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EPUB ⚸ Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor õ The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly Using the innovative concept of slow violence to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle driven messaging that impels public activism today Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life sustaining conditions erodeIn a book of extraordinary scope, Nixon examines a cluster of writer activists affiliated with the environmentalism of the poor in the global South By approaching environmental justice literature from this transnational perspective, he exposes the limitations of the national and local frames that dominate environmental writing And by skillfully illuminating the strategies these writer activists deploy to give dramatic visibility to environmental emergencies, Nixon invites his readers to engage with some of the most pressing challenges of our time In its capacity to make legible the experienced slow moving environmental horrors of public policy re public works programs, infrastructure, and of war, Slow Violence is a devastating but must read text. This book is WOW This book is yuck I already knew fossil fuel companies were slimy and money hungry, avoiding environmental regulations whenever possible I knew that the U.S makes a habit of exporting our dirtiest businesses, and our trash literally , to poor countries without the political sway to complain about it I knew that the inhabitants of many small, low lying islands, who have been faced with the dire consequences of global warming already, have been among the most vocal to speak This book is WOW This book is yuck I already knew fossil fuel companies were slimy and money hungry, avoiding environmental regulations whenever possible I knew that the U.S makes a habit of exporting our dirtiest businesses, and our trash literally , to poor countries without the political sway to complain about it I knew that the inhabitants of many small, low lying islands, who have been faced with the dire consequences of global warming already, have been among the most vocal to speak out about the need for policy change Here s what I did not realize.I did not realize that, even now, oil companies like Shell literally fund and militarize tyrannical governments that won t hold them accountable for harm to the environment or the people of their country I did not realize it was so common for them to do this, and then say they had no political sway when the government started literally killing those who start speaking out against the behavior of oil companies I did not realize oil companies have been excited about the new possibilities opened up by global warming, as the arctic continues to melt and make itpractical to start drilling up there I did not realize the U.S government was excited to help them expedite this process, by clearing away all the pesky red tape that would keep them from doing so I did not realize that it is a cold, hard fact that companies like Chevron spendmoney advertising how much they care about alternative fuel sources than they actually spend on developing alternative fuels Although this isn t too hard to imagine.I did not realize that, at the same time Barack Obama was gently slapping the hand of B.P after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he was making sure there was a maximum cap for the cost oil companies would have to pay in the event of a oil disasters in Indian waters, no matter how tremendous the disaster is The maximum cap 0.5% of what we expected B.P to pay when a disaster happened in the U.S.I did not realize that we only hear about the oil spills that we are expected to be interested in For instance, we haven t heard much at all about the Exxon disaster s worth of oil that has been spilled in Nigeria EVERY YEAR, forthan the last thirty years.I would have thought this was newsworthy.I did not know that, when the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, B.P was relying on clean up methods that werethan forty years old and had been developed for fresh water, because they had never invested in developing clean up methods since then, or for different ecosystems I didn t realize that, while B.P was so clueless about actually cleaning it up, they sent planes out at night to douse the most heavily polluted parts of the water in a chemical that would cause the oil to clump and sink, doing possiblyenvironmental damage, but making it much harder to determine how large the disaster was I really, really wish I didn t have to take this book back to the library tomorrow, so I could write a full review with sources, ala Bird Brian Instead, You just get to see me in this state of shock as I try to make sense of all this If you can find a copy of this, I definitely recommend it Extract froma friend Here s what I did not realize.I did not realize that, even now, oil companies like Shell literally fund and militarize tyrannical governments that won t hold them accountable for harm to the environment or the people of their country I did not realize it was so common for them to do this, and then say they had no political sway when the government started literally killing those who start speaking out against the behavior of oil companies.I did not realize oil companies Extract froma friend Here s what I did not realize.I did not realize that, even now, oil companies like Shell literally fund and militarize tyrannical governments that won t hold them accountable for harm to the environment or the people of their country I did not realize it was so common for them to do this, and then say they had no political sway when the government started literally killing those who start speaking out against the behavior of oil companies.I did not realize oil companies have been excited about the new possibilities opened up by global warming, as the arctic continues to melt and make itpractical to start drilling up there I did not realize the U.S government was excited to help them expedite this process, by clearing away all the pesky red tape that would keep them from doing so.I did not realize that it is a cold, hard fact that companies like Chevron spendmoney advertising how much they care about alternative fuel sources than they actually spend on developing alternative fuels Although this isn t too hard to imagine.I did not realize that, at the same time Barack Obama was gently slapping the hand of B.P after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he was making sure there was a maximum cap for the cost oil companies would have to pay in the event of a oil disasters in Indian waters, no matter how tremendous the disaster is The maximum cap 0.5% of what we expected B.P to pay when a disaster happened in the U.S.I did not realize that we only hear about the oil spills that we are expected to be interested in For instance, we haven t heard much at all about the Exxon disaster s worth of oil that has been spilled in Nigeria EVERY YEAR, forthan the last thirty years.I would have thought this was newsworthy.I did not know that, when the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, B.P was relying on clean up methods that werethan forty years old and had been developed for fresh water, because they had never invested in developing clean up methods since then, or for different ecosystems I didn t realize that, while B.P was so clueless about actually cleaning it up, they sent planes out at night to douse the most heavily polluted parts of the water in a chemical that would cause the oil to clump and sink, doing possiblyenvironmental damage, but making it much harder to determine how large the disaster was.I really, really wish I didn t have to take this book back to the library tomorrow, so I could write a full review with sources, ala Bird Brian Instead, You just get to see me in this state of shock as I try to make sense of all this If you can find a copy of this, I definitely recommend it The most important book of literary criticism I ve read in five or six years, maybe longer And a bit disappointing.I ll start with the positives Nixon raises an absolutely central question for contemporary writers how can we develop forms of expression which confront the problem of slow violence primarily the environmental impact of our economic and political and personal actions in a compelling manner He s brilliant in framing the problem Most of our narrative and polemical forms focus The most important book of literary criticism I ve read in five or six years, maybe longer And a bit disappointing.I ll start with the positives Nixon raises an absolutely central question for contemporary writers how can we develop forms of expression which confront the problem of slow violence primarily the environmental impact of our economic and political and personal actions in a compelling manner He s brilliant in framing the problem Most of our narrative and polemical forms focus on spectacular, and usually individual, conflicts Take three seconds to think about whatever movie s at the top of the box office list or whatever book s at the top of the NYTimes best seller list, and you ll get the point I m absolutely convinced that Nixon has asked the right question It will be a part of how I think about literature from here on out.Nixon also does a good job with the second part of his title, the environmentalism of the poor The take home message here is that environmentalism isn t just for affluent western liberals environmental degradation has an evenimmediate impact on the lives of the poor, especially in the global South, which has been and is being used as a dumping ground and provider of resources for developed economices with very little attention to either short or long term effect on the people who live there Focusing on writers and activists from the global South Ken Saro Wiwa, Wangari Maathai,Arundhati Roy, Nadine Gordimer Nixon argues convincingly that any approach to environmentalism that fails to enter into active dialog and alliance with their movements is both intellectually and politically doomed.Finally on the positive side , Nixon raises the question of what the writer activist can do to address the title issues Again, it s the right question, but and here I m making the transition to the problems I wish he d doneto answer it While Nixon s previous work as a critic a terrific study of the Capetown Renaissance, South Africa s rough equivalent of the Harlem Renaissance and a study of V.S Naipaul makes it clear that he s got a deep grounding in the thorny questions concerning political literature, not much of that awareness is present here Specifically, I wanted him to bring the writer activist issues into conversation with what I ll shorthand as the Brecht Lukasc debate The central issue there was whether conventional literary forms for Lukasc, the Dickensian novel and realistic drama are capable of communicating politically challenging material in a way that leads to real action Brecht said no, that what we need are forms which jar viewers out of their comfort zones and force them, often uncomfortably and against their wills The specifics re Slow Violence differ, but the question s related can familiar polemical forms which highlight heroic individual political figures as is the case with Wangari and Maathai or op ed pieces such as Roy s, dothan join in the deafening chorus of opinion which floods our media worlds today Nixon whose best book, the marvelous Dreambirds, uses ostriches as a point of entry into a huge range of issues is fascinated with non fiction prose forms I tend to think that fictional narratives novels, movies, TV mini series have acentral role to play in overcoming resistance and denial.That leads to my final two criticisms or qualifications, both of which have to do with Nixon s text world First, I would have liked to have seenattention to Native American and global indigenous literature The first books I d use to spark a discussion of how to portray slow violence effectively would be Leslie Marmon Silko s Ceremony and The Almanac of the Dead Similarly, Nixon pays almost no attention to science fiction, although Indra Sinha s Animal s People shares some aesthetic strategies with, for example, Margaret Atwood s Oryx and Crake and Doris Lessing s Canopus series both of which related directly to Nixon s concerns I don t think it s accidental that Nixon s discussion of the environmental picaresque in the chapter on Sinha and the Bhopal catastrophee was the one I ll be coming back to most frequently.One last quibble Although Nixon is probably right when he says that literary criticism about environmental issues ecocriticism to use the argot has been unremittingly Americanist in its focus, he oversimplifies several of the canonical writers who have been placed at the center of that canon It may be true that the critics have been parochial and overly invested in the sublime, but that s not an accurate description of Gary Snyder who spent a great deal of time in Asia and is in active dialog with Asian environmentalists , Edward Abbey who s anything but distanced in his take on how we relate to the land or Terry Tempest Williams who, as a Mormon woman, has emphasized the issues of marginalization of the victims in ways that parallel the writers Nixon justly celebrates.Finally, although Nixon does a terrific job communicating his ideas to a non academic audience in public talks and journalistic essays, Slow Violence is a highly academic book He spends a lot of time orienting his ideas towards contemporary arguments among literary critics To be frank, I just don t give a damn about the relative prestige of post colonialists or the theoretical discussion of cosmpolitanism vs world literature Some of the issues raised in those debates are interesting and, as SV demonstrates, a few are crucial But I wish Nixon had written a book I could recommend for my non academic friends, who on average are far faraware of the issues he raises than those located within academia.The fact that I ve written what s probably the longest GR review I m likely to says something about the importance of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor It frames questions and opens doors It made me re think my perspective on issues I ve thought about a lot A platform for further work, on the page and in the world