The Anthropocene is a term formulated by Earth Scientists to claim that we have entered a new era in which human influences are so great that they are affecting ‘whole Earth dynamics’ through a range of biophysical and social processes. In a way it is the next step along from Kenneth Boulding’s image of ‘Spaceship Earth’ in recognising the responsibility we humans have in creating a future trajectory or trajectories. Acceptance of human-induced climate change also means acceptance that we are in a period new to human history. This is the issue of our times, perhaps of all times, and thus the greatest challenge for systems thinking in practice – or all human endeavour for that matter.
In establishing this Inquiry we asked that participants not accept our ‘framing’ uncritically. Partipants were invited to do some background reading before arrival in Hannover (and for those who went on to ISSS in Berlin). There is now much written about the Anthropocene – even a new journal.
These two papers are worth reading for contrasting perspectives:
- Frank Biermann The Anthropocene: A governance perspective The Anthropocene Review April 2014 1: 57-6.
- Andreas Malm and Alf Hornborg The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative, The Anthropocene Review April 2014 1: 62-69.
It is not surprising to those of us who are UK or Australian-based that the discourse about the Anthropocene is more developed in a crtically informed way in Germany. There has been a recent exhibition at the Deutsches Museum in Munich – Welcome to the Anthropocene: The Earth in Our Hands (2014/2015). Also a major set of activities at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin in 2013 and 2014.
In the latter the claim is that:
“Our notion of nature is now out of date. Humanity forms nature. This is the core premise of the Anthropocene thesis, announcing a paradigm shift in the natural sciences as well as providing new models for culture, politics, and everyday life. In a two-year project, HKW explores the hypothesis’ manifold implications for the sciences and arts.”
Recent German perspectives also include:
“Welcome to the Anthropocene« – a 2011 title of »The Economist« initiating a new climate policy debate about mankind and the new »Age of Humans«. Today, the term is not only found in the gazettes, but also in science, politics, and culture. But what lies behind the term and where does it come from? Jürgen Manemann introduces to the debate, points out the dangers of the theory of the anthropocene, and calls for a human ecology that aims at a transformation of civil society towards a »cultural society« (Adrienne Goehler). It is not time for a new humanization of the world, but a deeper humanization of mankind.”
An English review of this work by Manemann written by Sandro Luis Schlindwein can be found here: KritiK_des_Anthropozäns_review final
There is also this Blog by Christian Schwaegerl who features in a recent article in The New York Times: Varied Views (Dark, Light, in Between) of Earth’s Anthropocene Age. As does Australian Clive Hamilton.
Regardless of whether one accepts or likes the framing offered by the neologism ‘Anthropocene’ it is clear that the phenomena to which it refers are ‘real’ and in need of transformations in our individual and collective understandings and practices. The extent to which this will include systems and cybernetics (cybersystemic) understandings and practices is the focus of the Inquiry begun at Herrenhausen; it was also a topic of inquiry at ISSS2015 in Berlin.
This systemic inquiry was formulated in the desire to start out in an emotion of hope and with some optimism. We seek to go beyond a reiteration of problems to venture a next step. It is an inquiry putting on display the possibilities that cybersystemic theories and practices provide to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene – of contributing to steering, or governing, viable trajectories of living in the Anthropocene.