“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why "Anthropocene" Is a Great Term

A reader writes: 

"Neither the Cenozoic nor any of its formally recognized epochs are named after a species, a geological force or an event. They are all named after faunal composition."

Precisely. There are logical and epistemological problems with such classifications, as geologists (with whom I've spoken) have observed. These have to do with the (false) conception of time as a linear series of now-points. 

The fault the reader observes is in fact a virtue. It would be better to name periods along the lines of the Anthropaocene, as I've argued at Chicago (talk mp3 posted here). This is because geological/ecological time is a series of concentric temporalities whose boundaries are catastrophes, such as oxygen (the "Bacteriocene"). 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

But don't you find it interesting that no one is proposing to go back and rename the OTHER geological times? That the Anthropocene (if it is formally approved) will be the only anomaly?

Does this not seem to repeat, with utter predictability, one of the most traditional gestures of western philosophy and culture: that humans are the great anomaly? On virtually any axis you can imagine, it seems always in the West that "nature" falls one side and humans the other. We are always the anomaly.