“Garbage hills are alive,” Robert Sullivan writes in the travelogue of his explorations along the waste dumps outside Manhattan: “there are billions of microscopic organisms thriving underground in dark, oxygen-free communities” (2006, 96). After metabolizing the trash of New Jersey or New York, these cells will “exhale huge underground plumes of carbon dioxide and of warm moist methane” (2006, 96), soaking through the ground or crawling up into the atmosphere, where they will eventually compost the ozone layer.

Whether organic or not, an alien agency is a constant feature in landscapes of pollution. As in the garbage hills of New Jersey, there is life in Naples’s exhausted landfills—life, in the hazardous elements that saturate the pastures in the “Triangle of Death,” a former agricultural area comprised by the towns of Acerra, Nola, and Marigliano, now entirely poisoned by dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other noxious waste (Senior and Mazza 2004). There …

This essay may be found on page 167 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay