Michael's Virtual Conference Paper at EAAS 2020/21
by Michael Fuchs
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The 2020 conference of the European Association for American Studies was postponed to this year. Here's Michael's presentation, titled "Terraforming the Plastic Planet: Colonizing Human Waste, Entrepreneurial Thinking, and Petroculture in Great Pacific:

The comic series Great Pacific tells the story of Chas Worthington, heir to "the throne" of Worthington Corp., a US energy provider. Under Chas's watchful eyes, a team of scientists devise the Hydrocarbon Remediation Operation, short HERO, a device which "breaks down hydrocarbons into oily compounds" and transforms the oily substance into water. The tool provides the basis for the young billionaire’s entrepreneurial idea: "Rockefeller, Carnegie, J. P. Morgan. Hell, my grandfather would see the business play in this. We've spent so much and made so much more making the planet filthy with oil and garbage and plastic debris. Think about how much we could make cleaning it." As part of his plan, Chas colonizes the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and proclaims it a sovereign nation called New Texas.

Great Pacific repeatedly stresses that we are trapped in "oil culture"—oil-based products define life in the Global North. Systemic changes are needed, but "[n]obody risks their neck without a profit motive," Chas muses early on. Indeed, "growth" is the cancer cell at the heart of the capitalist endeavor. Chas seeks to dissociate himself and his actions from the past by turning human waste into the basis of a new empire. However, his settlement of the Garbage Patch and staking his claim to the believed-to-be uninhabited place in combination with naming the place "New Texas," in fact, repeats the frontier spirit. As I will thus demonstrate, despite the at-times overt environmentalism, the techno-utopian imagination Great Pacific embraces fails to envision an alternative to petromodernity.

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