Speculative Wonder at the World's End
a mode of creative attunement to the politics of world making that both resists environmental essentialism –while at the same time is compelled by an abiding concern for stewarding the earth
The image above is taken in Karukinka Nature Park, at a meandering creek within the dark forests of Tierra del Fuego, where my colleagues and I have come to immerse ourselves in the world of beavers. Here, silvery timber is strewn about like desiccated pick up sticks. A millennium ago, this wide valley may have hosted a rushing river. Now, the thatched mud dams of beavers have slowed this river to a steady soft trickle.
An interest in invasive species first brought me to Tierra del Fuego in southernmost Chile. Beavers arrived in Tierra del Fuego in 1946. Since then they have successfully settled on most of the archipelago's islands. Environmentalists and others who care about the region’s forests consider these beavers to be a critical and grave threat.
Over the years, my interests have broadened to try and understand how multiple assemblages of animals (including people) are remaking the landscape and creating global entanglements.
Speculative Wonder: I am using this term “speculative wonder” to suggest a mode of creative attunement to the politics of world making that both resists environmental essentialism –while at the same time is compelled by an abiding concern for stewarding the earth. Speculative wonder reflects my interest in moving beyond critique to an experimental model of research and writing that has been informed, in part, from Isabel Stengers work. Rather than treating neoliberalism and nature’s commodification as a kind of totalizing logic of contemporary conservation – though important – in this project, I explore possible alternative logics as play, in an attempt to think seriously about the ethics of living and dying in a world of global connection.
This project has been supported by Karukinka Nature Park on Isla Grande, within Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Karukinka is managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, one of the most eminent environmental organization in the United States. The project (“called Ensayos”) was developed to bring artists, social scientists, and natural scientists together to think about conservation problems at the park. The National Science Foundation's Coupled Natural and Human (CNH) Systems program provided additional support for this project (PI Chris Anderson).
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