Binturong : a history of gadget – part three

In its special issue Wild Pet National Geographic described some concrete reasons to have it : reconnecting with nature, status symbol (luxury), possessing an animal not domesticated, taking the uncivilised into society. But all this stuff conveys what Lacan called gadget. 

For Lacan, a gadget is a fundamental dispossession of the intrinsic content of reality. Gadgets substitute life because they turn reality into an object ready to use. So, a wild pet is an animal no longer wild that is an animal dispossessed of its biological reality. But life, as Lacan explains, is not a land to seize; it’s a geography to face with. And geography implies both living creatures and unpredictable pathways. In hyper modern societies we seek gadgets just the same we seek special pets. Let’s come back to the photos of binturongs provided by Greg McCann.

What is a binturong roaming in a forest?

This binturong is the main character of a landscape. Of course we can also picture this landscape  by words like habitat and ecosystem. What counts here it’s that a species is not a gadget but a vibrant presence. While gadgets destroy landscapes by reducing them to commodities or facilities, a wild species remind us that landscape are the geography of life and imagination.


Binturong : a history of gadget – part two

If defaunation is (Dirzo, Science 2014) “a compositional change in community” and “denotes the loss of both species and populations of wildlife as well as local decline in abundance”, it remains totally open the question about the ecological role of binturong in Asian tropical forests and therefore whether, when and at which extent is the species engaged in defaunation process. But the question is also: what idea of animals drives such a market? While, for instance, Freud referred to the relationship with domestic pets as “indisputable solidarity”, recently we observe a dramatic shift in this assumption. As forests and habitats disappear, we have been assisting to a rapid change in the way we were used to look at animals. And the most direct consequence is a change of status – and agency too – of animals. The destiny of binturong is a show case of three different ways to be an animal in Anthropocene: commodity (see Joshua Schuster on bison massacre in America and Nicole Shukin about animal rendering ), pet and event. These categories tend to overlap each other. For instance, there’s no relevant difference between the idea of using a wild binturong as tourist attraction in a Vietnamese restaurant and the image of African games (cute and human designed) provided by last Disney’s series (The Lion Guard) with a cheetah looking like a glamorous Main Coon. Among many other reasons defaunation is a dynamics because cultural use of faunas marks our “extinction footprint”. And this exactly what Foucault meant with biopolitics. 

Binturong: a history of gadget – part one

Malaysian are turning Facebook into a wildlife market place, driving an illegal trade in iconic animals, a recent report from TRAFFIC says. A monitoring over 5 months of 14 Facebook groups in Malaysia has found that 300 wild animals were on sale as pets. Among the other species, TRAFFIC found the Binturong (Arctictis binturong). But, what is a binturong ? This mammal is poorly known from an ecological point of view. And the species is cut out to be an iconic one. This turns into the fact  that binturong has no place in glamorous documentaries or in tv series about tropical forests. And the more a species is absent from screen the more are the possibilities that we will loose it without a sufficient knowledge of his real ecology. Greg McCann ( he has worked fo Habitat Id NGO ) has a long experience in tracking elusive species in Asian tropical forests; Greg has provided me of two fanstatic photos of binturong in Virachey national park, Cambodia. Here we start discussing about binturong –

Roberto Saviano sul Nobel a Svetlana Alexievic: perché il reporter ambientale è anche uno scrittore

imageIn un articolo uscito su La Repubblica il 12 ottobre 2015 Roberto Saviano ha spiegato le ragioni del Nobel alla Alexievic in un articolo che sintetizza in modo magistrale perché anche il giornalismo ambientale può davvero funzionare quando il reporter è uno scrittore. Saviano non parla apertamente di  reporter che si occupano di cambiamento climatico o biodiversità, ma è nella necessità di costruire un affresco, un contesto attorno al problema centrale su cui si scava che è facile rintracciare una esigenza cogente del giornalismo ambientale.

Eccone i passaggi più utili per inquadrare una riflessione su come imbastire il racconto della crisi ecologica:

“La non fiction è un genere letterario che non ha come obiettivo la notizia, ma ha come fine il racconto della verità. Lo scrittore di narrativa non fiction si appresta a lavorare su una verità documentabile ma la affronta con la libertà della poesia. Non crea la cronaca, la usa. Scegliere la letteratura non fiction, del resto, è una scelta di stile, è la scelta di un percorso (…) Raccogliere fatti e filtrarli attraverso la riflessione letteraria, aggiungere realtà al romanzo, sottrarre freddezza alla cronaca, sono l’unica strada che esiste per portare argomenti sensibili all’attenzione del lettore (…) Tom Wolfe, teorico del New Journalism, affermava che non basta riportare le parole dei tuoi protagonisti (veri, non di invenzione), ma bisogna costruire un contesto in cui agiscono e parlano. E qui entra in campo la letteratura (…) relegare il racconto del mondo al solo lavoro dei cronisti o della misurabilità della notizia significa spezzettarlo, isolarlo, in qualche modo debilitarlo. Affrontare invece quello stesso racconto con il metodo narrativo significa creare un affresco comprensibile, fermare il consumo di notizie e cominciare la digestione dei meccanismi. Come ha scritto Philip Gourevitch su The New Yorker  letteratura è solo un termine per indicare la scrittura”.


Sebald’s hybrid books: how to tell nature and human encroachment

imageMark O’Connel for The New Yorker (“Why you should read G.W.Sebald” December 14, 2011) explains at best the reason why Sebald is an illuminating example of environmental philology. His books “combine memoire, fiction, travelogue, history and biography to create a strange new literary compound”. And how does it work? “He began to write in what he called an elliptical way breaching the supposed boundaries between fact and fiction. Sebald himself sometimes described his work as documentary fiction, which goes some way toward capturing its integration of apparently irreconcilable elements”, such as scientific data and emotive insight into an ecological collapse. Sebald “peregrinatory prose” comes into and occupy “an unsettled disputed territory”, where natural history melts into cultural history. And that also occurs because “the past becomes suddenly present and the present seems mediated by the long passage of years”. As we are about to see, this is exactly what Roberto Saviano explains about Svetlana Alexievic’s approach to reporting.