An Atlas Adrift

The following is an excerpt from a piece published in the 2021 spring edition of Orion Magazine:
The accumulation of our detritus is the late-afternoon shadow of our existence, following in our footsteps, the distorted form is an elongated version of ourselves, spilling beyond our direct impact. "Even animals we don't know about know of us through our trash,” writes Susan Freinkel in Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. “The first reported specimen of a new whale species, the Peruvian beaked whale, was found in 1999 with a plastic bag wedged in its throat."

Stories of inter-species communication capture our heart and minds. These stories of connection, while often based in the pursuit of science, take on a religious quality. Think of the photograph of Jane Goodall with Coco the gorilla, their hands outstretched, nearly touching, like Michelangelo’s God and Adam. Part of this spiritualism rests in the rarity of these moments, a slight hole in an otherwise opaque boundary. But as the theorist, Timothy Morton posits, "at the very same time as Western humans are arguing that we have no direct access to the world, we are intervening in it more directly than ever before." Moments of inter-species communication are, in fact, not rare occurrences, rather we speak loudly and prolifically through our movements, our built environment, and of course, our waste.