Over the last decades, carbon dioxide (CO2) has become one of humanity’s key concerns. Together with a number of other greenhouse gases, CO2 is driving global warming and thus threatening planetary survival. Yet, global emissions are rising unabated.
In this paper, I explore ways of dealing with CO2 as forms of waste disposal. CO2 is a peculiar form of discard. It is a by-product of all kinds of production and consumption activities. It is a building block of life as we know it. At the same time, certain concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere hold the potential to bring dramatic changes to climate regimes. It’s quality – as either threatening or valuable – is thus relative and subject to its concentration and form.
In this paper, I explore carbon forestry as an attempt to manage CO2. I argue that in carbon forestry forests are rendered infrastructures of waste disposal. Thus, carbon forestry articulates a shift away from seeing forests as either a source of extractable resources and as entities providing for leisure activities or as counterpart in intimate relations. It rather reframes forests as sinks and ditches allowing to capture and store away industrial discard. I argue that carbon forestry is built on the idea that trees trap, disarm and convert the unruly molecule into biomass as they grow. As a consequence, the procedures of carbon forestry turn whole landscapes into infrastructures of waste disposal. Building on ethnographic fieldwork on and along carbon forestry plots in the Indian Himalayas, I outline foundational moments of rendering landscapes as infrastructures. Building on that I argue that carbon forestry is unique form of waste disposal with respect to the aesthetic and ethical qualities attributed to its main instrument, trees. I demonstrate that carbon forestry is a means of bringing about waste disposal sites that are characterised by ambiguous discard and by the emphasis on the fundamental beauty of the infrastructure itself. Against this background, I call for a reappraisal of the ambiguity of discard and of what counts as infrastructure in worlds increasingly burdened by waste, litter and discard in its many forms. (Speaker’s abstract)
Source and further information: MPI, Link (25 June 2018)