Penarth Head

Geological Feature


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There was never a time when human agency was anything other than an interfolding network of humanity and nonhumanity; today this mingling has become harder to ignore.
—Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things

In Vibrant Matter, Jane Bennett asserts that it would be advisable, productive, and ethical for contemporary philosophers to "theorize a kind of geological affect or material vitality" that recognizes the "shimmering, potentially violent vitality intrinsic to matter". The Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis of 2011 opened up new potentials for humans to invent and collectively adopt new modes of action at the intersections of the human and the geologic. We can no longer relate to the Earth as brute, static material: rocks, mountains, canyons, continents. Mountains are in constant motion. The stuff of rocks is in continuous transformation. The Earth's crust is a conveyor belt that digests continents and regurgitates new landmasses. Earth has a finite life span constrained by its cosmic environment. New understandings of the power of relatively ephemeral geo-bio-socio assemblages have altered our senses of the place we inhabit. No longer the inert matter outside of ourselves that is there to support us and our buildings, the geologic is a cascade of events. Humans and what we build participate in their unfolding. Making a geologic turn, we create an opportunity to recalibrate infrastructures, communities, and imaginations to a new scale-the scale of deep time, force, and materiality. This would require us to assemble responsively with the non-human scale of geo-forces in play on this planet. Such a move has the potential to turn Western-encultured humans (once again?) toward what is most real about human life on this planet: we are not simply "surrounded" by the geologic. We do not simply observe it as landscape or panorama. We inhabit the geologic. We live within it. This means that humans are always forced to come to terms with earth forces, eventually. –

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