Reports of the anthropocene are not exaggerated: even careless observers need no transcendental clues to see the environments we create, and the nature we shape. Worryingly regular, anthropogenic signals of modernity’s self-created environment demonstrate an ever-evolving willpower. Earth’s clock progresses unabated; human attention to environmental determinism ignores our actual agency – we are constituents without control. We have built our own aporia, as development necessary for our modernity simultaneously undermines our success.
Historians evidence long-standing, conflict between human will and environmental determinism. Previous builders bequeathed pyramids, ziggurats, canals, etc. Many were abandoned as climate shifted. Exponentially advancing global warming and its concomitant effects demonstrate the precarity of current development, but more important is the juxtaposition between our present standards and the long gaze of historical hindsight. In every way, our detritus will cover our sphere with a epoch-amplifying guarantee. Plastic residues, garbage, emissions – these are unavoidable, but so omnipresent they cannot foreseeably become anachronisms. Conversely, the grander structures of our environmental predation will persist in jarring, convoluted ways.
Those who would presently seek to thread oil pipelines through the landscape ignore at their own peril the monuments they create. Memory is short, but the rusting continuity of environmental destruction proves to be a persistent reminder of a changed planet. What will coming centuries bring?: Signposted slag heaps to educate citizens about irrationality? Smokestacks like Stonehenge? We must imagine, or otherwise fail to recognize the terrible, ironic immensity of the world our species has shaped.
Human imagination is notably small-framed: personal agency often dissolves into a thicket of overlapping boundaries. Children are no more incandescent than adults, but their expression is not withheld by the lampshades and switches of social codes. And it’s that selfsame shielding of imagination that extrudes adult-life into the stodgy patches of dwarf potentialities. Overcoming global warming completely is impossible – we cannot joust with determinism. If we do not imagine the future, however, we will only magnify the present, and nothing will appear more absurd than our inhuman monuments.
[Photo: “Blocks”, Reeva Harrison, reevaharrison.com]