Anthropocene

Hello, and welcome to the Anthropocene section of my blog.

So what is the Anthropocene? Are we really in a new geologic epoch where humans master the planet, or is this just the latest anthropocentric delusion dressed up in new clothing? What does this idea have to do with earlier claims about the rise of “post-natural” or “post-environmental” politics and the “end of nature”? The answers depend on how you understand these terms and your own political orientation. But before all that, here’s some of basics on the Anthropocene.

If you’re wondering what this page is all about, you can read more here.

the_anthropocene

Background

The Anthropocene is the name for a new geologic epoch which was originally proposed by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in the IGBP’s Global Change newsletter in 2000 in an article simply called “The Anthropocene.” In this article Crutzen and Stoermer proposed that due to a vast and growing impacts of humans to the planet we have become a force on par with geologic change and forces, and this fact warranted the creation of a new geologic epoch to signal this new relation. They suggested that a good starting point was around 1800, the point in time when our relationship with Carbon began to increase significantly. Here’s an excerpt from their piece about just how big an impact humans are now having on the planet, which is preceded by a long list of human impacts to the land, air, water, soil, atmosphere, communities and ecosystems:

Considering these and many other major and still growing impacts of human activities on earth and atmosphere, and at all, including global, scales, it seems to us more than appropriate to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology by proposing to use the term “anthropocene” for the current geological epoch…To assign a more specific date to the onset of the “anthropocene” seems somewhat arbitrary, but we propose the latter part of the 18th century…because, during the past two centuries, the global effects of human activities have become clearly noticeable. This is the period when data retrieved from glacial ice cores show the beginning of a growth in the atmospheric concentrations of several “greenhouse gases”, in particular CO2 and CH4. Such a starting date also coincides with James Watt´s invention of the steam engine in 1784…[and]…biotic assemblages in most lakes began to show large changes.

Anthropocene_LogoSo in short, we should call an end to the Holocene, our current geologic epoch, and herald in the emergence of this new epoch, the Anthropocene. You can get some of more background on this topic from a 2008 GSA article titled “Are We Now Living in the Anthropocene?” As of early 2016 the Anthropocene Working Group within the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the folks who make the final determination on geologic dating, suggested there is a good case for the Anthropocene. In their Science article “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene,” they suggest that the mid 1950s, sometime around the testing of the first nuclear bomb and the rise of stuff like plastic, would be a likely starting point. Here’s an excerpt from this piece.

Recent anthropogenic deposits contain new minerals and rock types, reflecting rapid global dissemination of novel materials including elemental aluminum, concrete, and plastics that form abundant, rapidly evolving “technofossils.” Fossil fuel combustion has disseminated black carbon, inorganic ash spheres, and spherical carbonaceous particles worldwide, with a near-synchronous global increase around 1950. Anthropogenic sedimentary fluxes have intensified, including enhanced erosion caused by deforestation and road construction. Widespread sediment retention behind dams has amplified delta subsidence.

 

Geochemical signatures include elevated levels of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and pesticide residues, as well as increased 207/206Pb ratios from leaded gasoline, starting between ~1945 and 1950. Soil nitrogen and phosphorus inventories have doubled in the past century because of increased fertilizer use, generating widespread signatures in lake strata and nitrate levels in Greenland ice that are higher than at any time during the previous 100,000 years.

Originally the IGBP and others had put together a great beginner resource on the science behind the Anthropocene, which you can check out at www.anthropocene.info. With the closing at the end of 2015 of the IGBP project, a lot of their work is now moving to Future Earth, which will be the new home for a lot of the current Earth System science and Earth System Governance work they were supporting. Some of that same content can be found on the Globaïa site here. And not too long ago Elsevier started publishing an official Anthropocene Journal here, which is definitely worth checking out for anyone writing about or studying the Anthropocene.

 

‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’ Earth Animation from Globaïa on Vimeo.

This is the animation done by Globaïa for the short film ‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’ commissioned for the Planet Under Pressure conference. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes. The film is part of the world’s first educational web portal on the Anthropocene.

Some other intro sources include this Economist piece: The Anthropocene: A man-made world, this Nature article titled Anthropocene: The Human Age, as well as some of Andrew Revkin’s coverage on the Dot Earth blog at the New York Times. However I must add a short political disclaimer here, since I find the line of techno-utopian Anthropocene thinking that Revkin and the “Breakthrough Boys” advocate both politically suspect and ecologically dangerous. They prefer to call it “eco-modernism.” However, Revkin has given the topic a lot of air time, so he is one source to follow these debates.

Here is a talk I gave in the spring of 2013 at the Western Political Science Association (WPSA) conference in Hollywood on the Anthropocene. You can find the conference paper and details here.

 

Below you can find all of my posts on this topic to date:

Our Fossil Fuel Future – Part I: The Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted on Sep 30th, 2011 - By chriscrews - 2 Comments

[Breaking News Addition: Nebraska farmers and ranchers pack Keystone hearing- demand project be stopped!]While teaching a lesson today on the…

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The Death of Environmentalism – Reflection 1

Posted on Dec 13th, 2011 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

In 2004 Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger, well-known environmental pollsters and political strategists in the DC environmental lobbying…

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The Anthropocene Debate – Part I

Posted on Jan 15th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

At the heart of modern environmentalism is the idea that the planet must be saved from further damage by humanity.  But it is far from clear that…

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It’s a Mad, Mad World!

Posted on Apr 11th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

 “I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by…

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Welcome to the Anthropocene: Disaster Time

Posted on Apr 14th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

As I've discussed in an earlier post, the Anthropocene is a concept coined a little over a decade ago by scientists to describe the massive scale of…

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Environmental Security and Global Warming

Posted on Jun 10th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

 Back in 2007 the Carnegie Council held a symposium on environmental security, in which a number of academics working or thinking about this…

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Monsters in the Greenhouse: Risk, faith and science in the Anthropocene

Posted on Sep 2nd, 2012 - By chriscrews - 3 Comments

In short, this project is looking at the concept of the Anthropocene, a scientific proposal to designate a new geologic epoch covering the past ~250…

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Theorizing the Anthropocene – part 1

Posted on Oct 5th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

The following thoughts are part of a longer response I have been writing in response to comments on my PhD dissertation proposal on the Anthropocene,…

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Theorizing the Anthropocene – part 2

Posted on Oct 5th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

Ok, but as some have asked, what do the ideas of environmental risk or the Anthropocene have to do with zombies or monsters and popular culture? Here…

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Theorizing the Anthropocene – part 3

Posted on Oct 7th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

This is part 3 in a three-part post reflecting on the Anthropocene and some of my dissertation research. You can read parts 1 and 2 here.So this…

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Low Carbon Pleasures and Anthropocene Art

Posted on Oct 8th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

In May of this year artist Gabo Guzzo had an installation and series of talks at Banner Repeater in London. The event, called The Geologic Turn,…

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Frankenstorm Lives!

Posted on Oct 29th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

 Before I could even say shazam, there he was, the famous monster Frankenstein, giving us the latest weather news on Hurricane Sandy. Ok,…

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Anthropocene Omens: Is Hurricane Sandy Our Future?

Posted on Nov 3rd, 2012 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

Now that we're almost a week past Hurricane Sandy having made landfall along the East Coast, and slamming us here in New York, we're finally starting…

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Hurricane Sandy: The New Normal Revisited

Posted on Nov 3rd, 2012 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

{Revised 11/4} *Added more discussion on the energy policy-natural disasters link - thanks to BL-T.Roger Pielke recently wrote a piece in the…

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Anthropocene Proposal Defense – Here We Go!

Posted on Nov 9th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

Come hell or high water tomorrow, which in New York these days it's hard to know which is more likely, my PhD dissertation proposal defense will be…

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Anthropocene ABD Postmortem

Posted on Nov 10th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

So I am officially ABD as of Friday afternoon. One more hurdle cleared on the long march towards completing my PhD studies here in New York. Having…

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The Abnormal is the New Anthropocene Climate Norm

Posted on Dec 9th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

"The danger signs are all around.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon While we really don't need UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to tell us how f'd…

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The Resignation of Scientific Capitalism

Posted on Dec 10th, 2012 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

Last month I had the chance to write a response piece for the IRCPL, where a friend happens to work, about a public talk given by Wallack Broecker at…

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Anthropocene Updates

Posted on Mar 9th, 2013 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

Latest news on the Anthropocene science front: global warming still happening, breaking records yet again. You can read the Dot Earth post by Andrew…

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Latest Climate Change Data and Denials

Posted on Mar 9th, 2013 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

This week saw two important notes in climate news and events. First, an AP Wire story on new climate data revealing an alarming but unsurprising…

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Climate Denial – Theatre of the Absurd

Posted on Mar 10th, 2013 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

As I noted recently, there's some new data out from several sources showing long-term and historical temperature changes, none of which is…

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Anthropocene Fundamentalism

Posted on Apr 6th, 2013 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

As I've written about before, I had the change to present some of my work on the Anthropocene at the 2013 Western Political Science Association…

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This Week in Our Universe: “Biblical Rainfall Amounts”

Posted on Sep 13th, 2013 - By chriscrews - 1 Comment

This week in our Universe: Leaving the Galaxy, Biblical Floods and the Edge of Space time. If I had my own tv show, this would be today's episode. I…

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The Lost World of Fish

Posted on Jul 5th, 2014 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

So I stumbled upon this really fascinating set of articles about fish recently, from very different angles. One is from an abandoned shopping mall in…

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Thinking About Climate Politics with Thomas Berry

Posted on Jul 8th, 2014 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

Thomas Berry wrote the following passage concerning universities and the problem of our modern industrialist worldview. "I mention economics,…

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Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.

Posted on Oct 6th, 2014 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

So I just ran across the new media campaign by Conservation International, called Nature is Speaking. I have to say, it is very slick, and a nice…

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Diane Ackerman Sadly Peddling “Good Anthropocene” Myth

Posted on Oct 6th, 2014 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

These days my first reaction is to prepare to cringe whenever I see a headline with the Anthropocene in it, which is ironic given that this is also…

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My AAR Talk on Latour, Gaia, the Anthropocene and Animism

Posted on Nov 28th, 2014 - By chriscrews - 2 Comments

So I recently gave a presentation at the American Academy of Religion (AAR)'s annual conference in San Diego. This was the first time I have done a…

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Future Earth homepage

Future Earth – Good Anthropocene

Posted on Oct 22nd, 2016 - By chriscrews - 0 Comments

Many scholars following the developments of the Anthropocene and associated global research projects probably know about the International…

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About this page

I am a PhD student currently finishing a dissertation on the Anthropocene, land rights and new forms of popular resistance that merge social and ecological justice concerns. This page is a temporary starting point for some of my engagements with the Anthropocene. I am in the early stages of building a fully dedicated Anthropocene research site–anthropocenepolitics.com–which I hoped to launch in 2016, but dissertation demands have pushed that date back, so stay tuned.

Until I have more time to work on that project, I am using this area to maintain my ongoing work.