The worm-compost bin has been a generous inquiry companion: its black plastic walls hold a lively and unpredictable hot bed of activity, capable of transforming rotting food into nutrients for the centre’s garden plants. Children are drawn to the bin’s decomposing-recomposing ability to sustain generations of worms in collaboration with their own obligations of care (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2010). But it is here that the story gets messy. What does it mean to practice care in this time of ecological precarity? With whom, or to what, are we bound in obligation? Is it possible to engage with these sorts of experimental relations without reducing the worm bin community to what Douglas A. Spalding calls “little victims of human curiosity” (van Dooren, 2014, p. 105). And, if so, what might be required of us in the process?
Today we are up to our elbows in castings (worm poop) and slimy bodies wriggling to escape (to….where?), immersed in the heady task of sorting one from the other. Paying close attention to rot is consequential. Watching food waste transform, wondering whether captive lives are ‘happy,’ and witnessing proliferations beyond our control all contribute to the complexity of learning to compose new ways of living well with others in these challenging times.