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New Left Review 45, May-June 2007

Do increasingly dark ecological portents indicate a deeper transformation of nature itself? Sven Lütticken elaborates a historicized conception of nature, seeking precedents and contrasts in 19th- and 20th-century philosophies and fictions. Dinosaurs and overmen, Geist and entropic decline in Verne, Nietzsche, Schelling and Smithson.



After a comparative lull in the 1990s, when free-market propagandists announced the imminent realization of the best of all possible worlds, dramatic ecological warnings have once again taken centre stage in the news media. Now that there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists, politicians and journalists that the rise in temperatures can no longer be regarded as one of the normal, periodic fluctuations in the earth’s climate, a new natural history seems to be in the making: from sandstorms sweeping through Beijing to constantly flooding rivers in Central Europe, from melting polar ice-caps to rising sea-levels, there is no shortage of natural events that seem disturbingly unnatural. Climate change, however, is merely the most dramatic of a number of developments—genetic technology being another—that change nature to an unprecedented degree.

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Sven Lütticken, ‘Unnatural History’, NLR 45: £3

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