Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quick Take: Thinking of Tragedy

This is my first venture in posting from my phone. I'll be brief.

Following up on the idea that the problem of sustainability may have no solution, and even that it may not be possible to cope, a number of threads in my recent research are converging on what may be a medium- or long-term project in articulating and assessing the merits of a tragic outlook. James Kunstler, for one, has advocated such a view regarding the near-term prospects for sustaining human civilization.

I plan to write more substantial posts outlining the initial ideas of the project but, for now, as I commute home (by transit: otherwise I wouldn't be typing this into my phone), I offer this photo as a glimpse of what I've been thinking.

The idea begins with the notion of place as developed in the book, experienced as a field of opportunities and constraints. The prospects for sustainability depend on how quickly places may be changing and how agile we can be in adapting. The possibility of tragedy arises when places change very quickly and we cannot be agile enough . . . and perhaps when we are not even aware of the need for agility

These are dark thoughts. I've been mulling them over for years, not quite wanting to take them on in public. I only do so now because I think I have an approach that will make it possible to articulate the whole mess and to open some space for hope and responsibility in the face of tragedy.

P.S. The photo shows the white board in my office. I wrote these notes just before I left for my commute home. The acronym at the bottom is my private joke: it stands for The Institute for Figuring Out Just How Comprehensively We Are Screwed. No such institute exists, at least not yet; for the record, I claim copyright myself.

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