. . .
Ecosystems have become assemblages that increasingly cannot be sepa-
rated from human social systems and technical machines.1 The Panama-
nian forest plus the canal system becomes a watershed, a natural infra-
structure that will endure development plans of the future. A wetland
plus a fangueo tractor plus the transnational flow of capital becomes a
duck factory. A glass aquarium plus mutant fruit flies plus an endangered
frog becomes part of the Amphibian Ark. By offering thick descriptions
of ecosystem parts, which also serve as partial sketches of shifting and
ephemeral wholes, my intention has been to account for emergent condi-
tions of entangled coexistence. As institutions create and sustain hybrid
ecosystems, integrating machine parts and biotic elements into contin-
gent associations, a riotous diversity of life is also going wild beyond the
reach of human dreams and schemes.
Emergent ecologies are being shaped by a multitude of creative agents.
Multispecies communities live in the minds of creatures like Ectatomma
ants, conscious animals who actively care for other beings and things.
Convivial plants, like Inga punctata, also form assemblages with nectar-
ies on their stems, sugary treats in their fruits, and nutritious exudates
from their roots. Rather than just building niches for themselves—
constructing and altering environments for members of their own kind—
enterprising critters like earthworms and their diverse companions in
the rhizosphere integrate the interests of others as they bring ecosys-
tems together.2 Flourishing in the aftermath of order-destroying disrup-
tions—in abandoned cattle pastures, in the detritus of industrial food
production, after disease outbreaks, and geological disasters that eclipse
human agency—these enterprising critters are opening up the future to
lively possibilities.
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