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Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime

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The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people. What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecol The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people. What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. Hence their flight offshore and their massive investment in climate change denial. The Left has been slow to turn its attention to this new situation. It is still organized along an axis that goes from investment in local values to the hope of globalization and just at the time when, everywhere, people dissatisfied with the ideal of modernity are turning back to the protection of national or even ethnic borders. This is why it is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today.


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The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people. What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecol The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people. What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. Hence their flight offshore and their massive investment in climate change denial. The Left has been slow to turn its attention to this new situation. It is still organized along an axis that goes from investment in local values to the hope of globalization and just at the time when, everywhere, people dissatisfied with the ideal of modernity are turning back to the protection of national or even ethnic borders. This is why it is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today.

30 review for Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ellery

    Read it torn between exhilaration (this can orient us toward a new earthbound politics!) and despair (this is a manifesto for firefighting written as the house is burning down...will the manuscript itself even survive the flames?). In many ways, this is a distillation and extension of arguments Latour has made in Facing Gaia and elsewhere, especially in his call to supplant the figural ideal of the Globe and "globalization" with that of the Earth and "terrestrialization." Here, though, Latour's Read it torn between exhilaration (this can orient us toward a new earthbound politics!) and despair (this is a manifesto for firefighting written as the house is burning down...will the manuscript itself even survive the flames?). In many ways, this is a distillation and extension of arguments Latour has made in Facing Gaia and elsewhere, especially in his call to supplant the figural ideal of the Globe and "globalization" with that of the Earth and "terrestrialization." Here, though, Latour's usual cheerfully combative style has combined with a unique ferocious urgency and poignancy, an explicit response to the ongoing tragic farces of Trump's election, his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, Brexit, the "populist" reaction to mass migration across the world, etc. You can call this response belated or even self-evident, but it still feels audacious and horrifying to hear Latour put into words an unfolding apocalypse: "...the elites have been so thoroughly convinced that there would be no future life for everyone that they have decided to get rid of all the burdens of solidarity as fast as possible--hence deregulation; they have decided that a sort of gilded fortress would have to be built for those (a small percentage) who would be able to make it through--hence the explosion of inequalities; and they have decided that, to conceal the crass selfishness of such a flight out of the shared world, they would have to reject absolutely the threat at the origin of this headlong flight--hence the denial of climate change...These people--whom we can call the obscurantist elites--understood that, if they wanted to survive in comfort, they had to stop pretending, even in their dreams, to share the earth with the rest of the world." In the end, Latour proposes that we "generate alternative descriptions" of the Earth's "dwelling places," beyond the Scylla/Charybdis of the Global (the utopia of elites) and the Local (the utopia of populists, nationalists, racists). This proposal is made with Latour's characteristic (and conscientious) commitment to tracing networks, and he is aware of its apparent inadequacy: "The goal of this essay is not to disappoint, but one cannot ask it to go faster than the history that is under way..." However, I couldn't help overhearing another voice answering: it's too late; you've run out of time. This will spark a hundred papers for a dozen conferences, surely including my own; but the next "Europe 1914" you're warning against is already happening; the conflagration is raging, and we are already without a home.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Juan Cantú

    I read the NYT Magazine's profile on the man. Was impressed by his (or rather, the article's) ideas: Science as a human endeavor that is not exempt from bias -and impossible to exercise with pure objectivity. Started watching the man's presentation in youtube. Too obscure. Lots of terms that needed prior familiarity with this work. I gave him another shot. "Let's read the man's ideas in paper. They HAVE to be clearer. After all, he's one of the worlds most recognized sociologist/scientist. If he I read the NYT Magazine's profile on the man. Was impressed by his (or rather, the article's) ideas: Science as a human endeavor that is not exempt from bias -and impossible to exercise with pure objectivity. Started watching the man's presentation in youtube. Too obscure. Lots of terms that needed prior familiarity with this work. I gave him another shot. "Let's read the man's ideas in paper. They HAVE to be clearer. After all, he's one of the worlds most recognized sociologist/scientist. If he's that recognized, he must be very compelling and persuasive." Boy was I wrong. If a book could select the most sarcastic name for its own content, "Down to Earth" would be it. Totally trollish, actually. This 100-page essay is ANYTHING but down to earth folks. Convoluted, obscure, abstract, ethereal, shoehorned, circular, ornate, baroque, repetitive, conceited, circular, arrogant, repetitious, and circular. Did I mention circular? Here's the gist. Modernism? Wrong. Earth? Damaged. People? Betrayed. Traditions? Irrecoverable. But to solve all this, shoot for this trippy, impossible-to-describe "ideal" world called "the Terrestrial". Don't bother understanding what it means. Latour doesn't either. Something about recognizing earth's reactions to human-induced damage? A new political realignment? Still don't get it? He'll draw comically bad figures for you. Imperfect little circle means "the Local", you see. Little arrow towards a tiny Globe means globalization. Get it? It goes from Local towards Global. But it's not that simple. It never is. Here's another figure so you really get it. In it, the same 2 circles, like in the past figure, but this one has another, solid, imperfect tiny circle (this one forming the third angle of a triangle!) and that's the "Terrestrial". Not the Global. That's bad, remember. Terrestrial is... how can I explain? Do you smell it? It's that je ne se quoi. Kind of political, but it's not, because it can't be pinpointed. But it definitely has no borders. And hear the trees, please. And the bacteria. And ISIS terrorists? But the soil, man. It can feel too. And then you land somewhere. Because, something something migration. Because you're running from... colonialism? No. You're running from ecological catastrophe. Just don't call it Ecological. Because it's... not that. Instead, call it "System of Engendering". No... "Nature as Process". No... Lovelockian objects. And don't watch it from Sirius. That's too far from earth. Or is it Earth? Anyway... I digress. THAT's what the Green Political Parties got wrong, OK? They didn't get it, apparently. Never excited people. Unlike the Marxists. Whose definition of social classes still stand the test of time. But anyway. Back to migrations: good for you! You're invading the invaders. Not "you", you. But the people. And the cockroaches? Yes, the cockroaches. Also: it's not your fault. It's Europe's. Which has no power these days. Abandoned by the US. Boo hoo. But it deserves what's coming to them. Because they pushed politics on the world. And they also pushed... science? Yes, the science seen from Sirius (the bad one). Oh, and they plundered too. But they didn't know better, so cut them some slack. And hey, they want to make amends, OK? Refugees welcome. Was that clear? Excruciating, painfully fuzzy. Devoid of data. Absolutely lacking tangible stuff. The one aspect that kind of intrigued me a little going into it was the hope to read more details about the layer of planetary soil which is the giver of life (which I had heard of in the youtube talk). Disappointingly, Latour barely mentions it. Anyway. All this to say, I assume, that "Down to Earth" is an exasperatingly pedantic, 100-page long mental masturbation. Sorry you had to read this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    I am grateful and relieved somebody can finally understand and explain to me what I've been going through for the past five years. This has been a very personal book for me, for reasons I will explain in some paragraphs. To attempt to summarize "Down to Earth" with my own words, this is a book about a reorientation of politics away from the front of modernization, where progress moves towards an integrated globalized socioeconomic culture (designated Global) and retreats protect local traditions, I am grateful and relieved somebody can finally understand and explain to me what I've been going through for the past five years. This has been a very personal book for me, for reasons I will explain in some paragraphs. To attempt to summarize "Down to Earth" with my own words, this is a book about a reorientation of politics away from the front of modernization, where progress moves towards an integrated globalized socioeconomic culture (designated Global) and retreats protect local traditions, practices, preferences, institutions, and power structures (designated Local). In the past, politics operated in the useful tension between these two attractors. Instead of modernization, this book proposes a front of terrestrialization, where progress means moving towards shared practices of informed, inclusive regional stewardship. The contrary force to this new notion of progress are self-interested mediated meme-driven isolationist screw-overs that abandon notions of shared concern and even shared reality. The suggested reason for this reorientation is that there is no longer any "there" there for either the Global or Local. Neither economic and cultural integration or retrenchment behind borders will protect societies from the geophysical response of a changing climate or prepare them to respond in any sensible way. For the sake of summarization, let us note these are not their only problems. The book notes a similar need for others shift from modernist to terrestrial orientations: * a shift from an economic materialism that neither prevented or really even noticed the material reality of a temperature rise of 3.5 C or the six great exinction, to a materialism that actually is grounded in our biological and geological reality * a universal science of facts that treats obscure facts about black holes or temperatures naturally occuring nowhere as though they should be on the same level of interest as the parameters of biological survival, to a science that savvy to the comparative challenge of marshaling and dissemenating indisputable evidence about those parameters * an inert nature acting as scenery outside to our sociopolitical theatre, to a reactive habitat that is our territory and defended and cultivated for our well-being * a notion of rational progress that has no particular ends in mind for those it services, to a reason serving the intrinsic needs of ourselves and our habitat This has been a very personal book, much more occasioned by political responses to "climate change" than about this geophysical phenomena in all but the most general sense. In a way that I imagine is similar for many, I came to value a certain set of modernist virtues: an impartiality or neutrality and the idea that being a professional is the best way to care for fellow people, and that part of being a professional is to examine one's biases and set them aside for the pursuit of a care balanced to all discovered needs. However, I now disagree with this: there should always be an initial tendency for stewarding our habitat, caring for biologically-based physical and mental human needs, and otherwise limiting the interventions undertaken. For a good portion of my life, I've worked on software or design research methods based on the premise of an inclusive neutrality. On the surface, these projects had the open rationality of globalism: any concern, any criteria, any state-of-affairs can all be included without a preference internal to the framework. However, I came to see that the rationality of these projects was also quite closed: every preference was to be added on except the preference justifying all of the resources put to the framework itself, with no accounting for externalities. It would be tempting to those with a certain bent to look for some minimum planning framework to boostrap from, but as best as I can tell, they can keep looking their whole lives. I realized I had never actually made this kind of "rational" decision in my life, nor I think have many people. What I then sought out to do was to become more "grounded" and concerned with the "stewardship of my habitat". I'll admit to not thinking of this as a political position as such before reading this book. The book aludes to the difficulty of "landing", or actually coming "down to earth", and I can testify to that difficulty. Attempting to work on a relevant subject won't do it; it's too easy to work on a terrestrial topic with a modernist approach. I'm not entirely sure it's possible from the perspective of software. However, the book ends on suggesting some questions to answer for oneself, as an inventory of one's habitat and commitments: on what you depend and what depends upon you. This is only sensible, as prior to any project or plan is the situation our life consists of.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Benji

    'We are at last clearly in a situation of war, but it is a phony war, at once declared and latent. Some people see it everywhere; others ignore it entirely. Dramatizing somewhat extravagantly, let us call it a conflict between modern humans who believe they are alone in the Holocene, in flight toward the Global or in exodus toward the Local, and the terrestrials who know they are in the Anthropocene and who seek to cohabit with other terrestrials under the authority of a power that as yet lacks a 'We are at last clearly in a situation of war, but it is a phony war, at once declared and latent. Some people see it everywhere; others ignore it entirely. Dramatizing somewhat extravagantly, let us call it a conflict between modern humans who believe they are alone in the Holocene, in flight toward the Global or in exodus toward the Local, and the terrestrials who know they are in the Anthropocene and who seek to cohabit with other terrestrials under the authority of a power that as yet lacks any political institution. And that war, at once civic and moral, divides each of us from within.'

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    I came to this little book as I started a climate change research project. I picked this one out because I've liked several Latour essays and chapters. Overall: Down To Earth offers a useful framing for a new politics in the era of climate change and Trump. There are some issues and questions. To explain a bit: Latour wants us to rethink ourselves as what he calls Terrestrials (40). This means "a new geopolitical organization" (vi) through which we consider all active players in our world, human a I came to this little book as I started a climate change research project. I picked this one out because I've liked several Latour essays and chapters. Overall: Down To Earth offers a useful framing for a new politics in the era of climate change and Trump. There are some issues and questions. To explain a bit: Latour wants us to rethink ourselves as what he calls Terrestrials (40). This means "a new geopolitical organization" (vi) through which we consider all active players in our world, human and otherwise. The Earth is now an active player in our politics and lives, so much so that we can speak of our time as addressing a geo-social question (63). But we shouldn't think of the whole planet. Instead, Latour wants us to consider "the thin biofilm of the Critical Zone" (92) - i.e., the space of forces that shape us directly, from the top of the highest vegetation to the bedrock with the lowest levels of microbial life (I think). It is not a form of global thinking. The impetus for this is what he sees as civilization-wide disorientation. Immigration, inequality, and climate change have cut us loose from our former ways of being on the Earth. We are unmoored and desperate, hence the lunges towards various forms of populism. "All forms of belonging are undergoing a metamorphosis" (16). What practical benefits does Terrestrial thinking offer? Latour argues that we'll be able to create better science and stories by "generat[ing] alternative descriptions." (94) I appreciate the Terrestrial model and like the way it connects neonationalism, inequality, and climate change. However, Down To Earth leaves me with questions and objections. 1) There's a running theme of getting us not to see the world from Sirius. I think this refers to losing track of local conditions. To be honest, I'm not sure what it means. It could refer to a topic in science studies, which I've largely evaded since Sokal. 2) Latour calls on us to stop thinking in terms of production (a la Marx) and instead in terms of engendering (82) - not about gender, but the process of creation. I fear this is going to misfire in English. 3) Terrestrial politics sounds a lot like ecopolitics or the Greens, but Latour doesn't want to make that connection. 4) The focus on Critical Zones doesn't work for me. I think globally. I will dig into the Critical Zone literature (for example).

  6. 4 out of 5

    DRugh

    A very important book for understanding and articulating the importance of deep ecological politics. Latour presents a model with a vision of how to move away from unsustainable, unrealistic futures. He connects climate change, mass migration, and inequality as different aspects of the same reaction, which vacillates between two attractors: localization and globalization. He proposes another distinct attractor for politics to orient toward: the terrestrial.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Latour’s diagnosis for our current political situation is, I think, spot on. In short: the extremely rich figured out 3-4 decades ago that the Globe envisioned as the end goal of globalization could not exist, so they surreptitiously gave up all sense of a shared future with the rest of the world, and began stockpiling capital and eroding bonds of solidarity both intra- and internationally so they would have maximum cushion and minimum obligation when the shit hit the fan. None of this in a cons Latour’s diagnosis for our current political situation is, I think, spot on. In short: the extremely rich figured out 3-4 decades ago that the Globe envisioned as the end goal of globalization could not exist, so they surreptitiously gave up all sense of a shared future with the rest of the world, and began stockpiling capital and eroding bonds of solidarity both intra- and internationally so they would have maximum cushion and minimum obligation when the shit hit the fan. None of this in a conspiratorial way, just emergent properties from a re-reading of contemporary political science, a reading which poses climate as the main driver of political headwinds since at least the 80s, before most of the public even knew about it. His proposed solutions (as well as his weirdo diagrams) are slightly less compelling if only because they so decadently flout occam’s razor, though his concept of the Terrestrial seems important and worth developing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Astridrv

    Yes, four stars. Because it does more than I expected it to do in so few pages, and set me thinking, and resonated a lot. I would not put this in just anyone's hand in terms of approach and language, although it's very accessible compared to other work by Latour. But for my brain, it clicked and was very inspiring. Yes, four stars. Because it does more than I expected it to do in so few pages, and set me thinking, and resonated a lot. I would not put this in just anyone's hand in terms of approach and language, although it's very accessible compared to other work by Latour. But for my brain, it clicked and was very inspiring.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carson Teitler

    I think this book is very prescient and is predicting essentially the next few decades of politics very accurately, in my view.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    Vague and unsubstantiated, this essay is delightfully blunt. Blunt in expression and blunt in its assertions. In the essay, Latour boils down a long career of thinking, writing, reading, and research to basically tell it how he sees it. And so, it begins with a rundown of the past 20-30 years. At the fall of the Berlin Wall and the winning of the cold war, we saw a push for massive deregulation on a global scale. We all saw this first hand. Especially those of us who spent this years overseas. W Vague and unsubstantiated, this essay is delightfully blunt. Blunt in expression and blunt in its assertions. In the essay, Latour boils down a long career of thinking, writing, reading, and research to basically tell it how he sees it. And so, it begins with a rundown of the past 20-30 years. At the fall of the Berlin Wall and the winning of the cold war, we saw a push for massive deregulation on a global scale. We all saw this first hand. Especially those of us who spent this years overseas. We saw the relentless nature of the Washington Consensus--and we watched as there were winners and losers, leading to what he calls the "deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people." Latour then turns to the elite. But it is not clear who he is talking about exactly. Are the elite the oligarchs? Or does this class include what we sometimes call the 9.9% ers as well? [this is very reminiscent of the history of colonization where the plunders are assisted by a sub-class of colonials who are granted special privileges in exchange for helping to keep the status quo in place]. This state of affairs is sometimes called globalization, but Latour rightly points out that this is not a globalization of multiplicity but rather is the pushing of one worldview across the globe (he doesn't call it this but I think it is a Washington Consensus style view as a default normal). "These are the rules of the game and if you want to play, you have to play by our rules..." (Anthropologists the Comaroffs talked about this a decade ago). The book takes as its ground zero Donald Trump's victory and the walking out of the Paris Accord--not because either caused anything per se but rather that they exemplify and are representative of certain kind of sin. It this a sin of omission or of commission? Well. because he does not define the actors, instead referring to them as the "elite' it is hard to follow this part --and there is no proof whatsoever-- but he posits a calculated wealth grab at the expense of the rest of us. "Let's deregulate; let's rush to pumpout bigtime everything that remains to be pumped. Drill, baby, drill. We are going to win in the end, by betting on this nutcase, we'll get 30 or 40 years of respite for us and our children. After that, the deluge can come; we'll be dead by then anyway." This is the mindset he is referring to and whether this is a conscious "bet" or whether it is a matter of simply choosing not to think about things and just doing what works for themselves and their families, it is hard to understand. Specifically he is wonderfully blunt about the fossil fuel industry. These people intentionally have funded disinformation--and no matter what they might claim about carbon, there is no denying what plastics and other petrochemicals are doing to our planet. This is also about animals and the soil. Pitting global (the pre-Trump status quo of open markets and post WWII alliances) versus local (where those who have no other place to go are fleeing but this can itself lead unsavory styles of populism)... so he offers what he calls a third option: the Terrestrial. Identifying this with soil--this is an embedded bottom-up attention to the details of human-nonhuman entanglements, but without the national boundaries and identities of the past (or, put more crudely, without the “blood” of “blood and soil”). Ambiguous perhaps? The book ends with a wonderful meditation on why Europe can lead the way. I loved this part of the essay as it was so personal but it also spoke volumes to the experiment of the EU--which we all know is a pretty impressive balancing act between local cultures and an overarching bureaucratic system that does not overtly privileging one culture over others and which as a massive bureaucracy will be able to leverage money and energy into solving these issues. Open borders and communal good. It is not perfect but the EU for my money has the highest quality of life anywhere. And it has been so far a very promising organization that moves beyond the nation-state. Nation-states seem to be less able to combat oligarchy and greed. And the problems we face today will require very BIG THINKING and BIG CHANGES. That means this isn't about Trump. It is about Capitalism and dirty industries; oligarchs and greed. Latour is correct that Trump's leaving Paris (as flawed as that entire document is) was a call to war. We will defend our American lifestyles to the end (and it will be the end since we have exported and offshored the dirtiest aspects creating what is perhaps an impossible situation). I read this because it was recommended in Donna Haraway's Staying with the Trouble. Highly recommend that book as well. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Published in 2017, Latour speculates that Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords may trigger either a world war (!!) or "at least a war over what constitutes the theater of operations" (whatever that means). He goes on to explain that Europe's migrant crisis is actually a climate crisis, as if rising temperatures (and not NATO) bombed Libya, and that everything is always "connected" to climate in some primary way (conveniently obscuring causal relations between events he doesn't bother t Published in 2017, Latour speculates that Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords may trigger either a world war (!!) or "at least a war over what constitutes the theater of operations" (whatever that means). He goes on to explain that Europe's migrant crisis is actually a climate crisis, as if rising temperatures (and not NATO) bombed Libya, and that everything is always "connected" to climate in some primary way (conveniently obscuring causal relations between events he doesn't bother to understand). In the past decade, climate change discourse has become increasingly dominated by professional mediocrities, like Latour, for access to an already captive audience. Hence: Nathaniel Rich, whose novel-writing career never took off, and Elizabeth Kolbert, who wrote about NYC politics in quickly out-of-print books, and Benjamin Wallace-Wells, who covered baseball for New York magazine, and Amitav Ghosh, whose books have never sold outside of India, are now bestselling and award-winning climate writers. They have gone from stalled careers full of remaindered books to being household names to anyone with a New Yorker subscription. Latour, one of the worst forecasters imaginable, has positioned himself as another one of these Cassandras to a readership of ideologues who don't mind that he often writes things that are laughably absurd (the WW3 prediction above) or grossly inaccurate (he says on the first page that US deregulation began in the nineties).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leif

    Latour's recent lectures (transcribed, etc) start with an incredible energy: finally, the philosopher of fine critique looses his language from its unhappy clutches and comes to ground! The lectures are "written with deliberate bluntness", Latour admits. From that position, much that is good unfolds (an honest evaluation of the failures of contemporary politics, of the need for a new understanding of science and ecology), but also a tendency toward the hopelessly abstract (the diagrams are... no Latour's recent lectures (transcribed, etc) start with an incredible energy: finally, the philosopher of fine critique looses his language from its unhappy clutches and comes to ground! The lectures are "written with deliberate bluntness", Latour admits. From that position, much that is good unfolds (an honest evaluation of the failures of contemporary politics, of the need for a new understanding of science and ecology), but also a tendency toward the hopelessly abstract (the diagrams are... not that helpful) and a return to Europe. In Latour's favour, European politics are a critical piece of the world-ecological puzzle, but as he presents them here, they are not only provincial, to freely adopt his own description of them, but also totalizing, as no other region of the planet emerges into view. The result is strangely blinkered, a partial view of the ideal future at best. At first I believed that this lecture series would be a great introduction to the new Latour but by the conclusion I no longer believed so. If you can find it at the library, go forth!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Arya Harsono

    I will preface by agreeing with Latour's ideas and his identification of the injustices wrought under globalization. Those are apparent and the inaction of those in power (the "ruling class" or elites, as he refers to them) is evidently voluntary and deliberate. Filled with theoretical and speculative arguments rather than empirical evidence, this 100-pg essay reads as a lengthy and pretentious way to argue that unfettered capitalism and its encouragement of deregulation have exacerbated social I will preface by agreeing with Latour's ideas and his identification of the injustices wrought under globalization. Those are apparent and the inaction of those in power (the "ruling class" or elites, as he refers to them) is evidently voluntary and deliberate. Filled with theoretical and speculative arguments rather than empirical evidence, this 100-pg essay reads as a lengthy and pretentious way to argue that unfettered capitalism and its encouragement of deregulation have exacerbated social and economic inequality and incentivized a global campaign of climate denial. Latour severely overlooks the nuances involved in determining equity, the paradoxes that plague policy design. His writing does not add any value to the discussion, merely repeating the rhetoric that many climate activists embody and what for? To fuel confirmation bias? Disappointing, given its premise.

  14. 4 out of 5

    George

    I am thoroughly inspired. This offers a readable but profound philosophical account of where we are now in the Anthropocene and where we go from here. It is its emphasis on the need for a sense of a shared dwelling place in an animate world that is sorely missing in our political discourse today.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Crawford

    I was encouraged by reading this book, simply by the fact that it is good to hear opinions geared towards solutions. I agree with the author that we have a far way to go, but this is a great start!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Max Potthoff

    Why have we been so slow to understand that we're in a New Climatic Regime, and how do we find a place to "land"? These are the questions for which Latour attempts to build a framework. The era of “derugulation” coincided with a “vertiginous” explosion of inequalities, which were both a function of the systematic effort to deny climate change (climate being defined as the broad relation between human beings and the material conditions of their lives). These three conditions were born out of a un Why have we been so slow to understand that we're in a New Climatic Regime, and how do we find a place to "land"? These are the questions for which Latour attempts to build a framework. The era of “derugulation” coincided with a “vertiginous” explosion of inequalities, which were both a function of the systematic effort to deny climate change (climate being defined as the broad relation between human beings and the material conditions of their lives). These three conditions were born out of a unique historical situation: the ruling classes no longer had room enough for everyone else. Since the 80s, the ruling classes have abandoned the notion of a common horizon and instead have begun to shelter themselves. In this way, we have entered a New Climate Regime. It is navigating the room of smoke and mirrors intentionally created by the elites that is the project of our time; landing means orienting everything around this fact. It means steering the rudderless ship away from the abyss, instead of acting like it doesn’t exist. The obscurantist elites had to stop pretending, even in their dreams, to share the earth with the rest of the world. By pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, Trump affirmed that climate was the animating geopolitical concern of our time. It affirmed what Bush Sr. said in Rio, that “our way of life is not negotiable!” The very notion of soil is changing, and either we continue to deny the existence of the problem or we look for a place to land. The ordeal of finding ourselves deprived of land is the issue that we all share. Our sense of vertigo in politics is due to the fact that the ground is giving way beneath everybody’s feet. The new universality is the feeling of the ground giving way. Looking for a place to land means embracing the fall. It also means calling a spade a spade, such as defining what the hell globalization actually means. Latour does this by dividing it up into two parts: globalization-plus and globalization-minus. Globalization-plus, at its best, means multiplying viewpoints and registering a greater number of varieties. Globalization-minus accuses everyone who disagrees as being Luddites. Is it possible to make those that are enthusiastic about globalization understand it is normal to want to preserve a way of life? “In the end, what counts is not knowing whether you are for or against globalization, for or against the local; all that counts is understanding whether you’re are managing to register, to maintain, to cherish a maximum number of alternative ways of belonging to the world” (pg 33).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    I think I am liking the Bruno Latour of Facing Gaia and, now, Down to Earth. This book is interesting in its exploration of the failure of 'globalization/modernization' and the emerging 'attractor' of nationalism/populism/skepticism disconnected the material realities of our existence. Latour also flirts with class, capitalism, and neoliberalism as he critiques our collective predicament. He offers the Terrestrial as a hopeful reorientation for right & left politics representing the interests of I think I am liking the Bruno Latour of Facing Gaia and, now, Down to Earth. This book is interesting in its exploration of the failure of 'globalization/modernization' and the emerging 'attractor' of nationalism/populism/skepticism disconnected the material realities of our existence. Latour also flirts with class, capitalism, and neoliberalism as he critiques our collective predicament. He offers the Terrestrial as a hopeful reorientation for right & left politics representing the interests of the masses. If not exactly a solid direction, the book offers a clear description of the motivations of the hoi oligoi, their abandonment of the masses to their illusions of infinite progress and modernization, and the eventual backlash once we realize what has happened. Latour suggests that we come back 'down to earth' and rebuild a human community commensurate with earth systems. "To land is necessarily to land someplace" (p.99).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Usually, when I met Luke B in coffee shops in DC, he'd be reading some marvelous book -- this was one. Catching up to him and Bruno Latour's jokes: “Do I have to take up permaculture, lead demonstrations, march on the Winter Palace, follow the teachings of St. Francis, become a hacker, organize neighborhood get-togethers, reinvent witches’ rites, invest in artificial photosynthesis, or would you rather I track wolves?” (79) But there's something demented about reading commentary on 2016 during a Usually, when I met Luke B in coffee shops in DC, he'd be reading some marvelous book -- this was one. Catching up to him and Bruno Latour's jokes: “Do I have to take up permaculture, lead demonstrations, march on the Winter Palace, follow the teachings of St. Francis, become a hacker, organize neighborhood get-togethers, reinvent witches’ rites, invest in artificial photosynthesis, or would you rather I track wolves?” (79) But there's something demented about reading commentary on 2016 during a pandemic. The epigraph's malice still holds though: "We've read enough books." - Jared Kushner (as quoted by Sarah Vowell, NYT, 2017)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Camila

    some promising ideas, but the charts just made everything more confusing

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Westhoven

    Pretty good -- insightful ideas and interesting commentary / perspective on things. Framing is cool. He tends to create very vague abstracts which he then refers to off-handedly with synonyms. This detracts from clarity and makes the text a bit of a pain to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Connecting threads from several political events in our present moment, Bruno Latour sees de-regulation, in union busting, in nuclear deproliferation, in Brexit, etc. in relation to what he describes as "an increasingly vertiginous explosion of inequalities" and climate-change denial. All are linked, Latour argues, through the horizon of Neo-liberal policies of globalization, a trajectory of "progress" it took Neo-Right populists winning power throughout Europe and the United States for us to re Connecting threads from several political events in our present moment, Bruno Latour sees de-regulation, in union busting, in nuclear deproliferation, in Brexit, etc. in relation to what he describes as "an increasingly vertiginous explosion of inequalities" and climate-change denial. All are linked, Latour argues, through the horizon of Neo-liberal policies of globalization, a trajectory of "progress" it took Neo-Right populists winning power throughout Europe and the United States for us to realize was a reactionary distinction without a difference from the progress globalization has long promised. The old promise that globalization would increase integration of regulatory regimes worldwide, that Latour dubs "global-plus," ended, on this account, on 12-13-15, when in Paris the signatories to that climate accord admitted that in the only foreseeable future "there would be no planet compatible with the development proposal" on which their own country's modernization was based. A horizon had been blocked -- the "global-plus"-horizon on which several hundred years of modernity had been warranted. Latour's trope for the trajectory of globalizing modernism is a pole in a magnetic vector. These vectors are subject to abrupt re-alignment based on new "attractors": So, there is the "first attractor" -- a trajectory that moves from the local to the global; in the "Second attractor" we imagine a global of modernization; the Third Attractor, is the terrestrial. This is a complex piece of Latourian jargon. On the one hand, it's just a way of characterizing "global-minus" situation of strange-weather turning human geography increasingly into a humanitarian crisis around displaced persons and uninhabitable places; on the other hand, Latour suggests a problem of physical geography, as well, the earth fighting back in a way that will increasingly keep us moving into places we're willing to share with displaced others. Psychologically, the result is to barr our orientation around the modernist projection of a future. The other affect involved, however, will be our identifications with an emancipated other: new subjects of our Third Great Awakening.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Started this morning and just finished -- I'm going to need more time to properly digest it, but I can offer some parting thoughts. Latour contextualizes his hypothesis -- that we cannot properly understand geopolitics without centering climate change in our analyses -- in the events Trump's election, the Brexit vote, and the growing patterns of international migration. He jumps on his usual critique of Moderns and explains that the politics of Modernity (typified by a Left-Right continuum and te Started this morning and just finished -- I'm going to need more time to properly digest it, but I can offer some parting thoughts. Latour contextualizes his hypothesis -- that we cannot properly understand geopolitics without centering climate change in our analyses -- in the events Trump's election, the Brexit vote, and the growing patterns of international migration. He jumps on his usual critique of Moderns and explains that the politics of Modernity (typified by a Left-Right continuum and tension between the Local and the Global) continually produce gridlock in the USA with regards to climate change. He endeavors to develop a triangulation of positions which would legitimize ecological or green parties in relation to the old party establishments while adopting a version of materialism (engendering vs. mechanical) that subverts climate change denial rhetoric. Towards the end, I read him writing with his friend Donna in mind as he moves us through a call for a litany of descriptions identifying what we require from a dwelling place, what a dwelling place requires from residents, with whom we are willing to co-habitate (think beyond the human), and against whom we will have to defend our dwelling places. He wraps up with a positionality and vision piece in which he calls on Europe (as the nebulous place of genesis of so many of the factors that drive climate change, capitalism, and mass migration) to become a dwelling place for migrants alienated from the spread of its own social bads. Kinda reads like that Gillette commercial. Some other half-formed notes and thoughts: * Plays with the concept of soil throughout the text; * Identifies the withdrawal of the ruling class as an abandonment of the proletariat; * Appreciated Latour on class struggle and analysis; * Pollution as a form of occupation; * Surprised that he doesn't mention de la Cadena is his positioning of Earth as a political agent in public life!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paz

    Latour is not my cup of tea (especially Actor-Network Theory -ANT). Still, I think he has made very important contributions, especially to science's philosophy, and that’s the reason I picked this book. Following ANT, this piece is a depoliticized idea of a white European male about the climate crisis. For the same reason, I think he abandons developing interesting takes (as, for example, the elites' responsibility on the disaster -by the way, he never answers who are those elites). As dwelling Latour is not my cup of tea (especially Actor-Network Theory -ANT). Still, I think he has made very important contributions, especially to science's philosophy, and that’s the reason I picked this book. Following ANT, this piece is a depoliticized idea of a white European male about the climate crisis. For the same reason, I think he abandons developing interesting takes (as, for example, the elites' responsibility on the disaster -by the way, he never answers who are those elites). As dwelling lands wasn’t THE problem for capitalism, he calls to transform Earth as a new political actor. Ok, maybe Latour is discovering Zapatistas? Of course, he doesn’t acknowledge any source outside the Western world. Obviously, liberals will LOVE this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nick Ziegler

    No book of philosophy or social science I've read recently offers as many resources for thinking through and, hopefully, acting meaningfully within our current predicament as this one. Latour aids us to see beyond the impasse of materialist and modernist politics in favor of what he calls a politics of engendering and a project of dwelling with the non-human world we can no longer ignore. Latour is admirably attentive to the real task of building powet and making alliances, acknowledging all alo No book of philosophy or social science I've read recently offers as many resources for thinking through and, hopefully, acting meaningfully within our current predicament as this one. Latour aids us to see beyond the impasse of materialist and modernist politics in favor of what he calls a politics of engendering and a project of dwelling with the non-human world we can no longer ignore. Latour is admirably attentive to the real task of building powet and making alliances, acknowledging all along the toothlessness of a philsopophy or programme articulated from nowhere, or from Sirius.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Rice

    A crucial and brilliant book -- really connects the dots between climate change and our current political upheaval in a lucid and urgent way .. both original and undeniable in the way of all great arguments.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Roger Whitson

    This book is blunt and interesting - for the first half. When he starts re-treading the arguments of FACING GAIA, I get lost in his terminology. How much worth discussing is being obscured by Latour's characteristic style? This book is blunt and interesting - for the first half. When he starts re-treading the arguments of FACING GAIA, I get lost in his terminology. How much worth discussing is being obscured by Latour's characteristic style?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Borek Slangen

    I was searching for a book like this, because i was not sure how to shape the current political landscape and debate to include the earth (climate). Requires some serious rethinking to actually put into practice, but is hopeful nontheless.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Drew B

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. So this book said either a little with a lot or just a lot with a lot. Mostly for my own benefit I've pulled out the key themes: - politics in the modern era have fallen on a spectrum of global/modernized vs. local/to-be-modernized with the right and left attracted toward one of these or the other - we know now that the Earth cannot support either a globalization/modernization agenda and that a local/isolationist agenda is impossible, so new "attractors" are emerging: politics grounded in this wor So this book said either a little with a lot or just a lot with a lot. Mostly for my own benefit I've pulled out the key themes: - politics in the modern era have fallen on a spectrum of global/modernized vs. local/to-be-modernized with the right and left attracted toward one of these or the other - we know now that the Earth cannot support either a globalization/modernization agenda and that a local/isolationist agenda is impossible, so new "attractors" are emerging: politics grounded in this world (aka the Terrestrial, the goal for Latour) and politics completely out of this world (climate change denial, the world of unlimited resources, etc.) - in order to embrace the Terrestrial we need to create a politics grounded within a limited Earth that effectively sees nature as millions of political actors in their own right (in other words, recognize that nature reacts to humans who react to nature) - traditional class theory must be replaced/updated to reflect geo-social struggles (ecology as a social question) as we explore the web of dependencies humans and other "terrestrials" are entangled in - we need to renegotiate what it means to belong to land and who we share it with Latour does a good job presenting a framework for understanding the politics that got us to the climate crisis, and then suggests a new framework to govern postmodern politics. The language (which I'm sure reads better in French) is dense and esoteric, and a lot of finer points went over my head trying to get from one full stop to the next. The actual ideas behind the book weren't very new to me (anthropocene, nature-as-process, limitations of economic development) but I found certain insights to be very... insightful? Latour's critique of the modernization project and the abandonment of any pretense of solidarity was interesting. Although Latour partially dismisses pre-modern understandings of the Earth for being too provincial to face a global crisis, he does an alright job recognizing how Euro-centric the book is. His last words are spent arguing that Europe must drive this movement and take responsibility for the economic/climate refugees it has created; not a bad point but in reality do we think they can do that? That question extends to a lot of Latour's conclusions. All in all, the book has good ideas presented in a short, very verbose package. Probably only worth reading if you're really into this stuff and have a strong grasp of political sociology/philosophy, although a sparknotes version would be great for anyone who wants to think about how we can respond to the climate crisis in the long term. 4/5

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hayden Berg

    In Down to Earth, Latour provides a view I haven’t quite encountered yet in my time reading through climate change literature. Instead of beginning with immediate questions of economics, tax breaks, ESGs, greenwashing, or even activism, Latour is more interested in (1) the history of political partisanship in the ‘global west’ (it’s not exactly clear what the limits are) and (2) the positionality of human beings within ‘nature’. Sometimes he’s spinning theories that sound a little conspiratorial In Down to Earth, Latour provides a view I haven’t quite encountered yet in my time reading through climate change literature. Instead of beginning with immediate questions of economics, tax breaks, ESGs, greenwashing, or even activism, Latour is more interested in (1) the history of political partisanship in the ‘global west’ (it’s not exactly clear what the limits are) and (2) the positionality of human beings within ‘nature’. Sometimes he’s spinning theories that sound a little conspiratorial (as he himself acknowledges), alleging that most elites who deny the existence of climate change are actually acutely aware of it and simply stockpiling as much money and resources as they can before the world inevitably implodes. At other points, he very clearly and carefully articulates explanations for how we ought to make use of science, while remaining critical of it, or how conservatives and liberals have evolved over time in pursuit of different goals. Overall, I think there are valuable things to take away here: the axis and 4 attractors he sketches out in the early chapters provide a helpful (though possibly reductive) model for understanding partisan politics and how those differences may be overcome in a discovery of some common ground. His criticism and endorsement of science as useful, but imperfect is also very nuanced and useful in thinking about the political place of science in our post-truth world. Latour is certainly able to articulate concerns and thoughts I’ve had about contemporary politics in an incredibly clear and cohesive manner, and his discussion of the Terrestrial as an alternative pole to which we should turn our heads is a nice Nietzschean/Heideggerean touch that I appreciate. That being said, I’m left feeling entertained and more interested in certain ideas and theories, but I don’t feel as though I know what to do with that information or with that excitement. Admittedly, I read this pretty quickly and I found it difficult to track some of the arguments, so a re-read may enlighten me a bit more. However, Latour seems to suggest that epistemology won’t provide us with answers, but I think the crucial question concerning the climate crisis (and really concerning political life in the next several decades) is how we can create meaning, cultivate understanding, and dispel misinformation collectively as a society — social epistemology has a lot to say about this incredibly important question and I think we ought to listen. If we can’t get on the same page, like Latour suggests we ought to, I don’t think any utopia or topos for that matter, is possible.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Irish

    It will take me some time to absorb this. As it always does with Bruno Latour. It is brilliant and thoughtful, but complex and deeply abstract. One of my favourite memorable "bytes" is the observation early in the book that the moment when Globalization failed was at the end of the Paris climate meeting when they looked at all of the various nations' "requirements" for development to reveal that several planets would be required to meet those needs. "Now if there is no planet, no earth, no soil, It will take me some time to absorb this. As it always does with Bruno Latour. It is brilliant and thoughtful, but complex and deeply abstract. One of my favourite memorable "bytes" is the observation early in the book that the moment when Globalization failed was at the end of the Paris climate meeting when they looked at all of the various nations' "requirements" for development to reveal that several planets would be required to meet those needs. "Now if there is no planet, no earth, no soil, no territory to house the Globe of globalization toward which all these countries claim to be headed, then there is no longer an assured 'homeland,' as it were, for anyone." What I think is so profoundly insightful is the idea that neither "Global" nor "Local" can suffice in the face of climate change. The dreams of Globalism have proven a lie, and the retrenchment in the Local have proven impossible. So where do we turn? Latour points to two other "attractors" (compelling ideas for social and global organization). The first is the direction of the elites--rocket ships to other planets for further conquest, but essentially an acknowledgment that only the elites will have enough and that they will no longer even uphold the pretence of a planet for us all. The other is its opposite, what Latour calls "the Terrestrial". And the terrestrial is both a place and a process. It is a home ground with which we engage and by which we sustain ourselves, and it is a process of "engendering"--becoming more rooted more sustainable and more fully engaged with the limits and bounties of where we are. What use is a text like this in the political fight against climate change (or more pointedly against the climate deniers)? It is the theoretical, moral, and logical underpinning for such a fight. It offers a clear-eyed assessment of the inadequacy of UN agreements etc. It allows us to see the direction for the big picture, something lacking in all of the geo-focused political endeavours to date (and a significant reason for their floundering with economic models that have already failed in the climate fight). We need seers like Latour as well as strategists like Seth Klein.

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