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Plastic is everywhere, and it lasts forever. But humans have a hard time grasping “forever”— the scope is far greater than our comprehension. That’s precisely the problem that Allison Cobb explores in her new book, Plastic: An Autobiography. Cobb aims to give shape to behemoths like climate change, nuclear technologies, and racism, using plastic waste as the thread that connects them all. She insists that the current design of manufacturing and retail, which relies on a cycle of consuming and discarding, obstructs our view of the humans who actually create objects. It’s a design that’s intentional; because if consumers truly knew how things were made and who was making them, could we continue living the way that we do on this planet?
Allison Cobb is the author of four books: Plastic: an Autobiography, Green-Wood, After We All Died, and Born2. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and many other journals. She was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and National Poetry Series; has been a resident artist at Djerassi and Playa; and received fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Allison works for the Environmental Defense Fund and lives in Portland, Oregon.
Clayton Aldern is a writer and data scientist interested in science and society. His writing has been published by The Atlantic, The Economist, Scientific American, Logic, and Grist, among others. Based in the Pacific Northwest, he is currently working on a book about the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on neurochemistry, behavior, decision-making, and mental and emotional health.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle and Grist.