‘out of control‘
In the realm of nature’s regenerative cycles neither excess nor waste exist, and networks between entities keep materials in a forever ongoing cycle. Coal – the basis of life on Earth, one of its protagonists so to say – is in the state of constant change: by creating compounds with other elements it transforms between the states of living and non-living, solid, liquid or gas states.
The major part of Earth’s coal reserves has accumulated in the lithosphere: in limestone, containing the calcareous remains of marine-originated organisms (Fossil Capital), or in sedimentary rocks formed from organic carbon, i.e. pre-existing pieces of once living organisms. If these remains accumulate faster than they decay, -– given the right environment – they transform into crude oil, coal or natural gas.
Thus phytoplankton turns into crude oil, which – apart from being the major energy source of the gear of capitalism – also fills the wellness baths of wishful thinking in Azerbaijan (Petrocene). Therefore the flora of the carbon period turns into coal (Carbon Flora), mined for long decades from the Karolina strip mine of Pécs (Black Gold), and burnt in the Mátra Power Plant among others (Paleobotanical Power Plant).
The term slow carbon cycle stands for a transformation that spans through hundreds of millions of years: an exchange of carbon between rocks, soil, ocean and atmosphere. Coal cycles function like thermostats in climate control. Without human intervention, it would take millions of years for fossil fuel to return to the atmosphere via volcanic eruptions in the slow cycle. However, if we extract the coal reserves accumulated over the course of hundreds of millions of years – i.e. we burn oil, coal, natural gas or even rainforests (out of control) – carbon reserves join the fast cycle, thus increasing the carbon dioxide level of the atmosphere, and also causing irreversible climate change. At present, human activities emit 100–300 times the amount of carbon dioxide released by volcanoes.
The energy surplus of coal, oil and natural gas made the lifestyle of modern societies possible. During the last century, the major driving force of this lifestyle has become the ideology of never-ending acceleration, development and accumulation. We have started to deplete energy and natural resources accumulated in the ecosystem in the past hundreds of millions of years at a horrifying concentration and speed. The Earth has tremendous resources of fossil fuels, and instead of fearing their exhaustion, mankind should rather fear the extinction of its own living conditions due to burning them.
’out of control’ is a phrase used by the Australian navigation application to indicate bushfires yet untamed by authorities. In her installation, Rita Süveges investigates the stages in the life cycle of coal.