A concept so big the mind can't grasp it...
April 23, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I read an article recently about our species ongoing bid to destroy our natural habitat. In the article (possibly 'The Guardian') it invoked a concept invented by (I think) a cultural critic (whose name escapes me), the general premise being that our slow-motion environmental collapse falls into a class of ideas that are so vast that our minds can't process or focus on it and therefore it tends to disregard it. I'm sure the article gave this concept a name...any ideas?
posted by Rufus T. Firefly to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I do not know the article of which you speak - although perhaps a search on Elizabeth Kolbert's work might help. But I can imagine a clever science writer connecting environmental collapse to the sublime?
posted by one_bean at 3:38 PM on April 23, 2014

I suspect it might not have been this, but it was the first thing to come to mind and you might like it anyway.
posted by karbonokapi at 3:43 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This might cover it.

posted by Freedomboy at 3:46 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

what you're talking about, i would call unconscionability, a second meaning for a word that usually means an act, or behavior, so bad that we have difficulty imagining that someone would do it. i disagree that this applies to global warming, that's more the deliberate inertia of entrenched profit systems, short-term thinking (see: boiled frog) and resignation to the apparent inevitable.
posted by bruce at 3:46 PM on April 23, 2014

Was it this review? The concept you're describing matches pretty well with Timothy Morton's hyperobjects.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 5:07 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks The Bridge..., 'hyperobjects' was exactly the phrase I was looking for. The oracular powers of AskMeFi succeed once more!
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 12:36 AM on April 24, 2014

You might also be interested in Rob Nixon's (less theorized, more political-economical) notion of slow violence.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 5:29 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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