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The metabolic sublime
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Article
American Trash
Colin Lecher
Materials
Waste
Cultures
WasteStreams

Electronics can be hazardous when disposed of improperly, and the Basel Action Network investigates the underground world of the e-waste trade. The nonprofit group secretly embeds trackers in discarded devices, then hands them to recyclers to see where they end up, exposing bad practices in the process.

American Trash

Article
Ancient Upheavals Show How to Geoengineer a Stable Climate
Patick Mellor
Climate
Environment
Ecology
History
Geodesign

The assumption that our pre-industrial climate was a robust equilibrium is an existentially dangerous one. If there’s more carbon around, the biosphere will just operate with more carbon until some process causes permanent sequestration. To understand this, as well as the unusual and metastable nature of our current climate, we have to go back to the geological history of climate change.

Ancient Upheavals Show How to Geoengineer a Stable Climate

Article
Anthropocene: victims, narrators, and revolutionaries
Anthropocene: victims, narrators, and revolutionaries
Labour
Waste
Politics
Strategy
Wasteocene

The absence of a reflection on revolutionary practices and subjects is the main weakness of the radical critique of the Anthropocene. The risk is to envision the Anthropocene as a space for villains and victims but not for revolutionaries. It is crucial to challenge the (in)visibility and (un)knowability of the Anthropocene beyond geological strata and planetary boundaries.

Anthropocene: victims, narrators, and revolutionaries

Article
Apple and Google named in US lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths
Annie Kelly
Infrastructure
Land
Politics
Systems
Sacrifice teritories

A landmark legal case has been launched against the world’s largest tech companies by Congolese families who say their children were killed or maimed while mining for cobalt used to power smartphones, laptops and electric cars.

Apple and Google named in US lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths

Article
Blood Cobalt
Various
Labour
Materials
Cultures
Politics
Sacrifice teritories

The world is embracing renewable technologies but how much do we know about the metals that are powering this green revolution? This story exposes the shocking truth about the mining of cobalt, a metal essential to making the batteries in electric cars, laptops and mobile phones. The world's richest deposits of cobalt are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest countries on earth. It produces about 70% of world output.

Blood Cobalt

Article
Capitalocene, waste race and gender
Françoise Vergès
Labour
Waste
Politics
Systems
Exhausted bodies

In the current reworking of the geopolitics of cleanliness/dirtiness, the invisibility of the cleaning jobs of women of color creates the visibility of clean homes and public spaces. Furthermore, representations of cleanliness/dirtiness in the world construct a racial spatialization.

Capitalocene, waste race and gender

Article
Feminism and the Politics of the Commons
Silvia Federici
Environment
Infrastructure
Politics
Strategy
Commoning

Silvia Federici is one of the most important contemporary theorists of capitalism and feminist movements. In this collection of her work spanning over twenty years, she provides a detailed history and critique of the politics of the commons from a feminist perspective.

On the Commons and the Trasformation to Postcapitalism

Article
Hot Air Rising
Mae-ling Lokko
Climate
Infrastructure
Cultures
Systems
Great Indoors

Hot, moist air has long been a powerful, yet largely invisible, working fluid in the colonial and modern enterprise. Processes of air conditioning represent acts of metabolism, ensuring the adaptation of air to the project of human domestication.

Hot Air Rising

Article
How the World’s Largest Garbage Dump Evolved Into a Green Oasis
Robert Sullivan
Environment
Waste
Biology
Engineering

The radical fix for a noxious landfill in Staten Island: Bury the trash, plant some grass and do nothing for 20 years.

How the World’s Largest Garbage Dump Evolved Into a Green Oasis

Article
Insect Futures – from farm to table to pharmacy
Robin Donovan
Environment
Food
Biology
Cultures

Despite the obvious potential of insects as human food, animal feed, and fertilizer, scientists disagree about the future of an industry that seeks to convert crickets, mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, and other creepy critters into products that can be safely shelved in grocery stores, sold to feed lots, and developed into pharmaceutical products.

Insect Futures - from farm to table to pharmacy

Article
Material Futures: Mining food Waste in the Antropochene
Marta Giralt Dunjo
Food
Materials
Biology
Strategy
Food Mining

The ubiquity of food waste has sparked the interest of designers and industries around the globe who see its potential as a new (and abundant) raw material. One burgeoning area of interest in design is the use of the by-products generated by specific food sectors to engineer new materials.

Material Futures: Mining food Waste in the Antropochene

Article
Meat without animals
Ariel Ron, Alex Smith
Food
Materials
Biology
Strategy
Synthetic Biology

The world’s population is growing in numbers and affluence, two trends that will drive rising demand for protein-rich foods. The problem is that there is not enough land to keep the animals necessary to meet that demand and sequester their associated impacts. Against this backdrop, cultivated meat offers the promise of real meat produced in ultra-clean, resource-efficient and cruelty-free conditions.

Meat without animals

Article
One-earth Balance Sheet
Andrew Sheng
Climate
Environment
Economy
Strategy
Environmental Accounting

Getting the whole spectrum of governments, academia and civil society to track “natural capital” would help create shared efforts toward solving shared problems like the climate crisis.

One-earth Balance Sheet

Article
Operational Landscapes and the Planetary Thünen Town
Nikos Katsikis
Infrastructure
Land
Economy
Systems
Hinterglobe

Urbanization organizes the planetary terrain—not just through cities and agglomeration zones, but also through the totality of diffused production areas and global commodity chains. On the basis of a metageographical analysis, urbanist Nikos Katsikis portrays the extensive transformation of the planetary terrain through the assembly of operational landscapes into a functional “Hinterglobe.”

Operational Landscapes and the Planetary Thünen Town

Article
Operational landscapes: Hinterlands of the Capitalocene
Neil Brenner and Nikos Katsikis
Infrastructure
Land
Systems
Operational Hinterlands

In recent decades, the field of urban studies has neglected the question of the hinterland: the city's complex, changing relations to the diverse noncity landscapes that support urban life. Neil Brenner and Nikos Katsikis of the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Design argue that this ‘hinterland question’ remains essential, but must also be radically reimagined under contemporary conditions.

Operational landscapes: Hinterlands of the Capitalocene

Article
Plastic History
Shahar Livne
Environment
Materials
Ecology
History
Lithoplast

Lithoplast is an experimental composite material made of residues from industrial waste streams. The word lithoplast comes from Ancient Greek: lithos means rock, and plastic means malleable, or that which can be molded. Lithoplast is the next stage of plastiglomerates, which are naturally occurring plastic rocks.

Plastic History

Article
Plastiglomerate
Kirsty Robertson
Materials
Waste
Ecology
History
Plastiglomerate

The term “plastiglomerate” refers most specifically to “an indurated, multi-composite material made hard by agglutination of rock and molten plastic. This material is subdivided into an in situ type, in which plastic is adhered to rock outcrops, and a clastic type, in which combinations of basalt, coral, shells, and local woody debris are cemented with grains of sand in a plastic matrix.

Plastiglomerate

Article
Sitopia: The Power of Thinking Through Food
Carolyn Steel
Food
Infrastructure
Cultures
Systems
Food Systems

Food is the tissue of civilization, weaving cities and countries together. In her essay, architect and food thinker Carolyn Steel provides a powerful prompt for us to reconsider the geographic and societal interdependency of urban centers and food-providing ecosystems and to find a way to move beyond the perils of the modern industrial food complex.

Sitopia: The Power of Thinking Through Food

Article
Soil’s metabolic rift: metabolizing hope, interrupting the medium
Huiying Ng
Food
Land
Cultures
Systems
Metabolic Rifts

What can we learn about care and processing emotions from soil cultivation? Activist and geography scholar Huiying Ng reflects on the unintentional effects of metabolic rifts in the geological and chemical realms, as they become enmeshed within the emotional fissures underlying our current social and cultural spheres.

Soil’s Metabolic Rift: Metabolizing Hope, Interrupting the Medium

Article
The notion of Expenditure
George Bataille
Energy
Cultures
Economy

Human activity is not entirely reducible to processes of production and conservation. Consumption must be divided into two distinct parts. The first, reducible part is represented by the use of the minimum necessary for the conservation of life . The second part is represented by so-called unproductive expenditures.

The notion of Expenditure

Article
The theory of the Superorganism
Nate J. Hugens
Energy
Environment
Cultures
Economy
Super Organism

In a resource rich environment, we coordinate in groups, corporations and nations, to maximize financial surplus, tethered to energy, tethered to carbon. At global scales, the emergent result of this combination is a mindless, energy hungry, CO2 emitting Superorganism. This paper attempts a cohesive narrative on how human evolved behavior, money, energy, economy and the environment fit together.

The theory of the Superorganism

Article
Waste in Time and the Radioactivity of Objects
Esther Leslie
Materials
Waste
Biology
Cultures
End of Waste

Cultural scholar Esther Leslie reveals the vexing temporalities of contemporary types of waste as it unsettles the socioeconomic logic of extraction and decay. Plastic fabrics and electronics molecularly molded from fossil hydrocarbons and rare earths, together with the multiple toxic byproducts of their life cycle, suggest a new history of the synthetic and the natural.

Waste in Time and the Radioactivity of Objects