The Maule River estuary outfalls at Constitución, one of the hardest hit communities following the tsunami in 2010. Extreme pulses of inundation are common to estuarine environments where marine sand meets river silt. At present, many estuaries along the Chilean coast are infilled by coastal concretization that intervenes between marine and terrestrial realms. The wave action following an earthquake brought silty inundation, erosion, and deposition to the estuarine coast, a disturbance that is neither unprecedented nor particularly unique. The lineage of estuary formation across time is described by paleo-geological analysis which confirms that the southwest coast of Chile is a remarkably active area o
“Everything comes from other bodies, other places, other times. Living beings are constantly exchanging matter, ideas, and forms, constructing their bodies and minds from those of others. Everything belonged to another life, everything has already lived many times in many forms, everything has been adapted, rearranged, reformed. That is why every life has already transgressed the boundaries between kingdoms, species, and individuals, but also between places and times.”
Emanuele Coccia, Metamorphoses (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2021), 105.
— Emanuele Coccia, Metamorphoses
The encounter between the worm, the tree, and the beetle is a good place to show the active force of relationships. Here, it appears that I will side with the ‘wilt’ but that is not where I see the power of non-human histories. Certainly, we do not want to celebrate mosquitoes carrying disease or waterborne pathogens that harm children. The point of including the worm-tree-beetle relationship is to create a narrative in which many living beings affect our relationship to nature. Anna Tsing calls this “others without history,” and I take a cue from her scholarship in so far as it alludes to who gets to take part in making history.
10While Tsing broadens the argument to expand unmanageable capitalist resources, the case of Nijinomatsubara shows us the power of human relationships, and the possibility that aggressive species can help us take account of non-stability as an active landscape transition.
Anna Tsing refers to the history of the matsutake mushroom in in her book, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).
A novel landscape emerges in the advance of a multispecies history. This is the kind of history that inspires me; a description of a nematode and a pine that creates action in a forest assemblage. A story to tell hundreds of years from now when deciduous trees affirmed the forest and protected the legacy of multigenerational inheritance. A story of change that stretches decades into the past as it sweeps across the present. My short engagement in the black pine forest immersed me in the romance of cultural specificity—but it reminded me that management is heaped with anxiety about too much or not enough human maintenance. About questions of invasion and attack, solution, and control. Is this the kind of memory characteristic of our time? Where are our colorful panoramas, forgiving regulations and legacy projects? Can the landscape of retreat inspire a dramatic enactment of change? And more to the point, can we learn to love change in our time?
“If there are connections everywhere, why do we persist in turning dynamic, interconnected phenomena into static, disconnected things?”
Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 4.
— Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History
Confronting the reality of environmental degradation requires more than remote sensing or statistical analysis. As images of the changing planet become emblematic of our time, it is time to respond with a scrutiny towards the distance brought on by amplified scales. Fieldwork cultivated an interest in the materials or elements of earthly transformation, and in the particular category of evidence that can only be collected through first hand engagement.
A rupture twenty-five kilometers deep beneath the Nazca plate, produced the earthquake, triggering a tsunami that traveled along the fault at tectonic junctions. The magnitudinous waves spread beneath the coast until making landfall along the shores between Constitución and Concepción. Magnitude is relative power, and its measurement takes into account the energy released at the source. By comparison, intensity is the strength of the shaking produced by the magnitude.