The Landscape to Come
This content is part of the new digital section of the museum called VIRIDITAS, created to offer the public a tool to enrich their gaze towards the climate change.
I am writing you today (27 October 2021) while Catania, our city, is submerged in an almost-hurricane. Climate change is like the real for Lacan, it suddenly arrives on an ordinary day and enfolds the places where you grew up, places you have loved, experienced and hoped for.
Sometimes, when I come to visit you, I take a sack and gloves, to try to gather some of that sea that is overwhelming us, inside a glass. All around you, even in the most remote and unreachable places, mountains of trash force me to think that the landscape to come will have a much greater presence of plastic than of flowers.
All around me, the animals I used to come across are disappearing. In the places where I saw foxes, today – all too often – there is just a bag of garbage tossed on the fly from the window of a jeep.
Sad to say, I have taken hundreds of photographs like these. And maybe my old environmentalist credo is too old-fashioned for me to understand that what we call the Anthropocene is actually an era – as Donna Haraway says – anchored in the domain of composting. Elements of the world we would never have thought of as contiguous in the past will live together on this planet of ours, alas. A flower will grow wrapped in a plastic bag, a mouse will swallow a bracelet, perhaps even a tree will absorb the waste, becoming a hybrid, a strange monster we might define as a “post-tree”.
Today, again, as always, the sack with which I set out to gather garbage has been useless, and perhaps there is really nothing more to gather. The trash is an extension of a natural creature, humankind, and perhaps this is the world, then, into which the planet will have to transform, to become.
Dear Etna, even as I speak, can I still distinguish between your rocks and the plastic bottles the wind has set up in your steepest, most unreachable locations? Isn’t nature herself a great and unforeseen curator? The Contemporary Etna Museum, I’d be tempted to call it. When you tire of all this, the lava will remove every human recollection, even those I was hoping to slip into my sturdy cloth sack, at most to gather a few rocks. I would like to think of it, wrapping up any moral theory, as an exchange: people like me have given you something, and you give something to me. Maybe even the hatred I felt as a youth for those who disfigure has changed today, and shifted into compassion.
Forgive them, dear Etna, for they know not what they do. And I hope that the landscape of my daughter, born amidst the plastics of the world, will be beautiful, like the one I saw when I was a child.
Now I am an adult, and all I can see is the miserable failure of a species incapable of using a litter bin instead of a once uncontaminated forest.
[This text has been revised for MACRO from part of a work by Leonardo Caffo, La montagna di fuoco, to be released by Ponte alle Grazie in 2022, for the Club Alpino Italiano series.]
Leonardo Caffo is a philosopher, writer, and curator. His work centers around applied and theoretical topics relating to human animal studies, posthumanity, contemporary art and architecture, and identity. He is currently the philosopher in residency at the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art and professor of Philosophy of Art, Media and Fashion at NABA Milano. He has written about twenty books translated into many languages. Among the latest books: A come animale (Bompiani, 2105), La vita di ogni giorno (Einaudi, 2016), Fragile umanità (Einaudi, 2017), Vegan (Einaudi, 2018), Costruire futuri (Bompiani, 2018), Il cane e il filosofo (Mondadori, 2020), Essere giovani (ponte alle grazie, 2021).