ACCESS Seminar: Building Gaian collectives: attending to soil, growing earthly sciences

About the seminar


Surviving the environmental break down brought about by certain human activities requires learning how to participate in the living planet, or Gaia, without provoking its deadly reactivity. This paper explores what is needed to embed Gaian attention in everyday, "cool" situations, and why such forms of attention may struggle to emerge and persist. I focus on agriculture as a crucial site of human-ecosystem relations, and specifically analyze the rising attention to living soils in modern farming. I show that the epistemic ignorance and ontological uncertainty surrounding soil ecosystems, and the embodied affects brought out by investigating them, give rise to human-soil relations which suspend and even challenge necromantic logics of modernity. Engaging Arendt's work on the dominance of science and labor, I also demonstrate, however, the anesthetizing effects which earth-alienation and world-alienation have on these emergent relationalities and their ontopolitical consequences. I identify "farming by numbers" as a powerful manifestation of these soil alienations. I also propose the conditions which would support the emergence of attentive Gaian collectives. In conclusions, I argue for a need for earthly sciences, that is sciences which arise from and respond to the human conditions of being earth-bound and world-bound.


I am a qualitative researcher with a background in Geography, and Science and Technology Studies. I am interested in the relationships between humans and nature, and the role scientific and other forms of knowledge play in these relationships. My current research explores these issues with regards to natural resource management, with a focus on managing soils. My previous research explored a range of issues associated with food production and consumption, renewable energy, and waste and sustainability. I have a long track record of interdisciplinary work, and I am interested in the role public-academic engagement can play in addressing social and environmental challenges.