Associated Initiative

Untimely Infrastructure

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
Jeffrey Insko

Room 210
Levis Faculty Center
919 W. Illinois St

Event Description

In 2010, an oil pipeline transporting diluted bitumen from Alberta, Canada ruptured near Marshall, Michigan, spilling over a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. This talk takes the Marshall spill as an occasion to examine some of the paradoxes of our current global energy infrastructure impasse. What happened in Michigan in 2010 is just one iteration of a much longer, deeper, still more brutal history of displacement, destruction, and violence (both spectacular and slow) inflicted upon people and the planet by the agents of the extractive economy. That violence, we now know, has also produced a planetary crisis, visible like never before in the form of rising global temperatures, thawing permafrost, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, coral bleaching, desertification, intensified storms, mass extinction, and more—phenomena that also portend severe socio-political instabilities. Thinking across different scales—both the local/regional and the planetary/deep-historical—“Untimely Infrastructure” attends to the various timeframes that subtend the Marshall spill: the attritional processes of aging and deterioration, the inaction and delay on the part of company personnel, the slow pace of regulatory change, the paradoxically retro/prospective nature of built infrastructures, the fact that when it comes to public responses to environmental damage times have changed, and, most importantly, the dire need for swift and decisive action to address the problem of climate change, the fact that time is running out for lifeforms on earth.

Jeffrey Insko

Professor of English
Oakland University