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

WISCONSIN INSTITUTES FOR DISCOVERY DELUCA FORUM MADISON

FLIT SPRAY PUMP

photo of hand pump pesticide sprayer

In the golden age of synthetic pesticides, many people embraced the illusion of controlling nature and the earth that predated their existence through the nozzle of a manual pesticide sprayer. Thus, for its simplicity yet the simultaneous sense of power which it bestowed on those who wielded it, I would put a Flit spray pump in the Cabinet of Curiosities.

Flit was a pesticide brand which grew popular in the U.S. in the 1920s for the backyard gardener and homeowner. It reflected the triumph of technology in agriculture, but had been domesticated for home use. With the explosion of synthetic pesticides that followed World War II, Flit incorporated the new miracle formulation of DDT. It continued to be used in homes and gardens, and had many imitators as agricultural chemicals were packaged and marketed to modern consumers. The proliferation of pesticide products reflected many technological developments of the modern world, as well as the aspirations of humans under the illusion that the environment could be shaped to their will. These products embody discourses of the domestication of nature, the triumph of technology over brawn, the suburban ideal centered on nuclear families, and aesthetics as a measure of success, in agriculture as well as in the backyard. What the proliferation of synthetic pesticides ignored was the fragility of the earth on which they were sprayed and the vulnerability of living and future generations of humans to their toxicity.

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