LAR 7010: Divinations
Oil drilling and production wastes (E&P wastes) were exempted from classification as hazardous waste under federal RCRA regulation in 1980, despite the presence of significant amounts of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and naturally-occurring radioactive materials within these wastes. Thirty years later, several thousand active and abandoned E&P waste sites are known to exist in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River basin – and the presence of many more unknown sites should be assumed. Divinations examines the limitations of easy political and technological clean-up solutions amidst the fragility of this landscape and the magnitude of its destruction by the petroleum industry. Instead, this project explores the implications of understanding Louisiana’s toxic wastes – composed of elements that pre-date human existence – as objects imbued with sacred connotations, necessitating a system of alternative ritual practices: pilgrimages along US-90 and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; hierophants inhabiting daiquiri huts, truck stops, and night clubs; high priests in hazmat suit vestments; and inner sancta. Within this framework, questions of societal guilt, ecological boundaries, and community agency are situated alongside those that concern remediation technologies and legal / economic action.