This series of five booklets aims to provide readers with the contextual information necessary to become responsible uninvited guests in the Anthropocene Drift, while being non-prescriptive about the nature of that response. The field guides assemble images, texts, maps, and other materials around key themes and locations within our geographical and conceptual region, resonating with the content of the Anthropocene River Journey mobile seminar.

Meskonsing-Kansan

by Rozalinda Borcilă and Nicholas Brown with Lance Foster

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Meskonsing-Kansan considers Indigenous land and regional settler colonization. It moves between what today are known as southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Kansas, and between the Wisconsinan and Kansan Glaciations. This territory can be defined in terms of Indigenous removals, refusals, returns, and resurgence, particularly among the Ho-Chunk, Meskwaki, Iowa, and Kickapoo Nations. Meskonsing-Kansan reveals how the land has been physically transformed by glaciers and colonization alike, and also by narratives and counter-narratives of glaciation and settlement. Meskonsing-Kansan focuses on Iowa homelands between the rivers and glacial edges.


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Over the Levee, Under the Plow is a traveling seminar on settler colonialism, industrial agriculture, Indigenous resurgence, and food sovereignty along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the upper Midwest.

The landscape of the Midwest has changed dramatically in the three centuries since European settlement. In places known today as Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, whole relations of human and non-human lifeways have been upended by the decimation of once-numerous species, the large-scale drainage of wetlands, the damming of rivers, coal and mineral mining, industrial monocropping, and the legal frameworks of private property. These sweeping ecological changes reach across territories and connect past, present, and future. …


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Attendees enter the Danville Area Community College Gymnasium for the public hearing on March 26. (photo: Ryan Griffis)

This past March, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing to discuss a proposal by Dynegy to install a riverbank stabilization structure along a section of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, a plan that would facilitate their larger plan to cap a series of coal ash impoundments adjacent to their now-closed coal-powered generating station. A group of concerned citizens from the area, organized by a regional coalition of the Prairie Rivers Network, Faith In Place, and the Eco-Justice Collaborative, rallied to resist this plan. A common refrain throughout the testimony from residents and various experts was a simultaneous acknowledgement of the limitations of hydro-engineering solutions and the living nature of riparian and riverine ecologies. …


The Political Geology of Energy and Water in Central Illinois

We may call it black diamonds. Every basket is power and civilization. For coal is a portable climate. It carries the heat of the tropics to Labrador and the polar circle; and it is the means of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted. Watt and Stephenson whispered in the ear of mankind their secret, that a half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta; and with its comfort brings its industrial power.

Ralph Waldo Emerson “The Conduct of Life” 1860

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On a cool morning that turned into a balmy afternoon, a group of undergraduate and graduate students (in fields including Art, Urban & Regional Planning, and Anthropology) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took a day trip to sites on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in Central Illinois, just outside of the town of Danville. We were guided to a spot along the East side of the Middle Fork by Andrew Rehn, a Water Resources Engineer with Prairie Rivers Network. …


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The Midwestern United States is dominated by cropland, a patchwork of monocrop fields laden with corn and soy destined for confined animal feedlots, fuel refineries, chemical manufacturers, and global export. Globally, such large-scale agriculture is deeply connected to climate change, contributing more than one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. However, political ecologists argue that the impacts of industrial agriculture cannot be measured by emissions alone. …


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If you drive through the flat territories of Illinois, Indiana, or Iowa — US states that form the center of a region known as the “corn belt” — you are almost certainly going to be surrounded by vast rows of corn and soybeans for much of the time. On the ground, stalks of corn create eight-foot-tall corridors along state and county roads from mid-summer through the fall. Throughout the summer, the much shorter, and leafy, soybean plants resemble a vast, green shag carpet that extends to the horizon. From the vantage point of a plane approaching a regional airport, the rectangular fields of these two plants form a monochromatic patchwork of greens, yellows and browns that change with the seasons. Without knowing much about these crops, it’s possible to imagine yourself in a bucolic territory of agrarian splendor; a Grant Wood painting come to life. As you drive through endless corn corridors and soy carpets, you might be awed by their horizontal reach and scale — an endless expanse of a single substance, like the ocean. Considering the sheer energy and power needed to plant and harvest these fields, year after year, you might experience something like the sublime. But, with more historical and material knowledge, standing on the edge of a field planted with corn or soy can resemble the experience of standing on the edge of an open-pit mine. …

About

Ryan Griffis

Critical tourism in the Heartland. http://ryangriffis.com/

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