Marine plastic has received significant attention as a spectacle of consumer waste and ecosystemic fragility, but there has been little discussion of its ethical implications. This essay argues that marine plastic poses a direct challenge to the basic frameworks of global ethics. These frameworks are dominated by the image of the ‘circle’, an abstract boundary intended to separate ‘humanity’ from the rest of the universe and insulate it against harm. However, this article argues that marine plastic undermines the ‘circle’ in two ways. First, it embodies conditions of ‘hyper-relationality’, including entanglement and the properties of toxicity, that penetrate the boundaries of ‘the circle’. Second, it exerts ‘forcefulness’, but at scales that radically exceed the dominant spatio-temporal dimensions of ‘the circle’. By virtue of these features, marine plastic thoroughly penetrates the boundaries of ‘the circle’, making it impossible to expel harm beyond its boundaries. Although this essay focuses on marine plastic, its core argument can also be fruitfully applied to other phenomena that share similar material, scalar, spatio-temporal and relational features (for instance, atmospheric particulate, nuclear waste and nitrate pollution). The essay concludes by exploring the alternative ethical possibilities that marine plastic and similar phenomena prompt: in particular, a responsive ethos based on a sense of shared vulnerability and exposure.
Mark my words: This infobomb is a catastrophe.
Originally posted on Constructive Undoing:
it is tempting to read essays and books about and of contemporary thought and how this thought is a move from that thought, this idea dismissing the past-ness of that idea,and see some sort of progress taking place, as we might be getting somewhere. But when you remove the implication of your death from the impetus of reading, it is more like watching a wave form of a song; the jagged picture says nothing but that sound is occurring.
Do the waves crashing on the shore go anywhere? Does the shore get some place better?
NICHOLAS MIRZOEFF, a media, culture and communication professor at New York University, wants to justify the study of visual culture by describing, accessibly, how strange our visual world has become.
This has been done before. In 1972 artist and writer John Berger made Ways of Seeing, a UK TV series and a book. This was also the year that astronaut Harrison Schmitt took the Blue Marble picture of Earth from Apollo 17, arguably the most reproduced photograph ever.
By contrast, in How to See the World, Mirzoeff’s mascot shot is the selfie taken by astronaut Akihiko Hoshide during his 2012 spacewalk. This time, Earth is reflected in Hoshide’s visor: the planet is physically different and changing fast. Transformations that would have been invisible to humans because they took place so slowly now occur in a single life. “We have to learn to see the Anthropocene,” writes Mirzoeff.