12/16/2016 The Sea is History

Collection [detail] :The Sea is History, 2016.

She was standing at the edges of Lago Enriquillo, a huge, hyper-salinated lake towards the west of the Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti. The lake had been flooding the surrounding land, and in the process destroying villages, trees, farmland, and consequently the lives and habitats of the local people and animals. A plantation of dead palm trees, erect and half-submerged in brown water, leafless, lifeless, still, shimmered in its own reflection. Some people said the rise in the lake’s water level was due to climate change and the warming of the Global Ocean. Others said it was for other reasons. Some expounded tales of government-organised floods to release hidden oil under the lake’s bed, whilst others told of a corrupt local dam project that syphoned its excess water towards the channels that fed the lake. Yet Lago Enriquillo was getting saltier—perhaps the ocean was seeping in through underground torrents? Regardless of the real reasons for the water’s expansion, she looked at the lake as a present example of an apocalyptic future bound up with a certain past—a past that perhaps contained the code to a different future.

It was here on this island, she thought, that the Spaniards first arrived and were thus discovered by the indigenous of this land. A moment in which two cultures met, yet the potentially productive Relation was irretrievably lost from the beginning and the violence that ensued. It was here on this island, she thought, that the plantation system was first developed to the degree that allowed for global capitalism to take its hold on the earth. An economic system based on the domination and mass exploitation of a local labor force, and eventually, after the near-total destruction of the native population, growth in the Old World was secured through the uprooting and transportation of a faraway labor force. “Slavery, the root of modern-day capitalism,” she said, and then: “capitalism, the root of our present ecological crisis.” The island in which she found herself at that moment started to take on the shape of a circle closing in on itself—a snake eating its own tail: Ouroboros. This history had designed its own death from the very beginning, a hell-bent process of extraction at every level. Metabolic rift after metabolic rift, until nothing would be left of what was once there.

Discover the whole story in the Sea is History Publication