The banality of landscape change

by nicolasnova

In this strikingly insightful blogpost called “The Banality of the Anthropocene“, Heather Anne Swanson discusses what she refers to as one of the most troublesome and terrifying dimension of the Anthropocene: “the sheer number of people it fails to trouble”.

Relying on the case of Iowa corn field – what would be the Alpine equivalent? ski slopes from the mountains? – she describes people’s blindness toward recent changes such as the drop of aquifer levels, the high nitrate levels in drinking water, and the washing down of fertilizers down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

For her, one of the reasons for that is because “white middle-class American subjectivities are predicated on not noticing. They are predicated on structural blindness: on a refusal to acknowledge the histories we inherit.” The cornfields are perceived as “progress” producing “grain futures markets and cheap hamburgers”… but the privatization of the fields lead to the disappearance of American Indians (“who carefully tended the prairie through burning and bison management”) and the over-exploitation of the fields.

As an answer, she suggests the following, that I find quite interesting:

Can we imagine corollaries to Bible study meetings or consciousness-raising groups in which people would be encouraged to trace the histories of the landscapes they inhabit, a process that might draw them into new ways of seeing themselves and their worlds?

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