What is Hybridity?

For the purposes of our class, we can define ‘hybridity’ as the intersection of nature and society. We can credit Bruno Latour when arguing that the concept of hybridity is an ongoing problem for modernity because our society was constructed under the premise of separating everything that is natural from everything that is scientific. This inherent agreement is our “modern constitution” (Death, 2013, p.123). Below are the five contradictions that the modern constitution makes when trying to separate society from nature. 

The Modern Constitution {Editor’s Note: The following provides a good list of conceptual commitments found in The Modern Constitution. The points marked ‘a’ are demonstrations of the conceptual commitments of it. Hybridity challenges the Modern Constitution by questioning and providing examples that contradict or complicate the neat conceptual framework of modernity.}

1. Society and Nature are separate 

a. I.e. ‘We can draw a line between what we humans have constructed and what nature naturally created, and we are satisfied with that separation.’ 

2. Pre-Moderns = Nature, We = culture 

a. ‘East vs. West, Global South vs. Global North’ 

3. There is no God 

a. ‘Removing God from logic, science, and society. ‘

4. Positivism 

a. ‘We can subject everything to objective, scientific inquiry and scrutiny. And that which we cannot, does not exist.’ 

5. Time is Linear 

a. ‘In the past, people were more ignorant and less aware than they are now.’ 

‘Society’ and ‘nature’ are related and dependent entities that are both integral parts of what we consider the modern world. Studying one without consideration of the other would be a mistake. However, it is still important to recognize other definitions of hybridity and their historical uses in constructing a relationship with a group of “others”. Edward Said, often cited as the father of postcolonial studies, argues that western epistemology (epistemology is the study of knowledge and knowing) ranks individuals and groups of people according to their closeness to nature. Under this scale, we find that the closer one is with nature, the more backwards, less civilized, and less progressive they are. This is obviously problematic because hybridity implies a mixing of western/white/civilized communities with oriental/black and brown/uncivilized communities, which is ‘unnatural’ according to its definition. 

The video above explicates the differences between Modernism, Pre-Modern, Anti-Modern, and Post-Modern epistemologies to ultimately make the claim that to differentiate between society and nature is incorrect. The narrator argues that we can’t do anything about nature’s laws, yet we are completely free from it with limitless possibilities. Additionally, he argues that we are individuals free to live in a free society, yet we are limited by the requirement that we do obey its laws. Modernism paints us as being outside of nature, yet we erected a science that shows how we are at its mercy. Similarly, modernism persists to tell us that the only thing separating us from animals are our laws, but we are also individuals free to do as we please. These different perspectives contradict one another and our problem here is that we only represent one of them at any given time. Modernity really just means taking a stance based on a purified yet specialized perspective. 

What is Arcology to the Anthropocene? 

Luke in Chapter 10 of Anthropocene Alerts, opens up with a discussion of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is the era that human intervention is the primary cause of environmental degradation. Luke focuses on in the first section, human overconsumption from the proliferation of urbanization and agrarianization. Luke mentions, “the advent of intensive citification and agrarianization in a few human communities from 11,000 to 4,000 years ago also coincides with the first major leap in the rates of atmospheric greenhouse gassing, not matched until the past decade” (Luke, 2019, p.210). The large waste created through citification and urbanization leads Luke to arcology as a solution. Moreover, Luke continues with the idea of arcology. 

Luke examines the two arcology perspectives of Soleri and Mumford. Arcology is the idea to create a self-sustainable society that creates minimal waste. Mumford’s idea of arcology is much like modern day. Luke paraphrases, “The embedded reproduction of cities as artificial networks of human habitats rests upon enduring material formations as habitats to store and distribute the huge reserves of food energy farmed by citified human and nonhuman beings” (Luke, 2019, p.211). Mumford’s perspective can be seen in practice like suburbs or cities as they are connected group habitats working in a system. However, this idea of arcology fuels the Anthropocene. Soleri’s perspective would be done by including all aspects of life, including education, recreational, agriculture, economic, and domestic, contained in a single complex that has a minimal profile. Luke states, “Wringing all of the excess energy, materials, labor, and information out of this abuse of energy materials, labor in wasted space became the main aspiration for his ideal arcologies” (Luke, 2019, p.212). Soleri’s perspective in theory is attainable by containing everything in a single complex at a minimum to assure the minimal amount of waste from urbanization. 

This clip demonstrates the effects of an arcological civilization from Soleri’s perspectives. The idea of living in this type of life seems almost like science fiction or dystopian society. It provides a few examples of arcology already in place in the modern day. The two societies they show are far from being complete but in theory would follow the sustainable goals of arcology. The video also gives an example of Shanghai Tower in China that is an arcology already in use. The tower shows the ability of advancements in clean energy with its low profile structural sound skin and energy producing turbines at the top. 

In Chapter 10 of Anthropocene Alerts, Luke explores the implications of our creation of the new epoch noting, “the invention and popularization of the Anthropocene as a chronotope for the current crisis, then, is politically significant. It redirects a scientific system of geological time measurement to run as a legitimation engine for those seeking to generate new knowledge as well as to acquire greater power to combat the crisis that “Man” supposedly causes” (Luke, 2019 p.217). The resulting change in perceived opinion the Anthropocene brings could either alarm the human population as a physiological scare tactic for legitimizing the environmental catastrophes we create or it could simply normalize the drastic environmental changes as defining tipping points in geologic history. 

In recent geologic time, from 1763 to 2013, “Man” is characterized in the Anthropocene in which his, “destructive power expresses deep ecology of hard anthropocentrism to shelter what little life remains in this sixth great extinction event” (Luke, 2019 p.225). This philosophy is adopted to benefit those with soft biocentric views who care about the “remnants of creation”. Thus, creating a paradox of recognizing the intrinsic value of other “less powerful” biotic creatures while humans act as the enterprise that permanently exterminates the future of other beings. 

The lyrics in Bon Iver’s song “Holocene” connect personal growth and relationships to themes such as realized human insignificance and destruction of the world around us. The video includes imagery of a young child, all alone amongst an environ that has been forever changed by the very species whose time on Earth has been a drop in the bucket in geologic time. A nod to the title of the song is referenced in the setting of the video, as Iceland is a landscape that has experienced glacial retreat during the Holocene and will continue to change drastically during the Anthropocene. 

Luke reinforces that Earth System Science, as a knowledge formation does not do nearly enough to hinder large anthropogenic environmental change. “ESS elites manage the patchwork adaptations of human and nonhuman life to spreading ecological catastrophe by refining sustainable degradation” (Luke, 2019 p.226). The paramount need for extensive reorganization of anthropocenian geophysical actions brings the question of choosing to rapidly adopt extensive efforts of geoengineering. This push for more intense efforts of geoengineering can be attributed to the smaller environments that have been adapted to create “new natures” or “technonatures”. As a greater amount of landscapes and enviorns have been changed by technonaturalism, humans can see the power that they hold in changing geophysical sphere to meet their needs and alter the environment to reach a specific ecological goal. Negative effects of anthropogenic climate change could lead to the ideological justification of experimental large-scale geoengineering to mitigate greenhouse gas effects on all planetary spheres. 

What is technonature? 

For the purpose of this class, ‘technonature’ is defined as a process that is primarily concerned with the continued reproduction of civilization through the expansion of technological infrastructure and continuance of commodity production. “Geotechnic expansion necessitates the generation of frontiers through the identification of components of reality critical in the maintenance of productive and consumptive patterns that lie at the heart of civilizational reproduction” (Stubberfield, 2019, p.35). The term itself implies that it is a hybrid ontology that recognizes the material entanglement of human, and non-human agencies involved in the co-production of environments. “The concept is built from scholarship in political ecology that recognizes the historical co-evolution of humanity through technological enrollment of organic systems in the expansion of second nature ecosystems formed through industrial activity” (Stubberfield,2019,p.24-25). This explains that we are incorporating technology into our lives by integrating it into nature and how we perceive it. 

“There is no need to view global change as a revenge of nature, nor is it possible to say that humans are entirely the mandarins of their planetary environment” (Stubberfield,2019, p.37). There are many factors that go into global change and we as humans are not the only factor because there are changes everyday within the planetary-scale machine. The said machine is termed as the ‘Megamachine’ and it is made up of “ historical material and psychic imbrications of the organic and synthetic” (Stubberfield, 2019, p.37). Since there are so many things that go into climate change and in the world in general this term seats the risks of climate catastrophe in technonatural systems. Generating technonature are ‘environmentalities’ that are “socio-techno-environmental process that organizes the relationships of living, and nonliving through the production of knowledge/power regimes such that they create administrable environs” (Stubberfield, 2019, p.53). This core process helps set a conduct that administers technonatural milieux. 

This video shows how technology has made an impact not only on nature, but the environment as well. Using less resources will help us lessen our impact with global warming, and using this kind of technology will help us to feed more people all around the world. However, capitalist economics may provide a stumbling block for both. The narrator talks about how if someone who works for the farm has access to the internet they are able to see and track how things are going at the farm. This increases managerial power over the flow of things that go into high tech agricultural production. The production of commodities is improved and accelerated by using this technology. The term ‘technonature’ can be used here due to how production is increased through the Internet of Things, and how the impacts on ‘the environment’ are displaced through the use of technology to ‘maximize efficiency’ concerning resources. This video does a great job explaining how technology and nature recombine through new technologies to create commodities at a more efficient rate, and how it can lessen the impacts on the environment, thus, setting an example for the future. However, it’s separation of Nature and Society as distinct spheres of action is complicated through an understanding of hybridity, and technonature. Specifically, a commodity is always already a hybrid as it is a combination of “natural” resources with labor and technology. The video above shows that information and data are inscribed in the food produced through a reorganization of production thus exhibiting a change in relationships between ‘nature’ and ‘society’ as an environmental strategy based in consumption. The technology above, through its deployment within a technological system of agricultural production is connected to the growth of global megamachinery as “the natural” is drawn into “the technological” as an environmentality connected to global agribusiness.

Bios 

Laura Gonzalez 

Laura is a senior in International Public Policy with a double major in Spanish. She is originally from Puerto Rico but has lived in Virginia for the past 10 years. Laura will be starting law school in the Fall of 2021 with plans to practice immigration law and reform policy. Her passions include community service and outreach, and civil rights advocacy. 

Carol Fears 

Carol is a senior in Agribusiness Management and is graduating in December. She was born and raised in Halifax, Virginia. Her plans after graduation are to apply to graduate school, and to find a job that incorporates helping people along with being involved in agriculture. Her passions include agriculture, sports, and helping others. 

Rose Freeman 

Rose is a junior studying Environmental Policy and Planning with a minor in Environmental Science. She is from Ashburn, Virginia and is passionate about environmental justice and energy geopolitics. Rose is involved with Students for Sustainable Practice at Virginia Tech and in her free time she enjoys being in nature with friends, dancing, and practicing yoga. 

Evan Furtner 

Evan is a senior studying National Security and Foreign Affairs with a minor in Italian. He is from Leesburg, Virginia but also spends much of his summers in Texas. Evan with his major originally wanted to work in the intelligence community but now hopes to attend law school next fall. Evan likes to go fishing, watch movies, study Italian culture, and anything to do with snow.