Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Living in the Ruins of the Capitalocene: Lapindo Mudflow Disaster, Climate Change from Below, and Systemic Denialism
Fathun Karib Satrio

Last modified: 2022-05-31


The paper explores an era called the Capitalocene, a geohistorical period in which the corporate-state-science formed a nexus of geological forces. A nexus of geological forces can conquer nature and the population with the capacities and abilities necessary to manage the natural and human elements to recover from an accumulation crisis generated by a disaster. The Lapindo Mudflow Disaster occurred on May 29, 2006, in Porong Subdistrict, Sidoarjo District, East Java Province, Indonesia. Lapindo Brantas Incorporation's negligence caused the Mudflow Disaster during its gas drilling extraction. Villagers from Porong and other Subdistricts suffered from this disaster because their villages were submerged. As a geological event, the disaster affected broad political-economic interests between the Bakrie family, as the owners of Lapindo, the Indonesian State, and affected villagers. This paper aims to understand two interconnected processes. First, the structural operation of corporation-state-science as the nexus of geological forces in countering accumulation and environmental crises. Second, at the same time, this structural operation generates conditions for humans to live in the Capitalocene. It will explore the impact of the structural operation of capitalism on human conditions living in the Capitalocene: What sort of living conditions were produced by the Mudflow Disaster, and how did those conditions affect the villagers? The methane gas produced by the mudflow hole (Mazzini et al., 2021) is one of the significant contributors to climate change. The structural operation of capital produced this climate change. It was experienced by the rural population living in "climate change areas" and "zone of Capitalocene's ruin. I argue in the case of mudflow disaster, sciences alone cannot determine whether the phenomenon is natural or human-made. Natural scientists cannot escape the political-economy dimension of "disaster," and the concept of "climate change" cannot be separated from this tendency and dimension. I suggest an alternative narrative from the perspective of climate change from below. It does not mean all the indicators of climate change that earth scientists found do not exist. In fact, it is something that indigenous peoples and villagers in rural areas encounter in everyday life situations in the wake of deforestation, fossil fuel production, mining industries, and mass extinction. Climate change is not an externality, but it is lived within and through the human body and environmental surroundings. Therefore, we need to rethink the Anthropocene concept because mainstream science assigns environmental degradation and ecological crisis to all humanity, the "Anthropos." The same strategy of smokescreen and disguise applied and appeared in scientific discourse on "climate change," "natural disaster," and "sustainability." Many scientists closed their eyes and accepted this disguise by refusing to name the system while recognize that capitalism’s structural operation is the prime driver of environmental destruction. In this context, it is not a matter of "climate denialism" or "environmental denialism" but "systemic denialism." This syndrome of systemic denialism pointed out that "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism" (Fisher 2009). Beyond the Anthropocene as a concept, "it is easier to imagine the end of the world and environmental or climate apocalypse than the end of capitalism" for the corporation, State, and mainstream scientists. It is easier to think this way for capital, State, and mainstream scientists because their whole structural operation is the cause of these destructions and ruination.

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