Three important new books

The Shock of the Anthropocene

By Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz

Verso Books • February 2017 • ISBN:1784785032

The Earth has entered a new epoch: the Anthropocene. What we are facing is not only an environmental crisis, but a geological revolution of human origin. In two centuries, our planet has tipped into a state unknown for millions of years.

How did we get to this point? Refuting the convenient view of a “human species” that upset the Earth system, unaware of what it was doing, this book proposes the first critical history of the Anthropocene, shaking up many accepted ideas: about our supposedly recent “environmental awareness,” about previous challenges to industrialism, about the manufacture of ignorance and consumerism, about so-called energy transitions, as well as about the role of the military in environmental destruction. In a dialogue between science and history, The Shock of the Anthropocene dissects a new theoretical buzzword and explores paths for living and acting politically in this rapidly developing geological epoch.

Anthropocene Feminism

Edited by Richard Grusin

University of Minnesota Press • March 2017 • ISBN:1517900611

What does feminism have to say to the Anthropocene? How does the concept of the Anthropocene impact feminism? This book is a daring and provocative response to the masculinist and techno-normative approach to the Anthropocene so often taken by technoscientists, artists, humanists, and social scientists. By coining and, for the first time, fully exploring the concept of “anthropocene feminism,” it highlights the alternatives feminism and queer theory can offer for thinking about the Anthropocene.

Feminist theory has long been concerned with the anthropogenic impact of humans, particularly men, on nature. Consequently, the contributors to this volume explore not only what current interest in the Anthropocene might mean for feminism but also what it is that feminist theory can contribute to technoscientific understandings of the Anthropocene. With essays from prominent environmental and feminist scholars on topics ranging from Hawaiian poetry to Foucault to shelled creatures to hypomodernity to posthuman feminism, this book highlights both why we need an anthropocene feminism and why thinking about the Anthropocene must come from feminism.

Defiant Earth: The fate of humans in the Anthropocene

By Clive Hamilton
Allen & Unwin •  April 2017 • ISBN:1760295965

Defiant Earth A&UClive Hamilton’s book Defiant Earth – the fate of humans in the Anthropocene is not for the faint-hearted. Basically, its thesis is that the Earth – and us along with it – is going down the tubes.

Our rampant, irrational use of the planet and its resources, including our exploitation of climate-changing fossil fuels, means we are interfering and upsetting the functioning of the Earth system that sustains us.

“This bizarre situation, in which we have become potent enough to change the course of the Earth yet seem unable to regulate ourselves contradicts every modern belief about the kind of creature a human being is,” says Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Australia.

Dramatic destruction

We – the post World War Two generations – have a lot to answer for. Yes, the trouble can be traced back to the 18th century when the Industrial Revolution began in Britain and factories started spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

But the pace of change and the destruction of much of the Earth system has dramatically speeded up over the last 70 or so years – a period referred to as the Great Acceleration.

A dizzying surge in global economic growth, along with resource exploitation, loss of diversity, including the extinction of numerous species and ever-increasing waste volumes, have brought about a profound transformation of the human relationship with the natural world, says Hamilton.

The Holocene period in the Earth’s history – the 10,000-year epoch of mild and constant climate that has permitted civilisation to flourish – is at an end.

“Experts are already suggesting that the changes caused by humans in recent decades are so profound and long-lasting that we have entered not a new epoch but a new era – the Anthropozoic era – on a par with the break in Earth history brought by the arrival of multicellular life,” Hamilton says.

“Even now, cognisant of the dire consequences,
decisions are still being made to privilege
carbon-intensive energy sources”

The idea of the Anthropocene was first put forward by the Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000, in order to capture what was felt to be an entirely new time in the geological scale that segments the Earth’s history.

Anthropocene, says Hamilton, is a term describing a rupture in the functioning of the Earth system as a whole.

There are those who welcome this new era: if humanity is capable of altering the Earth system in such a profound way, it can surely control the climate and regulate the Earth through geoengineering and other methods.

Hamilton dismisses the concepts of what he terms the ecomodernists. We are entering uncharted territory. The forces of nature have been roused from their Holocene slumber, the climate system is becoming ever more energetic.

“Humans have never been more potent and have never exercised more domination over nature,” Hamilton says, “yet we are now vulnerable to the power of nature in a way we have not known for at least 10,000 years, since the last great ice-sheets finally retreated

Unpredictable era

In this new, unstable and unpredictable geological era, says Hamilton, we must face the brutal reality that, as a result of our actions, we are contemplating our own extinction.

The Great Acceleration continues, pushed forward by the pursuit of economic growth above all else.

“Even now, cognisant of the dire consequences, decisions are still being made to privilege carbon-intensive energy sources,” says Hamilton.

“Vast new coalfields are being developed, along with new sources of carbon pollution like Canada’s tar sands.”

Hamilton struggles to find a silver lining. He applauds the 2015 Paris climate conference, when 195 nations came together to forge an agreement – an event he describes as unprecedented in the history of diplomacy.

Can humankind be redeemed? Hamilton does not answer his own question. 


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