Environmental politics after Nature
In recent years, a new term has been put forward to describe the current state of our planet—the ‘Anthropocene’. The notion of an Anthropocene was advanced first in 2000 by the chemist and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer, who suggested this term to classify our present time as a new geological epoch in planetary history that is marked by a dominating influence of humans (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000). Since then, the Anthropocene notion has taken root in multiple scientific and popular discourses; it has offered a powerful narrative of human resource exploitation, planetary thresholds, and environmental urgency. Central to the Anthropocene proposition is the claim that we have left the benign era of the Holocene – when human civilizations have developed and thrived – and entered a much more unpredictable and dangerous time when humanity is undermining the planetary life-support systems upon which it depends (Rockström et al., 2009). In the Anthropocene the Cartesian dualism between nature and society is broken down resulting in a deep intertwining of the fates of nature and humankind (Zalasiewic et al., 2010).
Yet the exact contours of what the Anthropocene actually entails, what the political and societal consequences of the new concept are, and whether use of the term makes sense at all, remain hotly disputed. For this reason, the Earth System Governance research alliance has set up a new sub-taskforce on the Anthropocene, within the context of the larger Taskforce on the Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance.
The Anthropocene sub-taskforce critically examines how the concept of the ‘Anthropocene’ is put to use in academic and policy discourse and what the implications are for environmental politics. A growing scholarship has noted that the diagnosis of the Anthropocene challenges the modern figure of Nature that is so central to Western environmental thought, politics, and action (Lorimer 2015, Wapner 2013). In the Anthropocene, “(i)t’s no longer us against “Nature”. Instead, it’s we who decide what nature is and what it will be” (Crutzen and Schwägerl 2011). The departure from Nature as a timeless and pure domain raises fundamental questions about the purpose and trajectories of environmental politics. For instance, what is the object of concern to which environmental politics is directed? How can we make sense of and govern the hybrid world that we now inhabit? Which political projects does the proposed “end of Nature” inspire? Is there a new form of Anthropocene politics emerging? What challenges does the Anthropocene concept pose to political and environmental thought and governance? What is the relationship between the notion of an Anthropocene, as a proposed new epoch in planetary history, and evolving systems of earth system governance, from local to global?
For more information please contact the two conveners of the group:
Eva Lövbrand, Department of Thematic Studies: Environmental Change, Linköping University, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Frank Biermann, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, e-mail: email@example.com
Conferences and events
2015 Canberra Conference on Earth System Governance, ‘Democracy and Resilience in the Anthropocene’, Australian National University, 14-16 December 2015. Full programme.
Blog exchange following the conference ‘Transformations 2015: People and Planet in the Anthropocene‘, Stockholm Resilience Centre, 5-7 October 2015. ‘Reigning back the Anthropocene’, by Andrew Stirling, University of Sussex.
ANTHROPOCENE CURRICULUM CAMPUS: THE TECHNOSPHERE ISSUE, April 15–23, 2016 Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. CALL FOR APPLICATIONS, Extended deadline for applications: September 18, 2015.
3rd European Workshops in International Studies (EWIS) Tübingen, Germany, 6-8 April 2016. WS O: International Politics in the Anthropocene, Convener: Delf Rothe (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy Hamburg). The Deadline for Submission is the 2nd of October 2015. Please submit your 250 words abstract by following this link (registration required).
Reframing Environmentalism? Environmental Political Theory in the Anthropocene, ECPR Joint Sessions in Pisa, Italy (April 24-28, 2016). Conveners: Manuel Arias-Maldonado (University of Granada, Spain), John Barry (Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland). The call for paper proposals is open and the deadline for submitting proposals via the ECPR website is 1 December 2015.
Key texts in the science debate
Crutzen, P. J. & Stoermer, E. F. 2000. The ‘Anthropocene’. Global Change Newsletter 41, 17-18.
Crutzen, P., Schwägerl, C., 2011. Living in the Anthropocene: Towards a new Global Ethos. Yale Environment 360. Available for download at:
Ellis, E. C. (2013). Dating the Anthropocene: Towards an Empirical Global History of Human Transformation of the Terrestrial Biosphere. Elementa.
Rockström, J. et al. 2009. A Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Nature 461, 472-475.
Steffen et al. 2011. The Anthropocene: from Global Change to Planetary Stewardship. Ambio 40 (7), 739-761.
Steffen, W., Crutzen, P. J. & McNeill, J. R. 2007. The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature? Ambio 36(8), 614-621.
Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Haywood, A, Ellis, M. 2011. The Anthropocene: a New Epoch of Geological Time? The Royal Society.
Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Steffen, W. & Crutzen, P. (2010). The New World of the Anthropocene. Environmental Science & Technology 44, 2228–2231.
Anthropocene is an interdisciplinary journal that publishes peer-reviewed works addressing the nature, scale, and extent of the interactions that people have with Earth.
The Anthropocene Review is a trans-disciplinary journal issued 3 times per year, bringing together peer-reviewed articles on all aspects of research pertaining to the Anthropocene, from earth and environmental sciences, social sciences, material sciences, and humanities.
Environmental Humanities is an international, open-access journal that aims to invigorate current interdisciplinary research on the environment. In response to a growing interest around the world in the many questions that arise in this era of rapid environmental and social change, the journal publishes outstanding scholarship that draws humanities disciplines into conversation with each other, and with the natural and social sciences.
Biermann, F. 2014. Earth System Governance. World Politics in the Anthropocene. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.
Galaz, V. 2014. Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics. The Anthropocene Gap, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Press.
Gibson, K., Rose, D.B. and Fincher, R. (eds.) 2015. Manifesto for Living in the Anthropocene, New York: Punctum Books.
Hamilton, C., Bonneuil, C., Gemenne, F. (eds.) 2015, The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Routledge.
Lorimer, J. 2015, Wildlife in the Anthropocene. Conservation After Nature, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis & London.
Vince, G. 2014. Adventures in the Anthropocene. A Journey to the Heart of the Planet that We Made. Chatto & Windus, London.
Wapner, P. 2013 Living through the End of Nature. The Future of American Environmentalism. London, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.
TED talk on the Anthropocene by Will Steffen
Gifford lecture on the Anthropocene by Bruno Latour