By Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Published in Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan, eds, Debrisphere: Landscape as an Extension of the Military Imagination (Punch: Bucharest, 2019)
The assemblage of natural and human histories that constitute the Debrisphere did not emerge as a symbiotic growing together of living and non-living matter but rather through the force of a violent collision. Debrisphere stands for a type of artificial terrain that even when cosmetically disguised still strains to hide its origins in acts of military aggression that pulverised living environments into heaps of detritus. Known as ‘made ground’ in geography, the wartime rubble in London’s East End was flattened and grassed over to form future playing fields, while across Germany it was heaped into mounds to create the geological novelty of the Schuttberg or debris mountain. Bombing raids that obliterated entire city districts were comparable in their destructiveness to the power of earthquakes, erupting volcanoes or hurricanes, however in difference to extreme natural forces, these acts of levelling followed not the regulating norm of Gaia, but the cold logic of military domination with no restorative function. Debrisphere investigates the effects of technological warfare and the vast supporting infrastructure of the military-industrial complex on aquatic and terrestrial landscapes, non-human species and local communities. By altering critical biogeochemical processes with such intensity, this brutal assault on the natural environment poses an unquantifiable threat to the future viability of Earth systems.