Let’s begin with a question. What is it we would like to sustain, and for whom? In the Capitalocene—a term for our current era proposed by environmental thinkers Jason W. Moore and Alf Hornborg to underscore the role of capitalism for organizing relations between humans and nature—sustainability is inextricably linked to the future. In the Capitalocene, a sustainable future is predicated on the continued extraction of what Jason W. Moore calls “cheap nature.”1 It rests in the false hopes of what literary scholar Lee Edelman calls “reproductive futurism.”2 A sustainable future is a future for the children, children benefiting from the continuation of the “extractive zone.”3

Sustainability, if approached from an anticapitalist, decolonial, non-speciesist stance, is wary of ostensible solutions that, in the words of Métis scholar Zoe Todd, “blunt the distinctions between the people, nations, and collectives who drive the fossil-fuel economy and those who do not.”4 This kind of sustainability asks who under the Capitalocene is more likely to survive and is suspicious of any future to come, or even still thinkable at this point. It nonetheless dares to images a future that includes those humans and non-humans upon whom the resilience of some is currently based, but who may not persevere themselves. This kind of sustainability is critical of the future and audaciously works towards it at the same time.

  1. According to Moore, cheap nature is composed of the “Four Cheaps,” that “comprise not only food, energy, and raw materials but also human nature as labor power.” Jason W. Moore, “Cheap Food & Bad Money: Food, Frontiers, and Financialization in the Rise and Demise of Neoliberalism,” Review (Fernand Braudel Center), vol. 33, no. 2/3 (2010): 225–261, 228.
  2. Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 4.
  3. Macarena Gómez-Barris, The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017)
  4. Zoe Todd, “Indigenizing the Anthropocene,” in Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, ed., Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (London: Open Humanities Press, 2015), 241–254, 244.