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

WISCONSIN INSTITUTES FOR DISCOVERY DELUCA FORUM MADISON

SOIL CORE

photo of a sample of soil showing different layers

We dig on the beach with our children - a patterned practice that reveals curious patterns. Striations of broken shell cut across smooth, tan bands of sand. What causes the stripes, our son asks? We begin to speculate, entering that imaginative space where previously abstract earth processes begin to become real. The stripes point to something cyclical, we say, but what - a tidal process, with the waves churning up shell remains once monthly? Could be, but how much time does a band represent? We know that this area of coast has received at least 20 replenishments, in which many millions of tons of sand were dumped to shore up the beach (and protect beach property) - could that be the cause? In a speculative mood, we find ourselves betwixt and between natural and artificial, uncertain about temporality, and disturbed and fascinated by the prospect of discovery. The stripes point in the direction of the Anthropocene in the sense that human history (i.e. beach nourishment) vies for attention in our puzzling along. How do we feel about this? Is it disappointing that sand dumping might account for the stripes? Or is discovery redeemed through the realization that human history has become natural process? For the "Cabinet of Curiosities" slam we offer a soil core from Wrightsville Beach, NC, alongside a story - from the moment of observation, through speculation, and finally to "confirmation" - of one particular journey into the Anthropocene.

Presenters