We recommend the usual places for finding accommodations (Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Priceline, et al.). If there is enough interest, we will try to set up a list for potential homestays (“artists visiting artists,” “scholars visiting scholars,” “activists visiting activists”… that sort of thing). Let us know if you are interested by writing to ecoculture@uvm.edu with “Homestays” in the Subject line.

We look forward to seeing you here in October!

Feverish World logo by Jonathan Harris, 2018.

In Production

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UVM undergraduate Anabel Sosa interviews Win Smith, the owner and CEO of the Sugarbush Resort in Warren, VT. Her research focuses on the impact that climate change has on ski areas and the surrounding communities, and will be shot and edited into a short documentary with support from the Ecoculture Lab's Ecomedia Mentor Program.

UVM Earth Week Gala

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To UVM students, faculty, and staff: The ENVS 195 Environmental Literature, Arts & Media class will be hosting an Earth Week Eco-Arts Gala Exhibition, to take place on Wednesday April 18 at the Silver Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center, 10 am to 4:30 pm.

If you are working on, or have recently completed, any environmentally oriented art work in any medium -- literature, visual art, music/sound art, theater, dance, performance, new media, mixed media, et al -- and would like to have it included in the exhibition, please let us know about it,

so that we can consider including it in the exhibition.

And if you are interested in helping to organize it, promote it, or otherwise make it a lively and enjoyable event, please also let us know. (Offers of live music and performance welcome!)

Thanks,

Adrian Ivakhiv (aivakhiv@uvm.edu) Lisa Liotta (Lisa.Liotta@uvm.edu) Finn Yarbrough (Finn.Yarbrough@uvm.edu)

DOMINION

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https://vimeo.com/206512288  

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), having once attracted a diverse population from around the globe, still struggles to recover from the collapse of the industry that fueled its growth. This industry contributed to Canada’s highest rates of cancer and other chronic illness when it created one of the worst environmental disasters in North America. Yet the departure of the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation triggered an economic disaster as well, fracturing the CBRM’s vibrant social mosaic and tempting some to dream of its return. To visit the CBRM today is to witness the result of hundreds of million dollars in remediation, and the city stands as a testament to the strength of its people. Yet beneath the earth lies a parallel city, an underworld of dreams, a bringer of prosperity and of death.

There are unsteady boundaries between nature and culture, the landscape and its people. When dominion over nature becomes oppression of the human body and soul, the key to both social and environmental resilience may be turned by the same hand.