Bring Your Shovel!
Resilience, the ability to snap back or soldier on after adversity, favors the cheery, the chipper, and the ignorant who dwell in bliss. It tells us to just keep shopping through the apocalypse. For those who mourn the slaughter of sharks, the melting of the glaciers, the suffering of cetaceans subjected to sonar, and more, the ability to bounce back into a psychologically healthy state seems predicated on massive denial, on humanist insularity and obliviousness. Indeed, the American Enterprise Institute declares, “We should focus on building resilience as an approach to protecting ourselves from the risks of climate change.”1 Ourselves. As if the multitude of ways industrialized, consumerist, Western humans have attempted to protect ourselves from the world is not the very thing that fuels climate change. Trans-corporeal subjects may be justifiably skeptical of resilience—a mode of cruel or cool optimism. But our activist inclinations chide us to continue on, to be more creative, and to find solutions. Resilience, when considered from a more-than-human perspective, however, reminds us of the worldly agencies, energies, and transformations that can generate unexpected vital beings, life forms, and relations. Something (good) may surprise us. In the meantime I call for a posthumanist resilience, enacted through our immersion in networks that are ecological, material, technological, multispecies, and subcultural. Why not undertake mundane revolutionary practices that foster intersubjective well-being through a million minute attempts to foster the resilience of ecosystems, the survival of species, the just distribution of health, wealth and opportunity, and the desire to more generally “unfuck the world.”2 As guerilla gardener Ron Finley, the archetype of resilience, says in his ted talk, “If you want to meet with me, come to the garden with your shovel so we can plant some shit.”3
stacy alaimo is professor of English and distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she coordinates the cross-disciplinary environmental and sustainability studies minor. She has published widely in environmental humanities, science studies, and feminist theory, on such subjects as environmental literature and film, environmental art and architecture, performance art, environmental pedagogy, gender and climate change, and the science and culture of “queer” animals. Her recent essays focus on feminist materialisms, new materialist theory, and ocean ecologies. She currently serves on the mla Division of Literature and Science and is the new editor of the “Critical Ecologies” stream of the Electronic Book Review. She has published three books: Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space (2000); Material Feminisms (edited with Susan J. Hekman ); and Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (2010), which won the asle Book Award for Ecocriticism. She is currently working on two books, Protest and Pleasure: The Strange Agencies of Bodies and Places, Sea Creatures and the Limits of Animal Studies: Science, Aesthetics, Ethics.