March 25, 2014
Not The World Without Us, but the World as Us
The Anthropocene is a spatial behemoth, a cognitive leviathan. I want to start with an example that highlights a problem with the Anthropocene as a genre perhaps, but certainly as concept that deeply impacts the ways we can think about the future of the planet and human life activity. In the summer of 2012, Russ George, of Plakos Inc., and a First Nations village on Haida Gwaii dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of British Columbia in order to encourage algae growth. George Dvorsky of i09.com says, “recent satellite images are now confirming [the iron sulphate’s] effects—an artificial plankton bloom that’s 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) in size. The intention of the project is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the bottom of the ocean.” The decision was made unilaterally by George and First Nations on Haida Gwaii; Environment Canada and the UN are both investigating this rogue geo-engineering project. In The Huffington Post, Stephanie Pappas writes about the implications for large scale adoption of the technique: “Even widespread fertilization of the oceans would result in about 0.5 to 1 gigaton of carbon being shuttled out of the atmosphere annually…That’s about a third to a quarter of the carbon added to the atmosphere each year from man-made and other sources.” Here, the realization that we are fully within the Anthropocene offers those interested a license to act and to take the responsibility for the well being of the planet into their own hands. In the case of this example, George convinced the Haida to contribute over one million dollars to the project.
• • •