2024-02-27 WLA notes on Ghosh Apocalypse lecture

  • notes stimulated by conversation with Wendy Elford and leximancer analysis of a transcript of AG's talk

find the narratives

  1. present-day zeitgeist around history ending apocalypse; roots in 1950s nuclear arms race; current expressions and actions led by techno and scientific elites; early basis in the theory of evolution and eugenics; and how those who believe in eugenics are willing to hasten an apocalypse

  2. the differences between catastrophist and gradualists perspectives; that catastrophist views are not unsound; the notion that this is a bio-political difference based on different relationships between human societies and the environment

  3. the growth of preparations by an elite to withstand and survive an apocalyptic event, and restart humanity with a clean slate; the delusions on which these survivalist ideas are based; a shared blind-spot: that the Western, educated, technology advantaged have better chances of surviving the expected catastrophes; the fragility of the industrialized and terra-formed regions of the Earth

  4. the abilities of humanity to avoid annihilation are to be found in the remaining indigenous knowledge, practices, and rituals of living within the natural world

notes from 2024-02-24:

  • Two notions (among several) that I pick up from this essay are: (1) extermination of the weak (eugenics), and the telos of evolution, or the natural order of things; and (2) bio-political perspective of the planetary crisis.

    In addition are:

    • the history of evolution and telos,
    • the techno-scientific and utopian visions of apocalypse,
    • the delusion that anyone can be insulated from the impacts of planetary crises, and
    • that the indigenous people, and the least developed regions of the Earth, are best suited to adapt to and survive catastrophes.

2024-02-27 some extracts:

Given the scale and diversity of the disruptions that are already being felt around the planet, it is hardly surprising that the prospect of a history ending apocalypse is once again being widely imagined.

[The Event] ... is envisaged as a cataclysm that will involve many kinds of protagonists, some of some of whom are impersonal non-human agencies, such as atmospheric forces, viruses, financial systems, self-replicating nanobots, and artificial intelligence.

What is at issue here ultimately are two radically different conceptions of the planetary crisis, one of which is broadly gradualist, while the other is catastrophist.

The forces that have been unleashed by global warming are not under anyone’s control, nor are they reliable allies of any party. ... . If there is anything that that we can now be sure of, it is that there is nothing predictable about the unintended consequences of techno-scientific interventions.

I suspect that the ... imaginings of apocalypse, that are now so widespread in the West, are based not so much on scientific data as on the anxieties generated by the experience of living in societies that are increasingly unable to deliver on their promises.

... what the future holds may be the exact inverse of the techno-scientific utopias dreamt of by cognitive elites. It would be a world, or worlds, in which those who have long been stigmatized as poor and backward will regain their lost sovereignty, as it comes to be realized that Humanity’s future, such as it is, depends not on space stations, or high-tech bunkers, or Martian colonies, but on being able to adapt to rapidly changing environments here on Earth.

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