An arresting memoir of love and unbending religion, toxicity and disease, and one family’s desperate wait for a miracle that never came.
Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn was the oldest of five children, a twelve-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, whose evangelical family eschewed public education for homeschooling, and wove improbable scientific theories into literal interpretations of the Bible. Then her father, a former air force pilot, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of thirty-eight, and, “it was like throwing gasoline on the Holy Spirit.” Stirred by her mother, the family committed to an extreme diet and sought deliverance from equally extreme sources: a traveling tent preacher, a Malaysian holy man, a local faith-healer who led services called “Miracles on 34th Street.”
What they didn’t know at the time was that their lives were entangled with a larger, less visible environmental catastrophe. Fire-fighting foams containing carcinogenic compounds had contaminated the drinking water of every military site where her father worked. Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” the presence of PFAS in West Texas besieged a landscape already burdened with vanishing water, taking up residence in wells and in the bloodstreams of people who lived there. An arresting portrait of the pernicious creep of decline, and a powerful cry for environmental justice, Loose of Earth captures the desperate futility and unbending religious faith that devastated a family, leaving them waiting for a miracle that would never come.
How we relate to orphaned space matters. Voids, marginalia, empty spaces—from abandoned gas stations to polluted waterways—are created and maintained by politics, and often go unquestioned. In Loving Orphaned Space, Mrill Ingram provides a call to action to claim and to cherish these neglected spaces and make them a source of inspiration through art and/or remuneration.
Ingram advocates not only for “urban greening” and “green planning,” but also for “radical caring.” These efforts create awareness and understanding of ecological connectivity and environmental justice issues—from the expropriation of land from tribal nations, to how race and class issues contribute to creating orphaned space. Case studies feature artists, scientists, and community collaborations in Chicago, New York, and Fargo, ND, where grounded and practical work of a fundamentally feminist nature challenges us to build networks of connection and care.
The work of environmental artists who venture into and transform these disconnected sites of infrastructure allow us to rethink how to manage the enormous amount of existing overlooked and abused space. Loving Orphaned Space provides new ways humans can negotiate being better citizens of Earth.
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