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<nettime> Ground zero: Nature, Wilderness, Now
Alan Sondheim on Sat, 27 Jan 2007 04:55:41 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ground zero: Nature, Wilderness, Now

Ground zero: Nature, Wilderness, Now

Zero is ground down; the ground has no depth; the ground is flattened; 
ground is always already charnel-hus; ground is always killing-field; 
ground is replete, fecund, historic; history is flattened; ground is 
characterized by the _trail_; the trail crosses the ground; the ground is 
obdurate, inert, among and within the trail. The ground trails the trail; 
the trail trails the ground.

Ground is space, now this is space, now this is time, this was time; 
ground is, this is time now, this is space there.

Ground zero is the ground of the wild, the trail of the wild, its call or 
calling, kill or culling. Ground zero is the table-tabulation of the 
ground, part-objects of plants, animals, organic debris; ground is always 
already debris. The ground does not suffer: the suffering of the ground is 
our suffering: the ground is contaminated with our suffering.

Our suffering is the suffering of the ground - which is not the suffering 
of the ground - which does not suffer - our suffering is the table- 
tabulation, the unknown, unaccounted, unaccountable, unaccounted-for basis 
of data, the blurring of data: all this construct of the human upon 
absolutely nothing.

It is here that the wild parts the Wild, that the Wild decomposes - not on 
the technological, on the subsequent extinctions, on the devolving of 
extinctions - but on ground zero, on table-tabulations - from the begin-
ning an established fact.

>From here the strategy is the move to the tabled, the move which is a 
history of the process of tabling: the recognition, not of the Wild, but 
of its loss inherent within the Wild. Which isn't to say a foregone 
conclusion, but a technology gone wild, infected, infecting.

Now what remains: ground zero already charnel-hus, slaughtered animals, 
what shall one do now? The question parallels standard 'what is to be 
done?' - to which there is no answer. Ground zero - not the Ground Zero of 
9/11 - but the ground zero of the trail, the trace - must be absolutely 
understood and understood absolutely: that the Wild has always been 
sundered to the extent that human languaging and culture have operated 
through the _trajectory of the hand-ax_ - from stone through reification 
to ax, from ax through exchange to ax. The trajectory refers to the 
_skittering_ of the trail across ground zero. The skittering is scythe and 
dominion, the distinction that makes a distinction: live and dead, hunter 
and prey, herd and cull, grain and territory.

Once there is travel, tool, reification, ground zero is both relinquish- 
ment and harboring. The violence of writing is here within table- 
tabulation, the sintering of ground zero, the remeasurement of trail, the 
contestation of trail and table.

Why is any of this a matter of concern? Because the Wild continues to be 
romanticized, farmed-out, mystified; the sublime itself is the Wild placed 
beyond reach, the distance of a troubling absolute. I believe one must 
begin otherwise - with Holocaust, with disappearance. This needs more than 
text or voice, more than lip service. It's useless to pretend that the 
issue is "management" or "wildlife corridor" or "dark matter" or "natural 
selection" or even "selection" given the fold-catastrophic (re: Thom) 
nature of extinction. The horror inheres to flattening, to trail. It is 
not an addition, not techne, not technology. As population increases, it 
is simply coming into greater view. The issue is a fundamental geopolit- 
ical one. The only solutions may well be enclaves, data-bases, DNA banks, 
regions within hunting or poaching are punishable by death. This is far 
too little too late. It is the best chance there is. It does not address 
the future collapse of culture world-wide as pollution and climate rampage 
- these will happen. It does address the the end of things (end of the 
Wild, end of megafauna, end of variety, end of coastal culture), and that 
is all we can hope for.


It is not a question of apocalypse; it has always been a question of 
apocalypse; humans have read the trails, walked and traced them, from the 
beginning, from the beginning of organism. Every organism has culture. The 
question becomes "how are we with apocalypse"; "how are we among the 
apocalyptic." For this condition, this state-of-affairs, this desire, 
looms closer, as if the apocalyptic announced itself.

I read far too often that humans have cried apocalyptic far too often - but 
for a moment, put yourself in the position of a polar bear, or black 
rhino, or bonobo: Consider these, as well, crying apocalyptic, until the 
last of the them disappears.

It is not, again, "what is to be done," but "what is the doing." And it is 
insufficient to abjure the doing, as in the notion there can be no lyric 
poetry, perhaps no poetry, after the Holocaust, that other holocaust that 
continues in yet other forms. This bypasses, not only doing, but thinking 
that may yet reveal another dawn in the midst of dusk. One might say in 
return, all dawns are ruptured. The day is ruptured by the night. What 
remains, what is never ruptured: ground zero - one might say the substance 
of ground zero, but here there is no divisibility; one fails and falters 
with the other.


Ground zero is the ground of debris, spew, emission - the ground that 
erases traces, derails trails. It is never so simple as inscription, but a 
confluence of inscriptions, spatio-temporal strata, cross-purposeless. The 
fossil record is the miniscule surface of the world appearing as depth. 
But there is enough present to indicate that today something is wrong, 
incoherent - an environment that changes faster than adaptation, fit only 
for generalists - species, themselves, that might be in trouble later on.

The artificial (zoo, museum, housing development) requires energy and 
continuous maintenance. It is a strange attractor of finance; without 
money, the budget of organism falls apart. It is susceptible to world 
politics, to a world with rapidly decreasing resources. The Wild must be 
seen against this background. The Wild and its species have disappeared - 
which means the cultures of these species have disappeared - which means, 
further, that we are dealing with organisms divested of spatial and 
temporal history. There are no neighborhoods, no learned behaviors, that 
are not contaminated by humans - both within the artificial, and in the 
remnant parks and "wildernesses" on a planet experience an information 
implosion, population explosion.

Think of the artificial as organism banking, and continuous maintenance as 
the lineage of organisms translated to the lineage of human beings, in the 
future perhaps other technologies. The point is this: these lineages are 
disrupted as well, are broken - and a single break results in permanent 
loss. Kill the zoo, kill the species. Develop a plot of land harboring an 
irreplaceable biome, and the biome is gone forever. It's a no-win situation 
- environmentalists hold out with man/woman-years, and the biome seems 
safe - but one victory of development, and everything is lost. This is an 
example of the "fragility of good things" in catastrophe theory - if 
everything goes right, good things happen - but there are many more - 
astronomically many more - things that can "go wrong" - and any of them 
permanently eliminate the catastrophic peak of "goodness." In this sense 
"goodness" might be defined as _any_ desired state-of-affairs; there's no 
ethos implied.

A "world of generalists" will never be the end of the story, as generalist 
species compete with one another, construct new strategies, fill new 
ecological niches. Competition continues on a planet of rapidly depleting 
resources. There _is_ an end in sight, as variety ultimately decreases 

Culture suffers as well. Projects disappear as coastlines are inundated, 
fresh water and fossil fuels are at a premium, and replacement fuels 
create vast changes in biomes themselves. Gasoline replacement comes at a 
price - again, of ecological niches, cultures, even an acceptable air 
quality level. Couple this with population pressure (we're not yet at the 
9-10 billion peak expected), and one has a world in which criminal 
activity is necessary for survival. Poaching will be long gone - there 
will be nothing left to poach (I think of the denuded hills around Ciudad 
Juarez already as an example). What we still consider, ever more tenu- 
ously, the "safe" internet, will exist locally at best, most probably used 
for gang/terror networking. The simplicity and spread of nuclear arms only 
adds to the mess.

Here is the ground zero of debris, detritus, effluvia: when there is no 
return to and from the Wild, when the "natural" becomes a literally mean- 
ingless term, when histories are absorbed and annihilated.

It is at this point that one must start, politically, ecologically, phen- 
omenologically, if there is any hope - not of transformation - but of 
functional enclaving. The world has become a mobius-strip Auschwitz, 
encompassing everything - where we are inmates and guards, where there is 
no outside. The image itself - the reality of this metaphor - is still 
only on the horizon, but the reality of its referent is upon us.


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