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HUMANITIES SCIENCE POLITICS

Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598x, 25th November, 2016. 18.00 GMT

ANTHROPOCENE FEATURE | 18

Nature has, of course, always been in a state of flux. The idea of eco-
systems as static and perfected is one of the more simple-minded and
unscientific ideas in mainstream environmentalism. Today alien invasive
species strut the planet. They have either been taken directly by us to
their new habitats, or have colonised of their own accord to fill ecological
and climatic niches created by our planetary manipulations and global-
ised life style. As a result most ecosystems today are "novel ecosys-
tems"; mash-ups of natural and human-made worlds. They are none
the worse for that. Many novel ecosystems are more biodiverse than
what they replaced. This is the new ecology of the anthropocene.

For some, this vision of the anthropocene as a place where our hand is
in everything is the ultimate disaster movie. Something from which we
should retreat by recreating the past. The rewilding movement often
embraces this idea of "going back". A fanciful notion. We should give
nature space to return where we can, and accept it will never return to
the way it was: not in the anthropocene.

That is not grounds for despair. There is a "good anthropocene" to be
had. One in which our stewardship of the Earth is benign. James
Lovelock in his early work on Gaia wrote about how humanity could be
Gaia's conscience. Perhaps that is our destiny. We need to start asking
what it means to manage the planet, and who should be in charge. The
task is not just technocratic, it is highly political.

Some scientists analysing our role in shaping the future of the planet
would also like to be overlords in its future management. Christophe
Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz in their book, The Shock of the An-
thropocene
, fear technocrats yearns for "a monopoly position in defining
what is happening to us and in prescribing what needs to be done."

An extreme version of this concern sees in the declaration of the anthro-
pocene almost as a conspiracy for global domination, and describes
Lovelock, for instance, as a child of the "scientific-military-industrial complex
of the cold war". That is foolish. We cannot void being in the
anthropocene. The question is whether we are destined to be ruled by a
"geocracy". We should beware the politics of the anthropocene. Safe
passage in the age of humans should be an inclusive activity rather than
one confined to experts.

Continued on page 19...

Issue 4 (October - December), 2016. Volume VII. Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598x.

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Published Friday 25th November, 2016

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A print version would additionally have two blank pages, so this version is not routinely for sale as print, unless really wanted.

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