“We are societies made of societies; there are nothing but societies. This was shocking news. Even as an individual you are an ecosystem, much like a forest or swamp. You depend on any number of interspecies operations going on within you all at once.”1 She reminded herself of the twenty-first century climate fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s words as she entered the meeting of the Alliances. Up until that point, humans struggled with interspecies coalitions; believing they were the only sentient beings capable of working together, they only sought to dominate and control each other and nature. Yet, the long arc of the climate crisis gave them little choice—they needed to form strategic alliances across species. This was especially true for those who occupied coastal regions. These areas had been sinking long before Coastal Alliances were formed. Some even say it’s what drove these alliances into governance.  

She represented the Internal Coast, and her interspecies colleague represented the External Coast. They were drowning in narratives created by humans. And together, with the delegates of the Accidental Coast, and the stealthier Emergent Coast, they were convening, in part, to experiment with which power dynamics were to be reclaimed and reasserted; and who would decide and how. Freshwater and saltwater were surging from all sides, there are power dynamics and hierarchies in this that need to exist, but which ones and how? How could real positive shifts happen? To accomplish such a task, Communication and Translation protocols2 were key in making any strides forward. The Coastal Alliances were tasked with reconfiguring the narratives.

The Internal Coast suggested stripping human noise from the signal, while the Emergent  Coast was inclined towards opening channels of communication in the holes in the sea. It was common knowledge that multiple narratives and strategies lived side-by-side.We enter society as individuals, and emerge as alliances. And these societies of Alliances operated much like any society, continuously re-calibrating where it worked, where it fell apart, at what scale, in what manner, and in which configurations. They were searching for resilience in the soft parts, simultaneously finding both Alienation and Solidarity. 

Territory is a process, a network of sloughs, marshes, canals, and ditches belonging to all the Coasts. Their contours were dislocated by sea rise, secession and capital—marked by poisons it could no longer absorb.

The coastal alliances were likewise a process, made of bonds and ruptures, and overlaps and recursions. They were a set of bumpy relationships that no one knew how to navigate. Many times they brought out the worst in each other, creating frustration and discouragement, but in the end all were reminded that we are Alliances or we are Nothing. 

Those in the Coastal Alliance did not delude themselves about what they were doing; whether the ends might be expedient or not, or whether the results would be desirable or not. This was nothing new. Emergent coasts were within all operations, all at once. Much like accidents, coastal alliances emerged out of precarity. This was Emergent Society. All was emergent. All came from everything before, and was like nothing which had existed previously.

  1. Kim Stanley Robinson. The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations. The New Yorker, May 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-inquiry/the-coronavirus-and-our-future
  2. A.S.T. “Protocols for the Phase Transition: Towards New Alliances.” The Revenge of the Real. Strelka Mag, August 2020. https://strelkamag.com/en/article/protocols-for-the-phase-transition-towards-new-alliances