Rm Conversation # 3: Between Elsewhere and Away
re-imagining the suburban/urban home
The big wake-up call of the environmental crisis is the reminder that we are not separate from nature, Earth is not an infinite resource for our progress, and there is no away. Urban dwelling emerged from a culture in which we imagined our human selves as cradled between infinite earthly resource and a mythical ‘away’. Home became normalised as a house and garden, a two-part structure demarking an inside for human dwelling and an outside for all other entities. The permeability of the house is strictly monitored; there are clearly defined orifices for the entry of entities, energies, goods and resources. There are equally well-defined orifices for departure; the multifunction entry/exit for inhabitants (human, companion and machine) are supplemented by multiple exits to ‘away’ for entities no longer required, which exit discreetly as ‘waste’.
Like all mammals, we are made up of a plethora of entities; bacteria, microorganisms, viruses and inherited DNA. Like all mammals we are permeable; food, water, oxygen, oils and chemicals move continually between our environments and our bodies. Unlike other mammals we dwell extravagantly, co-opting soil, water, building materials, solar energy, wind, air CO2, oxygen, biota, plants, animals (as pets, food or pests), consumer goods and fossil fuels to use and discard. However, despite sectioning ourselves off into a human enclave, I suggest that we still desire connection with nonhuman others, and this desire emerges as accultured nature; we keep pets, we value views out across the land and sea, we cultivate gardens. It emerges as vicarious care, we watch nature documentaries and YouTube videos of funny cats and heart rendering animal rescues.
How might we, speculatively or pragmatically, reimaging dwelling as continuous with a complex web of biota?