Infrastructures of Waste
Presentation by professor Myra Hird (Queen’s University) in the ASCA Cities Project organized by Carolyn Birdsall and Niall Martin.
Oudemanhuispoort room C 1.17
Oudemanhuispoort 4-6 | 1012 CN AmsterdamGa naar detailpagina
+31 (0)20 525 3361
This presentation explores waste as a critical yet largely unacknowledged infrastructure wherein social and material relations intersect on a global scale. The re-conceptualization of cities as information/digital infrastructures is made possible through a material infrastructure - cables, pipes and materials involving metals and non-renewable fossil fuels - that forms connections within and between cities, countries and the globe. This, in turn, becomes a vast waste infrastructure when technologies break down, are updated or replaced. These ‘urks’ join the vast global landfill and nuclear repository infrastructure meant to contain and disappear humanity’s unwanted and abandoned objects in ‘temporary imperpetuity’. Dwindling primary metal and mineral resources are leading to new calls for the re-extraction of metals and other non-renewable resources from landfills and urks. This process of extraction, disposal, re-extraction and, inevitably, re-disposal is made possible through complex political, social, economic, and cultural apparatuses concerned with profit, sustainability, and sovereignty. It is also mediated by a geosphere, pedosphere, and microcosmos that set material constraints as well as imaginative possibilities. If the relatively stable and docile planetary time of the Holocene made possible the very primary extraction and material infrastructure upon which our global society is materially built, then the Anthropocene signals infrastructural limits as primary resources deplete, melting permafrost corrupts mining waste storage, and communities contemplate landfill and urk extraction.
Myra J. Hird is Professor, Queen's National Scholar and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (www.myrahird.com). Professor Hird is Director of Canada’s Waste Flow, an interdisciplinary research project focused on waste as a global scientific-technical and socio-ethical issue (www.wasteflow.ca), and Director of the genera Research Group (gRG), an interdisciplinary research network of collaborating natural, social, and humanities scholars focused on the topic of waste. Hird has published nine books and over seventy articles and book chapters on a diversity of topics relating to science studies.