Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global

Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global

Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global

Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global

Synopsis

Sense of Place and Sense of Planet analyzes the relationship between the imagination of the global and the ethical commitment to the local in environmentalist thought and writing from the 1960s to the present. Part One critically examines the emphasis on local identities and communities in North American environmentalism by establishing conceptual connections between environmentalism and ecocriticism, on one hand, and theories of globalization, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, on theother. It proposes the concept of "eco-cosmopolitanism" as a shorthand for envisioning these connections and the cultural and aesthetic forms into which they translate. Part Two focuses on conceptualizations of environmental danger and connects environmentalist and ecocritical thought with the interdisciplinary field of risk theory in the social sciences, arguing that environmental justice theory and ecocriticism stand to benefit from closer consideration of the theories of cosmopolitanism thathave arisen in this field from the analysis of transnational communities at risk. Both parts of the book combine in-depth theoretical discussion with detailed analyses of novels, poems, films, computer software and installation artworks from the US and abroad that translate new connections between global, national and local forms of awareness into innovative aesthetic forms combining allegory, epic, and views of the planet as a whole with modernist and postmodernist strategies of fragmentation,montage, collage, and zooming.

Excerpt

Arthur Dent is having a bad day. A bad Thursday, to be exact, on which local authorities roll bulldozers up on his front lawn to tear down his house in preparation for the construction of a new highway bypass. His clumsy protests against the demolition remain ineffectual, but that hardly matters, since the day quickly gets worse: a spaceship announces via a global public-address system that Planet Earth itself is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspatial express route. The demolition crew aboard the spaceship, observing the worldwide panic this announcement causes, point out that “all the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint.” Apparently, they do receive an objection from someone on Earth, because a few minutes later they declare with irritation: “What do you mean, you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? For heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light-years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.” Earth is destroyed—to be replaced later by an identical copy of itself, manufactured in the same galactic factory that the original turns out to have come from.

This scene, of course, marks the beginning of Douglas Adams’s science fiction comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (26), which propels the lone surviving earthling Arthur Dent into a universe of multiple galactic civilizations whose existence he had never so much as suspected. A rather obvious satire on the brutal tactics of urban development and the genocidal consequences of colonial invasion, the language of the alien technocrats derives much of its humor for the reader from the way it redefines the meaning of the word “local,” which here encompasses not just all of Planet Earth but also distant solar systems where humankind has not even yet set foot. Whether Adams intended it that way or not, this sudden confronta-

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