A series of lectures at Miami University continues the Anthropocene debate, which is ongoing in disciplines from geology and earth system science to anthropology, environmental studies, and the humanities. What does it mean when human beings become a geophysical force and nothing on earth can any longer be considered untouched nature?
A NEW ERA IN HUMAN-ENVIRONMENT RELATIONS
Tom Crist and Peggy Shaffer, Altman Fellows
In 2000, the Nobel Laureate chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term “Anthropocene” to mark the emergence of a new geologic epoch in which humans have become the most “globally potent biogeophysical force” on the planet. “Anthropocene,” Crutzen explains, “suggests that the Earth has now left its natural geological epoch, the present interglacial state called the Holocene. Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature and are pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita.” If this global transformation signals a paradigm shift in the sciences, it also demands the critical attention of the humanities—for it touches every aspect of human life on earth and its possible futures.
The 2014–15 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and community members to join a remarkable collaboration of faculty fellows and distinguished visitors to explore the pressing environmental issues of our age. Can the idea of the Anthropocene transform the way we relate to, use, and value the planet? Could it reframe longstanding distinctions between human history and natural history? How do social institutions, cultural practices, and cultural forms—including images, narratives, and media more generally—affect environmental processes? How can history, cultural criticism, philosophy, and political ecology address planetary challenges? And finally, how does the Anthropocene empower us to build bridges between the humanities and the sciences to imagine a sustainable future for the Earth?