Synthetic Ecology: Urbanization After Nature

Instructor: Daniel Daou, DDES 2016

Max Enrollment: 15

Date/Time: Jan 5, 7, 12, and 14/2 – 4 p.m.

Location:  Stubbins

Description: The course offers a historical and conceptual overview of ecological thinking (particularly after 1972) in order to better understand the political field of the late Anthropocene. Exhausted by either a moralistic conservationism founded upon a mythical conception of nature or a technocratic managerialism that secretly wishes itself apolitical, ecology needs to break free from the postmodern metanarrative gridlock. In this context, Synthetic Ecology is proposed as a double headed Trojan horse, a heuristic that is as much fictional science as it is philosophical speculation.

The class is geared toward students with interests in the history and philosophy of ecology, environmental ethics, and design. The course aims to, first, untangle ecology differentiating between the scientific field, the world view, and environmental concerns, and, second, identify the different ideologies that color ecology and trace their intellectual lineages. The end result is a robust framework that will allow participants to better pinpoint their coordinates within the multiple strands of contemporary ecological thinking.

The course is divided into four lectures. The first lecture titled \’The History of Metahistory at the End of the End of History\’ will serve as an introduction problematizing ecology in relation to modernity. The remaining lectures will each be introduced by one of three parables based on the themes of the island (Sentinel Island—home to the most isolated human group on Earth), the ship (the invention of the spaceship simultaneously by Viktor Kalmykov, an architect and Herman Potočnik, an engineer), and the flag (the Martian flag and its symbolism based on the stages of terraforming Mars). The parables introduce notions at the frontiers of ecological thinking (e.g. existential risk, post-normal science, post-sustainability, thermodynamic fatalism, and anthropodecentrism) to instigate a speculative questioning of the current prevailing ideologies. Each lecture will be supplemented by a small selection of readings and will be followed up by a short debate session.