Future Earth – Good Anthropocene
Many scholars following the developments of the Anthropocene and associated global research projects probably know about the International Geosphere‑Biosphere Programme (IGBP). For those that don’t, the latest incarnation of this research in global sustainable development and policy research is Future Earth. If you don’t already know about them, check them out.
One of their latest posts has to do with my favorite topic, the Anthropocene. This slippery term seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time: seductive, elusive, frightening and maddening. One of the things Future Earth is doing is a series of webinars hosted by the Transformations Knowledge-Action Network. The second webinar held in October focused on “discussions around mobilising research on social-ecological transformations and exploring pathways toward a good Anthropocene.” It was hosted by Albert Norström and Per Olsson, and you can view the webinar online below.
Future Earth Webinar 2
While some of the social-ecological transformations literature is interesting, when it starts to bleed into discussion about “pathways toward a good Anthropocene” I immediately get a sour taste in my mouth.
The Good Anthropocene
This notion of a “good Anthropocene,” which thinkers like Erle Ellis, Andrew Revkin and the Breakthrough Boys continue to peddle, is nothing but bright green environmental propaganda. A number of scholars, most notably Clive Hamilton, have done a good job of debunking the claims of the “good Anthropocene”, so I won’t rehash them all here.
The central point of these critiques is that notions of the “good” are grounded in a deluded form of techno-optimism reinforced by a strong belief in anthropocentric entitlement. Proponents boldly proclaim how neoliberal economics and technocratic policies will “solve” these global ecological and social problems. Yet as Hamilton and others have shown repeatedly, there is no credible basis to such claims.
For anyone following the emergence of this idea within the social sciences and, increasingly, global environmental policy circles, this webinar provides a good glimpse into how these ideas are evolving and emerging. It also helps illustrate how the notion of the “good” is being constructed. Whether you like it or not, this is an important part of the discourse that simply can’t be ignored.