Plastic islands and processual grounds: ethics, ontology, and the matter of decay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Hybrid geographies, 'naturecultures', and post-environmental arguments commonly caution against material essentialism, and typically eschew primordial grounds as foundations for ethics. Attenuating such claims, the following paper argues that, nevertheless, ethical grounds are functions of pre-human material givens. Further, the paper explores how we are temporally bound through these more-than-human processes and agencies. Decay is highlighted as one such ontological process that necessarily privileges itself as a matter of human and ethical concern. To argue this position, two island imaginaries are juxtaposed. By contrasting their materialities of plastic and humus, the paper proposes attending to a processual ground immanent to ethical concern. Desert islands, primordial materials of the immemorial (humus), are contrasted to a built island space proposed to be made from pelagic waste (plastic). The contrast reveals that some ontological processes are always already privileged by materialities temporally subtending specifically human spatio-temporal horizons. The argument invites contemporary hybrid geographies to attend to how spatial materialities are also agentially wrought by temporal processes that shape the emergent objects and trajectories of our thought. It concludes with the claim that an ethical basis lies in attuning to human immanence within more-than-human geo-capacities. Good to think with, islands can be performative materials for this ethical attunement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-224
Number of pages20
Journalcultural geographies
Issue number2
Early online date4 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2013


  • decay
  • ethics
  • hybrid geographies
  • islands
  • matter
  • ontology
  • process


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