Mass Extinction, Security & Intervention in the Anthropocene

No Promises: Mass Extinction, Security and Intervention in the Anthropocene
The concept of ‘security’ is paradoxical. It acknowledges the fragility of life and promotes strategies of ‘survival’ to mitigate this condition. Yet it also presumes that human interventions can guarantee survival – that is, ensure that life and death ‘go on’. This belief in the power of human agency to shape the conditions of being is epitomized by Anthropocene security interventions, ranging from military invasions to conservation norms to massive geo-engineering projects. But does the concept of security have any meaning in the face of mass extinction? I argue that the temporal dimensions of mass extinction undercut the possibility of security in several ways. First, extinction is not simply an aggregation of deaths; it marks the cessation of both life and death. This undermines the biopolitical logics that contemporary security discourses, especially notions of ‘resilience’ that emphasise the persistence of life processes through time. Second, mass extinction is an what I call an ‘enormity’: a phenomenon that is massive in its spatio-temporal dimensions, and which has profound but largely unarticulated ethical significance. It vastly exceeds the frameworks of security – from the human calibrated dimensions of international ethics to the linear temporality of intervention. Third, mass extinction is a multi-temporal process of becoming that problematizes two aspects of security: inattention to the emergence and destruction of worlds; and the drive towards stability. In articulating these arguments, this paper suggests that mass extinction negates the possibility of security, and calls for modes of response more attuned to the time, space and enormity of extinction.” Audra Mitchell

7 responses to “Mass Extinction, Security & Intervention in the Anthropocene

    • hey audra, my pleasure i’m quite taken with questions/wicked-problems of scale, complexity, and the limits of our grasps (including most folks’ cognitive-biases which make them blind to our inabilities to grasp such magnitudes and intertwined multivalences)

      • ah very good thanks for letting me know, hard to tell what will click with folks, just throw out what spurs and sparks i gather and hope they catch where they can.
        my leap of desperation is that this kind of collage will engage in ways that unified theories can’t and maybe in some way be a better marriage of form and content to the buzzing blooming confusions that we are always already in the midst of, or yah know just vent.

    • great i’ll put it on the do list thanks, was thinking of you this morning watching the reports of the ever intensifying conflagrations out west and in alaska, ashes to ashes i suppose

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