Co-edited by Allison Carruth and Robert Marzec, this special issue of Public Culture examines questions of environmental visualization in the Anthropocene, with particular attention to how image making informs contemporary perceptions of ecological risk and activism.
The issue kicks off with Nicholas Mirzoeff’s “Visualizing the Anthropocene,” which looks at how the current geological age has been visualized culturally by major industrial powers to date and assesses possibilities for the creation of visual countercultures. Marzec’s essay “Militarized Ecologies” explores the erasure of the ecological commons as a representative space of political conflict. Using as a case study 2012 performative environmental protests that took place against the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil, Marzec argues that environmental visualizations are indebted to military and colonial activity that turn local places into targets of violence. Also examining militarized visual culture is Elizabeth DeLoughrey’s contribution, “Satellite Planetarity and the Ends of the Earth,” which focuses on extraterritorial and extraterrestrial spaces such as the high seas, outer space and Antarctica.
Following an interview in which the editors discuss climate change, environmental justice and postcolonial studies with Rob Nixon, the issue continues with Ursula K. Heise’s “Plasmatic Nature.” Heise argues that animated film is one of the primary ways in which humans engage with the agency of animals and objects. In “The Aesthetics of Environmental Visualizations,” Heather Houser delves into the use of data visualization by environmental activists and artists, who increasingly rely on them to produce knowledge and elicit reactions from their audience. Concluding the issue is Carruth’s essay “The Digital Cloud and the Micropolitics of Energy,” which examines an emerging cultural image of green networks. The essay critiques the quasi-ecological rhetoric of the cloud by considering the material infrastructure that underpins every stroke of a keyboard and swipe of a touch screen.