“All of this is crucial, because perpetrators of atrocity so often attempt to convince themselves and everyone else that what they’re doing is natural or right. The word “Anthropocene” attempts to naturalize the murder of the planet by pretending the problem is “man,” and not a specific type of man connected to this particular culture.

The name also manifests the supreme narcissism that has characterized this culture from the beginning. “

Derrick Jensen, 2013. Earth Island Journal

This is a follow on post regarding my interest in the developing geological/cultural term ‘The Anthropocene’. It’s my way of keeping up-to-date with the key people in the humanities and sciences who are meeting to talk about the devastating ecological affects developing across the earth (biosphere), that have exponentially accelerated since the industrial revolution. Understanding the grave ecological realities we are facing is the key premise to my own studies in thinking about/practising deep sustainability (I’ve also this week just been asked to co-author a research paper, particularly contributing a visual culture perspective on the new holistic piechart of the planetary tipping points that was accepted at the UN Rio summit last year, I will discuss more abthe anthropocene project out this below).

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 09.56.26

Accepted UN 2012 planetary boundaries (tipping points) for the Earth. Based on research paper Rockstrom, J., et al. (2009) Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society, 14 (2) 32.

I  discussed a month ago the new and  ambitious initiative ‘The Anthropocene Project’ 10.01.2013 – 31.12.2014, curated by the House of World Cultures (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in Berlin. There is now a range of excellent if academic video talks available from the project on their website. I would like to share the keynote science presentation by Will Steffen of the Australian National University’s (ANU) Climate Change Institute.

the anthropocene: 10 000 years of ecocide by cathy fitzgerald, 2012Some of you may remember that I discuss the new holistic piechart (and some of its limitations too) of all the planetary boundaries we are exceeding in my exploratory article The Anthropocene: 10 000 years of ecocide (Fitzgerald, 2012) and more recently at the beginning of my talk at Bournemouth: Tending the Wild: lessons from a forest toward deep sustainability. I keep coming back to  this piechart, as from my early science training,  it shows the biodiversity loss and disruption to the nitrogen cycle ecological limits we are so gravely exceeding beyond the climate change problems that the media and so many environmentalists have concentrated on.

To me, this chart  says  that we need to fundamentally change our relations, our practices, to our lands and oceans and not just concentrate on  CO2 in the atmosphere/fossil fuels (high concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are nevertheless EXTREMELY worrying but we are focussing on the wrong end of the situation).

Many of the video interviews by the House of World Cultures (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in Berlin Anthropocene project are really valuable but will probably be difficult to general audiences to follow and I think we need to make material so much less academic considering that science that is revealing how so many of the earth’s systems are being so affected. Particularly too given the increasingly short window of time scientists predict we have left to avoid widespread ecological failures.

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 09.14.07

But Will Steffen’s presentation, even if a bit long, I think is so valuable for anyone in the cultural sphere trying to engage in this area. I’ve seen his presentations before and its interesting how he is now ending his talks showing images and questioning aloud about how the Aborigines in his country of Australia lived for so many millenia without destroying their sustaining landbases and waterways (of course this has something to do with lower population levels but there is something else, ie he’s thinking about the different ways that less industrialised  cultures have managed our lands and waters).

However, I must stress that I haven’t come across a better one page summary of the really key issues at stake than Derrick Jensen’s recent article Anthropocene: The Age of the Sociopath (2013).

Just adding this other article by John Vidal in the UK Guardian from last June, discussing an interview with the founder editor, Zac Goldsmith, of The Ecologist magazine. Zac explains quite well the media focus on climate change over the last decades, to the detriment of our understanding of the wider, interconnected issues

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 13.18.34

PPS (added Sun 10 March 2013)

I forgot to add that Bruno Latour (sociologist, cultural critic) has also started talking about the anthropocene in the last few weeks


3 thoughts on “‘Lets be clear -The Anthropocene is the ‘age of the sociopath’

  1. The pie chart is striking when you take time to look at it, but I often find them too flat. A german historian called Arno Peters redrew the map of the world based on actual proportions and sizes of land masses and the resulting map offers a very different view to the traditional world maps that often distort the size of the western world, giving it more prominence- literally tricking the eye and the mind that we are the centre of the world. I wonder if this pie chart could be redrawn to show what has been lost in relation to what was there before? It would serve to remind us the past was truly more plentiful than the present- challenging the sociopath’s assertion that we are making progress and heading always to more a more abundant place.
    Really enjoyed this post!


  2. Thanks Chris,

    yes there has been some very critical analysis of this pie-chart already. Some say it has been too simplistic but I think it has at last begun to draw the different areas together, when science has become so specialised that we can’t see the big picture.

    There has been fantastic work too by a researcher at OXFAM who says it ignore social tipping points. I wrote about this in a online pdf article going from Gilgamesh to a recent web video that was positively ‘welcoming us to the Anthropocene’ to the music clip by Frankie goes to Hollywood ‘welcome to the pleasuredome’ – its here http://issuu.com/cathyart/docs/anthropocene_10000yrs_ecocide

    I also think as you suggest, that it doesn’t reveal the huge loss of cultures/languages of indigenous peoples, many who had far more sensitive awareness of the need to relate to their environments as a crucial part of their everyday lives…


  3. This is a good hard-hitting article and a step change from earlier discussions. My experience with those who support the destruction of natural landscapes for personal financial gain (viz, developers in their various forms) is that they will work to stifle discussion and debate by various forms of isolating, demonising, intimidation and ridicule. These people (also meaning corporations) cannot be brought to heal by speaking to them reasonably. They are bullies and need to be met head on. This type of article takes us closer to that point. .


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