Extreme Environments

Interview with Valerie Olson

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Video transcript: "So extremity comes into the vocabulary in biology and ecology in the 19th century, in relation to understandings of spaces and conditions at the edges or the outermost dimensions of life. And that's why the extreme environment idea gets set. Extreme becomes a way to indicate from a technological, measurable, scientific perspective, something at the edge, something at the outermost edges of life. So it's a very northern western concept that has been applied in biology to questions of: how far can you extend life? How capable is life of adapting to conditions that are "not normal"? But the two words are very much in relation to one another.

So, extremity then becomes a charismatic concept. In terms of American culture, it's very much related to a kind of fetishization of pushing life to its limits and overcoming, subduing, dominating, and controlling the life-environment relationship. So, on the one hand, it's allowed people to define environmental extremity as something that's humanly caused, but also something natural. But it's a mistake to think about it as a natural idea. It's very much a hybrid, it's a term that very much emerges in relation to instrumentation and theories of being able to measure things like organismal homeostasis and normality."

Other interviews with Valerie Olson

Related tags: Climate Change, Theory, Anthropocene, Interdependence, Extreme,