Climate Change and the Destruction of Nature

This paper was presented at the ‘Mediating Climate Change Conference’ at the University of Leeds, 4th – 6th July 2017.

In my research I have been looking at the way that popular narratives on climate change inadvertently reproduce the conditions through which climate change emerges. Through the work of Hegel and Benjamin I analyse the way that nature is always presented as a coherent and unified externality. This logic was paraphrased best by George Carlin: “The planet is fine; we’re fucked”.

Hegel’s thinking on self-consciousness and his turn away from natural beauty allows us to understand the way that popular conservation projects actually deny nature the possibility to realise its own spontaneous self-movement and ultimately cause even more environmental catastrophes. I propose a way of thinking about nature through Benjamin’s work The Destructive Character. The notion of destruction is not destruction for the sake of destruction, but rather an act that clears a space for spontaneous self-movement. Destruction in relation to nature would have a double character. Firstly, our reified notion of nature as “out there” would be destroyed, and secondly, bureaucratic environmentalism would also be destroyed. In the face of climate change, the only effective act is the destruction of nature.

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