[Spoiler Alert**] While watching the new Noah movie by Darren Aronofsky, I couldn’t help but notice some strong eco-animist undertones, which struck me as quite odd given the centrality of this story for a monotheistic tradition that historically defined itself in opposition to the many animist and polytheistic peoples of the world. If you’ve been paying attention to current pop culture religious debates, you’re likely aware of the conflicting views on Noah and the Ark, mostly coming from right-wing Christian fundamentalists, perhaps best captured by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Following his participation with Bill Nye in a recent creation debate, public interest in Ham jumped, which apparently has generated significant new capital for his stumbling Ark Encounters project that aims to create a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. So why does a movie reenacting the story of Noah, the last Patriarch in the line of Adam, feel like a quasi-animistic film about care and respect for nature and the necessity of saving the Earth from human wickedness? The answer, I want to suggest, is that the film reflects a growing strain of popular culture that is increasingly embracing ideas of oneness with nature, earth stewardship, and somewhat more slowly, critiques of industrial civilization’s appetite for destruction.

The first and clearest example of this comes in the opening minutes of the movie, when we learn about the line of Cain and their relationship to the Watchers. We are told that the Watchers — fallen angels who attempted to help Adam — taught the line of Cain how to use technology, and in turn the line of Cain developed a vast industrial civilization that spread across the planet like a plague, destroying everything in its wake. In time, man’s greed and appetite destroyed the Creator’s works, with the humans turning on the Watchers and slaughtering most of them as well. We eventually see the result of this fall of mankind: a barren landscape stripped of life and devoid of water. This is the landscape that Noah and his family first encounter in their journey to find Noah’s grandfather Methuselah.

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So as I recently wrote here and in my column in The Free Press, The New School should divest all of its endowment from fossil fuels. Following up on that post, there was a recent forum on divestment held on campus in which I was a participant. You can read live coverage of the event at The Free Press here, and also watch the full event video below.

The forum raised a number of very interesting points from a variety of angles, and I think all of those in attendance found it useful and educational. I know I certainly did. The real challenge now is where do we go from here? The university advisory committee which I am a part of, the ACIR, will be revisiting our Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) that we submitted to the trustees, trying to take into account some of the issues raised since our initial meeting with the board, and in this forum, but the main goal of fossil fuel divestment is not going to change. The question now is more of strategy and tactics. Read More

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University leadership should support fossil fuel divestment and uphold our values.

By: Chris Crews
[Update: Here's the link to the final published version in the The Free Press. You can also read about the recent New School Divestment forum here.]

In January of this year, I joined a small group of students and faculty at a meeting of our Board of Trustees, whose job is to oversee the management and direction of The New School. Our group spent an hour presenting a strong case for why The New School should move all of our endowment investment out of fossil fuels. As a member of our Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR), which gives advice on our endowment, I am confident that we could divest all of our fossil fuel holdings, which represent less than two percent of our endowment, if there were political will to do so. The time to act on climate change is now, and so we are calling on the university leadership to move immediately to divest from all fossil fuels. Read More

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I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting commentary in the coming days about last night’s (Feb 4th) much-hyped public debate between “Evolution” defender Bill Nye (The Science Guy) and “Creation” defender Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis/Creation Museum). As initial media coverage is already showing, it was a lively time. But rather than offer a political analysis of the event–I’ll do that in an upcoming piece–I want to reflect on one moment in the event when the whole thing took a deep and fascinating philosophical turn. The following discourse took place about 2 hours into the event, when the Moderator asked the following audience question to Ken Ham. There were a few good parts in the debate that stood out, but I think this is the most memorable. In my mind, this is really getting at the heart of the rift between naturalism and supernaturalism in relation to science and what counts as evidence.

Moderator: “Mr. Ham, a new question. This is a simple question I suppose, but one that is actually fairly profound for all of us in our lives. What, if anything, would ever change your mind?” Read More

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In case you haven’t already heard the news, there was an important legal verdict handed down recently from the US Court of Appeals in DC having to do with net neutrality and broadband internet non-discrimination rules and regulations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The case, Verizon Communications v. the FCC was challenging the FCC’s 2010 order imposing network neutrality regulations on broadband service. In short, the Court said the FCC had the right to regulate the Internet, but was using the wrong authority to do it in this case, since broadband services are classified differently than other “common carrier” services like telephone and cable TV. By all accounts, the ruling is a major victory for corporate media giants, who fought tooth and nail against any Net Neutrality restrictions in the first place, and a huge blow to Internet freedom for the average Jane or Joe. So why does the Court of Appeals ruling have so many internet activists and consumer safety advocates panicking, while folks at free market think-tanks like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) are celebrating? In short, it has to do with choice and profits–who chooses and who profits. Read More

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