November 18, 2015

Snippet from Learning to Die in the Anthropocene

A couple of paragraphs from Roy Scranton’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, from City Lights Books, 2015. Pages 108 and 109:

Wars begin and end. Empires rise and fall. Buildings collapse, books burn, servers break down, cities sink into the sea. Humanity can survive the demise of fossil-fuel civilization and it can survive whatever despotism or barbarism will arise in its ruins. We may even be able to survive in a greenhouse world. Perhaps our descendants will build new cities on the shores of the Arctic Sea, when the rest of the Earth is scorching deserts and steaming jungles. If being human is to mean anything in the Anthropocene, if we are going to refuse to let ourselves sink into the futility of life without memory, then we must not lose our few thousand years of hard-won knowledge, accumulated at great cost and against great odds. We must not abandon the memory of the dead.

As biological and cultural diversity is threatened across the world by capitalist monoculture and mass extinction, we must build arks: not just biological arks, to carry forward endangered genetic data, but also cultural arks, to carry forward endangered wisdom. The library of human cultural technologies that is our archive, the concrete record of human thought in all languages that comprises the entirety of our existence as historical beings, is not only the seed stock of future intellectual growth, but its soil, its source, its womb. The fate of the humanities, as we confront the end of modern civilization, is the end of humanity itself.

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