Landscapes in change


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Landscapes in change

  1. 1. Landscapes in Change – Arctic tipping pointsNow more than ever, nature cannot be separated from culture; in order to comprehend the interactionsbetween ecosystems, the mechanosphere and the social and industrial Universes of reference, we mustlearn to think ‘transversally’ (Guattari,1989). thUntil the beginning of the 20 century the high-arctic landscapes were with few exceptions unspoiled andundisturbed by people, while the sub-arctic areas were characterized by close-nature usage mainly fromethnic minorities, nomads and settlers that lived of reindeer herding, farming, hunting and fishing. Throughseveral historical turning points, incidents, and global forces, we today witness changes exposing thevulnerable, arctic landscapes to irreversible transformation. The vulnerability inherent in the landscape isto a large extent reflected in those cultures that in scarcely populated settlements have inhabited thenorthern regions for thousands of years. thHistorically, ever since the late 16 century there has been a focus on the northern regions’ naturalresources – firstly through fishing, sealing and whaling, being in reality equal to Europe’s first oil boom.The direct and dramatic consequence of this hunt was near extinction of a large part of the whale stock(the Greenland whale was almost extinct in the North Atlantic). Another paradoxical consequence wasthat the winter cod of the Barents Sea and the Nordic Sea obtained better conditions and experienced alarge population growth. This has been seen as the first large shift in the northern region’s ecology. Todaywe are most likely facing a new severe shift – or tipping point – due to climate changes and oceanheating: with the consequence of changed micro ecology in the arctic oceans and altered spawning- andmigration patterns of fish stocks.Large-scale exploitation of non-biological and non-renewable resources in the northern regions first took thplace at the end of the 19 century – first and foremost by mineral searching and mining as the working of thcoal and iron – and at the end of the 20 century by oil- and gas development, largely in the entire Arctic, stnorth in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. In the 21 century, there is an increased oil sand development inCanada, and large expectations to oil- and gas development in the Barents/Norwegian Sea, in the DiscoBay west of Greenland, and also in the Mackenzie river delta.Using Greenland as an example – as one of the presumed most un-touched natural areas in the world –there are now severe plans for mining (e.g. rare earth minerals, uranium, gold, diamonds, etc.) and alsoplans for industrial development in the form of aluminium production. The aluminium production falls intothe pattern of the newly established aluminium plant in eastern Iceland. Both these industrial complexesmay be studied with regard to the considerable impact they make on the untouched natural landscapes,especially due to the large connected hydroelectric power station, but first and foremost due to theprocesses in the local communities where these plants are established. What consequences do suchestablishments have on their local civil society and their democratic processes? What are the global andnational interests and decisions behind them? Greenland’s position as a global climatic change icon, maybe contrasted with the economical reward, as states and companies make increasing use of the resourcesof the Arctic.As a case study the aluminum project may exemplify the expectations inherent in the entire circumpolarArctic, with a strong stress on an increasing exploitation of both non-renewable and renewable resources.The way the arctic cultures and natural landscapes cope with a similar transformation is finally a questionof survival that transcends the singular local community or the local geographical context.Arctic Ecologies – a spatial approach: connecting nature, society and ideasChanges are inevitable, ongoing and abiding processes transforming landscapes and ecologies alongtrajectories in space and time. The stories of spatial changes take place at different speeds from therotations of continental sheets to an ephemeral meeting or conception of notions and ideas. By ‘trajectory’and ‘story’, I mean simply to emphasise the process of change in a phenomenon. The terms are thustemporal in their stress, though, I would argue, their necessary spatiality (the positioning in relation toother trajectories or stories, for instance) is inseparable from and intrinsic to their character. Thephenomenon in question may be a living thing, a scientific attitude, a collectivity, a social convention, ageological formation. (Massey,1995)Talking about ecologies, we mean the totality of complexity, which constitutes the conditions for existence(with or without human beings). The spatial approach is rhizomatic*, and interconnected in non-hierarchical structures which makes it open for interpretations. Not only history but also space is open. In
  2. 2. this open interactional space there are always connections yet to be made, juxtapositions yet to flower intointeraction (or not, for not all potential connections have to be established), relations which may or maynot be accomplished. Here, then, space is indeed a product of relations (first proposition). However, theseare not the relations of a coherent, closed system within which, as they say, everything is (already) relatedto everything else. Space can never be that completed simultaneity in which all interconnections havebeen established, and in which everywhere is already linked with everything else. A space, then, which isneither a container for always-already constituted identities, nor a completed closure of holism. This isspace of loose ends and missing links. For the future to be open, space must be open too (Massey,2005).Deleuze & Guattari uses lines of flight as something to follow and something that is expected to redeemnew responses – as an operator which transcends the real and ascends to the virtual (De Landa, 2002).Guattari and Deleuze’s ‘lines’ challenge the usual designer thinking about ‘lines’. They are an abstractand complex enough metaphor to map the entire social field, to trace its shapes, its borders, itsbecomings. They can map the way ‘life always proceeds at several rhythms and at several speeds’. Theymap individual cracks and collective breaks within the segmentation and heterogeneity of power. The ‘lineof flight’, ligne de fuite, is defined not only as a simple line, but as the very force of a tangle of lines flungout, transgressing thresholds of established norms and conventions, towards unexpected manifestations,both in terms of socio-political phenomena and in individual destinies (Petrescu, 2001).Our entrance in the Arctic is an undefined field of explorations, and opens for spatial connectivity both tolandscapes and people. The investigations are subjective and individual experiences but have to be madeevident for the future story of the arctic realm. All we talk about are multiplicities, lines, strata andsegmentarities, lines of flight and intensities, machinic assemblages and their various types, bodieswithout organs and their construction and selection, the plane of consistency, and in each case the unitsof measure, Stratumeters, deleometers, BwO units of density, BwO units of convergence: Not only dothese constitute a quantification of writing, but they define writing as always the measure of somethingelse. Writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that areyet to come (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980).GisleManuel De Landa, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (2002)Deleuze & Guattari: A THOUSAND PLATEAUS (1980)Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (1989)Doina Petrescu, Loosing control, keeping desire (2001).Doreen Massey, for space (2005)* Let us summarize the principal characteristics of a rhizome: unlike the trees or their roots, the rhizome connects anypoint to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play verydifferent regimes of signs, and even non sign states. The rhizome is reducible neither to the One nor the multiple. It isnot a multiple derived from the One, or the to which One is added (n+1). It is composed not of units but of dimensions,or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows andwhich it overspills. It constitutes linear multiplicities with n dimensions having neither subject nor object, which can belaid out on a plane of consistency, and from which the One is always subtracted (n-1). When a multiplicity of this kindchanges dimension, it necessary changes in nature as well, undergoes a metamorphosis. Unlike a structure, which isdefined by a set of points and positions, with binary relations between the points and biunivocal relationships betweenthe positions, the rhizome is made only of lines: lines of flight or deterritorialization as the maximum dimension afterwhich the multiplicity undergoes metamorphosis, changes in nature. These lines, or lineaments, should not beconfused with lineages of the arbores cent type, which are merely localizable linkages between points and positions.Unlike the tree, the rhizome is not the object of reproduction: neither external reproduction as image-tree nor internalreproduction as tree-structure. The rhizome is an antigenealogy. It is a short-term memory, or antimemory. Therhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots. Unlike the graphic arts, drawing, orphotography, unlike tracings, the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is alwaysdetachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight. It istracing that has to be put on the map, not the opposite. In contrast to centred (even polycentric) systems withhierarchical modes of communication and pre established paths, the rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automation, defined solely by acirculation of states. What is at question in the rhizome is a relation to sexuality-but also to the animal, the vegetal, theworld, politics, the book, things natural and artificial-that is totally different from the arborescent relation: all manner of‘becomings.’ A plateau is always in the middle, not at the beginning or the end. A rhizome is made of plateaus.Gregory Bateson uses the word “plateau” to designate something very special: a continuous, self-vibrating region ofintensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end.(Deleuze & Guattari, 1980)