The Human Asteroid Strikes Florida: The Mining Landscapes and Anthrobiogeochemistry of Phosphorus


ACLS Fellowship Program


Archaeology and Heritage Studies


The Bone Valley phosphate mining district in Central Florida is an epicenter of the world fertilizer industry. Challenging universalist narratives of the Anthropocene, this research investigates how industrialization of this giant phosphate deposit––and the human-altered phosphorus cycle more broadly––has helped trigger the Holocene/Anthropocene boundary event. Through natural history studies of mines, the research explores how long-established Holocene ecosystems are fractured and reconstituted within a weedy matrix of pits, tailings ponds, and radioactive waste piles. It also studies how capitalist food-systems circulate Bone Valley fertilizers through the global plantation, nourishing destructive forms of human bigness and the eutrophication of freshwater ecosystems. Lastly, the research delivers an historical ethnography of Florida, charting its evolution from industrial frontier to pro-growth sunbelt state. In presenting the Holocene/Anthropocene transition as the most precise characterization of the contemporary earth system, The Human Asteroid challenges scholars to question our dependence on chemical fertilizers and to recalibrate our politics of nature toward the Holocene’s reinvigoration and repair.