An "All Species Parade"
part of "Reshaping the Shape: Embodiment, Ecology, and Culture of a Postnatural Fish," with Sarah Lewison
The “All Species Parade” in Carbondale, Illinois is a local, annual celebration of the planet’s biodiversity. Lovingly hand-built from cardboard, plaster, papier-mâché, and cloth, Carbondalers craft critters to celebrate the existence of the Earth's non-human species, especially those endangered and at risk of extinction in a world that has become an all-too-humanized “second nature” leaving less and less room for other ways of life.
As part of our project Reshaping the Shape, Sarah Lewison and I asked what turned out to be a provocative question: Could Asian Carp be included in the All Species Parade? What message would it send the allow an invasive species into an event that largely serves to celebrate endangered native species, some of whom face competition and habitat loss from invasives? What business do foreign fish of the Anthropocene’s “second nature” have at such a celebration, given the risk that Asian Carp pose? At the same time, what does it mean for a parade to be an “all species” parade if some species are excluded simply for doing what any species tries to do—thrive? These questions generated a lively debate among the parade organizers and local environmental activists. Asian Carp like the Silver and Bighead didn’t come here, they were brought here, and by every reckoning by wildlife biologists they can never be eradicated; they are here to stay.
In the end, the All Species Parade supported Asian Carp’s inclusion. We organized an Asian Carp kite making workshop at Carbondale Community Arts that also functioned as a chance for everyone to share their thoughts and learn more about these fish. Fashioned after the traditional koinobori carp kites of Japan, workshop participants sewed and painted Asian Carp streamers to be part of this year’s parade, reflecting their indisputable part of the ever-emerging ecology of the Midwest. It is a story of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but also a story that will continue to be in the making as these fish—and all the species that connect with them—naturalize to existing and knit new ecologies in the coming decades.
Other Texts about the Reshaping the Shaping include -
Of Forests, of Rivers, and of Meals on the Carbondale Convivial (SL)
SIU Exhibition page