Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is there a "good Anthropocene"?

Clive Hamilton speaks to the notion of a "good Anthropocene", one where, by doubling down on science and technology, humankind can come through the next centuries with little more than a few cuts and scrapes.
The techno-utopian vision depends on a belief that, with the advent of the new geological epoch, nothing essential has changed. This reimagined Anthropocene rests on a seamless transition from the fact that humans have always modified their environments to a defense of a postmodern “cyber nature” under human supervision, as if there is no qualitative difference between fire-stick farming and spraying sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to regulate Earth’s temperature.
But the idea of a good Anthropocene is based on a fundamental misreading of science. It arises from a failure to make the cognitive leap from ecological thinking—the science of the relationship between organisms and their local environments—to Earth system thinking, the science of the whole Earth as a complex system beyond the sum of its parts...

The revolutionary meaning of Earth-system science is lost on the ecopragmatists. In reality, the arrival of the new epoch represents not merely the further spread of human influence across the globe but a fundamental shift in the relationship between humans and the Earth system—one in which human activity now accelerates, decelerates and distorts the great cycles that make the planet a dynamic entity. The radical distinctiveness of the Anthropocene lies in the fact that humans have become a novel “force of nature”, one that is shaping the geological evolution of the planet.

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