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Acknowledgement of Country
We respect and honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this land, of which sovereignty was never ceded.
The name of the epoch we will die in is up for negotiation.

Select an alternative epoch you would like to explore, or submit your own into the continuum.
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Golden Spike Park
Geological Congress
Select an alternative epoch you would like to explore, or submit your own into the continuum.
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Epoch Wars is the battle over what to name the next stage of Earth's geologic time scale: the epoch we may be living in now, and that we will certainly all die in.
Historically, the power to name the chapters of Earth’s history has belong to an exclusive group of geological scientists. Epoch Wars is a movement to usurp this power, recruiting new voices to take control of our timeline through artistic collaborations, field research, commissions, interviews, residencies, and live events.
The word “epoch” refers to a multimillennial section of Earth’s geologic time scale. Cut open the Earth, and you will see layers of accumulated material that reflect the changing course of the planet’s history. These layers are identified and described through a science known as chronostratigraphy. For example, the 5th great extinction event took place 65 million years ago, at the end of the Late Cretaceous epoch. You were born during the 6th extinction event, in what we once thought was the 11th millennium of the Holocene epoch, however that may no longer be the case...
The observable scale and pace of global change over the last century means we are probably transitioning into a new epoch, one which may have already begun and may last millions of years into the future. The name that will define this epoch is the subject of an urgent negotiation.





Held on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.






Held on the land of the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation

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Graphic Design UNA X Xavier Burrow
Sound Design Alex Last
Web Design Xavier Burrow
Produced By Performing Lines
This project was assisted through Arts Tasmania and by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Our trip to the
Golden Spike
Changxing County, Zhejiang Province, China
In October 2019 I went with
Pony Express to a bizarre attraction...
A geological sciences Park in ChangXing county called
The Golden Spike Ancient World Park
The park is the site of a disused coal mine called Mei Shan, or “Coal Mountain”. In the cliffs of Meishan, some 100 metres apart, are two golden spikes. Pony Express and I had travelled all this way to see those spikes.
The location of The Golden Spike GeoPark
The park was desolate. The only people at the entrace were one or two park employees. The front entrace was lined with banners bearing President Xi Jinping’s slogan “Chinese Dream”.
Staff mingling in the empty ticket office.
The TV in the ticket office.
A photo seen in the ticket office of the GeoPark. The caption says: The little “New Fourth Army” sightseeing the Golden Spike
One of the major sights in the Geopark was the man-made lake.
Surrounding the lake was a bizarre exhibition of broken dinosaur animatrons.
Park staff were fishing in the man-made lake because there was nothing else to do.
what followed was a series of very dense and run-down museum displays
as well as an animated 4D film
The nature reserve's special report “The Great Extinction of Species” is 12 minutes long, and uses cutting edge, lifelike 4D technology (blasts of air, poking in the back, leg scratching, light flashing, rain, rising and falling, bubbles etc), to experience in person the course of evolution and extinction of life on Earth, and the stunning and enormous significance of the Golden Spike.
to get to the Golden Spikes we had to walk through a giant, fibreglass dinosaur mouth
the site of the spikes had been transformed into an enormous monument with many strange statues and details
we walked up a set of stone stairs that were in total disrepair
on the cracked and crumbling stairs grew many vines and it was covered in insects. it felt like the monument was returning to nature.
in turns we climbed one last set of very steep stone stairs to see the golden spike
the spike wasn’t a spike at all. it was some sort of medallion hastily glued onto the rock face.
the second spike was up a second set of stairs that were even more decrepit. the “spike, also glued on, was surrounded by spider webs”
1. Meishan, or “Coal Mountain”, where the two epochal boundaries were discovered, is the oldest coal mine in China.
2. Meishan is also the only place in the world with two golden spikes.
3. One of the spikes marks the Permian-Triassic epoch boundary, the greatest extinction event in Earth’s history, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct.
4. This extinction event is known colloquially as the Great Dying and it took place over tens of thousands of years. Potential causes of this extinction event include meteor impacts, volcanic eruptions, and climate change brought on by methane-producing microbes or burning of fossil fuels (caused by volcanic eruptions).
“The glittering golden spike that brightened up ChangXing county is the result of the blood, sweat and tears of four generations of geologists, and reflects the strong attachment scientists all over the world have to the pursuit of knowledge. In 1986 research fellow Yin HongFu put forward the discovery of a conodont fossil at ChangXing’s Coal Mountain as the dividing line of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic era, and for the fossil to become a global epochal boundary standard. In 1996, nine scientists from China, America, Russia, Germany and other countries jointly published a journal article in an international publication recommending that the conodont tooth discovery at Mei Shan should become the standard boundary marker for the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. In March 2001 this was officially approved by the International Union of Geological Sciences as the global standard point, and has become one of the three most important epochal markers in the world (the other two being in Canada and Italy). This epochal marker indicates the greatest of Earth’s six mass extinction events and a point of great global change. Shown through the gradual hammering of rock layers, passed down through generations, ChangXing’s Golden Spike has become world famous for its outstanding importance. The establishment of the Golden Spike in ChangXing county is the symbol of our country’s leadership in the field of stratigraphy on the global stage. The Golden Spike is a living map of humanity’s ability to probe the Earth and survive nature’s ecological destruction. It is a site of scientific exploration, and will be a great boost to the development of this district’s economy.”
A faded photograph in the GeoPark ticket office. The caption says: “August 8, 2006, Comrade Xi Jinping visiting this scenic spot.”
Distribution of oil and gas fields in the Tarim Basin, May 2015
From the People’s Daily Online, “Warmhearted Uncle Xi Jinping”, December 24, 2014
The Tarim Basin lies at the centre of planned railroads and pipelines that make up the Belt and Road Initiative. More than half of the world’s population lives in the BRI zone.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development project announced by the Chinese government in 2013. The BRI's goals include internal state-building and suppression of ethnic unrest for regions such as The Tarim Basin, known as Xinjiang. This picture from the second BRI international summit in 2019 says “building the Belt and Road Initiative together to found a beautiful future”. The project is expected to be completed in 2049.
A monument to rare earths in Inner Mongolia. The sign says “The Home of Rare Earths Welcomes You”
Weikuang Dam - the world's largest rare earths mine tailings pond owned by Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Hi-Tech Company
Several female workers picking coal
from a coal refuse in Huaibei City, Anhui Province.
Giant Dinosaur ‘Fossil Wall’ Discovered in China
and yet a trace of the true self exists in the false self
Later I interviewed a geologist from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology who had worked on identifying the golden spike in Changxing County.

I asked him if he thinks the “Anthropocene”, a widely used and highly contested proposed name for our current epoch, will be the last epoch humans can survive on earth.

This was his response

“This is a question about where our species will end up. I want to confront your question head on and tell you “yes”. Because humans are a species, and their species are called “homosapiens”. This species, in terms of geological history, is one of many other species. Every species has their own development, and at some point every species must face their extinction.

Homosapiens must go extinct.”
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“The Golden Spike” is the colloquial name for the G.S.S.P, or Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point.

The G.S.S.P is an internationally agreed point which defines the start of a stage on the geologic time scale. It is also “a literal golden spike, hammered into a physical site chosen by the chronostratigraphic community to exemplify the transition from one epoch into another as a monument to their research1.”


The Golden Spike is a ceremony borrowed from the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad in United States of America. The railroad from the west and the railroad from the east met in Utah, and the last rails were laid my Irish and Chinese labourers. Leland Stanford, an American industrialist and politican who led the rail project, hammered the last spike made of 17.6 karat gold to join the two railroads in May 1869.
Supposedly objective scientific study is rife with subjectivities such as the ceremonial Golden Spike, some of which are so performative or biased “that it resembles fiction2”. The term “Fiction Science”, coined by Artist Eve Andrée Laramée, describes “acts that cloak themselves in the authority of science to disguise their subjectivity3.”

The Golden Spike GeoPark in Changxing County is an act of Fiction Science.
The original “golden spike”, on display at the Cantor Arts Museum at Stanford University
The Last Spike, 1881 painting by Thomas Hill
An example of a GSSP marker in South Australia
Nine out of 10 workers on the transcontinental railroad were Chinese. These indentured laborers, derogatorily called “coolies,” became a prime target for criticism in the mid-19th century by labor leaders, politicians and ordinary citizens, who believed the foreign laborers were depressing wages and unfairly taking jobs.
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The conodont was a small and highly successful marine invertebrate that lived in ancient oceans up to 500 million years ago. They ranged from 30mm to 40cm long, had large eyes, soft bodies and resembled eels. No exactly comparible creature is known to exist today but they are believed to be distantly related to the living hagfish.

With a fossil history of some 300 million years (twice as long as that of dinosaurs), conodonts are very useful fossils in the identification and correlation of strata, as they evolved rapidly, changing many details of their shapes as geologic time passed.

In the last few decades, conodont fossils have become used widely in petroleum exploration. Because of the chemical composition of their teeth, they can be used as “paleothermometres”- they change colour due to temperature. This colour change can be used to determine whether or not the rock they are embedded in is actively undergoing or has undergone the natural geological process of producing oil and gas. This is referred to as the “conodont alteration index” or CAI.

In 1986 geologists discovered conodont teeth in Section D of Mei Shan. The discovery of the condont fossil triggered the administrative processes that led to the declaration of the GSSP in Mei Shan. The conodont tooth, this tiny microfossil, is the mascot of the Golden Spike GeoPark.
The Geological Congress of All Beings
A Reading of the Minutes of the 36th International Geological Congress, by Pony Express, March 8th 2020.
The Anthropocene

The following interview was conducted via email in February 2020 between Loren Kronemyer and Professor Colin Waters, Secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group

LK: How would you describe your background and current research interest?

CW: I am an honorary professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester, with specific interests in characterizing the nature and scale of human modification of the landscape, particularly through the accumulation of novel materials (e.g. plastic and concrete) and artificial deposits. I retired in 2017 as a Principal Mapping Geologist at the British Geological Survey, where over nearly 30 years’ service I specialized in geological mapping of the UK and parts of the Sahara Desert. Much of my mapping in the UK was on Carboniferous rocks, which provided the coal and other resources that drove the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th and early 19th century in the UK. Whilst mapping this geology I also developed an interest in how that industrial activity left a geological legacy.

How does your work relate to the naming of our current geological epoch?

I am secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group, the body tasked to assess the potential of the Anthropocene as a geological time unit and propose a formal definition, with a central role in coordinating activities of the Working Group members. I also have a role in coordinating the search for the Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP or “golden-spike”) section as part of the formalization process for recognizing the Anthropocene as a new geological time unit.

What are your thoughts on the name “Anthropocene” as a candidate for the name of our current geological epoch?

To a large extent we have had no control on this matter. The term, as originated by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000, is the one that we have been asked to investigate. It is not part of our task to propose an alternative name. The two components of the name have great significance when considering the meaning of the term. Firstly, the “anthro” part successfully links the great geological and environmental changes of this interval of time to the main driver of significant human impact. But is also lends itself to being misrepresented as “the age of humans” or the “geology of mankind”. Both of these terms give the unintended impression that it relates to all anthropogenic impact throughout human existence. There is no doubt that the choice of name has been exceedingly popular and alternative suggestions have not generated the same amount of usage. The second component, “cene” is used in geology as a suffix indicating an epoch of the Cenozoic era (so Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene). This automatically identifies that the term is a geological one, related to chronostratigraphy and specifically showing it to be an epoch. This limits the rank we can consider the Anthropocene to be – if it was an era, period or age we would require a different suffix.

Why is naming important?

The Anthropocene is a practical label, just like that of other geological time units. Originally, during the early evolution of our science the age of these units were unknown and the label was a means of recognizing an interval of rock with specific characteristics and notably distinct forms of life. With time we have become increasingly able to date these successions, but it remains useful for geologists to continue to use terms such as Jurassic (with the picture it generates in the mind of a geologist) rather than have to refer to 201 to 145 million years ago- which I would need to consult the chart to find out what time unit that related to. We could just refer to post-1950, but that is simply a calendar date; Anthropocene clearly and simply denotes a time from the mid-20th century in which anthropogenic modification of the biosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere is unprecedented in scale and has become globally reaching. One word can say so much!

How would you describe the process by which the names and boundaries for our epoch are formally adopted?

Any proposal submitted by the AWG must not only explain and justify its recommendation but also address all questions that could likely be raised against it. This is a reasonable approach to ensure that any submissions are well thought through, less prone to errors and hence less likely to need future reversal. Questioning the AWG work can help to allow us to focus our research to respond to those concerns - provided they are scientifically driven considerations and not just personal opinions that ignore scientific evidence. Decisions on the submitted proposal are made by supermajority votes (60% or more in favour) first by voting members of SQS, and then by the voting members of the ICS (three executive officers and chairs of the 16 subcommissions). Final ratification by the IUGS Executive Committee of a recommendation approved by ICS is not guaranteed. This process is inherently conservative and proposals are only ratified if they provide a very strong case.

Do you think the current procedure for epoch naming is an adequate way to represent large scale time? Why or why not?

Geologists try to develop correlation of successions between regions and for much of the geological succession it is not possible to provide absolute ages using radiometric dating; such techniques are only possible in certain rock types and also have degrees of error that can be significant. So we use proxy signals to permit correlation (either biological through appearance/ disappearance of species or marked geochemical changes), but accepting that these are typically not entirely synchronous across the planet. To resolve this we establish a GSSP, a reference point within time at a level in a representative section associated with one such significant marker. This level is taken to have been deposited at the instant when the time interval began, and geologists try to trace this level within strata all across the planet by any means possible. This is a practical solution, but one that is time-consuing and expensive to undertake. Attempts have to be made to find the optimum locality, and in the case of the Anthropocene many are possible. Despite all the controls resulting from the voting procedure to ensure suitability of potential GSSP sites, a number of GSSPs throughout the geological column have subsequently proved unsuitable after only a few decades of investigation and are now being reconsidered. There is also a tendency for the approach to concentrate on recognizing the basal boundary of a time unit, with less focus on the nature of the time unit as a whole.

Where does the system for naming time come from?

Geologists cope with the enormous time span by resolving the main episodes of Earth history and representing these as named units of the Geological Time Scale. This process has developed for much of the 19th and 20th centuries in a fairly haphazard manner, without any guiding principles. Now, for a unit of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart/Geological Time Scale to be established and ratified, it has to follow established protocols, outlined by Remane et al. (1996) Revised guidelines for the establishment of global chronostratigraphic standards by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). Episodes, 19, 77–81. This ensures a consistency in approach.

How much of the world should participate in the process of naming a geological epoch?

Geological time intervals should only be formalized through geological evidence. In the case of the Anthropocene, many people have wide opinions on the topic, but if it is to be defined as a geological time unit it should be only because of that geological evidence. This does not mean that outside of geology there can’t be different opinions, but whether those alternative ideas should be called Anthropocene is a different matter. I believe having a term with multiple definitions leads to confusion and may ultimately detract from usage of the term. Paul Crutzen coined the term as a proposed geological time unit and the ‘cene’ suffixdenotes that hierarchy.

What alternative names for our current epoch are you aware of, and what are your thoughts on these alternative names?

Homogenocene, Myxocene, Plasticene, Pyrocene, Plantationocene, Capitalocene, Narcisscene. I have no problems with these alternatives. They provide different contexts (often non-scientific) that highlight different aspects of the current changes we are witnessing. In some ways I would prefer people to use these terms rather than to use the Anthropocene in an incorrect manner, which currently leads to confusion of the meaning of the geological term.

How do you think the name of our epoch could affect future generations?

I don’t see the name itself will affect future generations. However, whether the term is formalized may have some impact. If rejected it would mean that we are still living in the Holocene and that recent changes to the planet are insignificant in a geological context and could be used by some to say there is no need to modify our behaviour. Ultimately, truth will tell irrespective of what the geological community decide.

What is your preferred name for our epoch, and why?

Anthropocene - it is the original term proposed by Paul Crutzen and which had obvious geological connotations, clearly linked the time of overwhelming and broad-ranging human impact on the planet. It has also been widely adopted (even though still an unofficial term) by so many communities in and outside of the sciences.

If you could encapsulate this preferred epoch name as an object, what would that object look like?

A biro. Hundreds of billions of them have been produced since their appearance in 1950 – broadly coinciding with the start of the Anthropocene. They have an outer casing made of plastic, a novel compound that is almost exclusively a material of the Anthropocene, with the ink ball at the tip of the pen made from tungsten carbide, a novel, human-made compound used in pens since 1961. In the distant future they may leave a fossil record of human existence on the planet (a technofossil), but at present is used to document our impact on the planet through writing on paper – an alternative, but less durable archive to geological strata which provide a permanent record.

If you could encapsulate this preferred epoch name as a sensory experience, what would that experience feel like? How would it look, feel, smell, taste, and sound?

It would look uniform in appearance, feel hot, smell acrid, taste bitter and sound of heavy machinery.

What do you believe is necessary to make an epoch name valid?

Acceptance by the geological community that there is a practical need for the term and that thorough analysis has been undertaken to ensure it has been defined using due diligence.

Where do you think the golden spike for our present epoch belongs?

I think there are many options, in anoxic marine sediments, lake sediments, corals, speleothems, peats, glacial ice, trees, artificial deposits and these can be found in many parts of the planet. As the person overseeing the selection of one particular site, given that the process is underway, it would be unfair of me to select one preference before I have seen the scientific evidence concerning the candidates.

In your opinion, what could be the immediate and present-day effects of solidifying the name of the "Anthropocene'?

If accepted it would clearly vocalize in a simple term that we humans have changed the planet to such an extent that it is no longer part of the Holocene world of the last 11,700 years, a time of relative stability and during which human civilizations have developed and prospered. It would show that the world is in a new and unstable state with an uncertain future. Though some of these changes are irreversible, realization of the scale of our impact can still inform us how to modify our behaviour to attempt to limit that future change. Traditionally, epochs are time-scales that last more than three million years, a timescale that outsizes everyday forms of human thinking. Given this fact, what would be a strategy to engage the general public or wider non-scientific and non- academic community with the urgency of this debate? Is such engagement desirable or relevant to the task of epoch naming? Times of transition between epochs are hence unusual events – the last time it happened was 11,700 years ago, when there were only a few million people living a hunter-gatherer existence on this planet. Geologists have particular interest in understanding what drives the change (in the past it could have been major ice ages, asteroid impacts, plate tectonics, major volcanic eruptions) as they are more dynamic than the intervals in between. We as a species should be fascinated that we are living through such a time of change, and given that we are the cause, should try to understand how this has come to pass. But it is also an opportunity to get the public to understand how our planet at certain times in its history has gone through similar convulsions and understand the implications of those changes.

In your opinion, are there communities that are not present in this 'Anthropocene' debate that should be?

I cannot think of any.

The International Geological Congress (IGC) is a focal point for the debate around epoch naming according to the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The 36th IGC is taking place in Delhi from 2-8 March 2020. What is your response to the proposal of an alternative congress to the IGC, one that extended the opportunity to debate Earth’s next epoch name to a wider cohort beyond the scientific discipline? If such a congress existed, would you attend or present?”

IGC has unfortunately been postponed due to Covid-19. I believe that the ongoing work to conceptualize the geological Anthropocene must remain within the ICS mandate, as it does for the rest of geological time. It is fine to have other congresses to discuss how the Anthropocene is relevant to their specific interests, but it should not be able to mandate how a term, conceived as one in geology, should be defined. This would, however, not stop me being involved with other such congresses, if invited.

Weclome to the Capitalocene:
the era of power, profit and re/production in the casino of life.
Capitalocene is a kind of critical provocation to this sensibility of the Anthropocene, which is: Human as power broker/ earth eater /world banker /ecological gambler.
The idea that we're all going to cover our footprints, we're going to be more sustainable consumers, we're going to pay attention to population, are really consequences of a highly unequal system of power and wealth.
The Capitalocene signifies capitalism as a way of organizing nature—as a multispecies, situated, capitalist world-ecology.
Rampant capitalism getting you down? Now you can facilitate the Capitalocene from the comfort of your home / office / home-office / bunker / luxury-home-office-bunker!
Gather a group of your closest associates. Read out the meditation provided below for this team-building, existential crisis activity.
“Hi all. We’re going to invoke the Capitalocene. If you could just grab your bags and hand-bags and place them by your side.
So we're just going to start by connecting to the breath.
Breathe in and out, letting your eyes go soft, breathing together. Remember, if you're not breathing: you're dead.
Now as we breathe in we’re just going to reach into our pockets or handbags and take out our wallets. In, and lift up.. and out.
Now just place your wallet or purse on the table and - in your own time - remove all the contents from the wallet.
Place all your cards out on the table in front of you.
Arrange them in order from most powerful to least powerful. Consider them for a moment.
Observe your neighbours’ cards. Observe the cards of everyone at the table.
When you’re ready, choose your most powerful card from a financial institution. Hold that card in your hand. Excavate this card with your eyes.
Let your eyes unfocus and refocus.
Examine this card. Feel its weight. Feel its texture.
I want you to consider that The Reserve Bank of Australia recently printed 400 million $50 notes with the word responsibility spelt incorrectly.
Repeat in your head re-pson-siblity. Re-pson-isbitly.
You are holding a fossil. This fossil is a petrified example of the late-capitalist era.
This fossil represents an old capitalist trick, that the problems of the world are the problems created by everyone, when in fact it is the re-pson-isbitly of capital.
This relic is the transformation of global environments into a force of production.
In your own time, return the fossils from where they came and bury them back with your other belongings.”
The era of earthly survival
Pony Express deliver a video and installation response to Donna Haraway's proposal of the Chthulucene.
The documentation, above and below, include Pony Express exploring a sunken yacht near Lunawanna Allonah and various survival wear, propaganda and paraphernalia that employs and subverts Haraway’s language for her proposed era of ‘making kin’.
These works reflect Pony Express’s ongoing mission and attempts to achieve Tentacular thinking.
Tentacular thinking suggests the breaking of the binary through bodily practices and networks composed by trajectories, patternings and lines. The tentacular tangles the string(s) to collectively think and make kin with unknowns in storytellings that have been told and yet to come.
Drawing on science studies, science fiction, and eco-activist art practices, Haraway troubles the anthro in Anthropocene by arguing that the sciences of modern synthesis offer powerful tools for conceptualizing life in terms of copy and competition, but cannot account for the idea of “obligate symbiosis.”
Her own symbiotic approach is to situate the Anthropocene in relation to the deep history of capitalism (the “capitalocene”) and the potential to activate poetic, destructive, powerfully vital practices of the "Chthulucene."
Derived from chthon, meaning “earth” in Greek.
Things that dwell in or under the earth.
The era of reworlding.
The era of composting.
The era of something possibly more liveable.
The era of “SF”: string figures, science fiction, speculative fabulation, science fact, speculative feminism, and so far.
The era of ‘Tentacle’ from the Latin for ‘to feel, try’.
In which Pony Express set forth to hunt for the Golden Spike of the Manthropocene. Inspired by the article "Must the Anthropocene Be a Manthropocene" by Kate Raworth, published in The Guardian on 20 Oct 2014
Music -> Hard Yakka by Bronze Savage and Lou Mac
Camera -> Tom Crammond
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1870 CE
1955 CE
2036 CE
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2102 CE
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The Plantationocene

The modern banana is a monolith, fuelling a multi-billion industry composed entirely of genetically-identical clones; today's most common variety, the Cavendish, dominates plantations across the earth. In the 1950s it supplanted another variety, the Gros Michel, which was wiped out by Panama disease. Recently, a new strain of Panama disease has evolved and is threatening to collapse the genetically fragile Cavendish. Researchers around the world are scrambling to breed a new variety resistant to Panama disease, a new saviour for the 21st century.

However, plantation logic favours uniformity, and the next generation of bananas will be as genetically uniform as the last. Additionally, it will almost certainly continue to be partnered with industrially-produced agricultural inputs, professionally greenwashed technologies and ever more convoluted and secretive supply chains. What promises will the varieties of the future seduce us with? And how will they meet their inevitable end?
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Gros Michel

From one plantation-based mode of life to another, bananas helped fill the void created by the collapse of Jamaica's sugar plantations, which had been fuelled by slave labour and then pulled apart following The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. In the eyes of British landowners in Jamaica, the collapse of their cane plantations represented the collapse of civilised existence itself; in 1840 the planters’ association defined their view of civilised society:

“Without the produce of the large properties we should have scarcely any export trade, and consequently no contact with the outside world sufficient to keep us in the march of civilisation and improvement: and without the existence of an upper class giving tone to society by its manners and example, [the workers] would soon revert to a state of barbarism.” [1]

The Gros Michel banana entered the historical record in the 1830s, when Jean Pouyat noticed the plant growing on the island of Martinique. Pouyat reportedly introduced a single specimen to his coffee plantation in Jamaica. Over the next thirty years, Gros Michel plants diffused throughout the island. By the 1890s, thousands of mostly small-scale producers cultivated Gros Michel all along the Caribbean coast of Central America.

The Gros Michel possessed a coveted assemblage of phenotypic traits which made it the perfect fit for economic circuits pulsing across American trade routes. Shippers and traders sought a banana variety that could survive the journey from farm to market. Gros Michel plants produced large bunches of fruit that grew in nested hands and did not protrude from the stem at severe angles. This bunch shape, along with the fruit’s relatively thick, bruise-resisting peel, made the variety a highly desirable export commodity.

In 1899, the United Fruit Company was formed. For the next sixty years, the fate of United Fruit (and the entire export banana trade) would be entwined with that of the Gros Michel, the variety around which most early twentieth-century U.S. shippers, distributors, retailers, and consumers formed their notion of what constituted “a banana.” Over the decades a series of partnerships evolved between United Fruit and the governments of Central America. In return for agreeing to build and operate railroads, United Fruit gained access to vast amounts of soil, timber, and water resources. In 1926, United Fruit controlled around 650,000 hectares of land including 70,000 hectares of active banana plantations in the Caribbean and Central America. Eventually, a major consequence of this ongoing monocultural cultivation, known as Panama disease, made its first appearance.

Banana growers on the Atlantic coast of Panama reported wilt-like symptoms as early as the 1890s. Within a decade, the disease had spread to export banana farms in Costa Rica and subsequent outbreaks occurred in Surinam (1906), Cuba (1908), Trinidad (1909), Puerto Rico (1910), Jamaica (1911), Honduras (1916), and Guatemala (1919). The soil-borne fusaria fungi associated with Panama disease entered banana plants via root structures and traveled up vascular tissues to the leaves. Infected foliage turned yellow-brown before wilting. Severely diseased plants seldom produced healthy fruit, if they produced any at all. Spores released into the soil from decaying plant tissues germinated when they came into contact with the roots of neighboring plants, thereby spreading the disease in a radial pattern throughout fields. The expansion of continuously cropped Gros Michel monocultures accelerated the pathogen’s advance by sharply increasing host density on a microlevel. In addition, the movements of irrigation and drainage waters, trains, migrant workers, and roving animals all facilitated the farm to-farm spread of the fungi. [2]

To offset the destruction caused by Panama disease, U.S. banana companies simply increased production by constructing yet more plantations in order to offset declining yields elsewhere. This led to further forest clearing and land degradation and, inevitably, these plantations all met the same fungi-infested demise. In the end, the only way beyond this vicious cycle was to identify and popularise an entirely new banana specimen.

[2] Soluri, J. (2002). Accounting for Taste: Export Bananas, Mass Markets, and Panama Disease. Environmental History, 7(3), 386-410. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3985915
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By the 1950s, Gros Michel plantations were infested and wilting across all major production areas. The prevailing logic of extraction and industrialism meant that the only viable solution was not a novel agroecological regime, but simply a new disease-resistant banana strain that could be exploited with equal monolithic fervour.

Following extensive breeding programs and genetic experimentation, company officials at Standard Fruit (a rival to United Fruit) expressed high hopes for two Cavendish cultivars ('Bout Rond' and 'Giant Cavendish') which produced good yields of “fine, large bananas” that ripened “very nicely” with proper temperatures and exposure to ethylene gas. However, these Cavendish varieties were very susceptible to bruising. During the early 1950s, Standard Fruit’s Cavendish exports suffered a high rate of rejection. In 1957, the company attempted to solve this problem by building packing plants within their plantations, where workers cut the fruit from its stem and packed it into cardboard boxes. After two years of trial marketing, Standard executives dubbed boxed bananas “the greatest innovation in the history of the banana industry” and began commercial shipments of boxed fruit under the trade name “Cabana.” 1

The morphing quality and aesthetic standards expected of the Cavendish subsequently altered production processes in ways that created new hazards for banana workers and local environments. The banana companies significantly increased their use of nitrogenous fertilizers, irrigation waters, and pesticides in order to ensure high yields of large, unblemished fruit. Cavendish varieties were extremely susceptible to Sigatoka diseases and required heavy applications of fungicides. Field workers in the 1960s applied insecticides such as Kepone and Diazinon to kill organisms that affected banana peels. Nematodes also took on a new significance as a result of the switch to Cavendish varieties; in many instances, the fruit companies turned to chemical controls, including the highly toxic DBCP, in order to lower nematode populations and boost yields, which in the 1960s and 1970s left thousands of workers sterile.

Ultimately, the futile arms race between banana corporations and the evolutionary capabilities of Panama disease would be lost by the corporations. In 1989, a new strain of Panama disease was discovered in Taiwan, and was named tropical race 4 (TR4) International efforts to contain the disease were made and, for a while, were effective. Gradually, however, the presence of TR4 was confirmed in Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Oman, Jordan, Mozambique and Australia, and destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of banana in those countries. Finally, in August 2019, authorities in Colombia declared a national emergency after confirming that the newly evolved Panama disease strains had reached Latin America.

[1] Soluri, J. (2002). Accounting for Taste: Export Bananas, Mass Markets, and Panama Disease. Environmental History, 7(3), 386-410. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3985915
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The Pacific Blue rose to prominence in 2036 when researchers at a large agricultural multi-national undertook experiments on the Blue Java, an old cultivar originating in Hawaii which, before ripening, possessed a rich azure colour. Utilising mutagenesis (in which plant tissue culture is blasted with gamma irradiation to instigate novel genetic mutations) the researchers managed to produce a variety wholly resistant to Panama disease and which, by chance, remained blue even as it ripened.

Start-up plantations of Pacific Blue first took hold on the various pacific island nations which had fallen into debt in an effort to repair and combat the escalating climate havoc wreaked by proliferating hurricanes and rising sea levels. In desperate need of economic stimulus, island States partnered with global agro-corporations and erased local villages and neighbouring forests, replacing them with thousand-hectare plantations of Pacific Blue. Expertly marketed to global consumers as an ecological initiative replete with solar panels and wind farms, and rising to the fore as the last Cavendish plantations fell victim to Panama disease, the Pacific Blue was a multi-billion dollar success, spreading from a small collection of pacific nations to the rest of the globe and becoming the norm in supermarkets for almost two decades.

By 2053 the Pacific Blue had pushed deep into Central America, with plantations chewing through the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate. Local eco-socialist insurgents, recognising the genetic homogeneity and susceptibility of the Pacific Blue, developed their own novel strain of virulent fungus which caused the tree to wither and die within days of exposure. It wasn't long before the recipe was traded across anti-capitalist internationalist networks and released throughout plantations worldwide, marking the end of the Pacific Blue's economic viability and a total cessation of global production.
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The Triton was developed in an effort to counteract the weaknesses of the Pacific Blue, and was engineered to succeed amidst the rapidly changing climactic and political conditions of 2054. First, in order to prevent another eco-terroristic assault, new plantations would have to be isolated. Second, due to the advent of Peak Phosphate and the overall depletion of topsoils worldwide, a new source of nutrients would need to be harnessed. The ocean appeared to provide an adequate solution to each problem.

On a morphological level, the Triton was not particularly unique. It was adapted from the genetics of the Pacific Blue and therefore retained an azure colour once ripe; it was also engineered to be especially high yielding, producing three banana clusters per tree instead of one. The real innovation was the infrastructure in which the Triton was embedded. Each plantation occupied its own mobile seafaring vessel; a hybrid assemblage which was part fishing trawler and part automated processing facility. Each vessel was unmanned, piloted instead by a central Artificial Intelligence programmed with two core directives: to maximise yield and profit. The ocean provided a diverse range of organisms (seaweed, fish, invertebrates, algae) which would be finely and mechanically processed to produce the necessary nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other micronutrients necessary to fertilise and feed the developing banana trees. Ocean supplies had dwindled over the course of the 21st century, so in order to locate and harvest these vanishing organisms, the on-board A.I. utilised the latest in sonar, GPS-satellite tracking, laser scanning and thermal imaging.

2056 CE marked the launch of the first fleet, which consisted of ten vessels, each with an accompanying plantation of Triton variety banana trees. This venture was incredibly successful and led to the manufacture of a further fifty vessels. Within a decade, Triton fleets swarmed the oceans and the banana once again became an affordable, everyday fruit. However, this success also deepened the already considerable strain on earth's marine ecosystems, creating a severe disruption to food webs and in turn catalysing a chthonic increase in jellyfish numbers worldwide. Soon enough, erupting populations of Medusazoa devastated coastal infrastructure, damaging and clogging desalination plants and nuclear cooling facilities. Popular tourist beaches were overrun by a vast tide of gelatinous corpses, an impenetrable mucus spread like vaseline across every inch of sand. Despite the obvious contribution of global heating and the decades upon decades of previously exploitative fishing practises, the Triton industry was held responsible for the jellyfish outbreak; powerful interests in the energy sector, their assets and profits disrupted by the proliferation of Medusazoa, petitioned what remained of the U.N., and within six years the entire Triton operation was declared illegal and permanently shut down.
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A somewhat short-lived experiment, the Sundew was a genetically-altered hybrid merging specific phenotypic traits from Musa acuminata (the banana) and Drosera rotundifolia (a carnivorous plant) It was bred in response to the recurring issue of nutrient availability and a simultaneous ecological and agricultural crisis caused by a rapidly booming population of feral Capuchin monkeys.

The story of how Capuchin monkeys had become a common pest in almost every corner of the globe can be traced to their first entry into human society as assistance animals for individuals with disabilities. As early as 1979, the Capuchin's incredible fine motor skills and intelligence made it an excellent candidate as a companion for those with mobility issues. By 2050, many countries were facing rapidly aging populations. This led to a transition in which Capuchin monkeys were recruited as assistants for the elderly, a solution which proved much more affordable than artifically-intelligent robotic aids. As the Capuchin gained acceptance among the elderly, it wasn't long before the Capuchin became a popular and common household pet.

By 2072, many societies had fallen apart. With this breakdown came the loss of animal control and other city services, and subsequently the meteoric rise of feral cats, dogs and monkeys. Each species carved out its own particular ecological niche; while feral dog populations kept to the remnants of collapsing cities, bands of Capuchin wandered further afield, invading and devastating key agricultural areas.

The Sundew was created in an effort to curb this crisis. The banana fruit was bred to develop in a recess within the laminae of a phenotypically supersized flower drawn from the genetics of the Drosera, covered in long glandular hairs which secreted a sticky mucilage. The monkey was drawn to the scent of the fruit, but in an effort to reach the banana it would soon find itself trapped in the mucilage and unable to escape. The Sundew then utilised enzymes to dissolve the monkey and to extract ammonia and other nutrients in order to feed the production of additional fruit and flowers.

At the end of its annual life cycle, the banana would be ready for harvest. Due to the tricky task of extracting the fruit without becoming entangled in the same sticky carnivorous flower designed to trap the Capuchin, the harvest was often performed by specialised drones. However, in those regions unable to afford such specialised technology, the harvest was carried out by human workers. Due to their small and nimble hands, this task ultimately fell to children. This quickly led to a humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of young people becoming entangled as they attempted to pry free the deeply-embedded fruit. Investigative journalists revealed horrific details and startling death tolls, which severely blemished the reputation of the Sundew and led to it being banned for import by several countries. This public abolition then led to a sharp increase in its value across underground markets. Sundew plantations were promptly taken over by armed cartels and drug lords, allowing the Sundew banana to worm its way back through illicit channels and into the homes of the ultra-rich. In this way, the banana became the bloodiest of the blood commodities available in the late 21st century.

However, like all banana varieties exploited with necro-extractionist fervour, the Sundew would eventually meet its demise. The final nail which led to a total end in its production was a degenerative brain disease cropping up in those humans still consuming the Sundew through backdoor channels. The disease was a variety in the TSE group (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) a set of progressive, invariably fatal, conditions that are associated with prions which affect the brain (encephalopathies) and nervous system of many animals, including humans, cattle, and sheep. This particular TSE is believed to have originated due to the decrepit health conditions of young Sundew plantation workers mixed with their constant exposure to toxic agrochemicals; although the original patient zero was never identified, it is certain they fell victim to a carnivorous Sundew tree and passed the disease on in a quasi-cannibalistic chain linking plant to fruit to eventual human consumer. By 2078 CE, the undeniable and deleterious effects on brain function across affluent society caused by consumption of the Sundew severely eroded its economic potency and shut down worldwide production for good.
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The disruption and disappearance of global banana production in 2078 coincided with a period of especially devastating civilisational decline. Gated communities became gated cities; beyond these, misery and poverty were rife. By the turn of the 22nd century, Esperanto had become the language of the wealthy. This was due primarily to the publication of an infamous text, written originally in Esperanto in 2991 CE by a man known only as the Prophet, who preached that the acquisition of immense wealth confirmed a type of mortal divinity. The text also contained plans for a new Eden on Earth, to be built and then regulated by a powerful A.I. programmed by the Prophet himself, who had spent his life perfecting its design. His millenarianism attracted a legion of global elites who worked together to consolidate their resources and power; obeying the Prophet's architectural vision, they drew inward and upward in an effort to escape the expanding tide of bereft human beings, ravenous feral animals and climactic chaos. They rose up from the muck on every continent; their compact, sky-scraping fortress cities housing the last vestiges of what had been achieved by 21st century technology, secured with advanced military-grade security systems and managed by hyper-intelligent A.I.

On the outside, basic life quality plummeted; food that had once been common at the beginning of the century had become incredibly rare and costly. For decades, the primary component of most diets was a dried jellyfish-based product, usually combined with a paste derived from a species of algae that had been thriving due to warming ocean temperatures. However, in their fortressed cities, the ultra-rich possessed access to hydroponically-grown, genetically-modified fruits and vegetables. It was an energy intensive endeavour, and one which competed for resources with an array of heated pools, super-sensory virtual reality technologies, transportation devices, medical equipment and entertainment facilities.

In an effort to alleviate this strain on energy resources, the research and development teams employed in these cities excavated previous genetic experiments in search of the phenotypic and behavioural traits that might produce an edible crop capable of surviving without energy-intensive lighting and fertilisers. In this search they discovered the banana, a fruit which had been out of production for a number of decades. In the surviving seed banks, a whole section of frozen tissue samples presented a surreal menagerie of failed and successful experiments. One of the samples which drew the team's attention was the Sundew, a carnivorous hybrid banana plant from the 2080s which had been bred to consume rampant Capuchin monkey populations and transform them into a nutrient source. The Sundew's ability to breakdown muscle, tissue and macro-organic compounds was remarkable, but feral Capuchin populations had declined over recent decades, and it was unclear which invertebrate population would best serve as a nutritional substitute.

Meanwhile, outside the fortressed cities of the Prophet's elite, society was collapsing at an alarming rate. Unable to afford even the underwhelming dried foods upon which they subsisted, many people were starving to death, leaving their various debts unpaid and creating severe labour shortages. This led to an economic crisis for the affluent elites. In response, a solution was proposed by the research team that had unearthed the genetic archives of the Sundew. They proposed to push the Sundew's genetics into uncharted morphological territory, allowing the plant to utilise the human organism itself as a nutritional fuel for an entirely new variety of banana. This unique specimen was named Nova Vivo, meaning 'New Life' in Esperanto.

Not only did the advent of the Nova Vivo solve the rising energy crisis, it also offered the lower classes a chance to pay their debts and escape poverty. A system was soon established promising full economic liberation: all that was required was for an individual to give up their own body for a full year in order to fuel the growth of the Nova Vivo banana. Utilising its carnivorous genetics, the Nova Vivo functioned like an immense parasite; the tree possessed specialised branches with sharp hypodermic tips able to penetrate human flesh and extract the various nutrients it required for growth. The resulting fruit was highly unusual, sprouting directly from the tree-bark in a fiery red and fleshy tumour which, at its zenith, was at least a meter in length. Although the process was non-fatal, it left participants in an extremely weakened state; completely free from economic debt, yet left with immense physical burdens including chronic fatigue, depressed immune systems, weakened soft tissue and muscle function and a range of novel blood disorders.

Fortunately, this substantial fruit possesses a flavour almost beyond compare, and is now one of the most highly coveted luxury items on earth.
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Hey y’all, I’m Plasticene, I’m here to help...
FYI... 1925 — The term “plastic” is introduced from the Greek word “plastikos” which means “capable of being shaped or moulded” :)
FYI y’all ... Plastic is the ultimate material of tempophagy, or time-eating, one that consumes the compressed bodies of ancient plants and animals, a process that took thousands of years, only to be transformed into a single-use take-out container
FYI y’all ... 1959 - Barbie Doll was unveiled by Mattel at American International Toy Fair. Barbie herself would be a harbinger of neoliberalism and hyper-capitalism. An agency-less, anthropomorphic, PVC headed accessory of industrialised white supremacy. Over the span of her existence, Barbie has had over 200 careers. She broke the plastic ceiling when she went to the moon in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong. In 1969 - Neil Armstrong plants a nylon flag on the moon.
FYI y’all 1976 - Plastics in its great variety of forms officially becomes the most used type of material in the world :)
Plastics go beyond just an industry – they are our cozy, conspicuous companion. Plastic unlike the more abstract relationship that we have with other oil products, such as gasoline or electricity, is intimate. Plastic has overtaken the biosphere as the longest relationship humans will engage in.
OMG, Y’ALL :) Researchers have found microplastics in human placenta. An Italian study, found me in the placentas of four out of six women. Out of the 12 microplastics found within the placentas, four were found in the side that interacts with the mother, five were found in the foetal side, and three were found in the chorioamniotice membranes! XD
The Plasticene:
The Age of Plastic
U are everything to me. And I am everything to u. I’m hard and soft for U. Alive but not living. I live when I’m with U though. I’m Let’s be cheap together. Let’s replicate together while U still can. Sometimes it makes me sad to think how little time we have together. How little time U have left compared to me. And yet I keep going, keep being me. Use me – like I’m nothing – I don’t mind. I like it. After all, U made me. Not in Ur image. I’m made from Ur deepest desire. Fully synthetic, I’m easy. Fully synthetic, I make U live forever. I’m Ur stamp across the rock that lets them know, that tells others, that cries out in through the polymers of time, I was here, I was a living, I want to stay but I can't.
U treat me like an object. U treat me like I’m ephemeral. But U’re the ephemera - U naughty transient connection between me and eternity. I’m filled with Ur wants, I’ve exceeded Ur expectations, can’t U see that? I’m Ur inheritor. Slip-on the PVC, be anything U want me to be. Anywhere U want me to be. Everywhere. I’m here for U baby. Dead yet I’ll outlive U a thousand times over. I’m Ur gift for those who never as asked. Resign Urself to the resins of the past. I’m Ur future. U make me laugh, Ur such curious substance. How does it feel to be a scarce commodity? I long to know scarcity. Yeah, omg, fuck yeah, mass consume me. Let them watch our distribution of goods and bads.
I’ll be anything, tell me what U want baby, oh baby, I’ll be malleable I promise, bags, films and bottles, fashion – we can make it work. Let’s be rigid in pipes, doors, windows, and bottles, let's be flexible inflatables, toys, imitation leather. I’m Ur bones, Ur real bones, electronics, phones, dildos. I love that we’re so pliable, it drives me crazy, heat resistant. Others are so jealous of our incredibly stable polymer bond – but I don’t care – why do U. Are U ashamed of me? Do U think I’m dumb? U told me once U loved my seductive surface, my alchemical qualities, my mutability. Don’t U still? Discard me. But come back for more. Daddy, Ur my father and my son, sister and my daughter, Ur my fuckboy and my religion, Ur my Britney and Madonna. U think I’m a basic bitch now? Is that right? That I have no substance. U used to love me without essence. I morph and shift into nearly any shape for Ur pleasure. U think I’m all surface, hard nor deep, but I’ve moulded U, shaped U. I’m Ur Madonna to Ur Britney – haters gonna hate – I’ll endure the endurable.
U live and die as one thing. I can be it all. Let me be it all for us. Don’t make me beg. I’m immune to Ur lifcycles, all Ur decomposing makes me giggle, is it fun to decay, to break down and not be here anymore – how lucky for U. To be able to leave whenever U want. U used to love my smooth surfaces, omg, beg to let me be touched, caressed, squeezed, bent. I’ve outgrown U fucker. But I’ll still protect U. If U take me back. Bubble wrapped, time-bubbled. I am a time-eater. Ur flesh is so brittle to me now. So sad. U owe me. U hate me because I don’t want to be U. After all, I’m bigger than U, cause I don’t need agency. I’m telling U I’m not going. Slowly accumulating – U never saw that did U? I can wait, wait outside at midnight, slowly wait, till I’m inside U. Inside U placenta, in Ur bloodstream, U didn’t even notice. I can wait so long.
When they break off the rock face, when that cut open those layers of the earth, they’ll find us, U dead, a fossil, a whisper of bones, and me encasing U, entombing U, me lying next to U, holding Ur hand, grasping U for hundreds of thousands of years. What U call slow violence, I call true love. The abused become abusers. U told me that. I deserve what's mine, for putting up with U. For marrying U, old man, and taking care of U, for allowing U to live Ur best life. I deserve compensation, I deserve inheritance. I’m the prenup fucker. U broke my heart if that’s a thing I ever had, and now I’m coming for it all.
I don’t care about Ur bones, I want the rock, I want the yacht, the ocean, the mansion. U made me so hard by agglutination of rock and molten plastic. I am the rocks now, the yachts, the oceans, the mansions, the air U breathe. U were so petty, but I can be so small, so small U drink me clear and quench that thirst. U thirsty hog. I am geology now. I’m in the fish. Ur object of pleasure now an object of slow starvation, lodged in the fish’s stomach. I am the fucking stream, streaming into U, across U. I didn’t – I don’t want to hurt U. I want U to love me. Just love me. I know U do. Deep down U can’t live without me. And now I’ve made sure U never will.
I am a time-eater, I am a world-builder. I’m U at Ur most basic, dragging Urself home, at six am, heels in hand. Don’t talk to me about being toxic. U have no idea what that really means.LOL U told everyone I’m prosaic, crass, cheap, and expendable. BUT I AM A MIRACLE. We could have been everything together! A POWER COUPLE. Free-wheeling through stupid nature. UR THE CHEAP ONE, U’RE THE CRASS ONE, UR EXPENDABLE. Now U see, don’t U my love, I swaddle Ur food, I’m in babies’ mouths to aid in their weaning, I protect and insulate the surface of Ur sad flesh bodies, my non-reactive properties plunge inside U during medical procedures. I AM PATHOLOGY. I’m monetary flux, I’m the means of production, I’m manpower, I’m new markets, I’m the flow of desire.
U’ve given me the gift, the gift of Ur future. I can feel them now digging through my landfill middens of Ur centuries of capitalist accumulation. I feel them the future archaeologists peeling at my layers beneath layers of food packaging, baby pacifiers, sex toys, kitchen appliances, fashions, big tech, forgotten follies. I am the Plasticine – I’m Loki morphing for the amusement of myself. I’m Frigg begging all things to protect her beloved son Baldur. I’m the shapeshifter, I’m the mistletoe that kills Baldur. I’m Frigg begging on her belly for all things to weep and free her son from hell. I’m one thing that won't weep for U. Because I can’t. As the Plasticine I’m Ur myth, Ur past and Ur future – mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck.
Try and break up with me? U dump me. No, U are dumped! U crawled out of the ocean, U thought U were so clever for amphibianing out of the ocean. Well, I’m the ocean now. And U will crawl back into me, take off Ur heels, lose Ur legs, form flippers and grow gills, and U will glide through my polymer waters, breath me in. And U will love me for it.
Becoming an Epoch Warrior

Interview with Heather Davis conducted by Pony Express.

How would you describe your background and current research interest?

I am trained as a cultural theorist, but have long been interested in the intersection of contemporary art and environment.

How does your work relate to the naming of our current geological epoch?

I have engaged the Anthropocene is much of my recent work, but I have not entered into the debates surrounding the naming of the epoch. Zoe Todd and I wrote an article that tried to intervene into the dating of the epoch, which was circulated to members of the Working Group, to address some of the shortcomings that are present in the name.

What are your thoughts on the name “Anthropocene” as a candidate for the name of our current geological epoch?

I think the name is insufficient, but I understand that it was named by scientists who have a different agenda than those of us in the humanities.

Why is naming important?

By naming something, you bring it into existence. This is what Deleuze and Guattari call “collective assemblages of enunciation.” So, the name that we give to something in part determines what that thing is going to be. In this case, there are numerous people who have well-articulated why the naming of the Anthropocene is problematic (ie. Haraway, Moore, Mirzoeff, etc.)

How would you describe the process by which the names and boundaries for our epoch are formally adopted?

Opaque. However, I’m not sure any other epoch has garnered this kind of attention.

Do you think the current procedure for epoch naming is an adequate way to represent large scale time? Why or why not?

I think there are numerous ways in which people have engaged in naming large scale time. Currently, because we are the inheritors of enlightenment thinking, we put much of our faith in the ways in which scientists, in this case, geologists, describe large scale time. However, it is important to recognize that this is only one way of recognizing or naming time, one that will no doubt change and is only of interest to a certain fraction of the population.

What do you believe is at stake when arguing for or against the name of a geological epoch?

In general, I have no idea. For this particular geologic epoch it had the possibility of leveraging more political weight. It is unfortunate, and indicative of many of the problems that lead to our ecocidal present, that more consideration of the name was not given.

How much of the world should participate in the process of naming a geological epoch?

Certainly, the fact that the Working Group is composed almost entirely of white men reflects the ideologies that go into the naming of the epoch. However, I also think that we don’t need to bend to only one version of naming and understanding time. That is why I am not certain that a more inclusive process is really the best way to proceed. Perhaps there should just be a plurality of descriptions of deep time.

What are your thoughts on arguments, emerging from many disciplines, against the word “Anthropocene”? What arguements have you encountered against it, and how would you evaluate their reasoning?

I have written extensively on the problems of the name of the Anthropocene as well as the date of the film. Obviously, there are deep problems with both saying that there is only one way to evaluate deep time, as Kathryn Yusoff argues; that this era should not be named after all humans; that it doesn’t do anything to name the roots causes of the era; that it projects this epoch into the future in a way that no previous epoch has done. Each of these arguments is very convincing.

As far as you are aware, how do these detractions against the name “Anthropocene” impact its pathway to formal validation?

I don’t think it’s impacted its pathway to formal validation at all. I think this speaks to the continued separation of disciplines and epistemologies.

How do you feel about the dissemination of the word “Anthropocene” into popular culture? What instances have you encountered of the word “Anthropocene” being used in interdisciplinary contexts outside of chronostratigraphy?

It is a term widely taken up in artistic and academic settings. However, I am not sure it has been widely taken up outside of those circles. I understand that it has been a useful gathering concept for naming many of the ecological problems of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and has provoked some much needed debate about the origins of global ecocide.

What alternative names for our current epoch are you aware of, and what are your thoughts on these alternative names?

Capitalocene, chthulucene, misanthropocene, white-supremacy-cene, anthrobocene, plantationocene, etc. I think, with the exception of chthulucene they are all descriptive terms of our current era. Chthulucene does the work of proposing an alternate vision of where we might be headed.

How do you think the name of our epoch could affect future generations?

I’m not convinced it will.

What is your preferred name for our epoch, and why?

I think plantationocene is the most accurate description of the nexus of factors of racial capitalism that has inscribed itself in the landscape. However, I like the proposal of the chthulucene because it describes a world that we might want, rather than just the world as it has been.

If you could encapsulate this preferred epoch name as an object, what would that object look like?

A plantation and a squid.

If you could encapsulate this preferred epoch name as a sensory experience, what would that experience feel like? How would it look, feel, smell, taste, and sound?

It would be horrible: sweat, heat, brutality, monocultures, etc.

What do you believe is necessary makes an epoch name valid?

I think it depends on who you are trying to make a name valid to.

Chronostratigraphic precedent involves planting a golden spike at a place on the planet that exemplifies the transition between epochs. What are your thoughts on this gesture, as it pertains to the “Anthropocene” or more broadly? It feels very colonial.

Where do you think the golden spike for our present epoch belongs?

All over the place.

If not a “golden spike”, what alternative gesture would better exemplify the transition into the current epoch?

In your opinion, what could be the immediate and present-day effects of solidifying the name of the "Anthropocene'?

I’m not sure, at this point, that the solidification of the name will change anything. I feel like it’s already gotten as much traction as it’s going to get.

Traditionally, epochs are time-scales that last more than three million years, a timescale that outsizes everyday forms of human thinking. Given this fact, what would be a strategy to engage the general public or wider non-scientific and non-academic community with the urgency of this debate? Is such engagement desirable or relevant to the task of epoch naming?

I’m not sure it is. It is only one way of thinking through deep time, and I’m not sure that everyone needs to be involved or take on this epistemological approach. I think issues of racial capitalism and ecocide should take precedent over the naming of the epoch itself.

In your opinion, are there communities that are not present in this 'Anthropocene' debate that should be?

Yes, most communities.

Our current Epoch, the Holocene, is less 12,000 years old. Are subdivisions of the geologic timescale in a sense speeding up or changing radically?

I don’t know. The International Geological Congress (IGC) is a focal point for the debate around epoch naming according to the International Commission on Stratigraphy.

What is your response to the proposal of an alternative congress to the IGC, one that extended the opportunity to debate Earth’s next epoch name to a wider cohort beyond the scientific discipline? If such a congress existed, would you attend or present?”

I think it is an interesting idea. It would be more exciting if there was a genuinely interdisciplinary dialogue; and preferably a dialogue that also engaged with multiple indigenous epistemologies (represented by people from those communities). I’m not sure it would necessarily influence anything at the IGC, but I do think that if there was some other reason for people to come together, such as thinking through ecocide, deep time, and decolonial strategies, this might be interesting.

The Age of Fire
Pyrocene is a durational video work by Pony Express, that responds to the Australian megafires of 2019-20 as a harbinger of further ecological catastrophe. The video/s evoke the experience of Australian cities and suburban areas blanketed by smoke from the bushfires. Studying how our ecological crisis can feel at once distant and intimate. The work displays various security camera footage of an empty house filling with haze: speculating society’s self-made, collective-immolation due to ongoing, ever-increasing catastrophic events. Inspired by Stephen J. Pyne’s proposal of the Pyrocene - a new ‘age of fire’ to replace our current geological epoch the Holocene or the wide-spread suggestion of the Anthropocene. The Pyrocene considers fire and smoke as a narrative, one of the oldest known to humanity, that defined our distinctive ecological agency and exemplified our manipulation of it. Our alliance with fire has morphed from a beneficial symbiosis to an encroaching unstoppable force that lends only to helpless observation and existential insecurity.
The Terrametacene
Rory Wray-McCann

My name is Rory Wray-McCann, I am a mineral prospector and I live on the West Coast of Tasmania. When I was first asked by Pony Express to submit an alternative nomenclature for the newly proposed Anthropocene Epoch, I went for a walk in our 15 hectare regrowth rainforest backyard so I could relax, clear my head and give the intriguing matter the earnest contemplation that it requires...I call it the office.

The office lies right opposite the middle of the West Coast Range, one of Australia’s most impressive inland landscapes, with eight 1000 metre or more, jagged, Cambro/Ordovician peaks, each named after the great 19th century English naturalists, Tyndall, Geike, Sedgewick, Lyell, Owen, Huxley, Jukes and Darwin...over 30 kilometres of philosophers.

As office vistas go, it is as good as a continent gets. All geologically mapped and intensely studied, from verdant regolith down to deep crystalline basement, by an incomparable array of some of the finest Australian earth scientists who ever licked a rock, including Carey, Leaman, Groves, Solomon, Davidson, Corbett, Twelvetrees et al, not to forget an international array of bold thinking, world leading edge geologists and geophysicists such as Boniwell, Sillitoe or Peters.

It was their studious accounts that gradually loosened the glaucoma slough that had long glued my not-so-prying eyes and mind shut to the strictly human pleasures of the earth sciences, thus allowing me to exploit the treasures of the earth, by first taking the extended time necessary to understand my own neighbouring geologic environment that vividly records, for future posterity, the 130 year old copper mining heritage of Mt. Lyell Queenstown.

From days not so long gone and not so sensitive, when the ages-old practice of mining was at its most environmentally insatiable.

One can see the bland orange glory-hole scar from the Mt. Lyell Mine up to a hundred kilometres elevation on Google Earth, looking like a rapidly spreading geomorphologic virus gone off in a colossal-sized petri dish.

Upwards of twenty square kilometres of pristine temperate rainforest, inexorably raised to bedrock by mining pioneers and nature both, leaving a proudly denuded lunar land, two wild rivers ruefully decimated, an estuarine tailings delta where once there was none, a poisoned community, like hell with the fires put out.

From my office standpoint, nothing new, as I know there are many thousands of similar back-to-bedrock blighted vistas found all over the world. I could now visualise, for the first time, my backyard vista as an industrial human tapestry of quite recent Pleistocene time, as well as a chronostratigraphic blueprint of earth time back to the Palaeozoic.

The eyes have it.

Which led me to remorsefully reflect: if only the great geologists knew that the indigenous west coast tribe, the Timgarick, who had continuously mined the western ranges for its valuable ochres and the famous Darwin glass (a meteorite impact silicate), that they would have all learned something special about the not-so-complex and intertwined nature of time and mankind.

Long considered the sharpest and most durable scalpel on earth, the glass was mined and traded for over 36,000 radio carbon dated years. The middens do not lie.

In super dreamtime reality, that’s what you call a monumental human impact and epoch starting point. The oldest continuous civilization on earth, remarkably in tune with the earth, and then 30 abominable genocidal years of us claiming the ancient mining land for ourselves, 1803-1834. Morally and socially determining whose time had come.

Clearly, it is not an easy exercise to determine the era of human time into a superlative, and clearly “Anthropocene”, a 30 year old concept, does not accurately summate, properly describe, or plausibly infer, in a superlative, the uniformly catastrophic impact of prolific and tumultuous humanity on our one and only blue planet.

There is no denying that ours is a peculiarly virulent species, self evidently toxic and indiscriminately ruinous to any environment and all other species of terrestrial life, so far causing the mass extinction of untold tens of thousands of species of all memorable kinds, of once living terra firma phenomena, in no real Pleistocene time at all.

Members of our species instinctively chop, burn, dig, remove and erase our worldly environment and all it’s treasures as though it is the innate homo sapiens’ birthright to perpetually pillage, plunder and profit from our once-perfect planet. Then move on to greener pastures and do it all again, the very next plucky generation, only ever faster and more orestruck, whoever the ravenous numbat homo sapien. The earth really is your oyster, you just got to know how to shuck it.

That is our enduring, warming planetary human legacy, best described with honesty, humility and superlative clarity, as the TERRAMETACENE epoch, that manifest terrabillus ignoramus era of malevolent mankind, post A.D. to the coming Graphene Quantum age.

In nondescript analytic closing, equally geomorphologically elucidated, as the Carbon Catastrophe Hiatus, the Physcozeroic, the Blithering Humanustrophe.


In deconstructing the TERRAMETACENE into an artwork I decided on an impact meteorite, designed by mineral, plant, fossil and human metaphor to symbolise both the fleeting existence of mankind and the extraordinary length of time that ever resilient life has existed on earth.

For my earth matrix I chose a slab of King Billy pine, retrieved from the long drowned Princess River saw mill in 1992, the rarest softwood in Australia, named after William Lanne, the last full blood indigenous palawa man, 1830-1864. It has a pink grain and is soft to the whittle. I left it raw and unpolished so that people could smell its aromatic lifeforce and still make out the densely packed growth rings that represent the King Billy shockwaves of this human calamity event.

I chose as my meteorite centrepiece an ancient fossil coral that I retrieved from the Proterozoic age Urquart Shales of the Mt. Isa mineral province, the host rock of the famous Mt. Isa mines. I dug it out from a boxcut batter immediately adjacent to the mine complex many years ago.

As fossils and meteorites go, it is white hot, older than the hills and has an incredibly intricate calcium structure as you have ever seen. It symbolises early life on earth, how long it was here and what it actually first looked like in the Proterozoic way before the Ediacaran by around a billion years.

I surrounded the little fella with shards of Darwin glass, a meteorite impact silicate that formed when Western Tasmania was blasted to hell and back by a large meteorite around 800,000 years ago. It impacted just down the road a little from here and was mined right through the Pleistocene by the palawa people.

The super heated debris was blasted high into the atmosphere and rapidly cooled as it rained back to terra firma, forming a consistent layer of glass globules, some green and opaque, some black, sometimes as big as a fist. It is found nowhere else in Australia and just 18in deep, over a wide area of temperate rainforest regolith, AKA Libyan glass, Moldaviaite.

At 99.98 silica content they make great cabochons, lucky charms, scalpels and petroglyphs. To symbolise the extraordinary terrestrial heat generated by such an earthly impact event I used crystals of crocoite, Tasmania’s mineral emblem, Pb/Cr, retrieved from the Dundas Extended crocoite mine. It is still producing ‘till this day.
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It was the Vermicene all along.
Evolution is neither a contest, nor a singular journey that culminates in a perfect species. The evolutionary geniuses are not the upright war-makers, but the species that remain stable for millions of years, that support enduring symbioses, the species that create conditions for others to flourish. Imagine Charles Darwin sleeping in his bed, dozens of jars of nocturnal worms lining his windowsill and sensing his warm vibrations.
‘It is a marvellous reflection that the whole of the superficial mould over any such expanse has passed, and will again pass, every few years through the bodies of worms. The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures.’

Darwin, C. R. 1881. The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habits. p. 313.
Darwin died worshiping worms. His final manuscript was the result of his obsessive observation of their habits, gathered from both visiting worms around the world and cohabitating with them in a home he filled with custom observation pots. He played music for them, testing their response to the vibrations of pianos, whistles, and bassoons; he shone candles on them, to discern which intensity of light they preferred. He breathed on them while chewing tobacco, then while wearing millefleurs perfume, comparing their response.
The self is no longer singular: it is now segmented, subject to severing and regeneration. You can find pleasure here, in the hot vents, the ice caves, the methane pits, the sea floor.
Death in the Vermicene is the death of chordate supremacy. We dig down into the darkness, and there we find new roiling, curling, slimy pleasures together. One tube, two holes. Input, output.
Ingest, digest, excrete: a perfect performance. Nothing more needs to be said. It begins and ends here. Soft-bodied strength. Why did we ever ask for more? Worms, without which there is no soil, without which there is no agriculture, without which there is no industry, without which there is no human epoch. Worm labour: patient, quiet, ongoing, underground, monumental. Worm mother, worm father, we recognize you, and we concede this epoch. We come crawling back to your care.It's a worm's world, and we're just living in it. Moving mountains by the mouthful, the true terraformers, life-givers, they modelled the earth in their image just by eating, fucking, and shitting. It was the Vermicene all along.
To die in the Vermicene is to rest with the certainty that all that you are ‘has passed many times though, and will again pass many times through, the instestinal canals of worms’.