Blog Post

Nonlocality

In a previous post I argued that hyperobjects are viscous—they adhere to you no matter how hard to try to pull away, rendering ironic distance obsolete. Now I'll argue that they are also nonlocal. That is, hyperobjects are massively distributed in time and space such that any particular (local) manifestation never reveals the totality of the hyperobject.

 When you feel raindrops falling on your head, you are experiencing climate, in some sens. In particular you are experiencing the climate change known as global warming. But you are never directly experiencing global warming as such. Nowhere in the long list of catastrophic weather events—which will increase as global warming takes off—will you find global warming.

But global warming is as real as this sentence. Not only that, it's viscous. It never stops sticking to you, no matter where you move on planet Earth. 

How can we account for this? By arguing that global warming, like all hyperobjects, is nonlocal: it's massively distributed in time and space. 

What does this mean? It means that my experience of the weather in the hic et nunc is a false immediacy. It's never the case that those raindrops only fall on my head! They are always a manifestation of global warming! 

In an age of ecological emergency—in an age in which hyperobjects start to oppress us with their terrifying strangeness—we will have to get used to the fact that locality is always a false immediacy. 

Timothy Morton's picture

Timothy Morton is Professor of English (Literature and Environment) at the University of California, Davis. Professor Morton's interests include literature and the environment, ecotheory, philosophy, biology, physical sciences, literary theory, food studies, sound and music, materialism, poetics, Romanticism, Buddhism, and the eighteenth century. He teaches literature and ecology, Romantic-period literature, and literary theory. He has published nine books and sixty essays, including The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010) and Ecology without Nature (Harvard UP, 2007).