Unnatural Disasters: On Sponsorship and Risk

Unnatural Disasters: On Sponsorship and Risk

Featuring honorary fellows Not An Alternative and alum McKenzie Wark

Sunday 15 February, 2015

4:00PM – 6:00PM

Cost: Free

In the anthropocene, natural disasters are not natural. Rather, they are trace effects of an industrial and economic system that will—left unimpeded—accelerate climate change and drive Earth toward collapse. As scientific methods for predicting the future impact of climate change have become increasingly sophisticated, the guiltiest parties have found a new and insidious use for climate science: to assess and mitigate risk, or, as one 2014 Canadian report on climate change boasts, to “turn risks into opportunities, and opportunities into benefits.”

When nature exerts its fury, who is poised to profit from the wreckage? What risk management strategies are state and corporate bodies developing to minimize the impact of climate change on their assets, and how do those strategies influence the conditions for action on climate change?  Is “natural disaster” just another name for “creative destruction,” a force that—if effectively predicted and managed—can clear ground for new forms of capitalist domination?

This event is inspired by a current exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, entitled Nature’s Fury:

The Science of Natural Disasters. Sponsored by Traveler’s Insurance, a company that specializes in “minimizing risk, preventing loss and helping its customers prepare for the unknown”, the exhibition uses the language of strategic planning to present scientific research on earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes. Taking Natures Fury as a point of departure, McKenzie Wark will examine the “metabolic rift between economy as organization and nature as environment,” a rift that today appears most violently under the guise of disaster.

Please note this talk will take place in DUMBO, Brooklyn at Gallery 216, 111 Front Street


McKenzie Wark is an Australian-born media theorist and heterodox Marxist scholar. Wark is the author of several books, including Telesthesia: Communication, Culture and Class50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist InternationalGamer TheoryA Hacker ManifestoCelebrities, Culture and CyberspaceThe Virtual Republic, and Virtual Geography. Most recently he authored Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene, to be published by Verso Books in April 2015. Wark teaches at Eugene Lang College and The New School for Social Research in New York City.


Initiated by arts collective Not An Alternative, The Natural History Museum is a new museum that offers exhibitions, expeditions, educational workshops, and public programming. Unlike traditional natural history museums, it makes a point to include and highlight the social and political forces that shape nature. The Natural History Museum affirms the truth of science. It inquires into what we see, how we see, and what remains excluded from our seeing.