Sacrifice Zone

Sandra Niessen,
Author, Teacher and Consulting Anthropologist

Sacrifice: ‘destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else’. The destruction represented by the tar sands of Alberta, for example, is deemed acceptable in exchange for energy and profit. The geographic framing of ‘sacrifice zones’ verges on the euphemistic because what is considered ‘acceptable’ depends on the relative power of the one doing the considering (the Cree people can never agree with the sacrifice of their heritage lands), and because the word ‘zones’ suggests only physical destruction. In the fashion world, ‘sacrifice zones’ are understood holistically, to also include e.g. cultural and psychological damage wreaked by the industry.

Sacrifice is inevitable when an economic system is based on exploitation. The Anthropocene, a designation that references massive alterations of the world due to human activity, raises the question of the extent to which humans will make Earth and future into sacrifice zones.

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