THINK: Sustainability continues to be an evolving, ambiguous and malleable concept, despite its recent co-option as a slogan for so-called ‘green’ economic development. The irony of the situation, as Corcoran (2010, p. xii) suggests, is that ‘sustainability has become the metanarrative of our time- while at the same time sustainability has become a diminishing prospect.’ There exists a pervasive disconnect between the substantial discourse around sustainability in the contexts of politics, business and culture, and the actual progress that is being made toward sustainable futures. This calls for a re-defining and re-imagining of sustainability as both a concept and a process of cultural change.
Since the Brundlandt report released by the United Nations in 1987, understandings of sustainability have often focused on the capacity for social, economic and environmental systems to support the continuous growth of human development. Posthumanist theory challenges such human-centred approaches which perpetuate a deep-seated belief in 'man' as the measure of all things. Rather than placing the human subject as the master of his or her environment, posthumanism offers an eco-centric mode of thinking and action which values the agency of the ecological collective over that of the human individual. Posthumanism is not about negating or denying our humanity, but rather about affirming the entangled connections between humans, animals, environments, technologies, materials and more. In this way, a posthumanist approach to sustainability hinges on visionary thinking and action which honours humanity's ethical obligation to the collective worlds of the future.
Jason DeCaires Taylor Tomas Saraceno
DO: Use the online calculator below to establish your ecological footprint. Do you think tools like these are effective in changing people's feelings and behaviours? Do they oversimplify a complex issue? Do they presume individual human entitlement and sovereignty over ecological collectives?
ARCHIVE: What if all of our digital networks and databases were suddenly lost? Every website, every server, every database: all gone. You have been selected to preserve the most crucial artefacts, practices, knowledge and ideas for future humans to discover. Your submissions will be preserved in a secure archive which will be accessed decades or even centuries from now. What would you put in the archive? What cultural, scientific and ethical aspects of our civilisation should be sustained into the future? What do you want to say to future generations of humans? Use the portal below to post your text, audio, photos or video responses.
DISCUSS: What does it feel like to live on a planet that can no longer support out numbers? What aspects of our society should be sustained into the future? What elements should be discarded? What is the potential role of technology in sustaining life on Earth? What is the relationship between art and sustainability? Discuss these and any other sustainability-related questions below.
WATCH and DISCUSS: videos featuring the work of ecological artists. Write down some words or draw some images as you watch the videos. Then discuss your ideas with the group.