An Ecotopian toolkit
for the Anthropocene
“WHAT IS THE NATURAL WORLD? AND AM I, BEING A ROBOT, UNNATURAL?”-Bartram's Robot
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Tool making is a signature trait of the human species. What tools will we make, and require, in the age of the human, the anthropocene: the proposed name for the present geological epoch when humans are the most potent force shaping earth’s systems? Global warming and other anthropocene challenges, including the ongoing sixth mass extinction event, often lead to apocalyptic visions, or apathy.
Prompted in part by the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, we explore a longer history of the anthropocene to help represent--and respond to--our contemporary moment. Might a utopian turn help us navigate warmer, rising waters and build refuge? What tools can STEAM educators in universities and museums design and develop via the history of utopia and its hope for better futures? At the outset of European imperial expansion across the globe, English humanist Thomas More dashed off an enduring work of speculative fiction, composed in two short parts: Utopia. The first part stages conversations between European intellectuals about the profound changes they were witnessing: the enclosure of commons, regimes of mineral extraction, shifting flows of capital, uneven resource access, and the criminalization of poverty among them. More’s second book voyages out to the island utopia: a republican community purportedly in possession of educational tools for a better life.
Utopia’s two parts inform the scope of The Toolkit: both its scholarly conversations and its future-looking tools for citizens. Our meetings will consider both how integrated knowledge production can address environmental challenges and what tools scholars working across ways of knowing might create not only to maintain but to expand the potential for species-being in the Anthropocene, the age of the human.
Ecotopian toolkit for wetland
Apply for a micro-grant to build the Ecotopian Toolkit for WetLand by February 17.
WetLand, the art boat meets science lab, is growing into a floating public space for collaborative and cooperative experiments in sustainability on the Lower Schuylkill River, home to both refineries and bird sanctuaries, old technologies and new. In tandem with the Ecotopian Toolkit conference and related performance events, from April 13-14, PPEH invites you to participate in a design competition and a series of workshops to build Ecotopian Tools for WetLand. Proposals will introduce tools–whether conceptual or realized–for inhabitants of the Schuylkill watershed as they learn to adapt and, in some cases, to float on warmer waters. Successful proposals will be awarded micro-grants of up to $1000 per tool to allow for the proposal to be explored and possibly built, distributed, and used in the watershed and on the River. Then, throughout Spring 2017, we will organize a series of workshops designed to invent and build each selected Ecotopian Tool for WetLand with the aim of promoting stewardship of the Lower Schuylkill River in and around Bartram’s Garden.
We invite you to participate in exploring how we all might learn to float–and to live and thrive–on warming and rising river waters. Climate prediction models agree that Philadelphia is becoming hotter and wetter. How can we best adapt to the higher temperatures and other extreme weather events that increasingly make up the new normal? The WetLand Project addresses this need to adapt and promote resilience through a year-long collaborative, multi-disciplinary project called Floating on Warmer Waters, which considers the complex relationship of people and nature on the Lower Schuylkill River.
Co-sponsored by Penn Humanities Forum, Fels Institute of Government, Institute for Contemporary Art, Kislak Center of the Penn Libraries, and Bartram’s Garden.