The Force Majeure

“Given transactions between accelerated global warming and accelerated resource exploitation, we, like others, see a different and stressed planet coming into existence within 50-100 years. This state of events apparently has no overarching solution. However, mediation is a possibility. The strategy proposed is to lower the entropy of the planet.” — Helen and Newton Harrison, Project Leads, The Force Majeure

The Force Majeure, a bold, large-scale vision of the world-renowned artists Helen and Newton Harrison, proposes to “reduce the entropy of planetary ecosystems in the face of human-induced climate change”. Their proposal is distinguished by its scale, holistic framework, and collaboration between artists and scientists. Their goal of developing Entropy Analysis as a new research field is just one example of their provocative attempts to engage individuals in, as Bucky would say, “thinking at the scale of the problem” by exposing people viscerally to the complexities of ecosystem change, huge issues such as global carrying capacity, and the role of indeterminacy in effective systems intervention. In their 2014 proposal, four research sites have been proposed in which the Harrisons and scientists will experiment with methods to assist nature in its response to massive system disturbances.

From the Project Team:

“A Force Majeure has been set into motion. In practice, entropy had been accelerated in most planetary ecosystems. Civilization, thru its processes of exploitation of most natural systems has transformed the low entropy topology of the planet to a much higher entropy state. The outcome is a great force we, as creators, have brought into being. Its manifestation is accelerated global warming in transaction with all the practices of extraction and production we have enacted, particularly those actions moving forward from the industrial revolution to the present. All of this is bundled into one phrase that we appropriate from legal terminology. We call this a Force Majeure. A counterforce is immediately apparent. Nature has done this before at great scale, the ice-age recovery being one example. Under rather specialized conditions we can also set about the business of lowering the entropy in the planetary systems we have so disrupted. With creativity we can accelerate this process of adaptation, which reframed, can be understood as entropy reduction. In this context we see a new field, entropy analysis, wanting to happen.

We are talking here about a whole-systems response. The Force Majeure and its oppositional force is a theory on how to drop planetary entropy, conceptually based on the first and second laws of the conservation of energy. The Center for the Study of the Force Majeure is based at the University of California Santa Cruz. It is simultaneously based on the ground in the 9,000-acre University of California Berkeley Sagehen Research Station. A second research station is being planned on the Tibetan Plateau.”

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