Making publics, lighting up the streets, silphion back from the dead?

What am I doing with this newsletter and its partner website, as we reach edition 32? Publishing, clearly. But to what end? Paul Soulellis quotes Michael Warner's Publics and Counterpublics to make a distinction between “the public”, “a public” and “publics”, and to alert us to the fact that the act of publishing does not simply “make public” some communication, but also serves to “make a public”. This is all in Soulellis's extraordinary intervention Urgentcraft 1.0 – Radical publishing during crisis.

This syllabus focuses in particular on those queer strategies of resistance, refusal, and survival. As an overarching idea, urgentcraft explores the potential for radical publishing to gather and mobilize people around urgent artifacts and messages. As a syllabus, urgentcraft presents a range of artists, projects, texts, and concepts that foreground those strategies in recent history, as well as in contemporary independent publishing. As an expanding set of principles, urgentcraft identifies anti-racist ways of working in crisis, using art and design to fuel emancipatory projects and the movement towards liberation.

It turns out that all these energy-saving LED streetlights municipal governments are using to replace the old ones are not so great for nocturnal animals. Also, not great for humans either, for similar reasons – LEDs tend to be set towards the blue end of the light spectrum, but also lots of light when it's supposed to be dark is problematic. There is some hope, with photoluminescent road markings being trialled in Gippsland where electric lighting is logistically challenging.

The Romans knew of a seemingly “miracle” plant called Silphion which is said to be the origin of the romantic heart shape (alike to Silphion seeds), tasted delicious, and was used widely for birth control. It was impossible for them to grow in cultivation, so they are said to have eaten it to extinction. Only now a scientist thinks he's found a patch growing wild. This is pretty cool, but also a great example of what “degrowth” advocates are on about – endlessly consuming more and more will eventually lead to very bad things indeed. Erin Remblance and Jennifer Harvey Sallin suggest No, let's not call it something else in response to critiques that “degrowth” is a good idea with a branding problem.

The fact that the term ‘degrowth’ isn’t immediately embraced by some people doesn’t mean it’s not effective. We are asking people to abandon a long-held belief, and it will take some getting used to. The word ‘degrowth’ is disruptive to the point of being confrontational and isn’t easily absorbed into the status quo, reflecting the urgent and unequivocal transformational change and paradigm shift that we need.

Drastic change is coming in our lives, and many of us are grieving as we come to acknowledge our own ‘sunk’ investment in our careers, lifestyles or dreams for the future that simply won’t materialise — not because of degrowth, but because we have failed to act on the science of climate change for decades.

...we don’t need to change the name ‘degrowth’. What we need is for more of us in wealthy nations to intuitively associate the term ‘economic growth’ with ‘collapse’.

How do like-minded people get together in healthy self-directed ways to work out how to live better, more connected lives? Richard Bartlett of microsolidarity has as few ideas about that.

Marginalia is an email and web newsletter about things that made me think over the last month – articles, books, podcasts, and perhaps from time to time some videos. It comes out on the first Monday of every month. You can subscribe by following on any ActivityPub platform (e.g. Mastodon) or via email using the form below.

You might also enjoy my weekly newsletter Libraries & Learning Links of the Week, or my irregular blog Information Flaneur.