From before or for after humankind

“Geographers say there are two kinds of islands. This is valuable information for the imagination because it confirms what the imagination already knew. Nor is it the only case where science makes mythology more concrete, and mythol- ogy makes science more vivid. Continental islands are accidental, derived islands. They are separated from a continent, born of disarticulation, erosion, fracture; they survive the absorption of what once contained them. Oceanic islands are originary, essential islands. Some are formed from coral reefs and display a genuine organism. Others emerge from underwater eruptions, bring- ing to the light of day a movement from the lowest depths. Some rise slowly; some disappear and then return, leaving us no time to annex them. These two kinds of islands, continental and originary, reveal a profound opposition between ocean and land. Continental islands serve as a reminder that the sea is on top of the earth, taking advantage of the slightest sagging in the highest structures; oceanic islands, that the earth is still there, under the sea, gathering its strength to punch through to the surface. We can assume that these elements are in constant strife, displaying a repulsion for one another. In this we find nothing to reassure us. Also, that an island is deserted must appear philo- sophically normal to us. Humans cannot live, nor live in security, unless they assume that the active struggle between earth and water is over, or at least con- tained. People like to call these two elements mother and father, assigning them gender roles according to the whim of their fancy. They must somehow persuade themselves that a struggle of this kind does not exist, or that it has somehow ended. In one way or another, the very existence of islands is the negation of this point of view, of this effort, this conviction. That England is populated will always come as a surprise; humans can live on an island only by forgetting what an island represents. Islands are either from before or for after humankind.”

Text: Giles Deleuze, Desert Islands, from Desert Islands and Other Texts, 2006.

Image: Kenneth Noland, Mysteries: Aglow, 2002.

Start your own country

“Calls and emails come in at all times of day and night. They no longer concern fun or prestige. Instead they focus on fresh water and solar panels. These were not the inquiries they had grown used to.

“The island brokers are overwhelmed.

As the coronavirus pandemic has devastated countries around the world, it has upended nearly every aspect of life for everyone, including for those most insulated by money. Even the niche, ultrarich world of island commerce has been turned on its head.

Great Exuma, Google Maps.

“This has been the busiest two months I’ve had in 22 years of selling islands,” Chris Krolow, the chief executive of Private Islands Inc., said in July. The pace has not slowed since then, he said. The only time he has ever had anywhere near this quantity of inquiries was shortly after the disastrous Fyre Festival on Great Exuma, in the Bahamas, in 2017. Mr. Krolow said he was swamped, for some reason, with questions from “kids hoping to start their own country.”

“Before the pandemic, an island was typically a vanity purchase that a wealthy client — usually male — would pursue sometime after retirement, brokers said. The island bug would usually strike a few years after the novelty of other luxury purchases had worn thin.

““You have your yacht, your jet — now you want your island,” said John Christie, the president of Christie’s International Real Estate, a firm based in the Bahamas […]

“Quickly setting up an island for self-sufficiency is going to be hard, Mr. Gondolo-Gordon has to tell them. Construction on private islands takes far more time than on the mainland or even on typical, nonprivate islands. And brokers cannot guarantee that islands will be safe havens from civil unrest. For example, just this week he looked at a lovely island in the eastern Mediterranean — a steal at $7.4 million. But there are some tensions in those waters, which are contested by Turkey and Greece.

“You’re going to have to read the news,” he tells clients. And they’ll also have to consider that their shoreline will most likely be affected by climate change. When they cannot handle this, he advises them to rent a superyacht.”

Text: The Island Brokers are Overwhelmed, The New York Times

The Ruined Sky

“The astronomy community is on edge. The growing number of satellites streaming through low Earth orbit is making it almost impossible to get a clear view of the sky. 

“The true threat these mega-constellations pose to the astronomy community is only just beginning to be understood. A report released last week by the American Astronomical Society concluded that they will “fundamentally change astronomical observing” for optical and near-infrared investigations moving forward. “Nighttime images without the passage of a sun-illuminated satellite will no longer be the norm,” the authors write.

“The first Starlink satellites were already clearly visible shortly after launch  last year, and some observatories found their images of the night sky ruined. On Thursday, SpaceX is set to launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites, with a set of 60 to join the fleet of 653 that have been launched since May 2019. In a several years the entire network is expected to swell to 12,000 satellites, with a possible expansion to 42,000. London-based OneWeb […] just found FCC approval for 1,280 satellites to provide broadband services to US consumers, and the company is proposing a constellation that could eventually expand to 48,000 satellites. Amazon finally received approval for its Project Kuiper proposal to launch 3,236 satellites for its own satellite internet service, and this is likely just the beginning. Astronomy as we know it will never be the same.”

Text: Satellite mega-constellations risk ruining astronomy forever, MIT Technology Review

Pic: Hélio Oiticica, Metasquema 464, 1958.

Whatever Space We Leave

“And if you walk past the construction barriers, you find the remains of a path made by men, right by a thick bush bearing big scarlet berries. Maybe that’s from the Ruhr, too.

“If you follow the path, you find two small drifter camps, both evidently abandoned. Shelters made from found materials, including industrial tarps used as lean-tos. Not unlike the hawks, in a way. Except that the hawks don’t leave all those empties behind. 

“I was reminded of this time last year, when I volunteered for the local homeless count, and at daybreak we checked out another traffic island across the river by the branch library, and found an entire village of such abandoned shelters, some of which looked to have been there for years. We also found little shanty towns packed in under the little bridges behind the strip mall, on one of the busiest streets in town, many of the occupants teenage kids. When you participate in a project like that, you leave with a certainty that the count grossly underestimates the real number of people living outside, hiding just outside your view, sometimes in the same places the wildlife hides. And, at least if you are the sort who writes dystopian novels you get the sense that you are seeing one of those unevenly distributed futures, where the rights of ways and empty lots become involuntary refugee camps for those displaced by our slow collapse.

“Maybe it’s this weird zone I live in, but over the last decade I’ve been noticing how the things one sees in post-apocalyptic cinema and the things one sees roaming the contemporary American landscape have started to look so much the same. The only difference is that, in real life, nature seems much more ready to retake whatever space we leave…”

Text: Christopher Brown, The Vultures of SXSW, Field Notes.

Image: Marton Antal, Post apocalyptic landscape in Adventuretime style.

“Millions of years of fossilised Sun…”

“Along the slaughter spectrum, the weapons of choice scale up accordingly. Psychopaths have an intimacy with friends and strangers who they kill with their bare hands, knives, guns, and other implements. While their crimes may grow to paralyze a community, they rarely reach over the horizon. Sociopaths are incapable of unleashing widespread misery single-handedly, and instead rely upon the assistance of others: the proxies under their command or sway. Their violence extends over multiple horizons using offshore tax havens, financial algorithms, and military juntas, just as long as they avoid that dock in The Hague. 

“Ecopaths build upon a sociopath’s mobility and managerial savvy. But it is wrong to call the space they traverse global, if by that we mean exchanges among nations and multinationals. They have lifted their game to transform the entire solar-terrestrial environment into a slow, overheated killing field. Their achievement lies in triggering millions of years of fossilized Sun to accumulate in the glare of the Sun’s present life. They weaponise the troposphere, that thin film of planetary possibility, in order to murder the conditions for life. Slayers as a species will also become extinct. 

“Unlike their psychopathic and sociopathic peers who have humans in their sights, ecopaths are equal opportunity destroyers, omnicidal maniacs. Omnicide may be unfamiliar to some. Danielle Celermajer reinvigorated the term during the first days of 2020 when bushfires demonstrated to the entire world that Australia was the continental canary in its own coalmine. ‘We are unlikely to identify anyone actively scheming the death of the five-hundred million wild animals whom we believe to have died in the first month’, Celermajer wrote in the peak of the summer. Before the month was out that number was confirmed at one billion. ‘True, in recent years, environmentalists have coined the term ecocide, the killing of ecosystems — but this is something more. This is the killing of everything. Omnicide.’ Celermajer goes on to categorically identify many of those responsible. This is what the auditioning process looks like for court dramas…”

Text: Doug Kahn, What is an Ecopath? Sydney Review of Books.