THE ANTHROPOCENE SLAM: A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES NOVEMBER 8-10

WISCONSIN INSTITUTES FOR DISCOVERY DELUCA FORUM MADISON

SNARGE

photo of a feather and ruler

"Snarge" is a term coined by the naturalists at the Smithsonian’s Feather Identification Laboratory to refer specifically to the remains of birds scraped off the fuselages of planes and sent to the lab for identification. The image below is a sample retrieved from US Airways Flight 1549, which I respectfully submit for the anthropocene cabinet. I have been using the word more liberally to refer to all instances of non-human animals colliding with transportation systems. There is no word to collect the terms: road-kill, bird-strikes, whale-strikes, etc - no word to bring together 19th century cattle or the 21st century elk that meet the front of a train. Manatees, possums, deer, birds, dogs and about 2,000 human pedestrians every year. All of these organisms share very common fates for strikingly similar reasons. Like the concepts "pet," "livestock," and "domesticated animals," snarge is composed of multiple species and its membership is constantly changing. While it is true that the onset of the anthropocene has drastically changed the relationships between human animals and non-human animals, we rarely take stock of the ways that mass-mobility (the primary engine of anthropocenic change) has left a grisly record of mangled animal flesh. More than just a curiosity, I would suggest that snarge indexes a rarely-examined moral dilemma about mobility that is unique to the anthropocene.

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