More errata on hydroecology and the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene’s proliferation of disasters—or, the increasingly legible actions of nonhuman actors in human spaces—produce fluid territory upon which the ecological, economic, and political whirl and feedback. But for all the uncertainty, the geopolitical powers of the Global North remain in a privileged position: possessed of the luxury of “turning necessity into opportunity”, they can construct illusions of solidity, of uniformity, of ordered procession, and in doing so, reinforce themselves. Ideological constructs and infrastructural fortifications move together in delirious lockstep: the flooded coastline is not a diluvian catastrophe, but an opportunity for development; earthquakes produced by hydraulic fracturing leads to the structural thickening of the drilling apparatus. The Anthropocene, far from being the duration-entity of an emphatic and final deterritorialization (a millenarian delusion), is reciprocally characterized by abrupt re-equalization—by market-forces rushing back in, blindly and hysterically beholden to thermodynamic laws of pressure that dictate: the voidspace left by the onslaught of the nonhuman must be re-filled as quickly and as spectacularly as possible. (One wonders: if it wasn’t, would it be like missing teeth in a smile, or the removal of gaudy paint from a marble sculpture from antiquity?) The attritive scraping of the nonhuman on the human—100-year storms, rise of sea levels, decade-long draughts, et al.—does nothing to negate the fact that, under capitalism, territory is property, and property is to be built on, excavated, paved over, and secured.

In doing so, capitalistic development has positioned itself as the interlocutor between the nonhuman and the human. Having produced an aberrant, mutated planetary system, capitalism now fails to meet with it, despite its best efforts, and despite its self-appointed status as guardian. The Anthropocene has not seen the dissolution of capital so much as it has seen it reassert itself as the only possibility; the only system capable of responding to massive destruction with massive reconstruction. The Anthropocene’s massive destructive possibilities merely offer new opportunities of a continued, bleak rebirth, always in the capitalistic mode, until there is no ground left.

The barrier-territory left by deterritorialization and immediately once more pseudopodically swallowed by capital is itself, of course, immediately capitalized.


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