Karen Pinkus

0396_12_072.jpgKaren Pinkus is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. She is author of Bodily Regimes: Italian Advertising Under Fascism and Alchemical Mercury: A Theory of Ambivalence, among others. Her forthcoming Fuel thinks about issues crucial to climate change by arguing for a separation of fuel (perhaps understood as potentiality, or dynamis, to use the Aristotelian term) from energy as a system of power (actuality, use). Fuel follows a series of literary, filmic and critical texts through the form of a dictionary (from “air” to “zyklon D”). Fuel engages with literature, art and critical theory as they are central to analogy and in turn, to fuel itself.

from Ambiguity, Ambience, Ambivalence, and the Environment

Ecocritical readers searching a Wordsworth poem for information about birds or plants in the English countryside of the early nineteenth century, may lament shifts in the climate that have destabilized “traditional” habitats and thus threaten to render significant poetic images and symbols extinct. Such reading cannot be quantitative, precisely because it describes a mood. The same holds true for issues around energy consumption that are crucial for work on sustainability, life-cycle analysis, and efficiency. Indeed, climate science—and especially research into environmental impacts—may be forced to rely on a degree of human error or linguistic variability. For instance, the field of technology analysis will probably have to accept “a hybrid method of the soft computing techniques, fuzzy logic and genetic algorithms,” an approach of “recursive optimization” that considers “different technical and nontechnical evaluation criteria to achieve optimum primary energy percentages that form the best energy mix.”2 In other words, the future of climate science may be in “human thought-process structures and processes of biological development with the logical and analytical accuracy of computers.”3 One recalls an optimistic moment in E. O. Wilson’s The Future of Life when he suggests that advances in neuroscience could help us to solve problems of biodiversity and sustainability.

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