Time and Nature in the Fossil Economy


Goldsmiths College

IImage by Sain de Livre

The dialectic between society and nature is a long lasting, tumultuous one.
Humans have learned how to survive it, prevail it, and eventually colonise it. We felt the urge to dominate its sublime power and its wilderness, but what really characterised this troubled relationship is the state of constant dependency that human has toward nature.

Coal and gas have shaped our current economy since the beginning of it; they have been the core elements of capitalism, of the development of the 20th century city, they have been at the base of our mode of transportation. In simple words, they shaped our understanding of time. In light of the extreme exploitation of these geological elements for a fast and efficient progress of society, we alienated ourselves from nature and from its pace.

According to Marxist political theorist Frederic Jameson, postmodernity is precisely this, the disappearance of time and nature. Yet, something seemed to change in the last couple of decades, the relationship with fossil fuels has started to totter; the assets are not so secure anymore. Nature is gradually revealing itself again, this time aggressively and unpredictably.

In the book 'Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming' (Verso, 2016), author Andreas Malm retraces the historical moments that originated the raise of temperatures in these first decades of the 21st century. It narrates the economical decisions that undoubtedly affected the natural catastrophes that the world is facing now. In his book, Andreas Malm attempt to deconstruct the passage from the postmodern to the warming condition, what has changed, but most of all, what can we do now to address this return of time and nature?