Of the Anthropocene, types of denial and William Connolly

It’s good to have a really good handle on why it is “unravelling” (1). Might help us spot some of the hows of the unravelling before they quite arrive. No averting, that’s a 20th century delusion…
Anyway thanks to a smart and compassionate friend (who took me out to the coast last Tuesday, when I really did need to be away from the computer), I now know about William Connolly. Am embarrassed that I didn’t already.  He’s the son of a GM auto-worker who got a PhD in the mid-1960s and has been writing very interesting (looking – I’ve only read a long interview so far) stuff ever since.  Honest about his failings and blind-pots, super-well-read, and has basically stayed woke all along.  This quote is from that recent interview.

A tiger has us by the tail; we are swinging around without really coming to terms with the character of the Anthropocene. By the Anthropocene I mean the two hundred year period during which we have significantly modified atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, amplified by the “Great Acceleration” starting in the 1950’s and continuing apace today. There is no guarantee that we will succeed in our actions if and when we do finally face up to it. The urgency of time. That is, indeed, one of the subliminal sources of second stage denialism today. First stage denial is the insistence by many evangelicals and neoliberals that the issue is not nearly as severe as climate scientists and the recent flood of climate marchers in many cities contend. The second stage of denial is admitting the issue but continuing to study and act within old sociocentric categories. We need to confront both modes.
(Connolly and Macdonald, 2015: 266)

Connolly, W.   and Macdonald, B. 2015. Confronting the Anthropocene and Contesting Neoliberalism: An Interview with William E. Connolly. New Political Science, 37:2, 259-275.

The work I “do”, the work most academics (and I am not one yet – and it may not happen) is very much in that second stage of denial.  So it goes. I suppose my cop-out is that I only strive to write a history of how a subset of our lords and masters prevented the actions that might have given us a chance of stopping it going tits up (see footnote 1). Not that anyone will care of course.  I should probably be more vigorous and physiological in my carpe-ing of the diems…

Fwiw, another Connolly concept – the evangelical/capitalist resonance machine  looks good.  Will have to re-listen to “Ignoreland”


(1) It’s been “unravelling” for most people on this planet for a very long time – 1492 is one obvious date, 1788 another. There are many others, who have had civilisation given to them at the point of a blanket, Bible or gun.  And let’s not even talk about what our species has been doing to all the other species, ‘kay?

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