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Owain Jones (Bath Spa University), ‘On Ecocide, Haunting and (self)Destruction: (hugging the lamppost till the train passes)’

Owain Jones (Bath Spa University), ‘On Ecocide, Haunting and (self)Destruction: (hugging the lamppost till the train passes)’

This paper addresses the business of being haunted by the current ecological crisis and particularly the sixth mass extinction (ecocide) now well under way. What is it to knowingly be a member of what will be “the most hated generation in human history?” (Stengers) What haunts is not a simple loss of biodiversity, but a loss of all the beauty, richness and complexity – the cultures – of lost and going non-human life. This links to deep time because such cultures could only evolve and become so rich through deep time. They are lived deep time. To be erasing all this is a history of such magnitude it makes any of the ‘great’ and ‘tragic’ events of human history look like mere local mishaps. Michelle Bastian has observed that leatherback turtle numbers are depleted to such an extent that whole traditional annual migration routes are lost, or just thin remnants. So that is all the traditions, memories of places and practices and routes, and the affective flames of departures and arrival and transit, passed from generation to generation that is lost. The same story repeats and repeats and repeats. The clearing on the Indian lowland forests for railway sleepers in the 19th century – all the ecology, the elephant herds – gone. The digging out of sand banks on Indian rivers for building and the loss of nest sites for the river crocs (Gharials); the ploughing of the American prairies, which reduced rich millennia old habitats and all the life therein to dust in the space of a decade; UK hay meadows. It is a very long, very tragic, and deeply haunting list. It affects me very deeply. In these circumstances I do not feel personal happiness and fulfilment for modern humans is a right – it is part of the problem – and it should not be a possibility either. Haunting has a particular temporal signature of “always being there”, either foregrounded or backgrounded or in between (a different form of deep time – the depth of the now). I feel ‘at risk’ in a number of ways as a result of this haunting which is active every day and every hour every minutes.

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