Buy Issue Three: Sentinel Devices

Issue Number Three: Sentinel Devices

Buy a copy.

June 2013: The polar ice cap rapidly recedes; colonies of honeybees collapse in alarming numbers; androgynous fish are detected in rivers and streams. These reports not only describe recent events, but also function as signs of an ominous and rapidly encroaching future.

In this issue of Limn we focus on how this future makes its appearance in the present. Many of the threats we now find most alarming-climate change, environmental radiation, emerging disease, endocrine disrupters, toxic chemicals-are not immediately perceptible to human senses. We rely on non-human indicators, whether animals or detection devices, to alert us to their possible onset.

Such indicators can be thought of as sentinels, or heralds of an approaching danger.

Contributors:  Hannah Landecker, Didier Torny and Emmanuelle Fillion, Sara Wylie, Ann Kelly, Vanessa Manceron, Joanna Radin, Christelle Gramaglia, Emmanuel Didier, Lyle Fearnley, Frédéric Keck, Andrew Lakoff, Sophie Houdart, Adriana Petryna, Chloe Silverman, Etienne Benson, Baptiste Monsaingeon, Jerome Whitington, Naomi Oreskes

Cover Illustration by Amisha Gadani

Preface: Sentinel Devices

The polar ice cap rapidly recedes; colonies of honeybees collapse in alarming numbers; androgynous fish are detected in rivers and streams. These reports not only describe recent events, but also function as signs of an ominous and rapidly encroaching future.

The Origins of Extinction

What do barn swallows reveal about the future? In the biogeographical space of “the Zone” around Chernobyl, Adriana Petryna shows us how they force us to think about the origins of extinction.

How Do You Spot A Healthy Honey Bee?

Amidst the debate over various culprits for honeybee colony collapse (pesticides, pathogens, parasites, habitat loss, etc.) Chloe Silverman asks a different question: what exactly is a healthy living system in an age of increasing vulnerability?

Unbearable Future

One of the more spectacular signs of the onset of climate change is the decline of the polar bear population. But is it really in decline? Etienne Benson traces the long and controversial history of modeling the future population of polar bears.

“Oceans of Plastic:” Heterogeneous narrations of an ongoing disaster

How did plastic garbage patches floating in the ocean become an object of public concern? Baptiste Monsaingeon relates the media campaigns that turned the gradual accumulation of oceanic waste from an abstract and imperceptible concern to a dire emergency requiring
immediate attention.

When the Control Becomes the Experiment

The experimental rodent in the polycarbonate cage is the new canary in the coalmine. Hannah Landecker explores how environmental signals have slowly started to get clearer and louder.

Snaring Vectors

Volunteers sit all night in a Human Landing Catch in Dar es Salaam, providing blood meals to needy local mosquitoes. Ann Kelly explores the role of volunteers’ bodies in measuring the size and nature of insect-borne public health threats.

Hong Kong as a Sentinel Post

When birds die of H5N1 in China’s border region, the whole territory of Hong Kong is transformed into a sentinel post for pandemic flu. Frédéric Keck shows how the city’s new role affects relations between humans and birds in this territory.

The scientist as sentinel

Climate scientists have a frightening message, but the public doesn’t seem worried enough. Naomi Oreskes argues that the dispassionate ideal of science might be getting in the way.

Figures of Warning

What are sentinels? Frédéric Keck and Andrew Lakoff explore various figures of prophecy, herald and prognostication through the ages.