(A)wake for ‘the Passions of this Earth’: Extinction and the Absurd ‘Ethics’ of Novel Ecosystems

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Michael Smith


Drawing on the work of Albert Camus this paper offers a critique of certain discourses around ‘novel ecosystems’. These new species ‘assemblages’ are frequently defended, or even celebrated, as exemplifying resilience and adaptability to the environmental repercussions of a global situation inaccurately glossed as ‘The Anthropocene’. Here the increasing prevalence of economically generated changes, including the accelerating translocations of species, are set against earlier conservation values emphasizing protection of ‘natural’ and ‘native’ ecologies. The proliferation of novel ecosystems, together with an instrumental emphasis on their functional, ‘pragmatic’, and economic benefits, appears to make environmentalists’ ethical concerns about the loss of endangered others seem ‘absurd’ and frames conservation as a Sisyphean task. Yet Camus early work provides arguments for ethical / political resistance in just such absurd and extreme circumstances.

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Extinction (Peer Reviewed)