Afterburn

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | CC BY 2.0

On December 22nd the skies over Southern California lit up with the afterburn of a Space-X rocket, launched from Vandenberg Air Force base, a few miles north of Point Conception – its spent hydrocarbons leaving an ethereal plume that flared across the western sky. The event was reflexively echoed, in real time, by social media. Below, deep in the Sespe Wilderness, the Thomas fire still raged.

The Falcon 9 rocket was sent on its way (across a lonely headland that once served the local Purisimeño Chumash Indians as the threshold of the Western Land of the Dead, from which they projected the souls of their departed) to launch ten Iridium ‘Next’ communications satellites. They are part of a second-generation constellation of sixty-six telecommunications satellites planned to be fully operational by the end of next year.

Somewhere, in this confluence of signs lay indications of the Anthropocene. The enigma of the epoch was made explicit both in this kerosene fueled apparition in the late evening sky and in the burning of over 275,000 acres of Southern California landscape in the month of December.

While many of the leaders of our federal government continue to deny climate reality, the American military machine, sheltered behind this opera bouffe façade, are fully cognizant that global warming de-stabilizes vulnerable populations, political regimes and drives the refugee crisis. The Washington think-tank CNA…

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