In the spring of 2006 wild flamingos returned to Florida, though not to the places their kind had inhabited 100 years and more ago at the southern edge of the Everglades and the Florida Keys. Instead this group of flamingos alighted 80 miles northward in Palm Beach County’s Stormwater Treatment Area 2 (STA-2), a human-made facility for filtering anthropogenic pollutants from storm runoff. This paper takes the return of wild flamingos to Florida as a case for thinking through haunting, ruination and encounters in what I call ‘the ordinary Anthropocene’: the ongoing, everyday more-than-human relationships, actions and less-than-planetary assemblages through which the Anthropocene is sensed and lived. After setting out a case for thinking with haunting, ruination and encounter as a way of making sense in the ordinary Anthropocene, I trace three interwoven narrative threads that unspool from the encounter with the STA-2 flamingos: First, I trace the transfiguration of living wild flamingos into idealised symbols of tropical dreamworlds over the 20th century. This leads me sideways to the present-absence of flamingos in the mid-century writings of Rachel Carson and through her backwards to John J. Audubon and the genocidal ruinations of the 19th century as they flicker in the margins of his ornithological writings. I end by returning to the present, to the encounter with STA-2 flamingos in the ongoing moment of living with others in the late capitalist ecologies of south Florida. The conclusion considers what might be taken forward, into the uncertain future, from this telling.
- ordinary Anthropocene