Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘extinction’

“It’s a simple demand: give the stolen land back” — EXTINCTION author Ashley Dawson writes for Resilience

Wednesday, June 8th, 2022

“The idea that mainstream conservation—which should be seen clearly as a form of colonialism—will reverse the sixth extinction is an illusion, one carefully cultivated by the corporations and governments that happily bankroll the big conservation NGOs. In the face of mounting environmental and social calamities, the only coherent stance must be to join indigenous and local communities around the world in demanding the return of stolen land, respect for their sovereignty, and a radical transformation of the CO2lonialism that characterizes the unsustainable behavior and policies of the wealthy.”

Read the full article here.

“Study Suggests a Supernova Exploded Near Earth About 2.5 Million Years Ago, Possibly Triggering an Extinction Event” — EXTINCTION recommended in Forbes

Friday, October 16th, 2020

Read the article here.

“Human activity is causing the disappearance and deterioration of wildlife at a rate that could represent an existential threat to humanity within our lifetimes.” —Democracy Now during a segment featuring ASHLEY DAWSON, author of EXTINCTION

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

A segment of Democracy Now discussing the recent U.N. report featured Ashley Dawson, author of EXTINCTION: A RADICAL HISTORY, as a guest.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ashley, you’ve written an entire book on the radical history of extinction- your response to this report?

ASHLEY DAWSON: Well, the report, I think, is really a landmark report, and it shows that the crisis we face isn’t just one of climate change. In some ways, it’s comparable to the IPCC report from last October, which really sounded a really important alarm about the system that we face and its potential collapse. But, what this shows is [that] it’s a crisis of multiple different dimensions, and that it’s driven by an economic system, which is fundamentally destroying the terrestrial systems that we all depend on.

SHAIKH: So, scientists warn that melting sea ice in the arctic due to climate change will have catastrophic [effects] on coastal cities, biodiversity, and the global economy. President Trump, of course, has called climate change a “Chinese hoax.” So Ashley, your response to what Pompeo said- just hours after this U.N. report was released,

DAWSON: I think it typifies the kind of “extractivist” attitude, which, as I said, is destroying the planet. I mean, to give one concrete instance, we have been exploiting land so much, and degrading land, that we only have about 60 harvests left, right- 60 agricultural harvests left.

SHAIKH: What does that mean?

DAWSON: It means about only 60 more years of food, potentially. So, we’re not only talking about the kind of crash of biodiversity and potential extinction for a lot of species out there; we’re talking about a kind of fundamental crisis of humanity, its relationship to the natural world, and our relations to one another.

Watch the whole segment here.

EXTINCTION and LOVE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE are reviewed in Social Studies of Science

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Read here.

“Expansion and exploitation are the threads of Dawson’s history.” EXTINCTION in PUBLIC BOOKS

Monday, March 13th, 2017

“Expansion and exploitation are the threads of Dawson’s history, which takes a very long view of human responsibility for ecological degradation, or “ecocide.” Some historians have criticized the Anthropocene narrative propounded by scientists for presupposing a happy relation between humanity and nature prior to the industrial revolution. Dawson avoids this assumption, telling a story of humanity as a species that has been invasive for the past 30,000 years. The earliest moments of anthropogenic extinction include a “late Pleistocene wave of megadeath” in the wake of megafauna hunting and the Sumerian deforestation. The Roman Empire’s unsustainable agricultural practices and recreational killing of large animals like lions and elephants speak to “the exploitative attitude towards nature that accompanies empire.””

Read the full review here.

“A guaranteed income would remove the pressure to engage in poaching and other environmentally destructive practices.” EXTINCTION in BASIC INCOME

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

According to Dawson, the only way to forestall mass extinction is to shift to an economic system that is not founded on the goal of unlimited growth. As the summary in The Guardian describes, Dawson looks to indigenous groups and small-scale farmers as examples of ways in which communities may develop “using sustainable practices and living close to nature.”

One starting point considered by Dawson is the provision of a guaranteed income to people living in biodiversity hotspots, biologically rich areas including “tropical woodlands of Brazil’s Atlantic coast, southern Mexico with Central America, the tropical Andes, the Greater Antilles, West Africa, Madagascar, the Western Ghats of India, Indo-Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia.” By alleviating poverty, a guaranteed income would remove the pressure to engage in poaching and other environmentally destructive practices.

Get the full story here.

“An elegant, controversial thesis” EXTINCTION in The Guardian

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

“In the book, Dawson argues that recent extinctions are different from human-caused extinctions in the Pleistocene.

“In most instances those [earlier] extinctions were either relatively localized, had other contributory factors, and in most cases were succeeded by a period of stability,” he said.

Every continent but Africa saw most of its megafauna obliterated tens-of-thousands of years ago, but scientists are still debating the cause: human hunting, climate change or some combination of the two. In recent years the accumulated evidence increasingly points to overzealous humans as the primary factor in the megafauna extinction– including everything from giant kangaroos in Australia to mega-orangutans in Asia to elephant-like behemoths in North America – but Dawson said that doesn’t mean mass extinction today is inevitable.

“The archeological record clearly suggests that Native Americans lived in relative harmony with their environments for thousands of years subsequently.”

We do not lack alternatives to capitalism today. What we lack is the political power to overcome capitalism domination.
Ashley Dawson
Today, Dawson points to what Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha, calls “ecosystem people” as examples of sustainable, non-capitalistic living. These include many of the world’s indigenous groups or small-scale farmers using sustainable practices and living close to nature.

“It is these groups of ecosystem people that are often at the forefront of contemporary environmental struggles,” he said. “Think, for instance, of the role of indigenous activists in fighting extreme extraction and fossil capitalism today, from Standing Rock in North Dakota to the struggle of the Sarayaku in the Ecuadoran rainforest.”

For Dawson, such groups are emblems of what’s possible in the future.

“Human societies throughout history have demonstrated great ingenuity in making ecosystems more productive, and, where this productivity is shared equally, have been characterized by significant civilization longevity.””

Get the full story here.

“A scientific subject from a radical perspective.”: EXTINCTION in Low Impact

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

“A scientific subject from a radical perspective. Well, I never. The important questions to ask though, are ‘what’s the scale of the problem?’ and ‘can we solve this problem as long as we have a capitalist economy?’ (This question is rarely asked, and never by scientists.) Dawson’s book provided answers to those two questions – see below (to summarise: ‘huge’, and ‘no’).

He taught me a few things – for example how empires fall because of environmental damage. The Sumerians diverted water from the Tigris and Euphrates with irrigation channels that were shallow enough for a lot of the water to evaporate, but leave behind salts, that accumulated in the soil and reduced yields year on year. Deforestation added to the problem by causing soil erosion and siltation of irrigation channels. Their empire fell when they couldn’t feed their people from the depleted soil any more. In contrast, the Egyptians relied on the annual flooding of the Nile to provide water and nutrients for their farmland. This has continued to build fertility until recently, when the building of dams has kept nutrients away from the soil, and the application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has weakened soil structure and killed soil fauna, so that now, after thousands of years of natural soil management, their soil has started to lose fertility, structure and to wash away.”

Read the full piece here.

“We are in a period of boom for the fossil fuel industry in the United States, and that’s why all these pipelines are being built.”: EXTINCTION in Vocativ

Friday, December 9th, 2016

There’s also fear that Pruitt, with Trump in charge, could also push back against the development of alternative energy sources in favor of fossil fuels and coal. Ashley Dawson, a professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center and author of “Extinction: A Radical History,” believes that Pruitt could overturn decisions that have led to the cancellation projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.

“We are in a period of boom for the fossil fuel industry in the United States, and that’s why all these pipelines are being built. There’s a glut of fossil fuels domestically, and so they want to build pipelines to export…to Europe and other markets where it can be more valuable,” Dawson told Vocativ Thursday. “Pruitt and other appointees are very much onboard with cutting back whatever progressive controls on the export of liquid natural gas that have been put in place, and of course, cutting any bans on pipelines that we’ve managed to get in place through massive mobilization.”

Read the full article here.

“A short, useful and welcome introduction to the subject”: EXTINCTION reviewed in Socialist Review

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Read the full review here.

“Life Itself Is Being Patented, Privatized and Re-engineered” ASHLEY DAWSON interviewed in Truthout

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

“I argue in my book that it is perhaps easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to articulate any other genuine solution to the extinction crisis. While we need all sorts of creative concrete proposals for how to cope with the extinction crisis and the broader capitalist ecological Armageddon, of which it is a part, it is the poverty of the imagination to which Jameson alluded that is at the root of our inability to transform our current alarming condition.”

To read more, visit Truthout.

“The Climate Catastrophe Cannot Be Reversed Within the Capitalist Culture” ASHLEY DAWSON excerpted in Truthout

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

“Extinction: A Radical History is intended as a primer on extinction for activists, scientists, and cultural studies scholars alike, as well as for members of the general public looking to understand one of the great but all too often overlooked events of our time. Extinction is both a material reality and a cultural discourse that shapes popular perceptions of the world, one that often legitimates an inegalitarian social order.”

To read more, visit Truthout.

“Review: Extinction: A Radical HistoryASHLEY DAWSON reviewed in Earth First! Journal

Monday, August 8th, 2016

“Recommended: Yes.This book outlines the history of extinction and critiques “solutions” to the problem from an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist stance, offering useful concepts for thinking about extinction in relation to environmental and social justice.”

To read more, visit Earth First!

“Mass Extinction: The Early Years” ASHLEY DAWSON excerpted in Longreads

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

“By thinking through the periodization of extinction, these questions of power, agency, and the Anthropocene become more insistent. If we are discussing humanity’s role in obliterating the biodiversity we inherited when we evolved as a discrete species during the Pleistocene epoch, the inaugural moment of the Anthropocene must be pushed much further back in time than 1800. Such a move makes sense since the planet’s flora and fauna undeniably exercise a world-shaping influence when their impact is considered collectively and across a significant time span. Biologists have recently adopted such a longer view by coining the phrase “defaunation in the Anthropocene.” How far back, they ask, can we date the large-scale impact of Homo sapiens on the planet? According to Franz Broswimmer, the pivotal moment was the human development of language, and with it a capacity for conscious intentionality. Beginning roughly 60,000 years ago, Broswimmer argues, the origin of language and intentionality sparked a prodigious capacity for innovation that facilitated adaptive changes in human social organization. This watershed is marked in the archeological record by a vast expansion of artifacts such as flints and arrowheads. With this “great leap forward,” Homo sapiens essentially shifted from biological evolution through natural selection to cultural evolution.”

To hear more, visit Longreads


Friday, July 15th, 2016

A fan recently honored us with a book trailer for Extinction: A Radical History.

“Ashley Dawson Interview – Podcast July 4, 2016” ASHLEY DAWSON on Democratic Perspective

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

“Ashley Dawson, professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and author of the new book, Extinction, a Radical History, joins Democratic Perspective regulars Mike Cosentino, Gary LaMaster, and Steve Williamson, for a discussion of the toll human exploitation has taken on Earth’s biodiversity. What does it imply for our future that in the past fifty years alone, 40% of the planet’s species have disappeared? The inescapable answer: we have to change our perspective. Simply put, the ruthless exploitation of natural resources has limits. If we refuse to acknowledge them, we may wind up without a home.”

To hear more, visit Democratic Perspective

“The need for capital to expand infinitely on a limited resource base is really at the bottom of the crisis we’re seeing.” ASHLEY DAWSON on Russia Today

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Transnational trade deals “erode environmental legislation… and force countries that have progressive legislation that protects the environment to open up or be sued.”

To hear more, visit Russia Today.

“We’re in the sixth great crisis in the history of the planet” ASHLEY DAWSON on Majority Report

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

“This one though, human beings are largely responsible for.”

To read more, visit Majority Report.

What should we do in the face of the ongoing extinction crisis? ASHLEY DAWSON interviewed on KPFA

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

What should we do in the face of the ongoing extinction crisis? What is rewilding, and how does it work? Is de-extinction, which involves the resurrection of extinct species, advisable? Ashley Dawson puts mass extinction and the various efforts to address it in a broader political-economic context.

To read more, visit KPFA.

“We are completely unprepared for an era in which editing DNA is as easy as editing a Word document” ASHLEY DAWSON for Jacobin Magazine

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

“We are completely unprepared for an era in which editing DNA is as easy as editing a Word document. At present there are no legal controls over new technologies such as Crispr and gene drives, no government regulations on editing human DNA, no centralized risk-management inventory of labs where biohazards could be developed and released.”

To read more, visit Jacobin Magazine.

“We live in the midst of one of the greatest mass extinction events in the history of the planet.” ASHLEY DAWSON at Center for the Humanities

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

“We live in the midst of one of the greatest mass extinction events in the history of the planet. In its latest Living Planet report, the WWF states that global populations of vertebrate species have dropped by half since 1970. Today, halfway through the UN’s declared decade of biodiversity, the pace of extinction is picking up. Over the last decade, the planet lost 1.7 million sq kilometers of forest.”

To read more, visit Center for the Humanities.

“We can’t maintain biodiversity in a world in which there is unrestrained, hyper-capitalist exploitation based on ceaseless growth.” ASHLEY DAWSON on This is Hell

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

“We can’t maintain biodiversity in a world in which there is unrestrained, hyper-capitalist exploitation based on ceaseless growth. It’s fairly obvious that a system based on ceaseless expansion, on a finite planet, is going to run up against natural limits. And the extinctions we’re seeing right now is one of the prime examples of that.”

To read more, visit This is Hell.

“Dawson’s take is real, urgent, vital.” Biblioklept reflects on reading EXTINCTION

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Extinction frightens me—wait, I said that already, forgive me, I’ve been applying anaesthetics, okay—Dawson’s take is real, urgent, vital. It makes me face that I prefer my ecological criticism couched in the fantasy of the fantasy-past (Mononoke) or the doomed-but-hey-maybe-not-so-doomed-future (I’ll call here on Mononoke’s twin, Miyazaki’s 1984 epic Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, as an example). But prefer is not the right mode/verb here (and neither is the spirit of this riff, a solipsistic navel-gazing blog of myself). This failure is my failure.

To read the rest, visit Biblioklept.

“Forceful” The Los Angeles Review of Books reviews EXTINCTION

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Why has half the planet’s wildlife disappeared over the last 40 years? Why are we losing approximately 100 species every day? The answer, Dawson argues, lies not in the proximate drivers of extinction (deforestation, habitat fragmentation, poaching, overfishing, and climate change) but in the nature of capitalism itself.

To read the rest of the review, visit the Los Angeles Review of Books.

ASHLEY DAWSON interviewed on Vice

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

You critique solutions that you see as bad or inadequate. One of these criticisms is of “re-wilding”, where predators that were once thought of as a threat are re-introduced in order to benefit the whole ecosystem.

I think re-wilding offers people hope in a hopeless time. As global negotiations around climate change seem more and more deadlocked, something like re-wilding seems very exciting. I talk about the way it tries to wind time backwards, and there is something redemptive about that.

But there are problems: how far are we going to wind time backwards by reintroducing these keystone species? Do we want to go to the moment before Europeans arrived in a place like America? Well, there are problems with that because there were already people there who maintained the land in a certain way – it wasn’t “pristine” in the way settler-colonials envisaged it.

My real foundational critique is a pretty basic one. A lot of the celebrations of re-wilding are about bringing back areas in the global north while the decimation of so-called biodiversity hotspots in the global south pick up speed. What’s the point of working on a place like Oostvaardersplassen in Holland – where the Dutch government’s trying to re-introduce this ancient version of oxen – while the governments of the global north are unwilling to protect much more important areas in the south?

To read the rest of the review, visit Vice.

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