Hinterlands of the Capitalocene

For more than two centuries processes of planetary urbanization have been transforming the planetary landscapes. Urbanization can be considered as the opposite condition of subsistent forms of inhabitation: it is a mode of geographical organization that is deeply linked with the thickening of a state of bio-geographical interdependency between a multitude of landscapes across scales. Indeed, settlement areas of all forms and sizes, although covering no more than 3% of the earth’s surface, are directly connected through the metabolic processes that support them, with the transformation of the vast majority of the “other” 70% of the total land surface which is currently used. This “other” 70% consists mostly of agricultural areas, grazing and forestry zones, resource extraction sites, and the transport corridors that tie them together through road and rail transportation networks, as well as major marine and aviation routes. As these landscapes have been increasingly globalized, specialized and embedded in the capitalist search for profit, they have become “operational landscapes:” landscapes configured towards the extraction of ecological surplus through the exploitation of human natures, and the appropriation of more than-human-natures. As operational landscapes are predominantly dedicated to the production and circulation of primary commodities, they are deeply interwoven with natural processes, playing a central role in putting nature at work in the production and circulation of surplus value, as part of a capitalist world ecology. Operational landscapes are the metabolic “hinterlands” of the Capitalocene. This contribution critically examines the “operational landscape mode of production” as the basis of social and ecological inequality and environmental degradation, and explores what would be the trajectories along which an alternative configuration of a planetary urban metabolism could be envisioned.