Saturday, August 26, 2017


It seems hard to believe when you're in the full beauty of the English summer that the environment is any sort of danger at all. It's in full bloom, bountiful, green, just as it should be - what on Earth could be wrong? Precarity, that rather ugly word, is at the height of fashion, and it gets used to describe the nature-culture complex in all its inherent instability. Socially, politically, economically as well as environmentally, everything can be seen teetering on the edge of collapse. As a case in point, the fragile structures of law, order and security seem threatened by terrorism. Random attacks, followed by rapid responses and shoot-to-kill policing that shortcuts the requirement for evidence, identification and prosecution seem set to engulf us. News breaks as events unfold and ideological conflict spills out over borders. The situation is fluid, mobile, precarious. Yet at the same time, there are points or places in which the very opposites obtain - stability, stasis and security seem to uphold an undisturbed order. Perhaps the same is true of the natural world. Order and chaos co-exist like the two sides of a coin. Dwelling on precarity may be important in assessing the lives of vulnerable populations, fragile ecosystems and political conflict, but it is also itself a product of highly mobile information flows. Media, in all its proliferating forms, provides a continuous stream of bad news which sometimes has the effect of rendering us helpless, flailing around in a tsunami of death, disaster and degradation. The challenge, then, is to find expression for ethico-political action (or non-action) that acknowledges what is precarious, but is not defeated by it.