The Anthropocenic Turn: The Interplay between Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Responses to a New Age 9780367480158, 9781003037620

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The Anthropocenic Turn: The Interplay between Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Responses to a New Age
 9780367480158, 9781003037620

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Figures
1.1 Francisco de Goya yLucientes, Duelo a Garrotazos, 1820–1823, Técnica mixta. © Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado, courtesy Museo del P rado31 9.1 Casper David Friedrich, The Great Enclosure Near Dresden, 1831/1832, Oil on Canvas. © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Phot ü or: J gen Karpinski, © bpk-Bildagentur, courtesy bpk-Bildagen tur
9.2 Andreas Gursky, 99 Cents, 1999 .© Andreas Gursky / Bildrecht, Vienna, 2019, courtesy S üth M pr agers Berlin Londo n
9.3 Tara Donovan, Untitled (Plastic Cup, 2 s) 006, Installation (plastic cups), at: New York: Pace Gallery, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery, Photo: Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy Pace Gal lery
11.1 Elke Marhöfer B, ecoming extinct (Wild Grass), 2018, Filmstills (TC 20:3; TC 16:18; TC 6:15; TC 9:13) © Elke Marhöfer, courtesy Elke Mar höfer
11.2 Elke Marhöfer, Prendas ngangas, enquisos, machines. Each part welcomes the other without saying, 2014, Filmstills (TC 24:45; TC 24:48; TC 3:32; TC 20:15) © Elke Marhöfer, courtesy Elke Mar höfer
12.1 Alexandra R. Toland, Seed Packets, “Do Not Open”, 2018. Photo: Alexandra R. Tola nd
12.2 Andrew S. Yang, Ecologies of Interruptio n(Flying Gardens of Maybe), 2013. Photo: © Andrew S. Yang, courtesy Andrew S. Ya ng
12.3 FuturefarmerFs, latbread Society Seed Collection, 2014. Photo: © Futurefarmers, courtesy Futurefa rmer2s29 12.4 Alexandra R. Toland, Closeup Eating Popcorn, 2018. Photo: Alexandra R. Tola nd
13.1 Serenella Iovino, Image of Tamiko Thiel’s installation Wild Garden at Munich’s Pinakothek der Modern, e2018. Photo: Serenella Iov ino
13.2 Serenella Iovino, Image of Tamiko Thiel’s installation Wild Garden at Munich’s Pinakothek der Modern, e2018. Photo: Serenella Iov ino
13.3 Serenella Iovino, Image of Tamiko Thiel’s installation Wild Garden at Munich’s Pinakothek der Modern, e2018. Photo: Serenella Iov ino
Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction
Section 1 Creating Knowledge in the Anthropocene
1 The “Material Turn” and the “Anthropocenic Turn” from a History of Science Perspective
2 The Anthropocene and the History of Science
3 The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom
4 Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene
Section 2 Narrating the Anthropocene
5 Safe Conduct: The Anthropocene and the Tragic
6 Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene
7 Dating the Anthropocene
8 When Humans Become Nature
Section 3 Sensing the Anthropocene
9 Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene
10 The Urgency of a New Humanities
11 Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct
12 Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene
13 Art, Media, and the Dilemmas of the Anthropocene
Notes on Contributors

Citation preview

The Anthropocenic Turn

This interdisciplinary volume discusses whether the increasing salience of the Anthropocene concept in the humanities and the social sciences constitutes an “Anthropocenic turn.” The Anthropocene discourse creates novel conceptual configurations and enables scholars to re-negotiate and re-contextualize long-established paradigms, premises, theories and methodologies. These innovative constellations stimulate fresh research in many areas of thought and practice. The contributors to this volume respond to the proposition of an “Anthropocene turn” from the perspective of diverse research fields, including history of science, philosophy, environmental humanities and political science as well as literary, art and media studies. Altogether, the collection reveals to which extent the Anthropocene concept challenges deep-seated assumptions across disciplines. It invites readers to explore the wealth of scholarly perspectives on the Anthropocene as well as unexpected inter- and transdisciplinary connections. Gabriele Dürbeck is professor of literature and culture studies at the University of Vechta. Her research includes German literature from the 18th–21th century, postdramatic theater, travel literature, postcolonialism, ecocriticism and narratives of the Anthropocene. She has authored “Ambivalent characters and fragmented poetics in Anthropocenic literature (Max Frisch, Iliya Trojanow)” (The Minnesota Review, 2014) and co-authored “Human and Non-human Agencies in the Anthropocene” (Ecozona, 2015). She is co-editor of Ecocriticism. Eine Einführung (Böhlau, 2015); Ecological Thought in German Literature and Culture (Lexington, 2017); Handbuch Postkolonialismus und Literatur (Metzler, 2017); Ökologischer Wandel in der deutschen Literatur des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts—neue Perspektiven und Ansätze (Peter Lang, 2018); Repräsentationsweisen des Anthropozän in Literatur und Medien/Representing the Anthropocene in Literature and Media (Peter Lang, 2019). Philip Hüpkes is research assistant at the Institute for Media and Cultural Studies at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, and

a PhD-candidate (supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Dürbeck) at the University of Vechta. From 2017 until 2019, he was employed as research assistant in the DFG-funded research project “Narratives of the Anthropocene in Science and Literature. Themes, Structures, Poetics” at the University of Vechta. Recent publications include: “Der Anthropos als Skalenproblem” (Der Anthropos im Anthropozän: Die Wiederkehr des Menschen im Moment seiner vermeintlich endgültigen Verabschiedung, de Gruyter, 2020); “Anthropocenic Earth Mediality: On Scaling and Deep Time in the Anthropocene” (Literature and Culture in the Anthropocene, Cambridge Scholars, 2019); “‘A New Political Body Yet to Emerge’: Zur Darstellbarkeit des anthropos in Bruno Latours ‘Kosmokoloss. Eine Tragikomödie über das Klima und den Erdball’” (Repräsentationsweisen des Anthropozän in Literatur und Medien/Representations of the Anthropocene in Literature and Media, Peter Lang, 2019).

Taylor & Francis Taylor & Francis Group

Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature

The Anthropocenic Turn The Interplay between Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Responses to a New Age Edited by Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes

First published 2020 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Taylor & Francis The right of Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Library of Congress Control Number: 2020932514 ISBN: 978-0-367-48015-8 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-03762-0 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by codeMantra


List of Figures



Creating Knowledge in the Anthropocene


1 The “Material Turn” and the “Anthropocenic Turn” from a History of Science Perspective



2 The Anthropocene and the History of Science



3 The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom



4 Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene




Narrating the Anthropocene


5 Safe Conduct: The Anthropocene and the Tragic



6 Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene RO M A N B A RT O S C H


viii Contents 7 Dating the Anthropocene



8 When Humans Become Nature




Sensing the Anthropocene


9 Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene



Notes on Contributors Index

253 259



Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Duelo a Garrotazos, 1820–1823, Técnica mixta. © Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado, courtesy Museo del Prado 31 9.1 Casper David Friedrich, The Great Enclosure Near Dresden, 1831/1832, Oil on Canvas. © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Jürgen Karpinski, © bpk-Bildagentur, courtesy bpk-Bildagentur 160 9.2 Andreas Gursky, 99 Cents, 1999. © Andreas Gursky / Bildrecht, Vienna, 2019, courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London 165 9.3 Tara Donovan, Untitled (Plastic Cups), 2006, Installation (plastic cups), at: New York: Pace Gallery, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery, Photo: Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy Pace Gallery 167 12.3 Futurefarmers, Flatbread Society Seed Collection, 2014. Photo: © Futurefarmers, courtesy Futurefarmers 229

x Figures

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes

Since the term was first coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer (2000), the Anthropocene concept has affected debates in almost every discipline and has developed into a rapidly growing and controversial inter- and transdisciplinary object of research.1 By placing anthropogenic impact on the earth systems at the core of geological and systemic analysis up to planetary scale, the concept of the Anthropocene has prominently challenged the dichotomy between “nature” as domain of the natural sciences and “culture” as the domain of the humanities, respectively, of “the social” as the domain of the social sciences. Against the backdrop of rapidly changing earthly phenomena such as climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, glacier meltdown and species extinction the Anthropocene seems to respond to the scientific necessity to understand the epistemological and ontological role of “anthropos,” the human species. As a result of the original conceptual prioritizing of anthropos, the Anthropocene debate has at least partially emancipated itself from the concept’s exclusively earth system scientific and geological origins. As Dipesh Chakrabarty (2018, 9) has put it, the Anthropocene now lives “two lives,” one scientific “involving measurements and debates among qualified scientists,” and one popular “as a moral political issue.” Similarly, Helmuth Trischler (2016, 312) distinguishes a “geological” and a “cultural” Anthropocene concept. And Jan Zalasiewicz (2017, 124) states that “there are many Anthropocenes […] used for different purposes along different kinds of logic in different disciplines.” Such distinctions take into account the difference between the numerous contributions of natural scientific disciplines, which primarily seek to develop the scientific base of the Anthropocene on the one hand, and the manifold approaches from the social sciences and humanities to reflect upon the historical, philosophical, ethical and political implications of the new concept and discourse on the other hand. An important manifestation of the “geological concept” of the Anthropocene, respectively, of its “scientific life,” is the journal Elementa—Science for the Anthropocene (since 2013), which mainly focuses on earth system scientific, geological, chemical and biological research. On the other hand, there are various examples of engagements with the Anthropocene

2  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes which address, highlight or mediate its cultural dimensions and contribute to the concept’s popularity.2 Among them are the inter- and transdisciplinary Anthropocene Project (2011–2013) at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, and the Anthropocene Curriculum, a collaboration between the HKW and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin; the joint exhibition by the Rachel Carson Center and the Deutsche Museum Willkommen im Anthropozän (Welcome to the Anthropocene) in Munich in 2014–2016 (cf. Möllers et al. 2015); or the Anthropocene exhibition of Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky in the National Gallery of Canada and Art Gallery of Ontario (2018–2019) and the documentary Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018) by the same artists. Despite the heterogeneity of approaches in the different disciplines, the Anthropocene still remains recognizable as a set of interconnected ideas. A distinct “Anthropocene discourse” is now well established in a wide range of disciplines and institutions in the social sciences and the humanities as well as the arts, museums, popular science, the media and—rather implicitly—in political arenas. Although the central idea of the Anthropocene concept—i.e. humans playing a decisive role in the overall functioning of the earth systems—is not new, the extent of scientific engagement with it seems unprecedented.3 For disciplines like history, sociology, political science, philosophy, cultural, literary and media studies, the Anthropocene signifies the opportunity to engage in a domain previously beyond their scope—the earth system—and thus to rethink or resituate their individual epistemic and operational frameworks. The remarkable hype that has evolved around the Anthropocene both mirrors and questions the particularity of these disciplines themselves, but it also facilitates the opportunity of new interconnections between them under the overarching framework of a new geological epoch with anthropos as its main force. Drawing on the prime role that the Anthropocene concept has been playing in the discourses of the humanities and the social sciences for at least the past ten years, this volume seeks to assess whether the scale and scope of impact that the Anthropocene has on the different disciplines justifies to speak of an “Anthropocenic turn.” This, however, is not to ask whether it is necessary to actively and strategically proclaim such a turn, thereby implying its necessity and significance for the humanities and social sciences. Rather, this volume aims at mapping a number of significant disciplinary as well as inter- and transdisciplinary developments, which suggest that the Anthropocene fulfills a number of conditions of what could be termed an “Anthropocenic turn.” The approach of this volume is not so much grounded in an affirmative attitude toward the scientific relevance of the Anthropocene concept with its far-reaching implications, but in a reflexive perspective on the concept’s uses and the ensuing effects on (inter- and trans-)disciplinary engagements with

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  3 the relationship between humans and Earth. Within the Anthropocene discourse existing paradigms, premises, theories and methodologies are re-negotiated and re-embedded into novel conceptual configurations. We argue that the Anthropocene has the potential to “format” elemental premises and assumptions of various fields of thought in a new way for a substantial duration of time, thereby fulfilling a basic requirement of what could be seen as the foundation for a “turn” in the making.

Yet Another Turn? An obvious and legitimate question is at this point: do we really need yet another “turn”? The suggestion that an Anthropocenic turn is currently in the making obviously poses a number of problems. Above all, the notion “Anthropocenic turn” might seem particularly unnecessary considering the simultaneous emergence of related “turns” and paradigms addressing similar developments in research. The increasing popularity of the Anthropocene beyond the natural sciences could well be interpreted as an effect or symptom of a far more general interest in ecological, geological and planetary-scale research topics. For instance, media philosopher Erich Hörl (2017) discusses the Anthropocene concept as part of a “new ecological paradigm,” which has emerged in the course of the development of cybernetics as the effect of an increased “ecologization of thinking.” A pendant to Hörl’s idea of a paradigm shift toward the ecological can be found in the proclamation of a “planetary turn” (Elias and Moraru 2015)—understood as the proliferation of artistic and literary engagements with the conceptual and political framework of the “planetary” in the course of the 21st century. Complementarily, the idea of a turn toward the geologic has been discussed in a number of articles (Yusoff 2013; Ivanchikova 2018), volumes (Ellsworth and Kruse 2013; Turpin 2013) or Gabo Guzzo’s art project The Geological Turn: Art and the Anthropocene at Banner Repeater, London (May 24–30, 2012). An examination of such turns as the ones named above leads to a second problem: a proliferation of the quantity of proclaimed turns, which eventually prove to be the only temporarily relevant fields of interest. The endurance of a turn, i.e., its historical significance in science, might be proved only in the course of time and thus relies on retrospective approval—with the consequence that many quickly or casually proposed turns run the danger of undergoing the suspicion of being a mere “hype.” Up to this point it might not be entirely calculable whether the Anthropocene “is here to stay.” The most significant reason against assuming a turn comes from a geological point of view: the Anthropocene is formally still not considered as the present geological epoch although the majority of the Anthropocene Working Group has agreed in May 2019 to designate a new geologic epoch starting around 1950 with the atomic age.4 As long as humanity is still “officially” dwelling in the

4  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes “Holocene,” there remains a probability that the geological Anthropocene concept is only of temporary relevance. A third problem lies in the semantics of the “turn” itself and in the resulting research’s political implications. The 20th century has witnessed various turns, the most significant of which is the development of a skepticism about the transparency of language as a medium of registering and communicating reality. The so called linguistic turn, which spreads across various disciplines, substantiated the recognition that language functions as an ineluctable condition of thought. This recognition, however, has affected the development of and has been manifested in many of the most important currents of the 20th century western intellectual history, most prominently structuralism and poststructuralism. But far from having only a positive impact, the linguistic turn has also contributed to the exclusion of everything which eludes or surpasses discourses. The “iconic turn” (or alternatively “pictorial turn”) in the 1990s can be regarded as a direct response to the ongoing focus on the “hegemony” of the sign and textuality. Hence, it is important to consider that widespread developments such as the linguistic turn can have a totalizing tendency, which counteracts the broadly accepted recognition of a plurality of coexisting paradigms, which do not necessarily contradict each other. In accordance with Doris Bachmann-Medick’s (2006, 16) plea for “cultural turns,” one should think of turns in the plural. Such criticism and recalibration of our thinking about turns would apply, it seems, in particular to the Anthropocene, as the concept tends to appear as a holistic “story of scale that stretches from the deepest lithic recesses of the Earth to its unsheltered atmospheric expanses” (Oppermann 2018,  2). Furthermore, the Anthropocene has been critiqued for providing a “master narrative” of humanity, which supports the idea “of a totalization of the entirety of human actions into a single ‘human activity’ generating a single human footprint on the Earth” (Bonneuil and Fressoz 2017, 45). For various scholars, a problematic result of the suggestion that anthropos is the protagonist of an entire geological unit of time consists in the exclusion of the other, more differentiated perspectives on the causation of phenomena such as climate change, as well as in the marginalization of nonhuman forms of agency and matter. One of the most important arguments made in this respect concerns the undifferentiated attribution of responsibility as “stewards of the Earth system” (Steffen et al. 2007, 618) to humanity in general. Various scholars argue in slightly differing ways that the “true” subject of the Anthropocene is only a minor—capitalist, European or western, wealthy, post-industrial, white and male—part of humanity (e.g. Hornborg and Malm 2014; Ropohl 2014; Cunha 2015; Moore 2016; Di Chiro 2017). Another critique draws on the idea that anthropogenic impacts are themselves effects of—or entangled with—far more complex forms of mattering and “terraforming assemblages” (Woods 2014, 134)

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  5 consisting, for instance, also of micro-organisms (Haraway 2015, 2016) and media-technologies (Parikka 2014, 2015). Hence, three problems seem to complicate the idea of an Anthropocenic turn: (1) the Anthropocene concept and its implications could be considered to be parts of a far more encompassing intellectual turn toward natural scientific, and most of all ecological, planetary and geological issues; (2) the Anthropocene concept may ultimately prove to have a far less enduring impact than expected—which would stand in contradiction to the strong and durable notion of a turn; (3) the Anthropocene concept may appear holistic in a way that undermines or at least complicates to grasp the true complexity of anthropogenic causation or of the entanglement of humans and nonhumans in a differentiated approach. In this respect, it could be argued that an Anthropocenic turn would affirm and strengthen a holistic and undifferentiated account of what in reality is far more complex. However, we argue that the role which the Anthropocene concept plays in various disciplines and in inter- and transdisciplinary approaches suggests a far less problematic notion of a turn. Each of the problems can be related to a corresponding counter-argument, which rejects an all too skeptical perspective on the Anthropocene concept in favor of a more affirmative point of view on its novelty. The Anthropocene as a Large-Scale Framework In order to understand the innovative potential of the Anthropocene concept, it is important to keep in mind its genealogy. The Anthropocene is not an ecological concept, nor is it, even though it could be assumed, a distinctly geological one. In fact, originally, it is an earth system scientific concept. It grounded in a scientific development of the second half of the 20th century, which signified a “paradigm shift,” (Kuhn 1962) for the earth sciences (Hamilton and Grinevald 2015; Hamilton 2016). Earth system science understands the earth as a single, complex and processual (bio-cybernetic) system, which is far more than the mere sum of its parts. Its scientific interest is not primarily directed toward single (sub-)systems, i.e. rather “local” ecologies, but more toward the non-linear, positive and negative feedback relations between systems at different temporal and spatial scales and in their relation to the scale of the earth system. From the point of view of earth system scientists, the central hypothesis of the Anthropocene concept is that anthropogenic impact on manifold earth subsystems might lead to an irreversible, earth historical “rupture” (Hamilton 2016, 94) in the overall functioning of the earth system. Therefore, the novelty of the Anthropocene lies in its planetary-scale, earth systemic perspective on human-environment interactions. The epistemic consequence of this is two-fold. As Bonneuil and Fressoz (2017, xi) remark, the Anthropocene is “a sign of our power, but also of our

6  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes impotence.” That is to say, the earth systemic perspective on the Anthropocene brings into view the fundamental impact of anthropogenic activities not only on particular ecologies, such as the Amazonian rain forest, or on particular systems, such as the climate, but on the metastability of negative feedback loops between them. As a “sign of our power,” the Anthropocene concept testifies to the (unconscious, nonintentional) capacity to amplify positive feedback loops between earth systems. Thus, ex negativo it makes visible not only the terraforming power of anthropos, but also the vulnerability of earth’s systemic equilibrium and the potentially disastrous effects on the existence of the human species. If the Anthropocene concept is more than a minor variant of a general turn toward ecology, it is so because of its large-scale, basically all-encompassing perspective on human-environment interactions, and—as a result of this perspective—of its foregrounding of an anthropogenically amplified change of the state of the earth. That is to say, the Anthropocene concept triggers discussions in various disciplines and beyond about a changing earth. It does so, however, without being restricted to the methodological and theoretical framework of individual disciplines such as ecology or geology. The Anthropocene exemplifies a scientific point of view, which recognizes that ecological, geological and planetary phenomena and research objects have to be thought of in close relation to each other as well as to the larger-scale system of the earth. The vast interest in the Anthropocene concept could thus be understood as an opportunity to reformulate the turns toward ecological, geological and planetary issues under an even more encompassing framework which, at the same time, allows to relate them more strongly to social, political and ethical questions (for instance of the human responsibility for the earth system). The Anthropocene as an Ontological Shift Despite its earth systemic implications, the Anthropocene distinctly names a geological epoch and has been a matter of concern for geologists from the very beginning. As a geological research issue, however, the Anthropocene still has to approve its sustained role in the history of geology as an explanatory concept. But could the Anthropocene concept still play an important role in the humanities and the social sciences if it became insignificant in geology? One could reformulate this problem in the style of a slightly reversed version of James Hutton’s famous concluding statement of his Theory of the Earth (1788). 5 In the Anthropocene, we find no vestige of an end, since the Anthropocene is said to have only begun, but at the same time, no definite prospect of a beginning, since there are various propositions for starting dates competing with each other. From a geological point of view, the novelty of the Anthropocene concept

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  7 consists in its designation of a recent geological epoch which, unlike the Holocene, involves humanity as its driving force. Whereas earth system science can detect anthropogenic influence on earth subsystems as significant causes of environmental change, the formalization of the Anthropocene as a geochronological unit requires that the vast scale of anthropogenic impact is also traceable in the stratigraphic record. For stratigraphers, the determination of a starting point of the Anthropocene poses a problem of measurability not entirely different from that one implied by Hutton: how can one detect anthropogenic evidence strong enough to be in line with earth systemic “tipping points” among a vast accumulation of major and minor traces of human activity in the stratigraphic record? The work of the interdisciplinary Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), led by paleo-biologist Jan Zalasiewicz, makes clear that the question of finding a starting point of the Anthropocene is one that geology can only answer in cooperation with scholars capable of addressing the more-than-geological implications of the Anthropocene. However, as long as this problem remains unsolved, it—at least at first glance—seems questionable to assume that the Anthropocene concept will have an impact on the humanities and the social sciences, which is enduring enough to conceive of it as a turn. But, we argue that even if the Anthropocene concept might ultimately have only a life as a short episode for geology, it nevertheless has the potential to significantly influence the humanities and the social sciences, mainly due to two interconnected reasons. (1) The epistemic access to the Anthropocene is set on slightly different premises for humanities and social sciences scholars. Sticking with the example of geologic timescale, humanities scholars might consider the question of dating the Anthropocene not only as an issue of measurability, but as one rooted in the relationship between human imagination and the immensity of geologic time. James Hutton’s conclusion at the end of his Theory points toward the impression of a timescale beyond measure. When Hutton, alongside his student John Playfair (1805, 73), gazed into the “abyss of time,” he conceived of geological time not only as a problem of measure, but also as one of the imagination. John McPhee (1981) has coined the term “deep time” in order to emphasize this subjective, “sensory” dimension of geologic time. McPhee stresses that although geologic time has increasingly become measurable in line with the advances of modern geology, its “depth” nonetheless prevents us from gaining any clear and precise idea of its scale as such: “Numbers do not seem to work with regard to deep time. Any number above a couple of thousand years—fifty thousand, fifty million—will with nearly equal effect awe the imagination” (McPhee 1981, 21). In accordance with McPhee, Stephen Jay Gould (1987) has, therefore, proposed to consider that the discovery of deep time has had the effect of drastically

8  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes marginalizing the temporal scope of human history. The immensity of deep time takes yet another form in the Anthropocene. Given that much of the geological evidence of anthropogenic traces is assumed to deposit in the strata, which are, however, themselves effects of long-term geologic processes spanning beyond the present, deep time eventually expands from earth’s past to a “deep future” (Chakrabarty 2016, 380). Although the stratigraphic determination of an Anthropocene starting date will presumably not take future anthropogenic impact or future stratigraphic records into consideration, the idea of humanity’s impact that reaches into distant futures challenges ideas of the Anthropocene as a clearly detectable temporal unit: why not assume that future anthropogenic impact on the earth system delivers a far more evident “golden spike” than the proposed starting dates set in the past? While geology is primarily concerned with the empirical detection of a golden spike or an GSSP (Global Stratotype Section and Point), the various disciplines of the humanities might rather reflect upon the underlying implications regarding the imaginative, epistemic, phenomenological, theoretical and ontological challenges and implications of the temporality implied in processes of human inscription into earth. One considerable “marker” of the different premises of the humanities approach to the Anthropocene is their strong interest in issues of “scale.” Such issues are inherent to the Anthropocene concept, not only because of its geological meaning as a new unit of the geological timescale, but also because it challenges and confuses assumptions of scale by attributing to anthropos the capacity to operate as a “major geological force” (Steffen et al. 2007, 618). For various scholars in the humanities, the thesis that the accumulated impact of anthropogenic activities has come to matter at the spatial and temporal scale of earth systemic processes entails an imaginative, or phenomenological, dimension as well. Dipesh Chakrabarty (2009, 220), for instance, has pointed toward the problem that it is not possible to experience oneself as part of a collective species-subject that operates at a planetary scale. He argues that the Anthropocene poses the (impossible?) challenge of having to rethink the human over disjunctive scales at once (Chakrabarty 2012, 2). Furthermore, the Anthropocene frames various environmental phenomena such as climate change which matter, but which are at the same time drastically inaccessible to (immediate) sense experience due to their dispersed and distributed nature—a problem for which Timothy Morton (2013 has coined the term “hyperobject.” If such issues of scale are made graspable by the Anthropocene concept, they invite us to rethink philosophical, social and political concepts such as experience, (eco-)justice, democracy, responsibility and, above all, “the human” in its entanglements with “nature,” across disjunctive spatial and temporal levels of size.6 Such engagements are not necessarily bound to the continuing significance of the geological Anthropocene concept.

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  9 (2) Whereas the “success” of the geological concept entirely depends on its approval as a geological unit of time, its ontological dimension goes far beyond that. The Anthropocene concept articulates various phenomena that imply transitions in the material world, i.e. transitions of how planetary systems, environmental processes, human and nonhuman agents are entangled, how they matter for each other. It testifies to an increased observability and measurability of such transitions, but the latter are not restricted to their epistemic accessibility. In our view, the Anthropocene concept assembles a range of phenomena which mark an ontological shift. This shift is brought into view by its vast conceptual scale, but is not dependent on the scientific approval of the geological Anthropocene concept. The earth systemic “rupture,” speaking again with Clive Hamilton, corresponds to an “ontological rupture” that might best be described by what James Lovelock’s and Lynn Margulis have termed “Gaia.”7 For Isabelle Stengers (2015, 42), the “intrusion of Gaia” is not reducible to the increased awareness of the effects of human and technological enquiries and the resulting shift in the epistemology of human-nature relationships. On the contrary, Stengers’ “Gaia” designates a—processual, non-static—state of the earth that has been pushed out of equilibrium to reveal its indifference to the well-being of individual subsystems such as the human species: “Naming Gaia as ‘the one who intrudes’ is […] to characterize her as blind to the damages she causes” (Stengers 2015, 43). Latour’s (2013, 81) evocation of the Anthropocene as a “post-natural epoch” responds to the necessity to conceive of the rapidly changing earth system not only as a matter of epistemology—i.e. of being able to recognize that “nature” has always been an assemblage of “complex non-linear couplings between processes that compose and sustain entwined but nonadditive subsystems as a partially cohering systemic whole” (Haraway 2016, 43), but that this very assemblage has changed in a way that could ultimately lead to a “sixth extinction” (Kolbert 2014) respectively to “a world without us” (Weisman 2007). The epistemic relevance of the ontological shifts, summarized in the term Gaia, for the humanities and the social sciences is genuinely independent from the approval of the Anthropocene concept, since such shifts do not stop to exist if this concept does. But the innovation of the latter, and presumably the reason for its success beyond geology and earth system science, lies in the vastness of its conceptual framework which allows to reflect upon such shifts as heterogeneous, disjunctive, but still interconnected parts of a larger scale development. The oftentimes criticized “holistic,” all-encompassing scope of the Anthropocene framework may at the same time be a reason for its relevance across the humanities and the social sciences. But this might also be the reason why a number of critical approaches tend to reject the Anthropocene because of its anthropocentrism and its undifferentiated account on anthropos in favor of more differentiated

10  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes concepts still refer to the Anthropocene’s terminology and semantical implications. Prominent examples are the concepts “Capitalocene” (Malm 2015; Moore 2016), “Chthulucene” (Haraway 2015, 2016), “Technocene” (Hornborg 2015), “Eurocene” (Sloterdijk 2015, 2016), or “Neganthropocene” (Stiegler 2018) to name but a few. The Anthropocene is such a widely debated research topic among scholars from the humanities and the social sciences not so much because of the “Antropo-” or its particular protagonist, but because of the “-cene,” i.e., because of its large, “epochal” scope. The Anthropocene and (Inter-/Trans-)Disciplinary Engagements Instead of being limited to undifferentiated reflections on the human as a protagonist of a geological epoch, the conceptual broadness of the Anthropocene opens up a shared frame of reference for heterogeneous engagements with theories of posthumanism, new materialism, object-oriented-ontology, postcolonialism, ecojustice or cybernetics. If one would identify the Anthropocene as a return of the “grand narrative,” this would ignore the heterogeneity and variability of approaches. The Anthropocene concept, we argue, invites scholars to reframe, rethink and to strengthen the methodological and analytical boundaries of their respective fields, challenging every discipline to articulate the particularity and relevance of its specific engagement with this concept and discourse. As a result, the Anthropocene serves as a generative framework for a plurality of different discipline-specific topics. Several new approaches in the humanities contribute to it: literary studies, for instance, consider the Anthropocene as a “threshold concept” (Clark 2015) that opens new opportunities for ecocritical literary research (Wilke and Johnstone 2017; Schaumann and Sullivan 2018): for instance, the re-classification of climate fiction as a part of the broader field of “Anthropocene fiction” (Trexler 2015); the transfer of the materiality of geologic formations and timespans into literary reading practices as well as an expansion of the focus on the symbolic indices of human social interactions to planetary flows of energy and matter (Menely and Taylor 2017); the question of how literature and literary reading practices can represent scalar magnitudes, complex feedback loops of the Anthropocene earth system, and planetary effects of anthropogenic activity such as climate change or biodiversity loss (e.g. Morton 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016; Bartosch 2015; Morgan 2017; Woods 2014, 2017); an examination of the implications of the Anthropocene for literary history concerning contemporary fiction’s tendency of embedding its plots in geological epochal timeframes (Marshall 2015); or the analysis of the relationship between scientific and literary knowledge production with regard to the genuine narrativity of Anthropocene discourses (Dürbeck 2018, 2019).

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  11 For some scholars, the Anthropocene concept challenges the most fundamental implications of their research field. For historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, the Anthropocene poses an epistemological problem in the sense that it blurs the long-lasting differentiation between natural and human history, dissolving their boundaries into the timescale of “deep time” and making it necessary to rethink humanity as a “negative universal history” (Chakrabarty 2009, 222). According to the media theoretician Jussi Parikka (2014, 2015), the Anthropocene requires scholars to frame the materiality of contemporary media technologies within the scale of geologic time by ascribing a mediality to geologic formations, inorganic matter and “natural” entities; this widens the scope of media studies into the domain of “natural” sciences (see also Durham Peters 2015). Philosophically informed scholars such as Bruno Latour (e.g. 2013, 2014, 2017), Isabelle Stengers (2015), Donna Haraway (2015, 2016), Claire Colebrook (e.g. 2014, 2016) and Rosi Braidotti (2013) highlight the idea that the Anthropocene challenges fundamental categories of Western Enlightenment thought such as the dichotomies of subject/ object or nature/culture. This opens a more reflexive perspective on the Anthropocene that emphasizes relational, process- and agency-oriented, posthumanist ontologies of mutual multispecies “entanglements” (Barad 2007). As a result, the theoretical models of posthumanism as well as of comparable theoretical approaches such as new materialism (e.g. Bennett 2010; Alaimo 2016) or object-oriented ontology (Morton 2013, 2016) have gained tremendous attention in the Anthropocene debate. However, the original scientific Anthropocene concept refers to a well-confined set of theoretical assumptions, scientific observations and implications (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000; Crutzen 2002). Consequently, most publications on the Anthropocene, despite disciplinary differences and conflicting interests, share a limited vocabulary of premises. In this respect, the overarching framework of the Anthropocene consists of a plurality of heterogeneous discourses and interests, but also builds bridges between various scientific disciplines. On the one hand, geologists and environmental scientists, for example, publish with historians and push into the field of ethics or adopt methods of cultural studies; on the other hand, philosophers develop a new “political theology of nature” (Latour 2013) or a “political anthropology” (Sloterdijk (2015, 43). The effect is a blurring of disciplinary boundaries that triggers new forms of dialogue. The field of environmental humanities, which has emerged in the last decade, can be regarded as an index of such a reorientation. So, the Anthropocene plays a central role in many relevant publications in this field (DeLoughrey et al. 2015; Emmett and Nye 2017; Heise et al. 2017; Oppermann and Iovino 2017). In light of these scientific developments, we argue that although the Anthropocene has a (not unproblematic) tendency toward holism, it does not take the role of a “master narrative” predetermining the ways in

12  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes which one can speak, think and write about it. On the contrary, it seems to function as a driver of disciplinary, inter- and transdisciplinary rearrangements, re-framings and actualizations within the humanities and the social sciences. It is for this reason that we assume that, at least for the humanities and the social sciences, the Anthropocene will continue to play a considerable role in the theoretical and methodological organization of particular disciplines and their interrelations with each other.

On this Volume: Objectives and Chapters This volume builds on the results of an international conference entitled Anthropocenic Turn? Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Anthropocene Concept (September 13–15, 2018), which took place at the University of Vechta, Germany. At the same time, it is part of a research project (2017–2020) on “Narratives of the Anthropocene in Science and Literature. Structures, Themes, Poetics,” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The starting point of the conference was to examine the prospects and possibilities of approaching the Anthropocene against the backdrop of a seemingly ubiquitous fascination for it, at least in the European-American-Australian academic world (di Chiro 2017). For this purpose, the conference sought to provide a space for dialogue between distinguished Anthropocene scholars from the history of science, the social sciences and various disciplines of the humanities in order to challenge the limitations of disciplinary boundaries and to build new bridges. Against this background, the volume seeks to critically assess whether the Anthropocene concept has affected—or is currently affecting—a “turn” in various disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research fields. In particular, we ask whether the Anthropocene concept effectively challenges the parameters of observing, measuring, experiencing and producing (scientific) reality by rearranging them in a geologic timescale and at a planetary scale. All chapters respond to the idea of a “turn” with regard to the scale in which the Anthropocene challenges existing assumptions of the authors’ specific research fields. We assume that the overarching concept of the Anthropocene transcends strict disciplinary frameworks. Thus, the structure of this volume is meant to invite readers to reflect upon inter- and transdisciplinary connections, thoughts and theses across the individual chapters. In order to relate the plurality of discipline-specific approaches back to the holistic framework of the Anthropocene we structured the book not according to disciplines, but according to different practices: “Creating Knowledge in the Anthropocene” (Section 1), “Narrating the Anthropocene” (Section 2) and “Sensing the Anthropocene” (Section 3). These practices transgress conventional disciplinary boundaries and, therefore, unfold shared spaces of interest and arguments. The underlying idea of this interplay between a disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective is to

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  13 address the necessity to overcome disciplinary boundaries in light of the Anthropocene concept. This means not only to understand the disciplinary premises of every research perspective on the Anthropocene but also to acknowledge their limitations concerning temporal and spatial dimensions at the planetary scale and the far-reaching, dramatic impacts of human agency on the earth system. Practices of creating knowledge, narrating and sensing are considered not only as fundamental ways of dealing with the Anthropocene, but also as markers to indicate and analyze transgressions between disciplinary and interdisciplinary interests. Section 1: “Creating Knowledge in the Anthropocene” The Anthropocene concept clearly poses a number of epistemological problems. Practices of creating knowledge include all attempts of rethinking and actualizing fundamental epistemological categories. Historian of science Hans-Jörg Rheinberger opens the first section with his chapter “The ‘Material Turn’ and the ‘Anthropocenic Turn’ from a History of Science Perspective.” The article is dedicated to Michel Serres and positions him as a thinker of the Anthropocene avant la lettre and as the epistemological predecessor of Bruno Latour’s influential arguments about Gaia and the Anthropocene. Rheinberger unfolds a close reading of Serres’ The Natural Contract, arguing that it allows for a re-interpretation of the Gaia-hypothesis by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. This archaeology of knowledge proves fruitful in the context of the Gaia-hypothesis’ different actualizations in the Anthropocene context (e.g., recent publications of Bruno Latour). In his chapter “The Anthropocene and the History of Science,” historian of science Jürgen Renn explores the possible role of the history of science for a deeper understanding of the Anthropocene. Arguing against the idea of a new fashionable “turn,” Renn contends that the complexity of the Anthropocene and of the wide array of issues it brings into view require a far broader number of different approaches that allow to scientifically grasp the social and material as well the epistemic implications of the new concept. On this basis, Renn outlines not only an approach to cultural evolution, which foregrounds the importance of the transformations of knowledge across time, but also calls for an approach to historical network analysis. Beyond the geological concept and earth system analysis he sketches the idea of a new transdisciplinary research field which he calls “geoanthropology.” Environmental historian Franz Mauelshagen’s chapter “The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom” examines the Anthropocene as an era in which we face a deep crisis of fossil energy regimes. Analyzing this crisis from the viewpoint of energy history, Mauelshagen brings into view how traditional energy regimes were regulated by a “biomass-climate-nexus” which is broken up with accumulated human activities since industrialization and the great acceleration. In light of limited fossil resources,

14  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes humanity in the Anthropocene is instigated to redefine freedom according to a disruptive earth system which strongly affects societies. With “dirty metaphysics” Mauelshagen points to “the transcendence of the biosphere” and to a better control over its resources. In his chapter “Oriental Wisdom for the Planet?” literary and environmental humanities scholar Hannes Bergthaller turns toward an issue which has been largely ignored in Anthropocene discourse up to this point: the lack of attention toward the Anthropocene concept in Asian countries, academia and public arenas. Bergthaller observes that the weak interest in the Anthropocene stands in stark contrast to the decisive role which Asian countries, and in particular China, play in the Anthropocene. Exploring the question why this is the case, Bergthaller argues that reactions to the Anthropocene are strongly affected by the experience of western modernity and by forms of knowledge embedded distinctly in western thought and knowledge. Following a pathway similar to, yet historically also very different from the developments of western countries, China can serve both as a model and as a warning for how biopolitical futures will unfold in the Anthropocene. Section 2: “Narrating the Anthropocene” The second section focuses on the Anthropocene as a framework for the reformulation of existing as well as for the emergence of new narratives. Not only has the Anthropocene triggered new narratives—of humanity as geophysical force and as a factor in the earth system—it has also brought into view the necessity to reinterpret existing narratives under the new premises presented by the Anthropocene—among them are partly opposing, partly overlapping narratives of extinction and disaster, of justice and nature-culture interdependency, or of the ‘Great Transformation’ and biotechnological progress (Dürbeck 2018, 2019). The practice of narrating plays a crucial role in how environmental phenomena such as climate change or the idea of a geophysical scale of human imprint can become intelligible. The section starts with literary scholar and philosopher Bernhard Malkmus’ text “Safe Conduct: The Anthropocene and the Tragic,” which focuses on an examination of the potential role of tragic narratives for an understanding of human agency in the Anthropocene. Following thinkers such as Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Günther Anders, Jean-Pierre Dupuy and Hannah Arendt, Malkmus argues that the episteme of the Anthropocene has the potential of being experienced as “tragic.” By exploring two of the defining conditions of the Anthropocene, the nuclear bomb and the technosphere, Malkmus argues that it is in fact characterized by a blurring of ontological distinctions, which would erase experiences of alterity and chance that stand at the core of tragic thinking in modernity and need to be revived.

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  15 In his chapter “Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene,” literary scholar Roman Bartosch employs a didactic approach in order to engage the challenges of scale posed by the Anthropocene concept. Taking his theoretical vantage point from the discussion of different concepts of “scale” and “scaling,” he argues that scale representation as well as “readerly scaling” are helpful tools in grasping the complexities of the Anthropocene. In turning toward readings of texts by Barbara Kingsolver, T.C. Boyle and Nathaniel Rich, Bartosch outlines the fruitfulness of understanding and analyzing literary fiction through notions of scaling and complexity, with particular regard to its implications for teaching literature. In “Dating the Anthropocene,” Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn frame the complex and ongoing debates on the various potential start dates of the Anthropocene epoch. Analyzing the five most important suggested start dates—15–12,100 years BP; around 8,000 BP; 1570–1620 with the orbis spike; industrial revolution; great acceleration from 1950 onward—they argue that the definitive decision on one start date can potentially enable new narratives of the Anthropocene which could shape future societal and governance debates on the Anthropocene in significant ways. Pattberg and Davies-Venn conclude with the suggestion of overarching narratives for each start date and related implications for governance. Cultural philosopher Bernd Scherer’s chapter “When Humans Become Nature” unfolds a number of narratives which illuminate the role of technologies often marginalized in the more human-centered debates on the Anthropocene. Analyzing notions of the technosphere as well as the role of digital technologies, cyberspace, bureaucracy and scientific knowledge production, Scherer contends that the Anthropocene stands for more than environmental phenomena such as climate change or biodiversity loss. It signals a “fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of the world and of humankind.” Arguing for the necessity of an “Anthropocenic turn” in order to create new forms of knowledge (production), he suggests that the conception of “rehearsal stages” enables productive interactions between social actors, scientists and artists on the entanglements of subjective, social, technological and cultural phenomena with which humans are confronted in the Anthropocene. Section 3: “Sensing the Anthropocene” Extending the scale of anthropogenic purview beyond the scope of immediate human experience, the Anthropocene fundamentally questions conventional modes of representation as well as theories of perception. Thus, the third section focusses on practices that relate to the dimension of the Anthropocene aesthetic (in the sense of aisthesis: perception),

16  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes considering them as a forms for the articulation of new ways of representing as well as of sensing an anthropocenic reality. In the first contribution to this section, literary scholar Eva Horn argues, in her chapter “Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene,” that the Anthropocene raises for art the necessity and challenge to address issues of form in theory and in practice. Asking how to conceive of an aesthetics suitable to the transformations of the world in the Anthropocene and the human subject’s deformed relationship with it, Horn sketches three formal challenges which art has to address in the Anthropocene: latency, entanglement and scale. Latency draws on the fact that climate change and earth system processes, although they can be modelled, elude our perceptual and representational capacities; entanglement points to the interdependencies between humans and earth systemic complexities; and scale to the fact that humans are confronted with processes and objects occurring at scales of magnitude beyond direct accessibility in terms of human understanding or control. The chapter “The Urgency of a New Humanities” by Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen explores the ways in which the “new humanities” sense the Anthropocene as a state of exception. Against the backdrop of the growing number of warnings from the scientific community about the threats of the Anthropocene, Andersen and Jacobsen see a sense of urgency which humanities shall take up as central concern. The authors offer a critique of three epistemic problems which appear characteristic for the environmental humanities under conditions of the Anthropocene: the idealization of slowness, the pursuit of conceptual thickness and the embrace of posthumanism. In contrast, they argue for an attempt to synchronize the speed of the humanities with the rapidly accelerating and changing world of the Anthropocene. Media scholar and image theorist Julia Bee’s chapter “Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct” discusses the entanglements between the medium of film and the concept of the Anthropocene. Focusing on recent films by German filmmaker and activist Elke Marhöfer—Becoming Extinct (Wild Grass) and Prendas, ngangas, enquisos, machines. Each part welcomes the other without saying—as well as on concepts of subjectivity following Félix Guattari in particular, but also Gilles Deleuze, William James and Alfred North Whitehead, Bee explores which sites of subjectivation could be specifically rooted in film viewing. She argues for the necessity of thinking and evaluating new modes of subjectivity through the medium of film in order to face the challenges of sensing the Anthropocene. Instead of merely transmitting information, documentary films, particularly the ones discussed in this chapter, enable the exploration of new forms of perception, experience and perspectives as parts of ecological subjectivities.

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  17 The chapter “Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene” by artist researcher Alexandra R. Toland explores Susan Leigh Star’s concept of “boundary objects” as a way of framing the role and relevance of artistic research within the broader discourses of the Anthropocene. The article refers to a live performance where self-made seed packets with meaningful inscriptions were passed to the recipients at the beginning and popcorn to eat at the end. Toland argues that seeds may be seen as boundary objects and function as theoretical devices for interdisciplinary work. After contextualizing the history and the theoretical and practical scope of boundary objects, she presents two case studies of artworks as examples of a weakly-structured boundary objects of the Anthropocene to illustrate new modes of research practice for artist researchers. In the volume’s last chapter “Art, Media, and the Dilemmas of the Anthropocene,” literary and environmental humanities scholar Serenella Iovino explores the role of gardens as a cultural and artistic strategy of survival in the Anthropocene. Iovino’s reflections on the entanglements between art, media and the becoming-geological of the human are based on an examination of the artwork Gardens of the Anthropocene by eco-artist Tamiko Thiel,  the Parco Arte Vivente in Turin, and the Japanese gardens described by Italo Calvino in his Collection of Sand. Her chapter conceives of the garden as a means to reflect upon how various forms of aestheticization of nature have an impact on the geology of planet earth—both in terms of power and depletion, and in terms of resistance and creativity. As readers will recognize throughout the following chapters, the different approaches toward the Anthropocene collected in this volume address the “Anthropocene” through differing discipline-specific methodologies and theoretical assumptions. Without doubt, the Anthropocene concept may be the source of very heterogeneous approaches, depending on the different research traditions, premises and discourses of each discipline. But vice versa, the Anthropocene provides a largescale framework that instigates shared matters of concern and research interests, transgresses the limitations of disciplinary boundaries and indicates the overarching relevance of an ontological shift, which has occurred in the relationship between humans and the earth system. The idea behind the structure of this volume—its division into three sections corresponding to different types of practices—is to invite readers to explore different, potentially fruitful crosslinks, but also differences, between the disciplines and their approaches. In the emergence of epistemic interstices between them, i.e. of shared issues of relevance caused by the increasing relevance of the Anthropocene concept, we witness an Anthropocenic turn in the making.

18  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes

Acknowledgments This introduction draws on results from the research project “Narratives of the Anthropocene in Science and Literature,” which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under grant number DU 320/8-1. The helpful advice and overall assistance in the production of this volume generously provided by editorial assistant Mitchell Manners (Routledge) and editor Jennifer Abbott (Routledge) was greatly appreciated. We thank Christoph Schaub (University of Vechta) and Peter Feindt (Humboldt University, Berlin) very much for reading earlier versions of this introduction. Moreover, we are indebted to our colleagues Monika Albrecht (University of Vechta) and Jonas Nesselhauf (Saarland University) for their help and advice in publishing this volume, and to Anna-Sophie Schönrock (University of Vechta) for her assistance in preparing the manuscript.


Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  19

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20  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes Dürbeck, Gabriele. 2019. “Narratives of the Anthropocene in Interdisciplinary Perspective.” In Anglophone Literature and Culture in the Anthropocene, edited by Gina Comos, and Caroline Rosenthal, 23–45. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Durham Peters, John. 2015. The Marvelous Clouds. Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Elias, Amy J., and Christian Moraru, eds. 2015. The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-First Century. Evanston: The Northwestern University Press. Ellsworth, Elizabeth, and Jamie Kruse, eds. 2013. (Hg.) (2012): Making the Geologic Now. Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life. New York: Punctum Books. Emmett, Robert S., and David E. Nye, eds. 2017. The Environmental Humanities: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Gould, Stephen Jay. 1987. Times Arrow, Times Cycle. Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hamilton, Clive. 2016. “The Anthropocene as Rupture.” The Anthropocene Review 3 (2): 93–106. Hamilton, Clive, and Jacques Grinevald, 2015. “Was the Anthropocene Anticipated?” The Anthropocene Review 2 (1): 59–72. Haraway, Donna J. 2015. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.” Environmental Humanities 6: 159–165. Haraway, Donna J. 2016. Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Heise, Ursula K., Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, eds. 2017. The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. London; New York: Routledge. Hörl, Erich. 2017. “Introduction to General Ecology. The Ecologization of Thinking.” In General Ecology. The New Ecological Paradigm, edited by Erich Hörl und James Burton, 1–74. London: Bloomsbury. Hörl, Erich, and James Burton, eds. 2017. General Ecology. The New Ecological Paradigm. London: Bloomsbury. Horn, Eva, and Hannes Bergthaller. 2019. The Anthropocene. Key Issues for the Humanities. London; New York: Routledge. Hornborg, Alf. 2015. “The Political Ecology of the Technocene. Uncovering Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System.” In The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis. Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch, edited by Clive Hamilton, Christophe Bonneuil, and François Gemenne, 57–69. London; New York: Routledge. Horton, Zach. 2017. “Composing a Cosmic View: Three Alternatives for Thinking Scale in the Anthropocene.” In Scale in Literature and Culture, edited by Michael Tavel Clarke, and David Wittenberg, 35–60. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Hüpkes, Philip. 2019. “Anthropocenic Earth Mediality: On Scaling and Deep Time in the Anthropocene.” In Anglophone Literature and Culture in the Anthropocene, edited by Gina Comos, and Caroline Rosenthal, 196–213. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. Hutton, James. 1788. “Theory of the Earth, or an Investigation of the Laws Observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land Upon the Globe.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1: 209–304.

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  21 Ivanchikova, Alla. 2018. “Geomediations in the Anthropocene: Fictions of the Geologic Turn.” C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-Century Writings 6 (1): 1–24. Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. London: Bloomsbury. Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. Latour, Bruno. 2013. Facing Gaia. Six Lectures of the Political Theology of Nature. Edinburgh, Gifford Lectures. Latour, Bruno. 2014. “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene.” New Literary History 45: 1–18. Latour, Bruno. 2017. Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime. Cambridge: Polity. Lewis, Simon L., and Mark A. Maslin. 2018. The Human Planet. How We Created the Anthropocene. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Malm, Andreas. 2015. Fossil Capital. London: Verso. Malm, Andreas, and Alf Hornborg. 2014. “The Geology of Mankind? A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative.” The Anthropocene Review 1 (1): 62–69. Marshall, Kate. 2015. “What Are the Novels of the Anthropocene? American Fiction in Geological Time.” American Literary History 27 (3): 523–538. McPhee, John. 1981. Basin and Range. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Möllers, Nina, Christian Schwägerl, and Helmuth Trischler, eds. 2015. Willkommen im Anthropozän. Unsere Verantwortung für die Zukunft der Erde. München: Deutsches Museum Verlag. Moore, Jason W., ed. 2016. Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Oakland, CA: PM Press. Morgan, Benjamin. 2017. “Scale as Form: Thomas Hardy’s Rocks and Stars.” In Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times, edited by Tobias Menely, and Jesse Oak Taylor, 132–149. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press. Morton, Timothy. 2012. “From Modernity to the Anthropocene: Ecology and Art in the Age of Asymmetry.” International Social Science Journal 63 (207– 208): 39–51. Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Morton, Timothy. 2014. “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Term Anthropocene.” The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 1 (2): 257–264. Morton, Timothy. 2016. Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press. Menely, Tobias, and Jesse Oak Taylor, eds. 2017. Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press. Oppermann, Serpil. 2018. “The Scale of the Anthropocene: Material Ecocritical Reflections.” Mosaic 51 (3): 1–17. Oppermann, Serpil, and Serenella Iovino, eds. 2017. Environmental Humanities: Voices from the Anthropocene. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield International.

22  Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes Parikka, Jussi. 2014. The Anthrobscene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Parikka, Jussi. 2015. A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Playfair, John. 1805. “Biographical Account of the Late Dr. James Hutton.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 5 (3): 39–99. Revkin, Andrew. 1992. Global Warming. Understanding the Forecast. New York: Abbeville. Ropohl, Günther. 2014. “Ist das Anthropozän ein Plutozän?” In Schöpfer der zweiten Natur. Der Mensch im Anthropozän, edited by Arno Bammé, 179– 204. Marburg: Metropolis-Verlag. Schaumann, Caroline, and Heather Sullivan, eds. 2017. German Ecocriticism in the Anthropocene. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Sloterdijk, Peter. 2015. “Das Anthropozän—Ein Prozess-Zustand am Rande der Erd-Geschichte?” In Das Anthropozän. Zum Stand der Dinge, edited by Jürgen Renn, and Bernd Scherer, 25–44. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz Berlin. Sloterdijk, Peter. 2016. Was geschah im 20. Jahrhundert? Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Steffen, Will, Paul J. Crutzen and John R. McNeill. 2007. “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?” Ambio 36 (8): 614–621. Stengers, Isabelle. 2015. In Catastrophic Times. Resisting the Coming Barbarism. London: Open Humanities Press. Stiegler, Bernard. 2018. The Neganthropocene. Translated and edited by Daniel Ross. London: Open Humanities Press. Stoppani, Antonio. 1873. Corso di geologia. Vol. 2 (Geologia stratigrafica). Mailand: Bernardoni. Supramanian, Meera. 2019. “Anthropocene Now: Influential Panel Votes to Recognize Earth’s New Epoch.”, May 21, 2019. www.nature. com/articles/d41586-019-01641-5. Tavel Clarke, Michael, and David Wittenberg. 2017. “Introduction.” In Scale in Literature and Culture, edited by Michael Tavel Clarke, and David Wittenberg, 1–32. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Trexler, Adam. 2015. Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Trischler, Helmuth. 2016. “The Anthropocene. A Challenge for the History of Science, Technology, and the Environment.” N.T.M. – Journal of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine 24 (3): 309–335. Turpin, Etienne, ed. 2013. Architecture in the Anthropocene. Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press. Vernadsky, Viadimir I. 1945. “The Biosphere and the Noösphere.” American Scientist 33: 1–12. Weisman, Alan. 2007. The World Without Us. London: Virgin Books. Wilke, Sabine, and Japhet Johnstone, eds. 2017. Readings in the Anthropocene. The Environmental Humanities, German Studies, and Beyond. London: Bloomsbury. Woods, David. 2014. “Scale Critique for the Anthropocene.” The Minnesota Review 83: 133–142.

Anthropocenic Turn?—An Introduction  23 Woods, Derek. 2017. “Accelerated Reading: Fossil Fuels, Infowhelm, and Archival Life.” In Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times, edited by Tobias Menely, and Jesse Oak Taylor, 202–219. University Park: Penn State University Press. Yusoff, Kathryn. 2013. “Geologic Life: Prehistory, Climate, Futures in the Anthropocene.” Environment and Planning D. Society and Space 31 (5): 779–795. Zalasiewicz, Jan. 2017. “The Extraordinary Strata of the Anthropocene.” In Environmental Humanities: Voices from the Anthropocene, edited by Serpil Oppermann, and Serenella Iovino, 115–131. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Taylor & Francis Taylor & Francis Group

Section 1

Creating Knowledge in the Anthropocene

Taylor & Francis Taylor & Francis Group


The “Material Turn” and the “Anthropocenic Turn” from a History of Science Perspective1 Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

Introduction This chapter is intended as a contribution to an archeology of what today is being discussed under the umbrella term of the Anthropocene. The question for me to start with has been whether the material turn in the history of knowledge has anything to do with conceptualizing our contemporary relation to the world in a qualitatively new way. That there is such a link I hope I will be able to show. The chapter focuses on the late Michel Serres’ ([1990] 1995) The Natural Contract and can also be read as an homage to this thinker, who is, in my opinion, the most important pioneer of the Anthropocene concept avant la lettre, at least as seen from the perspective of epistemology and history of science, and way before the term itself was coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer (2000). It is not my intention, however, to enter into a discussion about the many meanings of the Anthropocene concept. What I would rather like to do is to engage in a close reading of several passages of Michel Serres’ The Natural Contract and to relate them to Lynn Margulis’ work on the bio-geosphere as well as the role symbiosis played in evolution, on the one hand, and to the contemporary practice orientation of historical epistemology on the other hand. In October 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the Bay Area of San Francisco, and around the same time in Europe, a different type of “seismic” event brought the Berlin Wall down. Meanwhile, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Michel Serres was writing the last pages of his manuscript on The Natural Contract. The book was published in the spring of 1990 in Paris and evoked a veritable storm of theoretical outrage. The scandal concerned the following question: how could one dare to ascribe to nature the character of a contractual subject? Ten years later, during his invitation from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Serres revisited his book and its underlying rationale. Here, he formulated that rationale as follows: The subject becomes object. We become victims of our victories, the passivity of our activities, medical objects of our actions as subjects. And the global object becomes the subject, for it reacts to our actions. (Serres 2000, 17, own translation)

28  Hans-Jörg Rheinberger He was advocating that humankind should forgo its parasitic relation to nature and convert to a symbiotic relation. “Rights of symbiosis,” we read in The Natural Contract, “are defined by reciprocity: however much nature gives man, man must give that much back to nature, now a legal subject” (Serres 1995, 38). But, Serres asks, “[w]hat language do the things of the world speak, that we might come to an understanding with them, contractually?” and promptly answers: “In fact, the Earth speaks to us in terms of forces, bonds and interactions, and that’s enough to make a contract” (39). Thus, it was eventually an earthquake, of all the forces of nature the one least subject to human influence, that led Serres to perceive such a symbiosis as being inescapable.

The Symbiotic Planet That brings me to a digression before plunging deeper into Serres’ jurisprudential argumentation, which in turn rests on an observation derived from history of science. In 1998, the year of Serres’ retrospective review of his book The Natural Contract at the French National Library, another significant book was published, The Symbiotic Planet. It was the summation of 30 years of research on evolutionary symbiosis by the American biologist Lynn Margulis (1998). Serres could not yet have read this book when he lectured at the French National Library on January 14, but the endosymbiont theory developed by Margulis was already widely accepted at that time, and its academic presence was pervasive. Serres did not mention Margulis—in fact, his entire book was written without a footnote and without references. We can nevertheless safely assume that he was familiar with her theory. On the one hand, Serres had recourse to the metaphorology of biological relations, which he had referred to already in 1980 in his well-known book The Parasite ([1980] 1982). On the other hand, Margulis are without doubt his reference with respect to symbiosis. Margulis received her education in biology in the late 1950s and early 1960s at the universities of Chicago, Madison and Berkeley. In 1967, after several failed attempts, she succeeded in publishing her first article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, in which she expounded the general outline of her view on the succession of endosymbiotic events in evolution (serial endosymbiont theory, SET) (Sagan [Margulis] 1967). At that time, the first ribonucleic acid had just been sequenced—a yeast alanine transfer RNA with a length of about 80 nucleotides. Ten years later, sequences of nucleic acids from mitochondria and chloroplasts had become available, and their bacterial origin could no longer be doubted. When I finished my studies in biology at the end of the 1970s, this “weak” form of the endosymbiont theory of evolution, as Margulis called it, was common wisdom in the new textbooks on the molecular biology of the cell. The biochemistry of nucleic acids had forcefully supported the

The “Material Turn” and “Anthropocenic Turn”  29 conjectures of the biologist Margulis. This support paved the way for her future work. That work proceeded in several directions. On the one hand, Margulis found pieces of evidence for another evolutionary endosymbiosis: that of bacterial spirochetes and archebacterial thermoplasms that led to cells with a nucleus—the precursors of all extant higher organisms. Margulis (1998, 52) summarized her view in an evolutionary generalization: “Anastomosis,”—symbiotic as well as endosymbiotic fusion—“although less frequent, is as important as branching.” With that, Darwin’s principle of “divergence,” which dominates his tree of life is symmetrically complemented by a principle of “convergence.” The principle of competition is complemented by that of cooperation, which is evident on every biological level: as horizontal gene transfer particularly in bacteria, as endosymbiosis in early evolution and as organismic symbiosis in its manifold manifestations in the evolving world of organisms. Last but not least, it is realized in the sexuality of eukaryotic organisms that Margulis appropriately designates as “cyclical symbiosis” (103). This evolutionary legacy puts her, for the 20th century, on a par with Charles Darwin. In fact, her modus operandi was very similar to Darwin’s: collecting widely scattered pieces of evidence and analyzing them from a particular perspective, which she pursued throughout her life. The similarities go further: she could recount stories like Darwin as well. “Even scientists,” she acknowledged, “need to narrate, to integrate their observations into origin stories” (70). In the same way as Darwin’s “struggle for survival” advanced to the position of a social slogan in the 19th century and has remained so to this day, symbiosis should have advanced long since to become a byword of the same order. But that has not happened yet. Apparently, imaginative storytelling is one thing; social resonance is another. An increasing number of people argue like Margulis and Serres— but still not enough.2 At the same time, Margulis combined her lifelong fascination with the world of unicellular organisms with wide-ranging reflections about the evolution and regulation of the whole biosphere of our planet. In this context, she adopted the notion of “Gaia,” as it was used by James Lovelock, the British chemist, medical doctor and inventor. Often described as a maverick, Lovelock had laid the foundations of his theory of the metastability of the earth’s geosphere, biosphere and atmosphere in the 1970s and became famous for his various popular writings in the 1980s. Margulis (1998, 118) remarks: “The name caught on. Environmentalists and religiously inclined people, attracted to the idea of a native goddess with power, latched onto it, giving Gaia a distinctly nonscientific connotation.” For Margulis (123), however, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages of this ambivalence, and she herself jumped on the Gaia bandwagon, not without emphasizing again and again: “My Gaia is no vague, quaint notion of a mother Earth who nurtures us. The Gaia

30  Hans-Jörg Rheinberger hypothesis is science. The surface of the planet, Gaia theory posits, behaves as a physiological system in certain limited ways.” Now, the decisive character of physiological systems is that they dampen perturbations—within certain limits—but they can break down if these limits are exceeded. The concept of metastability means just this. The prospect of breakdown should actually suffice as an argument for adopting a principle of precaution and acting accordingly in terms of both ecology and climate. Margulis has always considered herself a natural scientist, not a preacher. “Gaia theory is useful science” (1998, 125)—thus her dry resumé at the end of the book. She does not even urge people to draw ecological consequences from it. Instead, she simply states: “We people are just like our planetmates. We cannot put an end to nature; we can only pose a threat to ourselves” (128). And she concludes: “The sum of planetary life, Gaia, displays a physiology that we recognize as environmental regulation” (119). But she immediately makes clear: “More an enormous collection of interacting ecosystems, the Earth as Gaian regulatory physiology transcends all individual organisms” (120). It is exactly this array of regulations, this enormous interaction, which is in danger of getting out of control due to the physical presence of human beings on earth and the impact of their technical activities on the planet in the Anthropocene.

The Natural Contract This is the point at which Michel Serres homes in. He too relies on scientific observations, but he speaks as a philosopher who sees it as the task of philosophy “to anticipate the future” (Serres 2000, 22). In other words, he is no owl of Minerva. Serres was a thinker of the Anthropocene before the term came into use. It is well worth looking at his argumentation in more detail. This is the focus of the second part of this chapter. Michel Serres finds drastic images for the current situation. His book begins with the portrayal of a painting by Francisco de Goya (Figure 1.1). Two youngsters are fighting with batons on a dune. Each of them tries to hit the other with his rod. All the while, however, they do not realize that they are sinking deeper into the sand with each blow. The ground they are standing on is going to swallow them. They have lost sight of the thing that sustains both of them, the third party that mediates their relationship and their social interaction. Thus, Serres (1995, 3) argues: Take away the world around the battles, keep only conflicts or debates, thick with humanity and purified of things, and you obtain stage theater, most of our narratives and philosophies, history, and all of social science: the interesting spectacle they call cultural. Does anyone ever say where the master and slave fight it out? Our culture abhors the world.

The “Material Turn” and “Anthropocenic Turn”  31

Figure 1.1 Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Duelo a Garrotazos, 1820–1823, Técnica mixta. © Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado, courtesy Museo del Prado.

He then asks: “But aren’t we forgetting the world of things themselves, the sand, the water, the mud, the reeds of the marsh?” (2) and concludes: We have lost the world. We’ve transformed things into fetishes or commodities, the stakes of our stratagems; and our a-cosmic philosophies, for almost half a century now, have been holding forth only on language or politics, writing or logic. (29) For the philosophers, Serres’ somber diagnosis is that “Nature is reduced to human nature, which is reduced to either history or reason. The world has disappeared” (35). Serres’ chiding of the philosophers comes to a halt in the face of the sciences of nature. Not that the sciences were not also socially constituted and did not rest on a contract as well, but they simply could not ignore the recalcitrance of their objects. In other words, scientific knowledge results from the passage that changes a cause into a thing and a thing into a cause, that makes a fact become a law, de facto become de jure, and vice versa. The reciprocal transformation of cause into thing and of law into fact explains the double situation of scientific knowledge, which is, on the one hand, arbitrary convention, as is all speculative theory, and, on the other hand, the faithful and exact objectivity that underlies every application. (22)

32  Hans-Jörg Rheinberger Serres repeatedly returns to this “double situation” and revolves around it again and again, as if he struggled with an analytically non-resolvable problem. In his Méditations pascaliennes, Pierre Bourdieu (1997, 109) characterized this dilemma as the inescapable “dual face” of scientific reason. He found the following words for it: While it forbids one to move fictitiously beyond the uncrossable limits of history, a realist vision of history leads one to examine how, and in what historical conditions, history can be made to yield some truths irreducible to history. We have to acknowledge that reason did not fall from heaven as a mysterious and forever inexplicable gift, and that it is therefore historical through and through; but we are not forced to conclude, as is often supposed, that it is reducible to history. It is in history, and in history alone, that we must seek the principle of the relative independence of reason from the history of which it is the product; or more precisely, in the strictly historical, but entirely specific logic through which the exceptional universes in which the singular history of reason is fulfilled were established. The sciences have an equally inextricable double face in the “world drama,” the subject of Serres’ The Natural Contract. He (1995, 15) argues that it is to their reifications that we owe those “world-objects,” that is, those “artifacts that have at least one global-scale dimension (such as time, space, speed, or energy).” And he lists: “A satellite regarding speed, an atomic bomb for its energy, the internet with respect to space, atomic waste for time […] these are four examples of world-objects” (12). These are the objects that stand for the global effects of mankind on the planet which is the one main issue of the Anthropocene hypothesis. For Serres, the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the turning point where the new era definitely has begun. Through these bombs, “my generation learned, as the first generation in history, that mankind as a whole faced the risk of extinction” (Serres 2010, 10). On the other hand, of the three powers that, according to Serres, determine our view on the world—administrators, journalists, scientists— science is the only one oriented toward the future: “Continuity belongs to administrators, the day-by-day to the media, and to science belong the only plans for the future we have left” (1995, 30). It thus remains as a task for science to care about “the greatest object of scientific knowledge and practice, the Planet Earth, this new nature” (30). And although today all three of the subcultures mentioned by Serres (31) are driven by short-term concerns, it is the sciences that are most likely qualified to induce that “harrowing revision of today’s culture” (93) necessary to keep the planet habitable. “Today,” Serres sums up, “our collectivity can equally well die of the productions of reason or safeguard itself through them” (93).

The “Material Turn” and “Anthropocenic Turn”  33

Elements of a History of Science This privileging of the sciences also makes it easier to understand why Michel Serres, in parallel to the preparatory work for his book on The Natural Contract, had assembled a group of younger historians of science around himself, with whose help he aimed to realize a new, unprecedented project in the history of science. Its result was published in 1989, one year before The Natural Contract, under the title A History of Scientific Thought: Elements of a History of Science (Serres 1995). It comprised contributions by eleven authors with a philosophical, a historical and a mathematical background—among them Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers. Spanning history from antiquity to the present, they all tried to understand the concrete conditions under which the material objects of the different sciences took shape and became themselves something like actors in the development of the respective fields of knowledge. Despite the misleading first part of the English title, the book stands as an example for the “material turn” in the history of science. In The Natural Contract, Serres continually talks about the history of the sciences. In this book, he narrates it in broad strokes as a history of objects constituted by judicial shifts and relocations. Drawing boundaries appears as the motor of scientific development from the beginning: “We don’t know how lucky we are that our minds are relieved of this social cord”—the Greek polis—: “as a result, they can turn to real sciences!” (69). He describes the state of mind of that Greek polis with flowery phrases: “What is nature? The city’s or culture’s hell. The place where the banished king was cast out, the city’s outskirts, suburbs” (73). For a long time it was the cup of hemlock that stood as a punishment for the exclusive occupation with nature, instead of the affairs of the city. Gradually, the sciences split off from politics, their terrain is distinguished from collective space, their contract differs from the social contract, their language is neither spoken nor written like public discourse, and the history of their truths is full of bifurcations. (78) Today, however, the sciences themselves have turned into an “allencompassing social fact” that tends to dictate its truths to jurisprudence and politics. But the sciences must beware of betraying their painstakingly achieved lay status as a result of this development: their core consists, paradoxically speaking, in the right to be wrong. Here again, what is necessary for Serres is a new contract. No party can exist any longer without the others, but they also cannot be reduced to each other, or fused together.

34  Hans-Jörg Rheinberger Thus it is better to make peace by a new contract between the sciences, which deal relevantly with the things of the world and their relations, and judgment, which decides on men and their relations. It is better to make peace between the two types of reason in conflict today, because their fates are henceforth crossed and blended, and because our own fate depends on their alliance. (92) If the sciences derive from the right to err, law derives from death. But today we no longer live—as since time immemorial—in the face of individual death, but of a possible collective death. Confronted with this new death, Serres argues that “We need both reasons, faithful knowledge and prudent judgment” (93). One of the younger people which Serres gathered around him in his project on the history of science was Bruno Latour. His conversations with Serres, reproduced in Eclaircissements (Serres and Latour 1995), are still as worth reading and relevant today as they were back then. Serres’ themes of the time form the background of Latour’s actor network theory (ANT) that later became so prominent. His book on the Pasteurization of France (Latour 1993b), destined to give a historical foundation to ANT, took shape in the years of collaborative work with Serres. As is well known, Latour has turned to Gaia in recent years, taking up one of Serres’ preoccupations from the late 1980s, and adding his voice to the acknowledgment of its urgency. In his Facing Gaia (2017), Latour makes use of all the conceptual and rhetorical tools at his disposal to convey this sense of urgency without, on the other hand, and not unlike Margulis, giving way to the “mother earth” connotations that his concept carries with it. Since the book is being widely discussed at the moment, I would like to conclude with a brief look at it. In good company with Margulis, Latour is outspoken about denying Gaia a “supreme Final Cause” (100). But Margulis would not agree with the characterization of the surface of the earth and its atmosphere as simply a “fine muddle” (100). Margulis’ whole argument revolves around the possibility that it is not. But it can, as a metastable system, collapse into such a muddle. It is the preservation of this metastable state that Serres demanded so eloquently in his book The Natural Contract. With his lectures on Facing Gaia, Latour has sharpened and focused his critique on the dichotomy of nature and culture, this conceptual invention of modernity that the makers of the modern epoch themselves in all their doings have never respected. This was Latour’s theme since We Have Never Been Modern (Latour [1991] 1993a), that small but influential book published in the wake of Serres’ The Natural Contract. Latour’s latest, radicalized conclusion is: “Besides, the notion of culture itself—together with the notion of nature—has vanished. We are post-natural—that is true; but also post-cultural” (Latour 2012, 185, own translation). How far such

The “Material Turn” and “Anthropocenic Turn”  35 wording will take us is open for debate. Concerning the foreseeable future, I personally stick to Serres, who wrote in his Biogée—we could call it an autobiography: My hope lies on the actual development of knowledge. Simple and facile, our old sciences were based on analysis that breaks up and dissects, a decomposition that separates the subjects from its objects. […] Complicated, global, and networked, the—new—sciences of life and earth presuppose communications, interferences, translations, distributions, and transitions. […] Let us recognize, with Empedocles, the urgency of a union between wisdom and knowledge, and that upon pain of collective eradication. (Serres 2010, 81–82, own translation) In a recent interview, Stéphanie Posthumus has observed that the figures who give The Natural Contract its narrative imprint are the peasant, the mariner and the wanderer. These personae are to be understood, not in their traditional ways of living, but in their attitude toward the worlds that lie behind them, and that have tended to be forgotten over the course of time: The peasant lives with all the other living beings around him under one roof and believes in a soul of things and of the world. The mariner obeys an ethics of governance in his handling of wind and water that is shaped by precaution and by prudence. The wanderer finally is the model of an aleatoric and creative choice of moving forward. He does not follow one method in the sense of the one right path, irrespective of the places that he traverses. He respects the particular conditions of the real world he encounters. (Posthumus 2018, 53) It is these attitudes toward the world that Serres, under the particular conditions of the present, calls for recouping with his book The Natural Contract. This is by no means meant as a step back to the good old times; rather, Serres invites to reconsider the relations that mankind, including all its scientific and technical sophistication, will have to establish with the planet if future generations shall have the option to live in a livable environment.

Notes 1 I dedicate this chapter to the memory of Michel Serres who died on the first of June 2019. 2 Compare, among other recent events, the Symbiosis Congresses of 2012, 2015, 2018 that Peter Berz mentions in his Afterword to the German translation of The Symbiotic Planet (Margulis 2017, I–XVI). Compare also the Anthropocene Project of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (www.

36  Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

References Berz, Peter. 2017. “Nachwort.” In Der symbiotische Planet, oder Wie die Evolution wirklich verlief, edited by Lynn Margulis, I–XVI. Frankfurt am Main: Westend Verlag. Bourdieu, Pierre. [1997] 2000. Pascalian Meditations. Translated by Richard Nice. Oxford: Polity Press. Crutzen, Paul J., and Eugene F. Stoermer. 2000. “The ‘Anthropocene’.” Global Change Newsletter 41: 17–18. Latour, Bruno. [1991] 1993a. We Have Never Been Modern. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Latour, Bruno. 1993b. The Pasteurization of France. Translated by Alan Sheridan and John Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Latour, Bruno. 2012. “Warten auf Gaia. Komposition der gemeinsamen Welt durch Kunst und Politik.” In Wissenschaft und Demokratie, edited by Michael Hagner, 163–188. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Latour, Bruno. 2017. Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime. Translated by Cathy Porter. Oxford: Polity Press. Margulis, Lynn. 1998. The Symbiotic Planet. A New Look at Evolution. London: Weidenfels & Nicolson. Margulis, Lynn. 2017. Der symbiotische Planet, oder Wie die Evolution wirklich verlief. Frankfurt am Main: Westend Verlag. Posthumus, Stéphanie. 2018. “Un contrat mondial longue durée. Entretien avec Stéphanie Posthumus. Propos recueillis par Emmanuel Levine.” Philosophie Magazine. Hors série “Michel Serres,” Autumn–Winter. Sagan (Margulis), Lynn. 1967. “On the Origin of Mitosing Cells.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 14 (3): 225–274. Serres, Michel. [1980] 1982. The Parasite. Translated, with notes, by Lawrence R. Schehr. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Serres, Michel, ed. [1989] 1995. A History of Scientific Thought: Elements of a History of Science. Oxford: Blackwell. Serres, Michel. [1990] 1995. The Natural Contract. Translated by Elizabeth MacArthur and William Paulson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Serres, Michel. 2000. Retour au contrat naturel. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Serres, Michel. 2010. Biogée. Brest: Editions Dialogues. Serres, Michel and Bruno Latour. 1995. Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time. Translated by Roxanne Lapidus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


The Anthropocene and the History of Science1 Jürgen Renn

Introduction What can the Anthropocene possibly mean for a history of science or a history of knowledge? Which new perspectives does it entail? Will it just lead to the next, fashionable turn? Evidently, there are many perspectives on the history of science, some of which may now appear to be old fashioned or outdated. In my view, however, even in the face of the new challenges to humanity to which the Anthropocene points our attention, the older, more traditional approaches to history of science, such as the careful exegesis of texts or detailed reconstructions of cognitive processes, have by no means become obsolete. We should get out of the habit of following fashions or turns and of playing different methodological approaches and knowledge interests against each other. They may all be valuable in their own right and will probably continue to be so in the future. What is more important, they may complement each other. Only by taking such a pluralistic approach can we guard against ideological prejudice and muster the intellectual resources necessary to confront the serious intellectual and practical challenges with which the Anthropocene confronts us. Such complementarity and open-mindedness is indeed needed when considering the complex material, social and mental dynamics that mark humanity’s transformation into a geological force shaping our planet. Take for example the material turn of the history of science. This has clearly demonstrated the productive role of epistemic objects, experimental systems and large-scale infrastructures. Its one-sided radicalization, however, may also lead to an underestimation of the mental, social and political dimensions of knowledge systems that we need in order to understand the coupling of the development of science and technology with an extractive economy responsible for the ongoing environmental changes. Or take the social constructivist attempt to understand scientific practice, for instance from the perspective of epistemic virtues. While this has given us new insights into cultural contexts and their role for the production and validation of scientific knowledge, it focuses almost exclusively on local settings, often at the expense of the larger

38  Jürgen Renn economic and political contexts relevant to the understanding of the Anthropocene. The currently widespread trend of moving from history of science to history of knowledge has brought long-neglected dimensions also of scientific knowledge into focus, such as the intuitive, practical and craft knowledge within and outside of science. Today we see historical scientific knowledge more and more as the tip of an iceberg whose substance is manifold forms of world knowledge such as the practical knowledge of Renaissance engineers and artisans crucial to the Scientific Revolution. The history of knowledge has opened up new vistas for the history of science also by paying greater attention to environmental and global history, for instance by taking into account the global circulation of knowledge on plants and animals. A highly diluted history of knowledge may run, however, also the danger of losing track of science itself. It may thus fail to consider the central role that science and technology have played and are still playing for the onset of the Anthropocene and no longer take as a challenge the special role they appear to have for other cultural processes. A history of knowledge, on the one hand, rightly denies the older history of progress and other grand narratives but offers, on the other hand, little in their place. Can the Anthropocene concept perhaps help us to develop a novel, overarching intellectual framework binding together the different approaches to the history of science? Before I come back to this question, let me take a step back and ask: Why are we even doing history of science? Do we still follow the motives of the Enlightenment? Do we still hope for science as a model case of reason, as the Vienna circle did? Or is the history of science rather a counter-movement that criticizes the dominance of certain forms of rationality or even the epistemic division of subject and object in the name of a new Gaia philosophy allegedly in response to the challenges of the Anthropocene? Are we concerned with justice, for instance global or gender justice, or are we pursuing the history of science purely for the sake of knowledge? Can a history of knowledge critically accompany science and perhaps even draw attention to neglected alternatives, suppressed or missing knowledge? Within the history of science, such motives often remain implicit, but we should keep reminding ourselves that approaches to the history of science based on topical issues are indeed legitimate and should not be dismissed lightly with the thoughtless blanket judgment of “wiggishness.”

A Brief Review of the Anthropocene The Anthropocene is precisely such a challenge. The term “Anthropocene” was first suggested in 2000 by the atmospheric chemist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen at a conference in Mexico City on Earth system research. Crutzen suddenly felt an aversion to the characterization

Anthropocene and the History of Science  39 of the present state as part of the Holocene as this seemed to downplay the influence of humankind on the Earth system. He urged the delegates to stop using the term Holocene and sought a better term, even during his lecture: “We are no longer in the Holocene; we are in the … the … the Anthropocene!” It later transpired that the term had a longer history. 2 In my view, the history of science and of knowledge can make a decisive contribution to the understanding of the Anthropocene, but only if they overcome the one-sidedness of current approaches that still tend to focus on highly localized narratives or on fashionable viewpoints. In other words, the theme of the Anthropocene is also an opportunity for the history of science to break out of its occasionally scholastic or post-modern fragmentation in order to confront a much larger picture. At the same time, it invites us to bring together many lessons of the past: without extending the history of science to a history of knowledge, the Anthropocene can hardly be tackled with, nor can it be understood without taking into account long-term development processes and global history (Renn 2012; Brentjes/Renn 2016).3 In the face of the Anthropocene, there can be no question of a history of progress, of course, but rather of an evolutionary history of knowledge for which material, cognitive and social dimensions are equally relevant.4 By means of science and technology, the human race has massively changed the planet, and this has had dramatic consequences. Some of these changes have taken place at a much faster pace than natural processes. There is barely any pristine nature on the planet. 5 A large part of the Earth’s surface that is not covered by ice has been transformed. The polar ice is melting, the oceans’ water level is rising, and coastal and marine habitats are being massively transformed. More than half of Earth’s fresh water is exploited by humans. Oceans are being acidified and contaminated by aquacultures and plastic. The construction of dams and extensive deforestation is massively affecting water circulation and erosion rates and, therefore, the evolution and geographical spread of numerous species. The loss of biodiversity is much greater by orders of magnitude than it would have been without human intervention (Kolbert 2014). On average, every second nitrogen atom in the biosphere has been processed once by the fertilizer industry. Most of the biomass of all living mammals is made up of humans and domesticated animals. Through energy-intensive chemical processes, humans have created functional materials (which are rare under natural conditions) and brought them into wide circulation. Among these are elemental aluminum, lead, cadmium and mercury, fly ash residues from the high-temperature combustion of coal and oil, and also concrete, plastic and other man-made materials, many of them displaying properties that are alien to the natural world. Plutonium from atmospheric nuclear testing will persist in the sedimentary record for the next several hundred thousand years as it decays into uranium and then into lead. We are measuring the highest

40  Jürgen Renn atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in at least 800,000 years (Lüthi et al. 2005). Even if the use of fossil energy resources were to stop immediately, it would take thousands of years before that concentration sank to pre-industrial levels. Some changes have occurred at a much brisker pace than natural processes. The present concentration of carbon dioxide has been reached at a rate that is at least ten, and possibly one hundred times faster than increases at any time during the previous 420,000 years (Petit et al. 1999). Simultaneously, new diseases have spread through carriers whose rapid life cycles allow them to adapt quickly to new conditions. But how quickly will human societies be able to adapt to new conditions? Ongoing changes will affect different parts of the globe in different ways and the global nature of these changes will not always be easy to recognize for those who suffer from them. Developed countries may actually appear to benefit from climate change, while developing countries suffer— but ultimately everyone will lose. There will be no escape, not even for the rich. In short, the Earth is changing with irrevocable consequences. There is no hope of ever returning to a “natural state” of things. People do not act against the backdrop of unchangeable nature, but are deeply interwoven with the Earth system and shape both its immediate and distant future. The fundamental revision of our understanding of the predicament of our planet can be compared with the revolutions of the physical conceptions of space and time, which were the direct consequences of Einstein’s theories of relativity. In classical physics, space and time appeared as the fixed stage on which world events took place. Following Einstein’s theory, however, this stage is no longer fixed but part of the piece itself; there is no longer an absolute distinction between the actors and the stage. Space and time do not remain in the background of physical processes but participate in their dynamics, just as the Earth system can no longer be conceived of as a stable background for human actions. The Anthropocene concept has created a bridge between geological and historical times. It is now apparent that the time scale of human history is inextricably linked to the geological time scale. Our economic metabolism consumes fossil fuels and, over a period of decades, consumes resources that have taken hundreds of millions of years to form. To put it another way, we are currently burning so much coal, natural gas and oil in the world in one single day as nature has accumulated in 500,000 days (Krauter 2006, XI)—and this tendency is rising! And just as geological time becomes historical time, our influence as a geological force makes human history an integral part of geological history (Chakrabarty 2009). At the same time, the Anthropocene constitutes its own, completely new epoch, in which geological changes take place more rapidly than in earlier geological times. In view of the massive impact of

Anthropocene and the History of Science  41 human interventions on the planet’s environment, the traditional dividing lines between nature and culture have become problematic because, as Karl Marx put it, we are living in an “anthropological nature” that has resulted from these interventions (Marx [1844] 1970, 143).

The Beginnings of the Anthropocene But when did the Anthropocene actually begin? This question has a double meaning, which has to do with its complex conceptual configuration: first of all, it is a stratigraphic question because the Anthropocene is researched as a geological epoch. The geological significance of the term is being analyzed by the Anthropocene Working Group, which in turn reports to the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).6 But whatever the final decision of the geology experts may be, the Anthropocene concept has already opened our eyes to a fundamentally changed global environment. It is therefore fitting that also historians and historians of science collaborate in the Anthropocene Working Group. The sediments being investigated (e.g., the plutonium signal originating from atomic bomb explosions) result, after all, from historical and in particular scientific and technological historical processes. The current recommendation amounts to a determination of the beginning of the Anthropocene to the time immediately after the Second World War (Zalasiewicz et al. 2017). But determining a stratigraphic starting point does not serve as a causal explanation of the dynamics carrying the planet into the Anthropocene. This is where other dimensions of the Anthropocene concept come into play. The Anthropocene as a concept is also the result of a new kind of Earth science, a transition from geology to Earth system science, whereby our planet can be understood as a non-linear complex system with many feedback loops. According to this new understanding, the Earth system is not only subject to uniform change processes, but can also achieve tipping points that lead to such catastrophic changes as Snowball-Earth events, which have happened several times in the past. This is why some also speak of a “new catastrophism” (Urry 2011, 36 ff.). It has long been known that the biosphere has played a crucial role in such events since the beginning of its existence. Earth system scientists have realized that this may also apply to the “anthroposphere” (Eduard Suess) or “technosphere” (Peter Haff). The reconstruction of past climates and of climate changes plays a key role in assessing boundary conditions for the future of the global climate.7 The comparison of man-made global warming with previous climate events not only shows that if we continue like this, the Earth system will inevitably shift to a hot-house state in which we are exposed to completely new, extremely inhospitable living conditions at some places on

42  Jürgen Renn the planet. It also shows that the speed of change and the state we are in has little comparison in Earth history. Earth system scientists therefore speak not only of urgent political and economic measures to prevent this, but of the need for Earth system stewardship (e.g. Crutzen and Steffen 2003, 256) in order to keep the Earth within planetary limits under which we can maintain cultural evolution as we know it. This raises fundamental ethical and political questions (Steffen et al. 2018). Whatever actions we take, they will depend substantially on the knowledge available about the interaction between the Earth system and its human components. We are performing a global experiment with a system that itself is already changing. Although our interventions are knowledge-based, they always have unintended consequences; they lead to second-order changes, both of the Earth system and of our knowledge systems. Consequently, more than ever, we have made ourselves dependent on our understanding of the human-Earth system as a complex dynamic system. Understanding the evolution of knowledge is therefore central to our future in the Anthropocene. For a historian of science, the first question to look at is how on earth did we get to this point? After all, no one seriously wanted to destroy the planet. Let us therefore consider some possible answers to this question. An obvious answer is the reference to industrialization, and especially to resource-consuming global capitalism. In speaking of the Anthropocene, some have therefore suggested to speak instead of a “capitalocene,” in order to draw attention to that part of humanity, or rather to those socio-economic mechanisms that are mainly responsible for the accelerating dynamics of global change (Altvater 2016). But a semantic shift of this kind could run risk of trivializing the problem because what really matters is not naming the culprits, but rather understanding complex planetary processes—especially with the perspective of having to shape them differently in the future. Moreover, proposals to rename the Anthropocene risk destroying the bridge that this term has created between the natural and the human sciences, a bridge that has opened up completely new perspectives also for the history of science and technology. The question of which processes and dynamics have led us into the Anthropocene is currently widely discussed (Davis 2016; Zalasiewicz et al. 2018). Proposals range from the invention of fire, the mass extinction of megafauna in the late Pleistocene, through the Neolithic period, the early modern era, the Industrial Revolution, up to the Great Acceleration of the 1950s. All of these milestones have left their mark on the history of the planet: the loss of biodiversity and predominance of domesticated animals and plants, the integration of geologically separated flora and fauna by the colonization of America, the rapid increase in CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution, the exponential increase of critical parameters of the Earth system since the Great Acceleration, and so forth. All of these milestones have also changed human options

Anthropocene and the History of Science  43 for action, which have been expanded by science and technology, but in terms of path dependencies, also been seriously restricted. These large-scale entanglements between the human sphere and the Earth system can only be understood against the background of a conception of cultural evolution that confers an important role to knowledge and also to science. Conversely, this also gives a new scope to the history of science. Historical epistemology, as it has been practiced since the 1990s, has linked history of science, philosophy and cognitive science. The material turn has brought the history of science closer to media studies, art history and the technical sciences, whereas social constructivism has introduced important perspectives of sociology and science studies. The Anthropocene can only be understood if all these dimensions are considered and, moreover, if the fundamental challenge to understand the large-scale dynamics of cultural evolution is also taken into account.

The Anthropocene from the Perspective of Cultural Evolution So far, cultural evolution has been viewed as being more or less analogous to biological evolution, or more specifically, to a traditional view of biological evolution that focuses on mechanisms of heredity and selection and on the role of fitness landscapes. As a basis for an understanding of cultural evolution, this is a reductionist view, which is rightly regarded with skepticism by most scholars from the humanities and social sciences.8 But from the point of view of modern evolutionary theory, a position that exclusively emphasizes statistical population dynamics also falls short when it comes to understanding the enablement, preservation or prevention of innovation. In a more differentiated view of biological evolution, two other factors play an important role: regulatory mechanisms governing the developmental dynamics of an organism, discussed under the heading of “evodevo,” and the role of the environmental feedbacks brought about by the organisms themselves, which is discussed under the heading of “niche construction” (Tomlinson 2018). From the perspective of cultural evolution, both are obviously crucial factors. The culture of human societies is not simply a collection of memes, some of which are handed down and others not, but is subject to complex regulatory mechanisms that are traditionally the subject of the cultural and social sciences. Only a consideration of these manifold regulatory structures of social systems makes a description of cultural development realistic, without reducing it to simple analogies of mechanisms of transmission and selection of single cultural elements. And, of course, human culture essentially consists in niche construction, that is, in the construction and transmission of material environments, from architecture through infrastructures, production systems and technology to the symbol systems on which the

44  Jürgen Renn transmission of knowledge, in particular also of scientific knowledge is based. The role of knowledge is dramatically underestimated in the current, very technical, discussion of cultural evolution. An important task for the history of science and knowledge could therefore be to fill this very gap and, conversely, to also benefit from the broad perspective of cultural evolution. The study of knowledge and cultural evolution could even offer important general insights into the nature of evolution: in knowledge evolution, it is obvious that constructed niches such as the material and symbolic environments of human societies not only revert to the evolutionary process by altering the external fitness landscape under which systems evolve, but also function as extended components of the evolving systems themselves and thus play a regulatory role. After all, our ways of acting and thinking are essentially shaped by the historically available material and symbolic culture, which must therefore be considered as an integral part of the regulatory structures of human societies. Abstract concepts such as number, weight, space, time or force, for example, could only be formed on the basis of certain shared experiences and their representation by material tools, artifacts and symbol systems. The emergence of the concept of energy, for instance, was only possible once actual transformations of motive power (e.g., the replacement of human force by wind or waterpower, and later by the steam engine) emerged historically as material practices. For the emergence of certain forms of thinking or action, such as mathematics, we may also consider the crucial role of such “external representations” of knowledge as writing or symbol systems, which are part of the material culture of a society.9 In order to describe the role of this material culture as a platform enabling specific human practices, we thus speak of “regulatory networks and niche construction,” a concept essential to what has been called “extended evolution,” an approach that combines ideas of the theory of complex regulatory systems with the theory of niche construction (Laubichler and Renn 2015). Conceiving cultural evolution, in this sense, as extended evolution also opens up a new perspective on the Anthropocene: from this perspective, it is important to understand how, over the course of history, regulatory structures of human societies have materialized in changes of our planetary environment, and how these changes in turn have enabled or prevented the emergence of novel regulatory structures, possibly giving rise to feedback loops ultimately involving the Earth system dynamics and coupling human activities and Earth system cycles. A glimpse at the long-term path dependencies that are triggered by these processes is enlightening: environmental contingencies such as the availability of domesticable plants and animals and historical constellations and events such as the European colonization of the Americas may affect long-term

Anthropocene and the History of Science  45 developments, even if their direct causal effect has long ceased to exist (e.g. Diamond 2005). This approach to cultural evolution may help the history of science to escape from hesitating between its traditional belief in progress and its post-modern resignation to a relativist historicism. On the one hand, an evolutionary perspective indeed entitles us to speak of functional differentiation and the accumulation of options for action but it also forces us, on the other hand, to recognize that these may only be local adjustments and optimizations under contingent circumstances and under the narrow constraints of path dependencies, while there is no guarantee of overall progress—and certainly no promise that the processes of knowledge production, which have brought us into the Anthropocene, will also suffice for surviving in it. In the transition from biological to cultural evolution, the role of “niche construction” has been transformed from one among several aspects of biological evolution into an essential feature of cultural evolution, as the role of material culture and tool use for the very emergence of modern humans illustrates. Given the increasing significance of scientific and technological knowledge for mastering the challenges of the Anthropocene, we might be facing a next stage in a cascade of evolutionary processes, “epistemic evolution.” In the transition from cultural to epistemic evolution, the role of scientific knowledge may be similarly turned from an initially marginal aspect into a characteristic feature of novel evolutionary dynamics. If this is indeed the case, the future of cultural evolution, or even the survival of our species, might well become dependent on the generation and circulation of the right kind of knowledge. What does such a perspective entail for a history of science in the Anthropocene and the novel problems it might address? It could, for instance, investigate the dynamics of human-environment interactions that have intensified over long periods of time and analyze the interaction of material and epistemic practices in the context of specific knowledge economies.10 “Knowledge economy” here refers to the totality of social institutions and processes that produce, reproduce, circulate and control the knowledge available to a society and, in particular, the knowledge upon which its reproduction as a whole is based. While knowledge enables individuals to plan their actions and reflect on their outcomes, a society or institution cannot “think” but merely anticipate the consequences of their actions within a specific knowledge economy. The limitations of historical knowledge economies may have played a crucial role in the collapse phenomena of past societies, as is suggested by the examples considered by the evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond (2005). A history of knowledge of the Anthropocene should therefore also include a history of knowledge economies in which knowledge with ultimately planetary effects has been produced, shared and reproduced—or failed to be produced.

46  Jürgen Renn Decisive for changes in knowledge and knowledge economies is the co-evolution of knowledge systems and knowledge communities. Understanding this co-evolution is basically the problem that Thomas Kuhn attempted to solve with his concept of “paradigm shift” (Kuhn 1973; Blum et al. 2016). However, according to Kuhn, scientific communities are typically elitist and intrinsically conservative communities of experts practicing “normal science” at a certain distance from society at large. In his neglect of the role of larger economic and political contexts, but also of practical knowledge, Kuhn was evidently influenced by the anti-communist spirit of the Cold War. This distinguishes him, for example, from Ludwik Fleck ([1935] 1979), and even more from the Marxist tradition of Boris Hessen or Henryk Grossmann, who emphasized the enabling role of the material culture of a society, as well as of broader knowledge traditions for science (Freudenthal and McLaughlin 2009).11 To understand the epistemological dimension of the Anthropocene, the role of materiality is crucial, if only because the term calls into question the strict distinction between the spheres of nature and culture. If, for example, the sediments to which the stratigraphy of the Anthropocene refers are no longer deposits of distinct natural processes, but hybrid residuals in which natural and human processes and their respective time dimensions are inextricably fused, then these natural-cultural strata and the “techno fossils” they contain become challenging objects, not only for geology and historical science, but also for a scientific rationality to which the distinction between natural and cultural sciences is inscribed as a form of organization (Klingan et al. 2014; Nelson et al. 2017).

The Anthropocene as a Challenge for the History of Science But also as a historical transformation of the earth sciences, the Anthropocene can hardly be understood in terms of a sudden Kuhnian paradigm shift. Like all transformation processes of knowledge systems and knowledge economies, this concept and the pertinent epistemic community did not result from a single revolutionary turning point, but instead from a long-term, protracted development.12 The idea that the Earth has been fundamentally changed by human activities is anything but new. The popularization of the Anthropocene concept has even led to a now canonical list of precursors, including Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon in the 18th century, George Perkins Marsh in the 19th century and Russian biogeochemist Vladimir I. Vernadsky in the first half of the 20th century (cf. Trischler 2016). This list, however, does not adequately reflect the complex changes in knowledge production that underlie the new concept and the formation of a community around it.13 Here, system theory and cybernetics as well as the institutionalization of the Earth system sciences have played a crucial role, as has the International Geosphere-Biosphere

Anthropocene and the History of Science  47 Program (at whose meeting in Mexico Paul Crutzen put forward his objection to the Holocene) and, more generally, the growing importance of international governance of environmental programs. If one wants to examine more closely such a long-term and complicated process, in which not only many scientists and scientific organizations but also NGOs and politicians have participated, one also needs suitable procedures to deal with historical Big Data. This requires methods of computational humanities, in particular methods of analysis that can be applied to tens of thousands of publications from diverse fields, but also a fundamentally new approach to understanding the co-evolution of knowledge structures and knowledge communities. One such approach is the epistemic network analysis that is currently undertaken at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.14 The first challenge of such a network analysis is to conceptualize the interaction between social and semantic networks, mediated by external representations of knowledge. To speak in Kuhnian terms, the emergence of a new paradigm can only be understood as a combination of societal and epistemic dynamics, but including the catalytic function of material and symbolic culture. The key to understanding the interaction between social and semantic networks within a given knowledge economy lies in the realization that this interaction is mediated by the material and symbolic culture of science comprising infrastructures, experimental systems, modeling capabilities and scientific publications. These external representations of knowledge make it possible for an emerging community to cluster around a particular experimental arrangement or a set of mutually related important papers. These elements of the material culture, for their part, can be understood as parts of a semiotic network so that the analytical problem lies in understanding the interaction of three different types of networks: the social network of persons and institutions, the semantic network of concepts and ideas and the semiotic network of artifacts, publications and other material representations of knowledge. The emergence of epistemic communities and clusters of concepts, which go on to become the core of a new knowledge system, manifests itself in the changes of these network structures and their mutual relation. The analysis of such network interactions has challenged mathematicians and computer scientists to develop new algorithms and methods for analyzing processes of self-organization resulting from a co-evolution of knowledge systems and communities of knowledge (e.g. Wintergrün 2019). I will briefly mention two case studies although they are not related to the theme of the Anthropocene. They relate instead to the cosmography of the early modern period and to the development of the general theory of relativity after the Second World War, respectively. The case of medieval and early modern cosmography has been analyzed by Matteo Valleriani (2017) and his collaborators on the basis of a systematic survey of hundreds of editions of The Sphere by Johannes de

48  Jürgen Renn Sacrobosco published between 1472 and 1650. They were able to show how the various treatises, which have been re-annotated and published over centuries, functioned as a kind of repository for the new knowledge that was disseminated by these tracts throughout Europe, that is, the knowledge that was gained through the great overseas expeditions of the time and also through the study of new astronomy. An epistemic community thus emerged, which shaped this new canon of knowledge and the socio-epistemic basis on which the transformation of astronomical knowledge eventually contributed to the emergence of the worldview of modern science. The other example is the emergence of a scientific community around the general theory of relativity in the 1950s and early 1960s (Blum et al. 2018). Applying network analysis to a large corpus of scientific publications, Roberto Lalli and colleagues have reconstructed this development as a process of self-organization in which cognitive and social dynamics were combined in a way that only became possible through a certain knowledge economy, involving international conferences, the exchange of postdocs and the emergence of textbooks and new journals. Only in the course of this process did Einstein’s theory of general relativity emerge as a second pillar of modern fundamental physics, next to quantum theory. Evidently, it seems promising to extend such approaches also to an understanding of the Anthropocene and its intellectual career as a novel unifying concept integrating Earth system science and the study of human societies. But from the perspective of a theory of knowledge evolution, even more profound questions come into view, regarding the very emergence of the new geological epoch as a result of the long-term history of human societies. To begin with, one may ask how the various proposals for the beginning of the Anthropocene are related to each other from such a perspective. They have, in any case, built on each other in a way that needs to be explained in more detail by future research: for example, without the so-called Neolithic Revolution, the urban revolution would be inconceivable; without the urban revolution, there would probably be no science because of the lack of a division between intellectual and manual labor which was characteristic of the urban revolution—and without this division of labor no Scientific Revolution would have been possible; and, probably, there would also be no Industrial Revolution without the Scientific Revolution. Of course, this chain of events is not inevitable but it may be a sequence of necessary prerequisites—this remains, however, to be examined in more detail. It seems, in any case, remarkable that some of these developments can be understood as the—in part accidental—emergence and accumulation of self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms within an increasingly complex and an increasingly connected world system. Consider, for example, the question of the relation between the scientific and industrial revolutions,

Anthropocene and the History of Science  49 central to the work of the economic historian Joel Mokyr (2002). Whatever the precise causal relation between these two transformations may be, it is undisputed that, during the so-called Second Industrial Revolution at the latest, scientific and technological development were closely intertwined with industrial production. Since then, technological development, scientific innovation and economic growth have not only been mutually reinforcing, but also began to involve more and more areas of socioeconomic development in an accelerated growth, including population growth, the exploitation of global resources, as well as global mobility and interconnectedness. This mutual reinforcement and expansion eventually resulted in the so-called Great Acceleration which is reflected, or at least clearly recognizable since the 1950s, in correspondingly rapid changes of critical parameters of the Earth system, such as the increase in greenhouse gases and soil erosion (McNeill and Engelke 2014; Steffen et al. 2015). In other words, the Earth system is actually no longer an Earth system, but a coupled human-Earth system. Besides the atmosphere, lithosphere and biosphere, a technosphere (Haff 2014) has evolved, with its very own dynamics. The self-reinforcing global feedback of economic- and scientifictechnological expansion during the first and second Industrial Revolutions is just one obvious example of such dynamic mechanisms. How other related feedback mechanisms have unfolded is a question that requires further research at the interface between the history of knowledge and other disciplines, not only with economic and social history, but also with environmental history and the history of materials. Most likely, there is not simply one universal mechanism at work here, but rather historically specific interactions that are deeply influenced by their materiality. A history of knowledge relevant to the Anthropocene must therefore include material histories as well, for example of key substances such as carbon, nitrogen or phosphorus, Stoffgeschichten, as the chemist Armin Reller has called them.15 In the following, I consider two examples in greater detail, the global history of coal and the role of nitrogen-based fertilizers for the transition into the Anthropocene.

Toward a Global History of Coal Under what ecological, social and epistemic conditions could coal become a key material of the Industrial Revolution?16 It is obvious that specific local prerequisites were required to start the self-accelerating and, ultimately, global dynamics in the use of coal. But was there just one such starting point or were there many, how many early attempts were aborted, which global dynamics were involved for the ultimate triumph of coal, and which are the conditions for its global demise?

50  Jürgen Renn A well-known example of the local beginning of such dynamics is the use of primitive steam engines for pumping groundwater from English coal mines in the 18th century.17 Because of abundant fuel supplies, inefficiency did not hinder the use of such machines, and the interaction of specific ecological and technological factors created an incubator for the gradual development of such machines. The initially very inefficient steam engine thus developed in a local environment in which efficiency played virtually no role (Jevons 1865, 117). In the 18th century, the “baseload” of the British fuel economy only gradually shifted from heating to industrial production. Only toward the end of the century, when the steam engine, coking processes and new smelting furnaces had prevailed did the consumption of fuel for production surpass that of households in terms of volume (Nef 1932, 190 ff.). The protracted energy transition from wood to coal was essentially a consequence of social and technological innovations that have prevailed in the course of around one century under favorable local ecological conditions. In addition to local factors, also global factors, especially European colonialism, influenced the energy transition from wood to coal. Manufacturing systems were also converted in colonial regions, as well as in China and the independent Latin American states. By using more workers, products that were in high demand in Europe could be produced in larger quantities. This so-called “industrious revolution” not only increased consumption on the European market, but also presented a certain degree of competition (De Vries 2012). The global dominance of the European powers kept this competition to a minimum, however, and ultimately strengthened the position of the coal-focused European industry over possible competitors and alternative forms for the economy. This functioned, for example, by investing British capital in non-European mining activities, or by monopolizing European manufacturing, for example, by excluding Indian cotton from the European market. Coal was increasingly used primarily in those areas where there was already intensive use of charcoal: for smelting or forging metal. But also in the blanching, brewing and dying industries, coal use hinged on the use of lignite. Over varying time periods, a changeover process began that generated a wealth of new knowledge in the different branches of production. In addition, new uses developed for the large number of waste products: coal gas from the coking process became a new source of light and tar from the same production was used in the growing chemical industry. Aniline is representative of the breadth of chemicals that could be profitably isolated in increasingly complex distillations from the original material: coal. Many other couplings, such as those between coal as an energy carrier and iron as a building material for machines, ultimately contributed to the great transformation that we call the Industrial Revolution. While such couplings have been well studied, especially for the Industrial Revolution, other mechanisms that have catapulted us into the Anthropocene

Anthropocene and the History of Science  51 epoch are still largely research desiderata, for example, the role of catalysis, one of the cornerstones of the 20th-century chemical industry, and at the core of the Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis.18

Chemical Fertilizers and the Anthropocene The Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis process was crucial for both fertilizer and ammunition production (Steininger 2015; Renn et al. 2017). This dual-use character led to the First World War becoming itself a catalyst that significantly accelerated the development of a particular type of chemical industry. Ammonia synthesis interfered in one of the most basic metabolic systems: the central production of foodstuffs. Until the beginning of the 20th century, agriculture and thus the nutrition of a noticeably growing world population depended on natural nitrogen fertilizers based on Chile saltpeter, that is, on geostrategically unfavorable and limited resources. With the ammonia synthesis, synthetic, chemical-industrially manufactured nitrogen fertilizers were introduced. It is because of these synthetic fertilizers that the world population today can be fed. Without mineral fertilizer, the Earth could only feed about 1.5 billion people. To put it bluntly, the rest are alive thanks to the insights of modern chemistry. An annual production of about 150 million tons of ammonia provides, however, not only desirable and positive growth. In Haber-Bosch plants throughout the world, there is just as much nitrogen from the air being fixed in ammonia as there is in all global bacteria put together. Over-fertilized soils can no longer absorb this flood of nitrates. The nitrogen cycle, which such chemists as Justus von Liebig and Fritz Haber dreamed of controlling and completing, has been reopened on a dramatic scale. Agriculture has been transformed from a facility for the accumulation of solar energy into a subsystem of fossil energy transformation. By using artificial fertilizers from ammonia, far more fossil energy is invested in food production than in the solar energy that is bound in them via photosynthesis. We thus recognize as characteristics of the Anthropocene an increasing dependence on human interventions in cycles of the Earth system, interventions that, in turn, depend on scientific-technical knowledge. But we also recognize how far we are from mastering the systemic consequences of these interventions, even at the level of scientific understanding. The success of nitrate chemistry had far-going consequences, initiating further self-accelerating developments, such as the rise of the petrochemical industry, as pointed out by the historian of science Benjamin Steininger (2018, 22): The superorganism of industrial petrochemistry could only arise in the cross-fertilization of nitrate, coal, and petroleum chemistry, and in the transfer of high-pressure processes and catalyst technology from the chemistry of nitrogen to the chemistry of coal and then oil.

52  Jürgen Renn According to Steininger, the materiality of the 20th century largely arose on the eve of the First World War, in particular due to the transfer of the potential of multi-step catalysts from nitrate to hydrocarbon chemistry.

The Digital Transformation and the Anthropocene Another example for the coupling of different transformation processes is the connection between the digital transformation and the Great Acceleration of the second half of the 20th century. Digitization is evidently closely related to other global transformation processes, but these relations are as yet poorly understood. It is clear, however, that without the new communication and information technologies, the rapid economic growth after the end of World War II, as well as the great acceleration in all areas of human productivity and resource exploitation, would have been unthinkable. It is also evident that in the face of such global challenges as climate change and the necessary transformation of our energy systems, in the future we will need new digital control options, but there is also reason to fear that we are running the risk of being increasingly regulated by the very control instruments that we ourselves created. How can we overcome this dilemma? How can we generate a technical civilization without abandoning our human values? With regards to our current understanding of the digital transformation, we may be at about the same level as climate research was 30 years ago at the beginning of Earth system research (for an overview see Rosol et al. 2018). In view of the urgent need to better understand global transformation processes and their interconnections, the Max Planck Society is currently considering a project, or perhaps even the creation a new institute, dedicated to investigating such processes under the preliminary heading of “geoanthropology.”

Knowledge Production for the Anthropocene In closing, let me return to the challenge that the Anthropocene implies for the history of science, which does not lie only in new questions, topics and methodological approaches. The history of science may also gain new opportunities to use its insights and reflective potential for the development of innovative forms of knowledge production. As an example, I just mention the need for a reorientation of the current knowledge economy away from increasingly specialized, fragmented knowledge production toward more reflection, greater attention to systemic aspects, transformative processes and global responsibility, including an emphasis on local perspectives and historical contexts. The historian of science Yehuda Elkana (2012, 610) captured such a change in perspective with his suggestion for a shift “from local universalism to global contextualism.”

Anthropocene and the History of Science  53 At present, such novel forms of co-operative knowledge production are being tested, for instance, within the framework of the “Anthropocene Curriculum,” a kind of global intellectual laboratory involving academics as well as civil society.19 By curating new forms of engagement at the interface of the natural sciences, the humanities, art and design, the Campus initiative, jointly initiated by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, attempts to productively combine many facets of Anthropocene research and to use this also as a stimulus for the history of science and knowledge, and conversely, to bring the history of science into many other discourses. 20

Acknowledgments For their generous support in the preparation of the presentation on which this text is based, I would like to thank my colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Lindy Divarci, Giulia Rispoli, Christoph Rosol, Benjamin Steininger, Thomas Turnbull and Helge Wendt.


54  Jürgen Renn

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58  Jürgen Renn Wendt, Helge. 2016a. “Coal Mining in Cuba: Knowledge Formation in a Transcolonial Perspective.” In The Globalization of Knowledge in the Iberian Colonial World, edited by Helge Wendt, 261–296. Berlin: Edition Open Accesses. Wendt, Helge. 2016b. “Kohle in Akadien. Transformationen von Energiesystemen und Kolonialregimen (ca. 1630–1730),” Francia 43: 118–136. Wintergrün, Dirk. 2019. “Netzwerkanalysen und semantische Datenmodellierung als heuristische Instrumente für die historische Forschun.” PhD diss., Erlangen-Nürnberg: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität. urn:nbn:de:bvb: 29-opus4-111899. Wrigley, Edward A. 2010. Energy and the English Industrial Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Zalasiewicz, Jan, Colin N. Waters, Colin Summerhayes, Alexander Wolfe, Anthony Barnosky, Alejandro Cearreta, Paul Crutzen, Erle C. Ellis, Ian J. Fairchild, Agnieszka Galuszka, Peter Haff, Irka Hajdas, Martin J. Head, Juliana Ivardo Sul, Catherine Jeandel, Reinhold Leinfelder, John R. McNeill, Cath Neal, Eric Odada, Naomi Oreskes, Will Steffen, James Syvitski, Davor Vidas, Michael Wagreich, and Mark Williams. 2017. “The Working Group on the Anthropocene: Summary of Evidence and Interim Recommendations.” Anthropocene 19: 55–60. Zalasiewicz, Jan, Colin Waters, Mark Williams, Antony Barnosky, Alejandro Cearreta, Paul Crutzen, Erle C. Ellis, Michael A. Ellis, Ian J. Fairchild, Jacques Grinevald, Peter K. Haff, Irka Hajdas, Reinhold Leinfelder, John McNeill, Eric O. Odada, Clément Poirier, Daniel Richter, Will Steffen, Colin Summerhayes, James P. M. Syvitski, Davor Vidas, Michael Wagreich, Scott L. Wing, Alexander P. Wolfe, An Zhisheng, and Naomi Oreskes. 2015. “When Did the Anthropocene Begin? A Mid-twentieth Century Boundary Level is Stratigraphically Optimal.” Quaternary International 383: 196–203. Zalasiewicz, Jan, Colin N. Waters, Mark Williams, and Colin Summerhayes, eds. 2018. The Anthropocene as a Geological Time Unit: A Guide to the Scientific Evidence and Current Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zalasiewicz, Jan A., Mark Williams, Will Steffen, and Paul Crutzen. 2010. “The New World of the Anthropocene.” Environmental Science & Technology 44 (7): 2228–2231. Zalasiewicz, Jan A., Mark Williams, Colin N. Waters, Anthony D. Barnosky, and Peter K. Haff. 2014. “The Technofossil Record of Humans.” The Anthropocene Review 1 (1): 34–43.


The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom Franz Mauelshagen

An Exercise in Dirty Metaphysics “Climate change” and the “Anthropocene” are more than just scientific concepts. In real life, they represent a general crisis in human-nature relations; a crisis in the earth system that is shifting into a new and unpredictable state (Rockström et al. 2009; Steffen et al. 2015); and a major crisis in the history of life on earth as we know it (Kolbert 2014). Were it not for the fact that these crises are translating into a crisis of fossil freedom, we might ignore all of this. By “fossil freedom” I refer to the totality of liberations enabled by the burning of fossil fuels from previously existing limits to human action—liberations, which have changed our individual and collective lives. “Fossil freedom” is a coinage similar to, and inspired by, Timothy Mitchell’s (2011) “carbon democracy.” The difference is in the adjective “fossil,” which emphasizes the geological origins of the resources we are burning, rather than their main chemical component, carbon. But this is no more than a nuance with little relevance. Both terms are similar in that they combine words belonging to separate spheres, or realms: the physical realm of necessity, where natural laws rule, and the metaphysical realm of freedom, where legal and ethical norms are supposed to limit our actions so they do not harm other people’s freedom. Logical, as this distinction looks philosophically, it is an illusion to believe that the two realms exist in splendid isolation from one another in our social worlds so that one, the realm of freedom, can expand unchecked by the other. In reality, they cannot but coevolve, and energy history is a way to describe this coevolution. Expressions such as “carbon democracy” and “fossil freedom” venture to suggest that the realm of freedom is contaminated with “dirt” from the sphere of necessity. Therefore, a study in fossil freedom is an exercise in dirty metaphysics. This essay is about dirty metaphysics. In principle, there is little new about questioning the philosophical dualism we have inherited from European enlightenment philosophy. Dialectical materialism did the same more than 150 years ago by showing how material inequality privileges some people over others. Karl Marx

60  Franz Mauelshagen found that control over the means of production shapes the realm of freedom, because it is key to how material wealth and physical labor are distributed within society. Understanding how the realms of necessity and freedom interfere with each other was a key element in Marx’ thinking. In volume three of Das Kapital (1894) he wrote: In fact, the realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with this realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working-day is its basic prerequisite. (Marx 1894, 593) No matter, whether we agree or disagree with the idea of socialism, we must acknowledge that Marx had a clear understanding of dirty metaphysics. And yet, 150 years make a huge difference in the way we approach this subject. It was beyond imagination for Marx and his contemporaries that climate change and other anthropogenic modifications of the earth system would start interfering with the realm of freedom in such a way that setting limits to our actions are considered a matter of saving the future of modern civilizations. The expansion of material flows between “nature” and society has become a driving force of earth systems change, and we are changing the earth at breath-taking speed. This is in essence what earth system scientists and geologists mean when they describe humanity as a geophysical force. It implies that the way we organize material flows not only changes our freedoms, but also impacts the physical world we live in, the earth. In the Anthropocene, the question of freedom reaches beyond distribution of material wealth in a given society. Now it also involves the question of limitation of material resources, which might set

The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom  61 limits to population growth, economic growth, the accumulation of wealth and all the (other) fossil freedoms we are still used to take for granted. This is how the Anthropocene adds a new dimension to the problem of entanglement between the physical world of matter and the metaphysical world of our freedom. For the very same reason, the Anthropocene challenges the academic world to bridge the divide between the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities (Mauelshagen 2017). In the following, I will refrain from any attempt at giving a comprehensive account of the history of fossil freedom since the dawn of industrialization. Instead, I shall approach the crisis of fossil freedom from the point of view of energy history. This allows a description of fossil freedom in relation to preceding energy regimes, which depended on the “biomass-climate nexus,” by which I refer to the sum of local environmental conditions for biomass production as affected by the climate system and its variability. Showing how and why climate has been a prime mover in (energy) history is key to a deeper historical understanding of the fossil turn in relation to the earth’s climate that is anthropogenic climate change. In the final part of this chapter I will return to the crisis of fossil freedom in the Anthropocene. In essence, I will argue that this crisis is a symptom of the transcendence of the biosphere that is showing in our material worlds.

The Biomass-Climate Nexus Pre-industrial societies relied on plants and animals as biological converters of energy. The organic matter of plants and animals, that is biomass, was by far the dominant source of energy that pre-industrial societies accessed and processed. Fossil energy resources also originate from biomass; but they are organic matter transformed by anaerobic decomposition and geological processes (heat and pressure) leading, after millions of years, to the compressed forms of energy that is known as coal, oil and gas. It is basically the lack of control of these geological processes that place fossil fuels outside the range of renewability. In contrast, biomass production is renewable on timescales—sub-annual, annual or decadal—that societies have learnt to handle way back in human history. Organizing pre-fossil energy regimes involved tapping into, controlling and modifying biomass (re-)production and its natural cycles. To some degree, these cycles can be regarded the material forces underlying cyclical concepts of historical time, and its many cultural variants, in practically all forms of pre-industrial societies. Theories of history are yet to take note of this, as are mainstream cultural theories of time and temporality that fail to connect cultural with environmental diversity, be it for mere ignorance toward any relation between the two, or for fear of environmental determinism (Mauelshagen 2016).

62  Franz Mauelshagen What is more important here, the control of biomass production in agrarian societies is restricted to a small selection of plants and animals suitable for domestication. The control of energy flows from the biosphere works by means of human cooperation with these plants and animal species. The concrete mix of these elements used to depend on local environments, and it still does today, despite the fact that the ties with local environments have been loosened in a world with global exchanges of resources and goods and biotechnologies allowing genetic modification. In any case, hidden behind the facades of this general and abstract description is a truly remarkable diversity of traditional agrarian biocultures, to which the spatial or geographic variability of the climate system is key (on biocultures see Maffi 2001, 2007; Loh and Harmon 2005; Maffi and Woodley 2010; Sobo 2013). To make that argument, it is worth noting that primary biomass production, or plant growth, is generally more important in defining the local character of any biocultural regime than secondary biomass production (animals). Primary production relies on the photosynthesis exercised by autotrophic organisms using sunlight to chemically convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar (e.g. glucose) and oxygen. The heterotrophic organisms of secondary biomass production, to which we humans belong as citizens of the animal kingdom, build on primary production. Conventional energy histories follow a tradition of characterizing energy regimes based on biomass production as solar, thus ignoring the role of climate. Looking back, though only briefly, into the history of climate science illustrates how counter-intuitive this is, because the emergence of climatology as a modern science cannot be separated from plant geography. Knowledge of both was intimately tied together. Plant geography was what motivated Alexander von Humboldt to ask questions of heat distribution on the surface of the earth (Humboldt 1817a; Meinardus 1899, 63–64; Humboldt 2008, 6–7). It was Humboldt’s innovation in 1817 to map temperature along isothermal lines for the purpose of what he called comparative climatology (Humboldt 1817b). He shared with many scientists of his time an intuitive understanding of the relation between climate variability and plant geography, despite his and his contemporaries’ lack of understanding of photosynthesis. The process of converting light energy into chemical energy known as photosynthesis was discovered only later in the 19th century (Nickelsen 2015). Its biochemistry fully explains why climate is a key to primary biomass production. Not only does the climate system regulate distribution and duration of sunlight (solar irradiance) in the course of the annual cycle; but, through atmospheric circulation, it also regulates the distribution of heat and moisture. Solar radiation passes through the atmosphere before it reaches the earth’s surface where the biosphere proliferates. Its density and distribution are influenced by a variety of processes and feedbacks in the

The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom  63 earth system. The sum of these factors is what we call the earth’s climate system, a large and complex “machine” that distributes solar energy (radiation) around the planet in various forms and rather unevenly. Temperature can be regarded a measure of heat energy (Brown 2016). In modern climate science, calculations of radiative forcing, measured in Watts per square meter (Wm –2), are an even more obvious and direct measure of energy, as it expresses the balance between incoming shortwave radiation (solar insolation) and outgoing long-wave radiation. The fundamental energy sources that drive the climate system are solar radiation and gravitation. The climate system itself lends complexity to this general description, because it is the cause of uneven distribution of solar energy flows. Despite a number of excellent accounts that describe energy conversion and flows within the climate system (Trenberth and Stepaniak 2004; Trenberth and Fasullo 2009), energy and economic historians, with rare exceptions (e.g. Malanima 2006), have practically failed to acknowledge that the climate system regulates the distribution of solar energy on the earth’s surface. To name but a few processes here, radiant energy is transformed into various other forms of energy in a thermodynamic mix: internal heat, potential energy, latent energy and kinetic energy. This energy mix drives the climate system. Heat is moved around in various ways, mainly by atmospheric and ocean currents. Most importantly, both the oceans and the atmosphere are transporting energy poleward from the equator, thus balancing the equator-to-pole temperature gradient influenced by latitudinal differences in insolation. Energy is also stored differently (and sequestered), depending mostly on heat capacity, which varies between the ocean (water), atmosphere, land and ice components of the climate system. There are two very simple and obvious ways to illustrate the effect of climatic variability on primary biomass production: one short-term, the other long-term. Short-term fluctuations in plant growth over the annual cycle reveal the influence of seasonal variability. This effect is most pronounced by opposite seasons in the northern and the southern hemispheres. Long-term fluctuations during the Late Pleistocene (roughly the last 126,000 years) show an oscillation between glacial and interglacial episodes. During the cold glacial episodes plant growth was limited by the expansion of polar ice toward the equator, particularly in the northern hemisphere. The unusually long interglacial period we live in, the Holocene, has provided warm and stable conditions long enough for agrarian civilizations to emerge and expand from their multiple origins in tropical and subtropical locations to more extreme climates, particularly in the North (Weisdorf 2005; Cowan et al. 2006). I shall emphasize that there is nothing deterministic in making this statement. It does not mean that agrarian civilizations emerged—or had to emerge by any form of necessity—because of the “long summer” of the Holocene, nor that it

64  Franz Mauelshagen expanded (exclusively) for that reason, although some researchers have endorsed such ideas (e.g. Dow et al. 2009; more references in Richerson et al. 2001). All it does is stress the boundary conditions that were crucial to the emergence and geographic expansion of agrarian civilizations.

Constraints in Biomass Production Pre-industrial agrarian societies had no other ways to access greater amounts of energy than through intensification or spatial expansion of biomass production. Early uses of coal in China and Europe remained quantitatively insignificant (Smith 1997; Dodson et al. 2014; Smil 2017, 164–169). Even after the invention of windmills and sailing ships, wind and water energy amounted only to a tiny percentage in agrarian regimes. Lacking energy storage technologies and chemical converters set limits to mobility and the transportation of goods, trade in particular. The food requirements of draft animals restricted land transportation economically (Sieferle 2004). Downriver was the fastest lane for the transport of goods. It looks like the dominance of biomass as an energy resource also created path dependencies limiting the scope of innovation to irrigation, fertilization, crop diversification and the organization of work (Smil 2017, 65–109). Innovation in wind energy, for example, came late. The Netherlands are an interesting example in this regard, because the expansion of windmill farms preceded industrialization, while their use peaked in the 19th century overlapping with the fossil energy transition of the country. Windmills were mainly used for pumping water out of the lowlands in order to make fertile soils available for farming. In other words, their usage remained tied to the agrarian regime of the country and its main purpose of increasing primary biomass production by reclaiming fertile soils from the sea. Returning to the role of climate in agrarian regimes, adaptation of the latter to local conditions was the main option in a dynamic relationship. The variety of available adaptive strategies and the vulnerability to climatic variability depended on concrete local factors, the selection of plant and animal species embedded in a local environment that provided the conditions for biomass production. Agrarian regimes relied on recurring weather conditions allowing them to perpetuate the rhythm of sowing, plant-growing and harvesting. In most places on the earth, growing of crops is seasonal. Growing seasons may be once or twice annually. This is why, throughout the history of farming, annual or seasonal variability in solar radiation, precipitation, more short-term weather extremes and natural hazards have always left their marks on crop yields. Larger losses could be bridged in different ways, for example by way of importing food or food storage. However, economically, there was a marginal utility limiting these strategies temporally in such a way that repeated crop failures and other types of disaster like cattle disease

The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom  65 and epidemics would lead to long-lasting crises with strong feedbacks on all aspects of social and political life. While intensive land use may have impacted local climates or even modified the atmosphere to some degree (Ruddiman 2003, 2005a, 2005b), climatic fluctuations and changes remained beyond human control. However, throughout their history, agrarian societies have experimented with new species of crops and animals, which is symptomatic for the type and continuity of their innovations (Smil 2017, 85–87). Selecting a species for cultivation or breeding highly depended on its adaptability to local climatic conditions. All historical processes of colonization are a treasure trove of examples for the required trial-and-error approach. Experimenting with new plant and animal species was a major concern throughout the European expansion from the late 15th century until the dawn of industrialization. Crops, agrarian products and forced labor (slavery) became as important goods in the “Columbian Exchange” as gold and silver (Crosby 1972; Schiebinger 2004; Schiebinger and Swan 2004). In sum, in this and the previous section I have argued that climatic factors set temporal and spatial limits to natural as well as human-controlled biomass production and that the climate system needs to be acknowledged as a prime mover not only in the history of life, but also in human history. From the point of view of energy history, on-surface solar radiation, the distribution of heat and moisture were key to pre-industrial agrarian societies in that they defined local conditions for, and limitations to, their bio-cultural evolution (Ali 2013). These include constraints on growth of populations and their economies, on the accumulation of capital, on material wealth, on construction, trade and mobility.

The Fossil Turn in Climate Relations The experience of fossil freedom was, in many ways, relative to the constraints of agrarian societies. Historians of industrialization have described the character of its liberations based on numerous accounts by eyewitnesses of technological progress, its influence on everyday life and its multiple transformations. The liberations of industrialism are a recurring theme in 19th- and 20th-century records, a theme that can be traced through all technological and commercial innovations of the last two and a half centuries like a leitmotiv in music. And yet, conventional histories of “modern societies” remain quite reserved when it comes to recognizing their fossil foundations. Energy history is still considered a specialized branch of historical study apparently deserving no more than a niche in the complex architecture of historiography. Among other things, this essay is an attempt to pull it out of that niche. Fossil fuels, which include lignite, anthracite coal, peat, natural gas and crude oil, develop from geologically compressed biomass and are highly concentrated reservoirs of stored energy. Key technological innovations

66  Franz Mauelshagen have enabled industrial societies separating the reservoir from the converter and transforming chemical into electric energy, and kinetic into thermal energy. By controlling these processes technologically, energy availability has been detached from actual solar radiation and its unequal distribution through the climate system. This is a crucial advantage over the biological converters of traditional farming, which, while renewable, have a shorter lifespan than fossil fuels. Logically, the temporal and spatial properties of fossil regimes differ from any of the pre-industrial agrarian regimes. The geological forces involved in the making of fossil fuels make all the difference. Among other things, they lack renewability relative to human timescales, which are, for example: a lifetime of an individual human being, which exceeds a hundred years only very rarely, or the lifetime of institutions, states or civilizations, which sometimes lasts up to a thousand years or two (e.g. the Catholic Church). Industrial energy regimes have built a material world on top of the agrarian sector and transformed food production along the way. The primary sector has been re-modelled. Through motorization and fertilizers agriculture has been turned from a source of net energy production into an energy sink. It is, however, the industrial expansion of the agrarian sector that has enabled bailout from pre-industrial limits to growth by loosening up the biomass-climate nexus. While there is still vulnerability of the agrarian sector to such climatic fluctuations, extremes and hazards, industrialized nations have no longer been hit by traditional subsistence crises in the past 150 years. This has been called the escape from the Malthusian trap (Brandenberger 2004). In fact, it is a rupture in the coevolution between the earth system and human culture due to the transcendence of the biosphere. Breaking up the biomass-climate nexus underlying that transcendence has a lot to do with the fact that fossil energy resources are retrieved from the crust of the earth. They can be dislocated cost-efficiently; and their usage is detached from the places they come from. The latter may have been the case for some of the biomass production of traditional agrarian regimes as well, and it is certainly the case for a wide spectrum of agrarian products today, though global distribution of these goods has been enabled by the accelerated cargo system of motorized vessels and preservatives slowing down the decay of foodstuff. Breaking up the biomass-climate nexus, while it continues to apply in a mitigated form to the primary sector, is the undercurrent of some of the profound transformations the fossil energy regime has brought about in our social worlds. It all started with the industrial transformation of labor that Marx was concerned with. Agricultural vehicles running on fossil fuels have released human labor previously required for field work. The yield increase of a technologically and bio-chemically armed agrarian system enabled a drastic redistribution of the human labor force between economic sectors. The ratio of 80%–90% of the population

The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom  67 which was bound to working the soil was reversed. In our day, the share of the agrarian sector in the labor force of the nations of early industrialization has fallen below 5% (Allen 2000; Tilly 2010: table 2). Labor has been in a turmoil ever since. Its history mirrors all technological transformations and the acceleration of change they have brought along. Fears of unemployment and structural loss of jobs through mechanization has never gone away since the early days of industrialization. It is the red thread that goes through labor history, including the digital revolution today. Hardly, if ever, will such fears be comforted by the uncertain prospect of a better life and better work sometime in the distant future. This brings us back to Marx’ point about labor as the barometer of all relations between the realms of necessity and freedom. Early liberal economics created an almost forgotten (utopian) vision of universal wealth and liberation from the pains of physical labor—a vision that included freedom and better education for increasing numbers of the population of a nation, which was supposed to become the source of never-ending scientific progress. Marxism questioned such visions pointing its finger at the problem underlying the idea that the wealth of nations would merely profit from private initiative and capital. The unequal distribution of capital would lead to huge and unjust inequality within societies and between them, creating potential for political unrest and instability along the way, with the invisible hand of the market doing little but enhance it. However, Marxism also developed its own utopian vision of liberation founded on the same optimistic enlightenment anthropology of perfectibility, not only of humans, but of nature as a whole. In the course of the transformation that Marx envisioned for the future of industrialization, human work (or power, if you will), by using the means of knowledge and technology, would transform the first given nature into an improved “second nature” and, finally, overcome the alienation from nature (Marx 2005, 279–400). It needs to be mentioned, if only briefly, that the perfectibility of “man” and nature were ideas deeply involved with enlightenment and colonialism, although the idea has survived colonialism’s historical existence in time and space. Stalin’s “Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature” is as striking an example as countless development projects around the world, under either capitalist or communist guidance (Krech et al. 2004, 1077; Olsáková 2016). All of them are cases to deeper study the complexities and contradictions of dirty metaphysics. There is, nevertheless, a core of liberating effects brought about by fossil energy regimes that have been praised as civilizational achievements. As much as such praise needs to be dismantled, the liberations of fossil freedom are not easily dismissed. The transformation of mobility, the end of (colonial) slavery, the escape from the Malthusian trap, as mentioned above, or electrification and artificial light as opportunities for better education (still important today, for example: in rural

68  Franz Mauelshagen India) were perceived as liberations, as many historical accounts have proven. And there are many more examples. What fossil energy regimes achieved was leaving behind previous material and energy constraints in agrarian societies. This is no news, of course, to the history of energy transformations and its analysis, though easily overlooked today outside that specialization. That said, it is even more important to understand the evolution of fossil regimes into a state—perhaps of its own “success”—, where constraints of a new order of magnitude are beginning to take their toll on our freedom. It is a clear sign of this integral dialectic that environmental consequences became included at some point in our visions of technological progress. This is perhaps why the cyber-worlds of digitalization surrounded themselves with the myth of their cleanliness and immateriality. The invisibility and opaqueness of information infrastructures apparently helped disguise the enormous amounts of electric power (bitcoin!) and the great variety of (often critical) metals they are made of, as well as the pollution they produce (e.g. Lécuyer 2017). Challenging the “digital utopian vision” of immateriality reveals that neither Daniel Bell’s “post-industrial society,” nor James Martin’s “Wired Society” are what they claimed to be: “rendered free from the material constraints that governed the material world” of industrialism. Quite the contrary! Cloud technologies resemble “simply a reconfigured network of industrial-era physical infrastructures” (Ensmenger and Slayton 2017, 296–298; see also Ensmenger 2013). This is why our current state of the economy in “the West” and elsewhere should be labeled “post-industrial” only with caution. While labor markets have experienced a shift from the industrial to the service sector since the 1970s, the energy regime has remained quite the same.

Transcending the Biosphere Our fossil freedoms have established a new relationship with the climate system, its temporal and spatial properties on planet earth. They are the effect of the loosening of our ties with primary and secondary biomass production—liberations from (some of) the constraints imposed upon us by our evolution from, and coevolution with, the biosphere. However, fossil freedom has not left the climate system behind, which is a strange thought per se. Rather, it has expanded so significantly that a new relationship with the climate system has been established: one of altering it significantly and rapidly on the timescales of human actions (and their history), while the planetary effects are operating on the geological timescale. According to recent model simulations, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused a delay of the onset of the next glacial period of at least 100,000 years (Ganopolski et al. 2016). Some of the traces we have left in recent sediments will be preserved in future rock

The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom  69 even for much longer. This is how human history is suddenly converging with earth history in the Anthropocene (Chakrabarty 2015). Anthropogenic climate change has been the most obvious and politically pressing symptom of crisis of fossil freedom. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly might, if realized, spell the end of the fossil energy regime decades, if not centuries, before we will be running out of oil, gas and coal. The purpose of controlling anthropogenic climate change within the scientifically recommended +2°C above pre-industrial levels, upon which the parties of the UNFCC agreed in Paris 2015, defines the limits of the fossil energy regime. Like any agreement, this is an act out of free will (of the participating nations), which belongs to the realm of freedom. However, it is an act out of free will executed with regard to the realm of necessity and informed by climate scientists. It is founded on evidence confirming that anthropogenic forcing is dominating global warming. Without this evidence, an act out of free will would be senseless and easily dismissed as wishful thinking. Despite its enormity, anthropogenic climate change is only where the crisis of fossil freedom begins. The Anthropocene is a step further in describing the constraints lying ahead of us. It includes climate change as a key factor but goes far beyond it in reflecting the sum of human action as the equivalent of a geophysical force in the earth system (Steffen et al. 2011a, 741). Underlying it is once again the energy anomaly created by the fossil regime, which has fundamentally altered the character of material flows from the physical environment into society, as well as from society back into the environment (emissions and waste). On a global scale, they are no longer dominated by biomass, as they used to be, but by materials extracted from the crust of the earth. As a result, the worlds of construction we have created and we live in today are predominantly “lithospheric,” as is most visible in modern cities. Handling rock for construction is an extremely energy-intensive undertaking, and so is digging deep and deeper into the earth. Statistics of global material extraction over the course of the 20th century display a transition that occurred shortly after 1950 (Krausmann et al. 2009). Biomass still made up for slightly more than 50% of total extractions around 1950, while afterwards, their percentage (or relative share of total) dropped quickly below that mark. This was not merely the continuation of an existing trend already established in the coal era, but an effect of the Great Acceleration driven by cheap oil in the long boom that lasted from the 1950s until the oil crisis in 1973 (Pfister 2010; Mauelshagen and Pfister 2010). However, the same statistics also indicate another important dimension of the lithospheric shift in material cultures brought about by the fossil energy regime, which is intensification of human control over the biosphere. While the share of biomass went down, its absolute input into societal material circulation still increased significantly.

70  Franz Mauelshagen The enormous variety of materials we make use of today is already mirrored in the most recent sediments that the geologists of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) are analyzing. What their high-resolution stratigraphy for the 20th-century brings to the fore is a huge number of technofossils. They reflect the evolution of the technosphere and its enormous expansion nurtured by the fossil energy regime of industrialism (Zalasiewicz et al. 2017; Haff 2014; Klingan and Rosol 2018). Industrial technologies have produced an unprecedented increase in material variety, making it an anomaly in the history of social metabolism (Mauelshagen 2019). Synthetic materials such as plastics have contributed to it as well as new raw materials for industrial mass production or unprecedented amounts of materials already used (Bardi 2014). As a result, the material culture of industrial energy regimes is markedly distinct from anything we find in pre-industrial worlds: for example, we are now living in an “all-metals” era, which means that all metals and semi-metals from the periodical system have become components to building our material world (Exner et al. 2016; Held et al. 2018). Twentieth-century stratigraphy—the technofossils geologists find in it—is the signature of fossil material culture (Zalasiewicz et al. 2017). The so-called material turn in the humanities and social sciences is only beginning to discover this dimension, and it still seems a long way away from systematically considering “materiality” in context with climate, the environment and the earth system (Leggewie and Mauelshagen 2018, 5). Transcendence of the biosphere and intensification of the control of biospheric resources appear to be the trademark of the Anthropocene. The consequences are far-reaching: Dependence on lithospheric materials means our material worlds have moved outside the rhythms of renewability that rule the reproduction of biomass in the biosphere, based on co-evolution with the climate system and its variability in time and space. Instead, industrial material cultures are now predominantly interfering with the realm of geology, driven by long-term processes such as weathering, which, even if cyclical in some cases, imply that there is no renewability. This applies to fossil energy resources as well as to all materials extracted from the earth’s crust. Combined with the danger that toxic release of many of these materials into the biosphere pose to the preservation of life on earth, it may be concluded that the boundary conditions of fossil freedom are pushed to the limits the further advanced the detachment of our material culture from the biosphere. These boundary conditions define the constraints for the future evolution of fossil cultures—constraints that are now planetary in dimension. While awareness of these constraints is only beginning to rise, fossil freedom has altered our perceptions of the earth as an open space for human expansion from the beginning. The experiences of acceleration and speed in the early days of motorized mobility were expressed in the metaphors of a shrinking earth. And indeed, the earth has shrunk considerably

The Dirty Metaphysics of Fossil Freedom  71 in relation to the sheer number of people around today compared with, say, half a century back; or in relation to the rapid expansion of the technosphere and the amount of material accumulated in it; or our capacity to move faster, and access and allocate material resources. The earth has also shrunk in relation to our growing capacity to destroy it, or parts of it. Pinpointing the exact moment when the earth as a whole was beginning to look like a place vulnerable to human action in scientific and public consciousness may be disputable. Yet, the atomic age that followed the detonation of the first nuclear weapon is a strong candidate. It coincides with a potential geological marker for the lower boundary (or beginning) of the Anthropocene around 1950 favored by a majority of members of the AWG (Waters et al. 2016; Zalasiewicz et al. 2018).1 The threat of mutual nuclear destruction between the superpowers of the Cold War definitely turned the earth from a place capable of providing seemingly endless resources and opportunities for waste disposal into something much more limited and vulnerable to human action (Mauelshagen 2020). This is precisely why earth system scientists and geologists advocating the Anthropocene have argued that the sum of our actions is now the equivalent of a geophysical force (Steffen et al. 2011b, 741). It also means that we are hitting the limits of the earth system, at least with regard to the relatively stable state of the Holocene, the interglacial that has lasted for the past 11,700 years (Walker et al. 2009). The continuation of this stability is now under threat from the accumulated effects of fossil freedom. Approaching fossil freedom from the point of view of the Anthropocene suggests that what enlightenment utopias envisioned as liberation from, and control of, nature is better described as transcendence of the biosphere, acceleration of its modification and enhancement of control over its resources enabled by the fossil energy regime. The downside can no longer be overlooked, as the material world that has emerged from that regime has intensified dependence on geological resources to maintain the technological infrastructures of the constructed world, or technosphere, we depend on. Maintenance of the technosphere is an issue of vital importance to modern civilizations. But it is a conundrum how this can be achieved without destroying its non-renewable foundations in the long run. Hence, the Anthropocene raises the question of entropy in society. To approach it, the entropy (or dissipation) of the material worlds we have built becomes a crucial issue. This is the dirt of our freedom. Controlling its damaging impact requires to voluntarily and collectively set limits to fossil freedom. In effect, I expect this to terminate liberal traditions of defining the limits of our actions merely by the individualistic nucleus of our freedom’s relation to the freedom of other people’s actions. The legal and ethical rules that have emerged from this self-referential system have basically made our relations with the earth a by-product. As the dirt of our metaphysics is getting back to us, this is beginning to look like a recipe for disaster.

72  Franz Mauelshagen


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Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene Hannes Bergthaller

Asia and the Limits of Modernity My starting point for the following discussion is a personal observation: in Taiwan, where I live and teach, the Anthropocene arrived only with considerable delay and has attracted much less public attention than in Germany or the Anglophone countries. The Anthropocene neither made it onto the cover pages of important news magazines, nor did it become the subject of bestselling popular science books and TV specials (it was however, prominently featured at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum’s 2018 Biennial Exhibition). Few of the people I talk to have even heard of the term, and when I tell them about my research, they do not seem overly preoccupied by the idea that human activities have propelled the Earth into a new geological age. Nor does this appear to be a Taiwanese peculiarity: from discussions with friends and colleagues, I gather that much the same can be said about Japan, the People’s Republic of China or South Korea—and it probably holds true for other parts of Asia, as well. At the same time, however, there is a growing recognition that Asia plays a crucial role in the social and ecological dynamics that are shaping our geo-historical moment (as indicated, for example, by Routledge’s recently inaugurated book series Studies on Asia and the Anthropocene). The principal reason why all the curves of the “Great Acceleration” are still pointing relentlessly upwards (with the notable exception of that for population; cf. McNeill and Engelke 2014, Steffen et al. 2015) is the spread of middle class consumption patterns around the world, if by middle class we understand people with a household income sufficient to purchase consumer durables (such as refrigerators, washing machines or motorcycles), to spend money on entertainment and on the occasional vacation. As recently as 2000, about 80% of this “global middle class” was living in Europe and North America (Kharas 2017). Already by 2015, their share had dropped to about 35%, due largely to the rapid expansion of the middle class in Asia. It is projected that by 2030, the Asian middle class will be at least three times larger than that of the old

78  Hannes Bergthaller “West,” accounting for two thirds of the world’s total (Kharas 2017, 14). Here is how this remarkable development is summarized in a recent report: It was only around 1985 that the middle class reached 1 billion people, about 150 years after the start of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. It then took 21 years, until 2006, for the middle class to add a second billion; much of this reflects the extraordinary growth of China. The third billion was added to the global middle class in nine years. Today we are on pace to add another billion in seven years and a fifth billion in six more years, by 2028. (11) The implications of this development for the Anthropocene are clear: the ecological transformation that ushered in the new geological epoch may initially have been driven by developments in the West, but how it plays out in the longer run will be determined in Asia, more than anywhere else. While the cumulative CO2 emissions of the West since the beginning of the industrial revolution still dwarf those of Asian nations, the latter have already begun to outstrip the former, and China in particular has now “become the world’s largest economy and its worst polluter with per capita greenhouse gas emissions surpassing the EU average” (Spangenberg 2014, 1). The future trajectory of the Anthropocene will depend on what form middle class consumption patterns take there, and to what extent governments will be willing and able to steer their economies toward more sustainable paths of development. Any talk of how “we” should comport ourselves in the face of the Anthropocene that does not take into account the outsized role Asia will play in it is pointless. None of this should come as news, of course, and it surely isn’t news to a lot of people in Asia. It is important to emphasize that the relative lack of resonance of the Anthropocene concept does not reflect a general lack of interest in environmental issues. In Taiwan, to stick to the example I am most familiar with, people are well aware of climate change and frequently express their concern over it. There are fairly influential environmental movements advocating against both nuclear power and coal power plants, for a transition to sustainable agriculture, the protection of endangered species, of the oceans from plastic waste, etc. (Grano 2015). Green consumerism is popular among those who can afford it (Ting et al. 2019). And yet, the reframing of all these issues in terms of the Anthropocene does not seem to hold the obvious fascination that it does for many intellectuals in the West. Rather than seeing Asian indifference toward the concept of the Anthropocene as peculiar, then, perhaps we should turn the tables and ask: why exactly is it that “we” in the West have become so besotted with it?

Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene  79 Given that Anthropocene discourse proliferated primarily within the context of “Euro-Australo-American academic environmental studies and environmental politics” (di Chiro 2016, 364), what are the features of the concept that are particularly attuned to “Western” ways of thinking? And can we bring these features into better focus if we look at the Anthropocene from an Asian perspective—one informed, for example, by the historical experience of a country such as China? This is an important question insofar as the concept of the Anthropocene so obviously appeals to, and draws its rhetorical force, from a sense of human universality: it posits “humanity” as the agent that propelled the Earth into a new geological epoch; it anticipates ecological changes that will affect all humans on the planet, in one way or another, no matter where and under what conditions they live; and it suggests that mitigating climate changes and the host of adverse ecological changes that accompany it is a collective task for all of humanity. But of course, such presumptions of universality are a long-standing feature of Western thought, and one that has been most fiercely contested. Indeed, the Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh has suggested that the role of Asia in the drama of world history has precisely been to reveal the presumed universality of Western modernity as a sham. With feigned humility, he casts the continent as “the simpleton who, in his blundering progress across the stage, unwittingly stumbles upon the secret that is the key to the plot”—the secret being that “the patterns of life that modernity engenders can only be practiced by a small minority of the world’s population” (Ghosh 2016, 92). Ghosh argues that many thinkers from this continent understood already very early on that the attempt to bring the amenities of Western modernity to the vast populations of their world region would be courting disaster. This point is forcefully brought home by a quote from a speech of the Mahatma Gandhi, held in 1928: “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. If an entire nation of 300 millions [sic] took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts” (qtd. in Ghosh 2016, 111). The universalistic pretensions of Western modernity are undone by scale—and it is Asia, whose population has always dwarfed that of Europe and the Americas, where this conclusion became inescapable long before Westerners gave it serious thought. Ghosh points to the example of Japan, where, he argues, “awareness of natural constraints became a part of […] official ideology,” and industrialization was a much less wasteful process than its Western analogues (112). One might want to object that the “awareness of natural constraints” was hardly a distinguishing feature of Asian thinking—Ghosh’s examples line up rather neatly with the Malthusian fears that were a constant counterpart to the dream of universal progress in Western modernity, and given that he received his academic education in late Victorian England, Thomas Malthus would appear to be as likely a source of

80  Hannes Bergthaller inspiration for Gandhi’s remarks as are the ancient sources of Indian wisdom. Also, one can legitimately ask whether such fears really ended up having more of a practical import in Asia than they did in the West. None of this, however, should detract from Ghosh’s underlying point: the Asian experience of modernity differed substantially from that of the West. If the Anthropocene comes as a shock, it is because it shatters the “horizon of expectations” that had been shaped by the experience of modernity (Koselleck [1979] 2004, 255). Insofar as people in Asia do not share this horizon of expectations, it is unsurprising that they are also less impressed by its imminent implosion.

Spiritual Traditions, Material Histories The central question, then, is how modernity was experienced in Asia, and how this experience differed from that of the West. This is, of course, an extravagantly ambitious question to which I cannot pretend to offer anything but the barest outline of an answer. It is also a different question from the one that is most often asked when Asian cultures are addressed in the context of ecological crisis—namely, the question whether the spiritual traditions of Asia might offer an alternative conception of the human relationship to the world which might help us to steer away from the ecocidal madness of Western modernity. This idea has been around for as long as the environmental movement, and at the very least since the historian Lynn White Jr. famously located the “roots of ecological crisis” in Western Christianity—“the most anthropocentric religion the world has ever seen”—and off-handedly praised the beatniks for looking to Zen Buddhism in their quest for a new religion that might set the “man-nature relationship” aright (White 1967, 1206). According to White, the instrumentalist mindset of the West which views all non-human beings as entirely subordinate to human ends is an unalloyed product of Christian monotheism: “By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects” (1205). Many critiques of the Anthropocene concept are based on one version or another of this underlying argument, even if they do not necessarily focus on Christianity as the main culprit but rather, say, on “the Enlightenment” (Tsing 2015, vii), capitalism (Moore 2015), or on the world view that emerged along with modern techno-science, which Bruno Latour (2017) in his Gaia lectures explicitly characterizes as a crypto-religious belief system—one that compares poorly to the various forms of animist beliefs that most pre-modern cultures adhered to. Coming to terms with the Anthropocene, in this view, is to try to undo the damage done by secular modernity, to invent new gods and perhaps reinstate some old ones (Szerszinsky 2017). In the context of this project, it makes perfect sense to look to pre-modern or non-Western belief systems for guidance and,

Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene  81 for example, recommend ancient Chinese Daoism as an “an antidote to “Western” anthropocentrism” (Xu 2016, 282). This is not the line of argument I will pursue in the following. Rather, I will take my cue from an early critique of White’s hypothesis which poured cold water on the notion that the spiritual traditions of Asia could teach us how to stop ecological destruction in its tracks. The geographer Yi-Fu Tuan conceded the general validity of the commonplace view that “the European sees nature as subordinate to him whereas the Chinese sees himself as part of nature” (Tuan 1968, 176), an idea which he saw “illustrated with diagrammatic force” by the different kinds of gardens that flourished contemporaneously at the court of Louis XIV of France and in China under the Qing dynasty: the former is “a grandiose setting for man; in deference to him, nature is straitjacketed in court dress”; in the latter, which is not organized around a central axis of vision but leads the visitor along winding paths, “it is man who must lay aside his formalistic pretensions in order to enter nature.” The two styles of gardening encode attitudes toward nature that could hardly be any more different—and yet, Tuan points out, the level of artifice involved in the creation of both and the sheer “tonnage of earth” that had to be moved differed hardly at all (176–177). Thinking about Asia and the Anthropocene, there are two important points to take away from Tuan’s argument. Firstly, if our aim is to arrive at an understanding of how humans became a geological force, the belief systems they espouse may be an unreliable guide. As humanists, we are trained to focus our gaze on cultural differences, but with regard to the processes that matter in the Anthropocene, what counts the most may well be the crudest similarities and material factors that leave little trace in the artifacts of high culture (Horn and Bergthaller 2020, 132). Secondly, and more particularly to the point of this essay, it is a misconception that China or any of the other ancient Asian civilizations treaded more lightly on the natural world than those of Europe—indeed, there is plenty of evidence that leads very nearly to the opposite conclusion. Rather than accept the official image of harmonious coexistence with nature as it emerges from literary documents at face value, we need to attend to the “green paradoxes” that emerge once the material record is taken more fully into account (Tong 2019, 249). The archeologist Kathleen D. Morrison, for example, has pointed out that irrigated rice farming on terraced hillsides, an ancient technology that probably originated more than 6,000 years ago in the lower Yangtze valley, has transformed many Asian landscapes to a degree that rivals “modern monocropped fields” (Morrison 2018, n.p.). Current models of the Earth System tend to underestimate the global impact of these highly sophisticated forms of agriculture because they take European farming practices as the baseline for their calculations. Morrison argues that the massive amounts of CO2 that wet rice farming releases speak in favor of

82  Hannes Bergthaller William Ruddiman’s “Early Anthropocene” hypothesis (2003), which suggests that the Anthropocene basically coincides with the Holocene. A greater familiarity with the environmental history of Asia, Morrison suggests, will make it clear that “anthropogenic change actually has a longer, more complex, or more variable trajectory than is generally assumed” (ibid.). Let me further illustrate this point with the example of China. The environmental historian Mark Elvin (2004) has argued that the Chinese deeply transformed their ecological environment long before the arrival of modernity (it should be noted that in this context, the term “Chinese” is little more than a semantic crutch designating a historical entity that is far from homogenous; cf. Tong 2019, 243). The early rise of large and efficient bureaucratic state apparatuses allowed for the creation and maintenance of a vast infrastructure which in turn enabled an exploitation of ecological resources that was far more intensive than that in most European regions. Perhaps the most impressive example of this is the so-called Grand Canal, an artificial river first constructed during the Sui dynasty (6th century BCE) to ship grain from the Yangtze valley to the capital cities of Chang’an and Luoyang in the North, over a distance of about 1,700 km. It remained in operation more or less continuously until the 19th century (Xiong 2006, 86–93). Already by the 13th century, China had developed a highly labor-intensive system of agriculture which was able to support about twice the number of people per hectare than its European counterparts—owing not only to a constant improvement of farming techniques (such as irrigation pumps and the introduction of rice strains that allowed for multiple harvests per year), but also due to a declining use of animal labor and a predominantly vegetarian diet (Krausmann et al. 2008, 642). But this system also proved to be highly vulnerable to social and ecological disruptions. During the dynastic transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty, between 1626 and 1646, China suffered a catastrophic decline of its human population from about 100 million to less than 90 million (by 11.4%; Lee and Zhang 2013, 285). Over the next two centuries, the population grew at an unprecedented pace—by the middle of the 19th century, it had more than quadrupled to almost 440 million, almost four times the combined population of North-Western Europe at the time (Anderson 1988, 3). Some of the causes of this development were probably similar to those that led to a contemporaneous, although somewhat less pronounced growth spurt in Europe: the introduction of New World crops, especially maize and sweet potatoes, made it possible to open up marginal lands for farming. This development was enhanced by an active state policy of resettling farmers in the Empire’s periphery, as well as a sophisticated system that provided disaster relief to ailing farmers (Deng 2015, 47).

Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene  83 There are many indications that around 1800, this large population was already straining against the limits of the carrying capacity of the land. There was simply no more “ecological slack” (Pomeranz 2000, 213) left in the system that would have allowed it to remain resilient in the face of disturbances. As China’s climate entered a period of cooling in the late 18th century, harvests began to drop to a point where the imperial system of granaries became unable to prevent wide-spread famine and subsequent disease (Lee and Zhang 2013, 295). The problem was compounded by catastrophic floods that occurred with increasing frequency due to deforestation and the silting up of riverbeds which were themselves a direct consequence of agricultural expansion over the previous century (Ho 1959). In 1851, the steady uptick in local peasant revolts culminated in the outbreak of the Taiping rebellion, the bloodiest civil war in world history. By the time the Taiping were put down, China’s population had collapsed from 440 million to about 358 million—a staggering decline of 18.6% in less than two decades (Lee and Zhang 2013, 295). Here, then, is a point where China’s experience of modernity diverged sharply from that of the West. During the exact same historical period when the European countries were, in Emmanuel Ladurie LeRoy’s formulation, finally lifting the “Malthusian curse” (Le Roy Ladurie [1966] 1976, 311), China appears to have suffered through a Malthusian crisis of almost unimaginable proportions. In the first edition of his treatise on The Principle of Population, Malthus himself had speculated that the agricultural system of China had advanced to a level that allowed for no further increases in productivity, and that, given the prevalence of early marriage, there should exist a large “redundant population” that must be “repressed by occasional famines […] or the custom of exposing children” (Malthus 1798, 19). In the case of Europe, Malthus’ prediction that population growth will inevitably overshoot the means of subsistence, leading to immiseration and barbarism, turned out to be famously wrong. Instead, the industrializing nations entered a period during which their populations grew faster than ever even while their living standards rose steadily. But this transition to what economic historians describe as “modern economic growth” did not take place in China (Kuznets 1966, 490–500). At the beginning of the 19th century, it had been the most populous and by many accounts the wealthiest nation in the world. By the century’s end, it remained the most populous nation, but a majority of its people had been reduced to abject poverty, the formidable administrative apparatus of the Qing Empire had fallen into disarray, “much of Northern China was an ecological disaster area” (Pomeranz 2000, 234), and the country as a whole was wracked by foreign military interventions and civil war. It would seem, then, that Malthus was wrong about Europe, but right about China. However, more recent historical research indicates that it might be more accurate to say that he was wrong about China

84  Hannes Bergthaller and doubly wrong about Europe. Of course, Malthus himself was well aware that his proclamations about China were based on little more than hearsay, and it is hardly surprising that many of his assumptions have turned out to be unfounded. Social historians have shown that even during the most rapid phases of population growth in the 18th century, China’s birthrates were considerably lower than those in most of Europe (between seven and eight children per woman, as opposed to ten or eleven; Wolf 2001, 137). According to James Z. Lee and Wang Fang, this was the result of “a demographic system” characterized by “low marital fertility, moderate mortality, but high rates of female infanticide, and consequently of persistent male celibacy” (Lee and Wang 1999, 105). Fertility was no less socially controlled than in Malthus’ England— albeit not through individual decisions, but rather by a complex system of collective biopolitical decision-making about matters of marriage, birth and death. With regard to Europe, Malthus was wrong not only in arguing that population growth would inevitably lead to misery, but more importantly because the fact that Britain did not suffer the same fate as China had very little to do with the kind of straight-laced sexual mores the honorable parson sought to inculcate among his own parishioners. In fact, there is abundant evidence that England’s ecological position in the late 18th century was no less precarious than that of China. Deforestation in England, France and parts of Germany was probably worse than it was even in the most densely populated provinces of the Qing Empire (Pomeranz 2000, 227–228). Firewood had become almost unaffordable to the poor, and ship-building had largely been shifted to the colonies (220–221). Food production was lagging behind population growth, and while there was still some room for increasing agricultural productivity through more labor-intensive forms of cultivation, such a shift would have been difficult to pull off quickly enough to avoid crisis, especially because agricultural practices in Europe were depleting the soil much more rapidly than those in China (224). So how was Western Europe able not only to pass through this “ecological bottleneck” unscathed (30), but even to emerge from it as the geopolitical center of a new world order? Technological and institutional innovation surely played an important role in this development, but the historian Kenneth Pomeranz has convincingly argued that it would have been impossible without the transition to fossil fuels as a primary source of energy, on the one hand, and the massive “ecological windfall” of the New World, on the other (23). The Americas provided not only an abundant source of cheap calories and raw materials, but also a bottomless sink for the dispossessed rural populations which resulted from enclosure and early industrialization. It was, in other words, a magnificent opportunity for kicking the can down the road. This brings us back to the present.

Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene  85

China and the Biopolitics of the Anthropocene What, then, can the historical experience of China tell us about the Anthropocene? For one thing, it makes the dire forecasts for what we must expect from the Anthropocene look not so much like a dramatic departure from the historical norm, but merely like the replay of an old story on a much grander, planetary stage. In Bruno Latour’s terminology, one might say that the Chinese never had the luxury to forget that they were indeed “earthbound” (Latour 2017, 38). But this only serves to highlight why a characterization of the difference between China and the West in terms of their adhering to different “ontologies” stops well short of conveying the messy actuality of what this meant in practice. It may well be true that the rigorous separation of nature and society in Western thought has no equivalent in Chinese culture, but even if this is so, it clearly did very little to temper the human impact on the Earth system in China. If Chinese history does hold any lessons for humanity in the Anthropocene, they may have to do less with different ways of conceptualizing humanity’s position in relation to other beings, less with systems of religious belief such as those of Daoism or Buddhism, and rather more with forms of governance and administrative techniques for regulating a large human population straining against ecological limits. They may be a matter of different ways of demarcating the boundaries separating the public and the private sphere, and of a different understanding of the relationship between the institutions of the state and the people that they govern. They may, in other words, be a matter not so much of spirituality, but rather of biopolitics. Of course, the particular form which China’s rise over the past few decades has taken offers precious little support to the idea that the ruling elite view the situation of their country in terms of the story I have just sketched—except perhaps in the sense that they are utterly determined to restore China to the position of geopolitical centrality it enjoyed before its disastrous 19th century. The Communist Party has been remarkably successful in improving the living conditions of hundreds of millions of people, but at considerable ecological costs, and not only to China. Just as modernization in Europe was made possible by the use of fossil fuels and imports of calories and raw materials from the colonial periphery, China’s spectacular economic rise over the past few decades has been fueled by cheap coal power and massive inflows of raw materials from all over the globe, but especially from those dwindling areas of the world that still remain unenclosed, mainly in South East Asia, South America and Africa. But even if China is today engaging in feats of “environmental load displacement” which fully match those of the West during the previous two centuries (Hornborg 2013, 49–54), hardly anyone today will still labor under the illusion that the Chinese are merely retreading Europe’s path into modernity. With regard to their

86  Hannes Bergthaller system of political governance, they have clearly rejected Western models, along with their pretensions to universality. For the future trajectory of the Anthropocene, the most decisive question is whether they will also hew their own path in terms of ecological governance, and what such a path might look like. There are indications that China’s leadership is taking these issues very seriously, if only because ecological blow-back is now posing an obvious threat to the country’s newly regained prosperity and, by extension, the legitimacy of communist rule. Since the turn of the millennium, the ideal of an “ecological civilization” (shengtai wenming, 生态文明) has come to play an increasingly prominent role in the political agenda of the Chinese Communist Party (Heurtebise and Gaffric 2017). In his address to the 19th national congress of the party, Xi Jinping listed “harmony between human and nature” among the fourteen goals to which the government ought to devote itself over the next five years (Xi 2017). Just like in ancient times, it seems that this “harmony” will be underwritten by massive, state-sponsored infrastructure projects. As the Guardian has reported, “since 2003, China has poured more concrete every two years than the US managed in the entire 20th century” (Hawkins 2019, n.p.). The old Grand Canal has received a new lease on life, although this time around its purpose will be to move water rather than grain from the Yangtze valley to the more arid North of the country. In little over a decade, China has constructed the largest system of high-speed railways in the world, making local flights, such as environmentalists are still unsuccessfully trying to curtail in the West, more or less superfluous. For 2019, China has mandated that at least 10% of all new cars sold in the country will have to rely on electric power, with the percentage to be raised steadily in coming years. Over the past years, local governments in China have also begun to experiment with a so-called “green GDP”—a measure of economic growth which would factor in ecological costs. While the technical hurdles of putting such a system into practice have proven to be considerable, there is a real chance that it will eventually be introduced nationally and become part of the criteria for the evaluation of party cadres. If this were to happen, it would also be very likely that the vast digital surveillance apparatus China is presently constructing in order to keep tabs on its population will be harnessed to monitor their consumer behavior, because Green GDP accounting needs to include data on how individuals use rare resources such as water and energy, treat their waste and take care of their health by eating what they are supposed to eat, sticking to their daily sport activities and refraining from […] drinking and smoking. (Weigelin-Schwiedrzik 2018, 34)

Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene  87 In combination with a social credit system, such as the Chinese government has begun to introduce over the past few years, this could give rise to a comprehensive system of biopolitical control which completely dissolves the boundary between the private and the public sphere. I confess that I find this entire prospect to be deeply unsettling, especially because where I live, the People’s Republic of China is not a distant abstraction but a presence that looms larger and more threatening with every passing year. From my viewpoint, it is difficult to share the optimism which informs the scenarios sketched, for example, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (2014) or by Kim Stanley Robinson (2018), who anticipate that China will blaze the path into a more sustainable future. There are valid reasons to believe that the large-scale engineering projects that the communist party is so fond of will in the end do more ecological harm than good, and the country’s much-taunted Belt and Road initiative is already wreaking massive environmental damage across Africa and Asia (Tracy et al. 2017). However, warranted as such caveats surely are, they should not serve to deflect the uncomfortable questions that China poses for environmentalists. Western scholars assert with ritualized regularity that only a democratic, emancipatory politics will be able to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene (e.g. Purdy 2015; Bonneuil and Fressoz 2016). But what if such an emancipatory politics is itself a product of the brief historical interlude, a mere two centuries, during which the West vainly imagined itself as having slipped the yoke of nature? Dipesh Chakrabarty has famously asserted that “the mansion of modern freedoms stands on an ever-expanding base of fossil fuels” (Chakrabarty 2009, 208). An exceedingly unpleasant corollary of this statement is that at least some of the freedoms which Western modernity imagined to be universal will fall by the wayside in societies that understand their energetic base to be finite. It is very easy to berate China for the failure of its political system to conform to Western ideals, and it is almost as easy to imagine that its spiritual traditions will help the West to overcome its own shortcomings. It is much more difficult to acknowledge the possibility that Chinese society as it exists today might be the product of a struggle with ecological pressures that were of a different order than those faced by the European nations. The story of how China managed to muddle through these problems, with something that cannot fairly be described in such simple terms as “failure” or “success,” may indeed hold lessons for the Anthropocene—important lessons, and perhaps even universal ones.

Acknowledgments I would like to express my gratitude to Chia-ju Chang, Hans-Georg Moeller and Hans-Rudolf Kantor for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. This work is supported in part by the Ministry of Education, Taiwan, R.O.C. under the Higher Education Sprout Project.

88  Hannes Bergthaller

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Thoughts on Asia and the Anthropocene  89 Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. [1966] 1976. The Peasants of Languedoc. Translated by John Day. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. Lee, Harry F. and David D. Zhang. 2013. “A Tale of Two Population Crises in Recent Chinese History.” Climatic Change 116 (2): 285–308. Lee, James Z. and Wang Feng. 1999. One Quarter of Humanity: Malthusian Mythology and Chinese Realities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Malthus, Thomas. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population, as It Affects the Future Improvement of Society with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers. London: J. Johnson. www.esp. org/books/malthus/population/malthus.pdf. McNeill, John Robert, and Peter Engelke. 2014. The Great Acceleration: An Enviromental History of the Anthropocene since 1945. Cambridge, MA: Belknap. Moore, Jason. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso. Morrison, Kathleen D. 2018. “Provincializing the Anthropocene: Eurocentrism in the Earth System.” At Nature’s Edge. The Global Present and Long-Term History, edited by Gunnel Cederlöf and Mahesh Rangarajan. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. 2014. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. New York: Columbia University Press. Pomeranz, Kenneth. 2000. The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Purdy, Jedediah. 2015. After Nature. A Politics for the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Robinson, Kim Stanley. 2018. Red Moon. London: Orbit. Ruddiman, William. 2003. “The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago.” Climatic Change 61 (3): 261–293. Spangenberg, Joachim H. 2014. “China in the Anthropocene: Culprit, Victim or Last Best Hope for a Global Ecological Civilization?” BioRisk 9: 1–37. Steffen, Will, Wendy Broadgate, Lisa Deutsch, Owen Gaffney, and Cornelia Ludwig. “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration.” The Anthropocene Review 2 (1): 81–98. Szerszynski, Bronislaw. 2017. “Gods of the Anthropocene: Geo-Spiritual Formations in the Earth’s New Epoch.” Theory Culture and Society 34 (2–3): 253–275. Ting, Chung-Te, Chi-Ming Hsieh, Hsiao-Ping Chang, and Han-Shen Chen. 2019. “Environmental Consciousness and Green Customer Behavior: The Moderating Roles of Incentive Mechanisms.” Sustainability 11 (3): 819. doi: 10.3390/su11030819. Tong, Christopher K. 2019. “The Paradox of China’s Sustainability.” Chinese Environmental Humanities: Practices of Environing at the Margins, edited by Chia-ju Chang. Cham, 239–270. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. Tracy, Elena F., Evgeny Shvarts, Eugene Simonov, and Mikhail Babenko. 2017. “China’s New Eurasian Ambitions. The Environmental Risks of the Silk Road Economic Belt.” Eurasian Geography and Economics 58 (1): 56–88. Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in the Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

90  Hannes Bergthaller Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1968. “Discrepancies between Environmental Attitudes and Behaviour: Examples from Europe and China.” Canadian Geographer 7 (3): 176–91. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, Susanne. 2018. “Doing Things with Numbers: Chinese Approaches to the Anthropocene.” International Communication of Chinese Culture, 5 (1): 17–37. White, Lynn Jr. 1967. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” Science 155 (3767): 1203–1207. Wolf, Arthur P. 2001. “Is There Evidence of Birth Control in Late Imperial China?” Population and Development Review 27 (1): 133–154. Xi, Jinping. “Report at the 19th CPC National Congress.” Xinhua, November 3, 2017. Xiong, Victor Cunrui. 2006. Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty: His Life, Times, and Legacy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Xu, Jingcheng. 2016. “Daoist Spiritual Ecology in the ‘Anthropocene’.” Ecocriticism, Ecology, and the Cultures of Antiquity, edited by Christopher Schliephake, 279–298. Lanham, MD: Lexington.

Section 2

Narrating the Anthropocene

Taylor & Francis Taylor & Francis Group


Safe Conduct The Anthropocene and the Tragic Bernhard Malkmus

Most of us take it for granted that we live in a profoundly non-tragic age. One would be hard-pushed to find a theatre-goer these days who is “shattered by the fate of the heroes, but reconciled fundamentally,” or an armchair reader of plays who subscribes to an “eternal justice,” as Hegel (1970, 526) saw it epitomized in ancient Greek tragedy. And who would want to expose themselves to the ridicule of our zeitgeist mandarins by professing that such a sense of justice “saves and maintains” the “substance of the ethical order” against unilateral mythical powers? (Ibid.) For Hegel, tragic form is one possible manifestation of a historical dialectics that lends expression to incompatible claims of incompatible moral orders, for example the conflicting demands of family and the Gods in Sophocles’ Antigone. Similarly, in his ruminations on Socrates’ death he pits the divine right of the polis against the right of individual pursuit of knowledge: In what is truly tragic there must be valid moral powers on both sides which come into collision […]. Two opposed rights come into collision, and the one destroys the other. Thus both suffer loss and yet both are mutually justified […]. (Hegel 2003, 441)1 He formulates his theory of tragedy decisively as an invective against the Subjektphilosophie of the Romantics. The attempts to theorize modernity have, however, followed the Romantics, and so have many patterns of perception, epistemic structures and sensibilities to this very day. 2 While post-Enlightenment thinking was originally, in thinkers such as Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling, marked by a conceptual use of the tragic as a reflection of the difficulty to theorize the difference between critical and practical reason, between scientific knowledge and moral judgment, their subsequent apologists, with the notable exception of Nietzsche, found it harder and harder to defend tragic thinking as a mode of probing the modern human condition. Schopenhauer is a case in point, and Walter Benjamin’s seemingly radical distinction between the supposedly a historical tragedy, on the one hand, and the historical

94  Bernhard Malkmus Trauerspiel since the 1700s, on the other hand, forms a first climax. The Trauerspiel, he claims, is marked by the mourning of the fact that it is no longer possible to be a hero with a tragic flaw. Modernity, he suggests, reduces history to human history, which is to say a history of power that cannot be re-translated into mythic time. Bertolt Brecht’s critique, recurring throughout his writings on theatre, goes further by asserting that the tragic form was misappropriated by bourgeois culture and evokes a fatalism of suffering in audiences—a critique continued by thinkers as different as Theodor Adorno and Roland Barthes. The conviction that tragedy is dangerously obsolete is particularly prominent in an early example of ecocriticism, Joseph W. Meeker’s The Comedy of Survival from 1974. “Noble traditions” such as literary tragedy and philosophical humanism, he announces with bravado, had run their course since they “have flattered the human ego while jeopardizing the survival of our species” (Meeker 1997, 10). In a blend of vulgarized ecology and literary history, he identifies comedy as a literary genre that corresponds with evolutionary mechanisms and tragedy as an expression of human hubris. For him, tragic imagination and reckless utilitarianism have the same roots: The rejection of the tragic view of life may be necessary in order to end the long and disastrous warfare between mankind and the natural world. Freedom from the need for tragedy is an important precondition for the avoidance of ecological catastrophe. (59) This essay argues the opposite case: A reflection on why we find it so difficult to regard the Anthropocene as a tragic age is the precondition for comprehending the human condition today. More importantly, identifying the tragic flaws inherent in our condition has the potential to inform ethical conduct under these conditions. The argument will focus on two central contexts that resist the anti-tragic consensus: the role of the atomic bomb in our contemporary worldview, on the one hand, and the increasing dissociation between the natural cycles of matter and life (the biosphere, Greek phýsis) and an anthropogenic “second nature” (the technosphere, Greek thései or nómos), on the other hand. The moral demands our systemic understanding of the biosphere is making on western lifestyles are similarly incommensurable with the equation of individual freedom with mobility and consumption as the moral orders of family and divinity in Hegel’s reading of Greek tragedy. After all, the “mansion of modern freedom stands on an ever-expanding base of fossil-fuel use” (Chakrabarty 2009, 208). In other words, the central tragedy of the Anthropocene is the incompatibility of the moral order of the biosphere (“Gaia”) and the moral order of post-Enlightenment humanism. The global macrosystemic implosions (and the human fixation

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  95 on technology to respond to these implosions) can be read as manifestations of that tragic incompatibility. This essay, therefore, explores the potential relevance of tragic narratives for an understanding of human agency or inaction in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene episteme is marked by convergences between geological, evolutionary and human temporal scales. These would have the potential to be experienced as tragic incompatibilities between different moral obligations, in Hegel’s sense. Yet, they are, in fact, experienced as (1) concurrent histories of accelerated differentiation and a meta-history of homogenization; (2) an ethical externalization as “fate”; and (3) the autopoiesis of an increasingly autonomous technosphere. Consequently, meaningful experiences of alterity, disruption and chance—which formed, in different ways, the underpinning of tragic thinking in modernity from Hegel to Nietzsche—are increasingly erased in a worldview that blurs ontological distinctions. The more we lose the experience of alterity in the present, the more we project a sense of total alterity into the future.

The Contemporary Human Condition and Tragedy The contemporary discontent with a tragic worldview is deeply embedded in hidden epistemic assumptions about what it means to inhabit the world. The Earth is not, as it was during most phases of human history, regarded as sacred, but as a seemingly unlimited and endlessly exploitable resource—or as Martin Heidegger (2008, 328–330) calls it, a “standing-reserve” (Bestand). This clinamen is inextricably intertwined with paradigmatic changes regarding the concept of the future: the human ability to live in the future is not deducted anymore from one’s metabolic relationship with the biosphere, but from one’s access to technologies that wield power over nature. Humans are “enframed” by the very technology for whose power they become a medium. As a consequence of this, they lose the ability to “reveal” alternative worldviews: “The essential unfolding of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealment of standing-reserve” (339). Nature and its power to regenerate itself autopoietically, as implied by the ancient Greek concept of phýsis, is systematically replaced by a second nature that follows the rules and laws set by humans, denoted by the ancient Greek concepts of thései and nómos (Dietz 1989).3 Humans, under these auspices, lose the vital ability to understand loss as “irreplaceable loss,” which John Orr (1981, xii) defined as the “essential tragic experience.” The gradual replacement of the inherent logic of phýsis by the inherent logic of thései in present-day human world-forming leads to an increasing disconnect from the history of life.

96  Bernhard Malkmus However, as Terry Eagleton has argued, it is precisely the acceptance of one’s createdness or “species-being” that forms the basis of the human as political being: It is true that there is much about our species-being which is passive, constrained and inert. But this may be a source of radical politics, not an obstacle to it. Our passivity, for example, is closely bound up with our frailty and vulnerability, in which any authentic politics must be anchored. Tragedy can be among other things a symbolic coming to terms with our finitude and fragility, without which any political project is likely to founder. (Eagleton 2003, xv)4 Yet, in a climate dominated by constructivism, the intellectual reflex to denigrate any reference to external entities outside the representations of human self-reflection is looming large. Nature, including human “species-being,” is merely seen as yet another construct, the epiphenomenon of its representation, i.e., always already an integral part of the social metabolism. This prevents a hard look at the potentially tragic dimensions of the cognitive and epistemic structures we have inherited. The Anthropological Premises Humans are always torn between the prerogatives of their ecological, social and physical living conditions, on the one hand, and the utopian human ability to project themselves into future and virtual worlds, on the other. This duality between being a body-mind (that is embedded in environmental exchanges) and having a body-mind (that is shaped according to concepts and projections) is explored, most compellingly by phenomenology and philosophical anthropology, as the “eccentric positionality” of humans (Plessner 1975, 289): We have to make ourselves, and our making is also an unmaking. We are, like other things, physico-chemical systems; we live, like other animals, bodily lives dependent on bodily needs and functions, but we exist as human beings on the edge between nature and art, reality and its denial. That is both our peril and our opportunity. (Grene 1974, 360) Eagleton’s point that contemporary cultural theory, though obsessed with bodies, is neglectful of the history of the body as an intrinsic part of human history and thus cannot adequately address suffering as one of the central issues of human life is part of the anthropological tragic blind spot of human utopianism that becomes oblivious of its “physico-chemical” history (Plessner 1975, 317). The Anthropocene is

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  97 an age during which this neglect becomes symptomatic both as megalomania and as paranoid ecological disengagement. Secularism and “Exclusive Humanism” The flipside of this oblivion is the historical genesis of an increasing privileging of “objective reality.” As Charles Taylor (2007, 15) has shown, modern secularism is part of that development, shifting vital experiences of “fullness” and “resonance” away from a realm beyond human life and firmly embedding them within human life. Contrary to widely held assumptions about the genesis of the modern worldview, Taylor stresses these changes were not bringing forth a rational essence of the human that was deemed previously hidden. Rather, the epistemic changes of the 18th century were an “invention” of “an immanent order in Nature” that heavily relied on the autonomy of “disengaged reason” and the individual (22). By hindsight, we can now better understand the tragic ambivalence in this emancipatory narrative: it gives “rise to a society in which for the first time in history a purely self-sufficient humanism came to be a widely available option” (18). Reverence and self-reverence become one; they form the epistemic background for the two central anthropocentric shifts around 1,700, the eclipse of a further purpose beyond human flourishing and the eclipse of human reliance on divine grace: “The order God designed was there for reason to see. By reason and discipline, humans could rise to the challenge and realize it” (222). This implied giving up a theological sense of transfiguration and replacing it by a focus on gradual human perfectibility, thus ultimately subjecting everything to a question of moral conduct. Against this worldview, from which the reflector excludes himself, the civilization process focuses more and more on economic activity, thus bolstering what Taylor calls “buffered identity, capable of disciplined control and benevolence”; this “generated its own sense of dignity and power, its own inner satisfactions and these could tilt in favor of exclusive humanism” (262). Western modernity is, thus, inheriting the joined forces of two anthropocentric mindsets: Judeo-Christian exceptionalism and exclusive humanism. While exceptionalism exacerbated the human cognitive ability to disengage itself from natural environments, exclusive humanism led to a deluded sense of human invulnerability. The aggregation of these two developments led to an increasing oblivion of the human embeddedness in the history of life. The “Ecodicy” of Individualism Exclusive humanism is thus both an epiphenomenon of secularization and the catalyst of a gradual reinvention of moral human agency as disengaged reason impartially reordering the world. From there it was only

98  Bernhard Malkmus a small step to conflate universal benevolence with private gains. In his Fable of the Bee, Bernard Mandeville famously equated private vices and public benefits. Adam Smith’s moral philosophy acknowledges the human ambivalence between rationality and emotion and assumes that self-interest will ultimately benefit the common good. The assumption of an invisible hand governing the market forces only makes sense against a backdrop of a fully-fledged naturalization of an economic social imaginary. Mandeville and Smith assumed a population already imbued with a ‘bourgeois’ ethics of disciplined production, rather than an ethic of military adventure. The very fact that the first of these came to be seen as ‘natural’ says volumes for the confidence that Western European élites were beginning to have in the order that they had been building. They felt secure enough in them to begin to see them as first, rather than second nature. (229) In the wake of the epistemic reordering of human self, social imaginaries and soteriology, moral agency is encoded not as a collective reasoning, but rather as a utilitarian deliberation. It is this restriction that, according to Joseph Vogl (2014, 34), amounts to an “ecodicy,” i.e. the legitimation of the market as a benevolent regulatory force even in moments of crisis. The rendition of the market as “nature” or “fate” has loomed large ever since the 18th century. The combination of disengaged reason, governed by “objectivity,” and self-interest, harnessed by an “invisible hand,” has produced a deep disorientation about how to connect individual action to moral reasoning. Under these circumstances, current discussions about shedding consumerist habits often appear as yet another manifestation of Taylor’s modern “buffered self.” More often than not they are merely forms of individual self-realization rather than what they could potentially be: a tragic moment of communal recognition (as the anagnórisis in Greek tragedy) and new community-building. If we consider the Anthropocene as an epochal threshold that allows us to reflect upon our epistemic a priori, rather than as a new grand narrative, then we cannot afford eschewing the tragic as a mode of self-reflection. The tragic comprises different dimensions that cannot be separated from each other. Today, a diffuse usage has loosened the connection of the word “tragic” to the literary genre format. “This was a tragedy waiting to happen,” for example, reads a headline of an interview about the death of contract workers in a container ship; as Adrian Poole (2005, 6–7) notes, this headline yokes together, in the term “tragedy,” two incompatible concepts, namely the inevitable and the accidental. It is a pure coincidence (the fact that this time people

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  99 happened to die) that provides us with the evidence for an outrageous situation we have suspected all along, thus confirming our premonition of systematic abuse in illegal labor migration. What counts as “tragic” in common parlance, the headline seems to suggest, is not the injustice, but the fact that, in this case, people did die (rather than continuing to live in precarity). On second thoughts, the implications of this seemingly careless usage of a literary genre reference may run deeper. Only through the actual casualties does the precarity of migrant workers enter the public sphere—as the germ of a tragic plot. The actual tragic dimension of these casualties is not constituted by the injustice as such but by its dependence on mere coincidence to be publicly regarded as injustice. 5 In tragedy, we project ourselves into a future after the catastrophic event and regard that event by hindsight as both necessary and improbable: That our purposes are outstripped by their effects, that we may not measure up to our own actions, that we always to some degree act in the dark, that understanding is always after the event—these are insights common alike to Hegel and Sophocles. (Eagleton 2003, 108) And it is quintessentially Anthropocenic, making us think about the present through the lens of the future perfect. It is this ability that predisposes tragic plotting and thinking for our time and age. The less tragic our age becomes, the more important it is to understand the genealogy of our age and our own epistemic limitations as tragic ones. This is particularly relevant with regard to the autopoietic momentum inherent in the technosphere: In emerging as a global phenomenon, the technosphere has joined the classical spheres [atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere] to become an autonomous Earth system, operating without direct human control. […] the technosphere is currently overwhelming the ability of other spheres to meet its demands for raw materials and essential services such as waste recycling. […] the technosphere itself is endowed with its intrinsic purposiveness. (Haff 2019, 139) Tragically, humans are clinging to the belief that they control and regulate the technosphere and are reveling in the individual powers it affords. Since human imagination and cognitive energy are increasingly shaped by the momentum of an increasingly differentiated technosphere, humans are losing their ability to reflect upon the dissociation of their sense of risk from an actual embeddedness in lifeworlds. The most evident form of this dissociation is the nómos of the atomic bomb.

100  Bernhard Malkmus

The Nómos of the Bomb On August 6th 1945, human character changed: Nuclear weapons had not only been built but were also dropped upon people. Jean-Pierre Dupuy (2007, 231) modified a central passage from Goethe’s Faust I to characterize the nuclear age: To Faust’s question “who are you, then?,” Mephistopheles answers: “Part of that force which would / Do ever evil, and does ever good.” Human beings in the nuclear age, however, had to conceive of themselves as “part of that force which would do ever good, and does ever evil.”6 Arguably, this is the most concise formulation of the human tragic flaw in the Anthropocene. In a similar vein, Hannah Arendt elaborated on the unbridgeable discrepancy between the technological application of knowledge and its reflection: […] it could be that we, who are earth-bound creatures and have begun to act as though we were dwellers of the universe, will forever be unable to understand, that is, to think and speak about the things which nevertheless we are able to do. And she adds what sounds prophetic today: In this case, it would be as though our brain, which constitutes the physical, material condition of our thoughts, were unable to follow what we do, so that from now on we would indeed need artificial machines to do our thinking and speaking. (Arendt 1998, 3) For Arendt, the writing on the wall after 1945 is the portentous ability of our gadgets to outstrip our imagination and “no longer lend themselves to normal expression in speech and thought” (3). Her erstwhile husband Günther Anders dedicated his entire life to fathoming the ramifications of this widening gap between the autopoietic momentum of human inventions and our ability to comprehend their ethical implications. He captures this discrepancy with a wordplay: herstellen (“to produce”) vs. vorstellen (“to imagine”) (Anders 2018, vii). In his correspondence with the Hiroshima pilot Claude Eatherley, Anders described this discrepancy between the capability to operationalize the technosphere and the ability to comprehend its longterm impacts as central problem of our age. Sooner or later everyone in the northern hemisphere will be in the same position as Eatherley, he claims, referring to the industrial-military momentum of the Cold War. We are in a state of being “guiltlessly guilty,” both complicit in and victims of that discrepancy (Anders 1962, 65). What is more, we are interfering in brutal ways with life opportunities for future generations, without fully grasping the nature of these changes or the magnitude of injustice they might unleash.

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  101 Rampant consumerism is remodeling the biosphere and the rapid advances in bio- and information technologies are changing the course of evolutionary history. The degree to which we submit decisions about life to instrumental reason and technocratic necessities will shape the biopolitical framing of future social and psychological life at large: The irony of our age lies in the fact that, on the one hand, we pay homage to an apotheosis of the individual, for whose longevity and integrity we sacrifice everything, while, on the other hand, we desacralize life as such, and that means also the living conditions for the survival of the own species, the biosphere. This is particularly evident in two central aspects of the Anthropocene: 1. The decision to use the atomic bomb; 2. The transformation of the scientist’s role in the wake of the ‘NBIC convergence’, the interrelation of nano, bio, information technologies and cognitive sciences. In the former case we are dealing with technologies of death, in the latter with technologies of life. The most astonishing feature of our time and age is the fact that this difference does not make a difference. (Dupuy 2007, 231) Dupuy’s use of the word “irony,” however, fails to convince; “hubris” or “tragedy” would be more appropriate. After all, he is describing this dual frame as the outcome of two tragic flaws: (1) the inability to imagine what we produce any longer; (2) the exclusive-humanist focus on the needs of the individual at the expense of the continuity of the species and biosphere. The tragic core of this situation is repeatedly stressed by Anders, who regards the boundlessness or omnipotence of human actions as the only limiting factor for humans in the nuclear age. It is thus not some defect in the technosphere by virtue of which humans lose their grip on what they have created—it is “by design” (242). This loss of control “by design” in an ethical context of being “guiltlessly guilty” encapsulates the tragic situation of the Anthropocene. What makes it truly tragic, however, is the fact that this existential tragedy is magnified by an epistemological tragedy, namely our inability to read the tragedy as tragic. Ingeborg Bachmann’s poem “Freies Geleit (Aria II),” published in 1957, is a literary reflection of the human condition in the atomic age: Mit schlaftrunkenen Vögeln und winddurchschossenen Bäumen steht der Tag auf, und das Meer leert einen schäumenden Becher auf ihn. Die Flüsse wallen ans große Wasser, und das Land legt Liebesversprechen der reinen Luft in den Mund mit frischen Blumen.

102  Bernhard Malkmus Die Erde will keinen Rauchpilz tragen, kein Geschöpf ausspeien vorm Himmel, mit Regen und Zornesblitzen abschaffen die unerhörten Stimmen des Verderbens. Mit uns will sie die bunten Brüder und grauen Schwestern erwachen sehn, den König Fisch, die Hoheit Nachtigall und den Feuerfürsten Salamander. Für uns pflanzt sie Korallen ins Meer. Wäldern befiehlt sie, Ruhe zu halten, dem Marmor, die schöne Ader zu schwellen, noch einmal dem Tau, über die Asche zu gehn. Die Erde will ein freies Geleit ins All jeden Tag aus der Nacht haben, daß noch tausend und ein Morgen wird von der alten Schönheit jungen Gnaden.7 The title of the poem appears out of place when we read the initial hymn to the inexhaustible regenerative powers of life. Everything surges and foams and is permeated by all-encompassing “love vows.” The reader is already tempted to interpret “safe conduct” not as a legal or military term but rather as a free association, when the connection to Prometheus is spelt out at the beginning of the third stanza: “The Earth will have no mushroom cloud, / nor spit out any creature towards heaven.” Planet Earth demands, as the final stanza announces, “ein freies Geleit ins All”—somewhat mistakenly translated as “safe conduct in its orbit.” It is only through this cosmic exile, the final lines suggest that Earth could vouchsafe for the fact that “a thousand and one mornings will arise.” By referring to One Thousand and One Nights, Bachmann cites one of the existential motivations for storytelling: as a survival tool that keeps the enemy engaged, entertained, enthralled (and erotically entangled). Scheherazade lures the Sassanid king Shahryar into 1,001 instalments of her stories and thus manages to avert her death sentence (and ultimately persuade him to marry her). It is a bold extended metaphor that compares Earth to Scheherazade and puts mankind (from whose grip Earth seems to beg safe conduct) into the position of tyrannical power. This strained metaphor is out of joint with the craftsmanship of the rest of the poem: its epic point of comparison—the postponement that leads to a narrative dénouement—remains vacuous; the narrative connection between the aesthetics of deferral in A Thousand and One Nights and the implications of the safe conduct metaphor remain opaque. Yet, maybe we should address this convoluted reference as an inexpressibility trope

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  103 (adynaton) whose hyperbolic gestures point primarily at the inadequacy of language. It thus becomes a despondent rendition of social life under the conditions of the atomic bomb “as the endlessly provisional result of negating an act of self-destruction” (Dupuy 2002, 216). The apocalypse has, this implies, already taken place. The term “safe conduct” refers to the ius conducendi in military law, according to which emissaries or peace negotiators are guaranteed the passage of a territory with impunity, since it is assumed their mission serves a mutual interest. Bachmann’s central metaphor resonates with associations, but it adds another centrifugal momentum to the narrative architecture of the poem. The dramaturgic relationship between the protagonists is not elaborated and hardly conceivable: who demands safe conduct from whom? Is the Earth imploring a dematerialized mankind (or its disembodied collective “reason”) or some panentheistic divinity or an abstract conscience? Who could possibly be in the position to grant such a safe conduct? Safe conduct is imagined as a repeated retreat of earth from its tormentor into exile. During the night, the final stanza insinuates, Earth would return to itself to keep life alive on planet Earth. The convolution of Bachmann’s narrative scopus is telling: she compares mankind to a tyrant of lore, yet describes the blossoming of culture in Promethean terms. The actual agency of humans remains ambivalent. That which makes humans self-destructive is also what is at the very root of their creativity. Yet, she does not spell out this rupture as a Promethean tragedy.8 The elements of air, earth and water that are choreographed in the first two stanzas are complemented, in the third stanza, by the element of fire—in the form of mushroom cloud of the detonating atomic bomb. The art of this poem lies in the skill to turn a well-wrought classicist form that dominates the first four stanzas into a vessel for something that exceeds human imagination. This excess finds its formal correspondence in the rhetorical inconsistencies of the final extended metaphor. What is more, the poem choreographs a human attitude that is mirrored in its form: symmetry, correspondence, dialogue. The “safe conduct” desired by the planet requires a high degree of self-discipline reflected in the poem’s formal rigor. Implicitly, Bachmann thereby formulates a radical concept of nature in the atomic age—a nature that can only be sustained as sustenance for future human life by virtue of major collective cultural efforts. Bachmann’s metaphor of safe conduct is a very early appeal to a collective planetary conscience, created by the shock of as the potential of Promethean self-destruction and anticipating what Dipesh Chakrabarty (2009, 221–222) has called “a negative universal identity” emerging from “a shared consciousness of a catastrophe” that exceeds our ability to experience the world. Through the readiness and ability to facilitate this “safe conduct” and thus practice an attitude of humility, Bachmann seems to suggest, humankind would live up to the

104  Bernhard Malkmus “love vows” that Earth has pledged—and is still pledging. In doing so, she constructs a narrative that avoids the fundamentally tragic roots of the human condition in the atomic age and unwittingly perpetuates a humanistic etiology and teleology. The psychological background of the tragedy that Bachmann does not spell out as tragedy is the globalization and totalization of risk through the doctrine of deterrence. The cold war logic of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) led to an equilibrium of horror that was gradually accepted as transcendent fate, thus concealing its anthropogenic causality. Dupuy offers a psychoanalytic reading of this by describing the Promethean power of humankind as the projection of its own suppressed destructive agency into a fateful agency imagined to be beyond its control. This externalization moved the issue outside the public sphere and into a dangerous oblivion. Thus, we successfully manage to ignore the disabling and denial of the tragic moment of the Anthropocene, which is most clearly formulated in Anders’ attempt to capture the moral conundrum of the atomic age: “The possibility of ultimate destruction is, even if it does not occur, the ultimate destruction of our possibilities” (Anders 1981, vi). The power to inflict “ultimate destruction” upon themselves, Anders suggests, excludes humans from the history of life—an exclusion that antagonizes “life” and “the human” and thus forms the very blueprint of a tragic plot. This predicament reaches further back and is shaped by a tragic meta-noetic failure. As Taylor (2007, 54–59) has shown, Judeo-Christian history is also a history of the bifurcation between experiencing the earth as immanent and experiencing soteriology as “high times,” i.e., as a time order ontologically removed from the physical world. If this soteriological temporal alterity is conflated with immanence in the wake of secularization, humans are thrown upon one sole resource: a desacralized world that they have been called upon to transform in a progressive effort of perpetual self-overcoming. Such a world of perpetual transgression from phýsis into thései, Dupuy argues, leads to a tragic blindness vis-à-vis the difference between phýsis and thései: if our striving leads to nature becoming, in its entirety, that which we make of it, then it is evident that nothing remains outside the human realm and that sooner or later everything in the world will become a representation of that which humans do or don’t do, aim at or neglect. (Dupuy 2007, 245) It is the experience that there is no force beyond humans that would prevent humans from the horror of human action transcending any human scale that, in Anders’ negative theology, qualifies as religious. Bereft of the ability to confine itself, humankind has to resort to the atomic bomb and

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  105 the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction as the only transcendent categories in an otherwise unconfined momentum of self-transcending. This radically anti-teleological replacement of the ultimate end through the ultimate means marks our human condition. “Fate” in the nuclear age is conceived of as the ineluctable externalization of human power over other humans. What prevents us from regarding this equivocal externalization of human agency as tragic is that humans now regard solely their own monstrosity as a limiting factor or fateful lawgiver. In Anders’ terms, the actual tragedy is the fact that humans still lay claim to the fallacies and limitations of the human species while they do already wield the power and exert the impact of (ancient) Gods. However, in the inability to distinguish between the two, they fall prey to a hamartía or tragic flaw: in externalizing the anthropogenic dynamic of the atomic age as “fate,” they revert to a mythic way of thinking that allows them to envisage themselves as sacrificial victims. Anders develops an apocalyptic vision of a humankind that is incapable of tragic entanglement. The technocracies of the future will be radically inhuman precisely because they will have eradicated human emotions such as hatred: “[T]his absence of hatred will be the most inhuman absence of hatred that has ever existed; absence of hatred and absence of scruples will henceforth be one and the same” (Anders 1995, 202). While the ancient Greeks, as Hegel thought, dramatized the incompatibility between human nómos and divine law as a mutually limiting horizon that facilitated its “sublation,” human beings in the Anthropocene do not even intuit this incompatibility as tragic incompatibility anymore.

Biosphere Without Phýsis Subjecting the world in its totality to an anthropomorphic imaginary has led to a principal distrust of life that is historically related to the contradictions of utilitarianism and its concrete manifestation as liberal meliorism during the 19th century. The utilitarian and rational convergence of democracy and capitalism leads to a risky and irrational fixation of all governance structures on the short-term maximizing of profits. This fixation sclerotizes human ability to imagine possible futures and gives rise to a structural blindness that ignores the long-term effects of decisions made today. This problem is epitomized by Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” (1968) that is often used as a central moral parable of our contemporary moral conundrum: sooner or later, a shepherd whose herds graze on commons will consider expanding his herd. In doing so, he weighs short-term economic benefit against the disadvantages of long-term degradation. However, profit is an individual concern, whereas ecological systems stability is a collective one. As a consequence, the two cannot be balanced in a cost-benefit calculation: while it is rational, from the collective’s perspective, to restrict

106  Bernhard Malkmus oneself, it is rational, from the individual’s perspective, not to do so. It is this incompatibility that lies at the root of the tragedy of the commons. However, this incompatibility of rationalities only turns into a tragic situation due to its temporal dynamic: the sum of miniscule rational individual decisions leads, over time, to irrational consequences for society at large. Historically, this conflict has led to a gradual expansion of herds, systematic overgrazing and ultimately ecological collapse of the commons (cf. Hardin 1968). Needless to say, with regard to some of the macrosystemic changes in the Anthropocene such as climate change the situation is more complex: cause and effect are, in terms of time and space, even more misaligned; cause and effect are multifactorial or even ambiguous; and existing governance structures are overtaxed in dealing with the consequences. On top of all this, Stephen Gardiner argues, we are succumbing to a “tyranny of the contemporary”: the uncertainty of world climate prognosis— complicated by spatial dispersion, temporal delay, macrosystems dynamics—is fed back into a meta-level cost-benefit calculation that is being used to justify inaction—or even endorse it as the economically only viable course of action (Gardiner 2011, 33–41). By highlighting the shortcomings of Hardin’s model and by fathoming the ethical implications of climate change, Gardiner seeks to deepen the tragic understanding of our present time, which he sees confronted with “a perfect moral storm” (9). This “storm” is constituted “by an unusual convergence of independently harmful factors where this convergence is likely to result in substantial, and possibly, negative outcomes” (22–23) and to corrupt our ability to judge and act ethically: (1) asymmetry of power: affluent nations bear a disproportionally high responsibility for climate change and will be exposed disproportionally little to its consequences; (2) intergenerational injustice; (3) the lack of ethical orientation on the levels (1) and (2) leads to an aggregation of moral corruption: we focus on “shadow responses” to avert our gaze from the real challenges: As a matter of public discourse, the geopolitical disaster has been facilitated by the fact that the current generation in the developed countries has spent much of the last two decades conveniently distracted and confused about the problem. […] Unfortunately, in a perfect moral storm, it makes perfect sense. The temptation to pass the buck on to the future, the poor, and nature is very strong. (9) From Gardiner’s analysis, we can distil three dimensions of the tragic: first, the aggregation of various dimensions of the three ethical problems into a “perfect moral storm.” Second, the blind spots engendered through the underdeveloped governance structures of sustainable policies, leading to the paralysis of individual action. Third, the increasing

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  107 incompatibility of contrary narratives about “reality,” e.g., analysis of tipping points in Earth systems theory vs. neoclassical economic analysis of systems development. Each of these dimensions of ethical judgment and action leave individuals in a perpetual state of tragic ignorance. Yet, none of these dimensions is spelt out as a tragic plot that would help us identify with the protagonists and their tragic flaws. The tragedy on top of this is what Gardiner calls an “intergenerational arms race”: Since subsequent generations have no reason to comply if their predecessors do not, non-compliance by the first generation reverberates so as to undermine the collective project. If the first generation does not cooperate, then the second generation does not gain from cooperation, and so is put in the same position as the first. (37) In other words, the longer “we”—embroiled in the three tragic flaws of our worldview adumbrated above—fail to act, the more license we give future generations to emulate our model of inaction. Implicitly, this suggests a tragic peripeteia: we have, due to our tragic ignorance, already passed systemic tipping points and future generations will not be able to avert the dynamic after the peripeteia. They will be in the unfortunate position of having to stage the fourth and fifth acts of the tragedy. Gardiner includes certain aspects of the planetary imaginary of the Anthropocene debate and even his own ethical thinking about a “perfect moral storm” as potentially complicit in this, i.e., as particularly “deep” modes of obfuscating “our understanding of what is at stake” (45). While claiming to disrupt the tragic ignorance of our ethics, he suggests, our Anthropocenic obsession with “the planetary” may, in fact, deepen our hamartía, in particular with regard to intergenerational justice. While the ability of human consciousness to distance itself from nature allowed humankind to transform the biosphere, we regard the dynamic of the technosphere as an imperative as impossible to disobey as a natural law. Dupuy spells out the hamartía of the contemporary condition: If it [the contemporary apocalypse] has the appearance of something fixed and ineluctable, this is not because it is fated to occur; it is because a multitude of decisions of all kinds, the product more of myopia than of malice or selfishness, bring forth a whole that hangs over its parts, as it were, and whose menace is generated by a process of self-exteriorization, or self-transcendence. This evil is neither moral nor natural. It is a third type, which I call systemic evil. Its form is identical with that of the sacred. (Dupuy 2015, 57)

108  Bernhard Malkmus Dupuy here implicitly refers to the theological concept of “structural sin,” i.e., our unwitting embeddedness in structures that inadvertently engender “guilt.” Theologically speaking, this embeddedness is ambivalent: it makes us guilty from birth, but it also is the seed for redemption, captured in the concept of felix culpa (“happy guilt”), emphasized, most influentially, by Augustine and reverberating as theologoumena throughout the works of thinkers such as Benjamin, Agamben and Esposito. In the notion of “structural sin,” Dupuy seems to imply, lies a fundamentally tragic understanding of existence, which was gradually reduced to the status of a problem amenable to human solutions: “Because the future is thought to be something that we make ourselves, it is as indeterminate as our free will; and since we invent it, there can be no science of the future” (59). For many contemporaries, World War I was experienced as the total becoming-history of a technological logic (as one of nature’s potentials), for which humans have become the medium and agent. In Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence describes this experience as a post-apocalyptic one of no-return and gradual re-appropriation—in terms that are uncannily reminiscent of Anders: Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen. (Lawrence 1994, 5) Yet, building up “new little habitats” may prove even harder in the atomic age and the Anthropocene. Not only have we lost the sense that we are “among ruins,” we have also taught ourselves that the world as a whole is not a web of life but a series of problems to be solved. As Taylor has shown, the history of modern secularization is predominantly about teaching ourselves to believe that we are the sole cause of what will occur to us in the future. We are now even faced with the paradox that, at the moment of our severest fragility as a species, we embrace a total engineering approach to the planet, thus arrogating divine responsibility.

Conclusion For the first time in the ecological history of Homo sapiens, the individual is barred from a positive functional relationship to the well-being of the community or species. Most individuals’ existence today is a burden to the life-systems rather than a force of improvement for future

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  109 generations. Not only is our ecological dignity as individuals shattered, we also are unable to buy into the tragic illusions of modern humanism any longer. In an age that is marked by global homogenization that will make a tragic self-reflection of humans increasingly difficult, retaining the ability to interpret one’s social and psychological genealogy as tragedy may become a necessary epistemological ruse. In an increasingly bureaucratized and formalized management of risk, it will be of paramount importance to disaggregate the human ability to respond to uncertainty from the temptations of solutionism. As Nietzsche (1967, 1019) reminds us: “the whole history of culture represents a diminuition of this fear of chance, the uncertain, the sudden. For culture means learning to calculate, to think causally, to forestall, to believe in necessity.” The ability to insert ourselves into tragic narratives about our human condition is a form of resisting these conditions. Socrates’ separation of the realm of phýsis and the realm of nómos has led to a history of ill-fated attempts to purge the realm of the human from the realm of nature. In the Anthropocene, separating a realm of (natural) causes from a realm of (human) reasons becomes ever more difficult. If information technology and biological sciences change the fundamental components of life, who then is responsible for the potential suffering these changes inflict on individuals and collectives? The tragic dimension of life under the auspices of the technosphere is not any longer Dupuy’s loss of our ability to understand some concealed but retrievable tragic theology of life; it rather lies in the fact that a meaningful notion of alterity cannot be located anywhere in the way we are talking about the world anymore—and thus seems irretrievable for social practice. We have replaced negotiating what “good life” should be like with expert analysis of what life is, from which we expect guidance. However, as Heidegger has repeatedly stressed that analysis does not take place from a disinterested outside perspective; it is conducted from within a worldview that turns every life form into a representation. Consequently, it is a manifestation of the “destining” (Geschick) of technology, i.e. the becoming-historical of the technosphere that does not allow for relationships to nature other than through instrumental reason (Heidegger 2008, 329–330). Yet, there is the rub, for—as Georg Simmel (1968, 43) remarks with unfailing intuition about the innermost psychological motivation for tragedy—“in general we call a relationship tragic—in contrast to merely sad or extrinsically destructive—when the destructive forces directed against some beings spring from the deepest levels of that very being.” What we haven’t even begun to consider in the Anthropocene debate is the motivational force of self-destruction. Viewed this way, the ecological consequences of the human attempt to decamp from the biosphere and inhabit a world governed by the technosphere are, indeed, a “tragedy bound to happen.”

110  Bernhard Malkmus


Safe Conduct (Aria II) With birds drunk with sleep and trees shot through with wind the day awakens, and the sea empties a foaming cup to honor it. Rivers surge towards the wide water, and the land lays loving vows of pure air inside the mouth with its fresh flowers. The Earth will have no mushroom cloud, nor spit out any creature towards heaven, with rain and thunderbolts it abolishes the unbearable voice of destruction. In us it wants the lively brothers and to see the grey sisters awakened, the King of Fish, the Royal Nightingale, and, Prince of Fire, the Salamander. For us it plants corals in the sea. It orders forests to maintain the quiet, for marble to swell its beautiful veins, and once more for dew to settle on ashes. Earth wants safe conduct in its orbit, each day we have in the face of night, so that from ancient beauty renewed graces on a thousand and one mornings will arise.

The Anthropocene and the Tragic  111

References Adorno, Theodor W. 2003. Negative Dialektik. Jargon der Eigentlichkeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Anders, Günther. 1962. Burning Conscience: The Case of the Hiroshima Pilot, Claude Eatherly, Told in the Letters to Günther Anders. New York: Monthly Review Press. Anders, Günther. 1981. Die atomare Drohung: Radikale Überlegungen zum atomaren Zeitalter. Munich: Beck. Anders, Günther. 1995. Hiroshima ist überall. Munich: Beck. Anders, Günther. 2018. Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen. Vol. 1: Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten Industriellen Revolution. Munich: Beck. Arendt, Hannah. 1998. The Human Condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Bachmann, Ingeborg. 2005. Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems. Translated by Peter Filkins. Brookline, MA: Zephyr Press. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2009. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35 (2): 197–222. Deitz, Luc. 1989. “Physis/Nomos, Physis/Thesis.” In Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie. Vol. 7, edited by Joachim Ritter, Karlfried Gründer, and Gottfried Gabriel, 967–971. Basel: Schwabe. Dodds, Eric R. 1959. Plato: Gorgias: A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. 2002. Pour un catastrophisme éclairé: Quand l’impossible est certain. Paris: Èditions du Seuil. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. 2007. “Die Ethik der Technologie im Zeitalter der drohenden Apokalypse.” In Aufgeklärte Apokalyptik: Religion, Gewalt und Frieden im Zeitalter der Globalisierung, edited by Wolfgang Palaver, Andreas Exenberger, and Kristina Stöckl, 229–249. Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. 2015. A Short Treatise on the Metaphysics of Tsunamis. Translated by Malcom DeBevoise. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. Eagleton, Terry. 2003. Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic. Oxford: Blackwell. Gardiner, Stephen M. 2011. A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Grene, Marjorie. 1974. The Understanding of Nature: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology. Dordrecht: Reidel. Haff, Peter. 2019. “The Technosphere and Its Relation to the Anthropocene.” In The Anthropocene as a Geological Time Unit: A Guide to the Scientific Evidence and Current Debate, edited by Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin Waters, Mark Wiliams, and Colin Summerhayes, 138–143. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science 162: 1243–1248.

112  Bernhard Malkmus Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1892. Lectures on the History of Philosophie. Vol. 1. Translated by Elizabeth Haldane. London: Kegan Paul. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1970. Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik. Vol. 3. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1975. Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art. Vol. 2. Translated by Thomas Knox. Oxford: Clarendon. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 2003. Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie. Vol. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Heidegger, Martin. 2008. “The Question Concerning Technology.” In Basic Writings, modified and edited by David Farrell Krell. Translated by William Lovitt. 307–341. London: Harper Collins. Heinimann, Felix. 1945. Nomos und Physis: Herkunft und Bedeutung einer Antithese im griechischen Denken des 5. Jahrhunderts. Basel: F. Reinhardt. Lawrence, David. 1994. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Leffler, Melvyn P., and Odd Arne Westad. 2010. The Cambridge History of Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Meeker, Joseph W. 1997. The Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1967. The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and Reginald J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House. Orr, John. 1981. Tragic Drama and Modern Society. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Plessner, Helmuth. 1975. Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch. Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie. Berlin: de Gruyter. Poole, Adrian. 2005. Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Simmel, Georg. 1968. The Conflict in Modern Culture and Other Essays. New York: Teachers College Press. Taylor, Charles. 2007. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Urpeth, Jim. 1999. “A ‘Pessimism of Strength’: Nietzsche and the Tragic Sublime.” In Nietzsche’s Futures, edited by John Lippitt. 129–148. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Vogl, Joseph. 2014. The Specter of Capital. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene Roman Bartosch

The Anthropocene seems here to stay. Despite ongoing discussions in the scientific disciplines where the term had originally been proposed, the environmental humanities and social sciences have quickly embraced the concept and its potential for epistemic and ethical critique (see Clark 2011; Garrard et al. 2014, 150–151). This has led to sometimes heated debates on the intricacies especially of the term’s underlying notion of the anthropos whose time has come (or is about to end soon) as well as the implications for action and agency (Szerszynski 2012; Latour 2014). Some understand the Anthropocene as just the latest fad in human hubris and challenge its anthropocentric subtext (e.g., Haraway 2015); others wonder about its precision and suggest alternatives stories with alternative villains, most prominently capitalism rather than human(ism) (Crist 2016; Moore 2016). And others still understand the Anthropocene as a welcome term that invites us to reframe established disciplinary orders and research protocols since “the current conjuncture of globalization and global warming leaves us with the challenge of having to think of human agency over multiple and incommensurable scales at once.” (Chakrabarty 2012, 1) It is this latter focus on scale, and potential “derangements of scale” (Clark 2015) that this chapter takes as its starting point for a discussion of the role of literature and the imagination of scale, particularly in, but in no way restricted to, educational contexts. It argues that literary fiction and its grappling with scale can be theorized from the vantage points of both philology and pedagogy because reading and teaching “Anthropocene fictions” (Trexler 2015) requires an awareness of textual as well as readerly scaling procedures and can, as this chapter suggests, be understood as a form of imaginative modeling. It is, then, through the notion of such modeling that the affordances of fiction, and potential implications for an education in times of the Anthropocene, can and should be apprehended and scrutinized. In order to make this argument, this chapter will first present selected findings on the role of scale and scaling in literary but also ethical debate. Drawing on, and in keeping with, current research on the cultural dimensions of modeling, it will then discuss literary framing through scientific and mathematical notions pertaining to incrementing risk as

114  Roman Bartosch inherently related to a readerly ability to scale perspectives and engage with scalar incommensurability. Its key concern will be with the unique role of literature and the arts to experience such an incommensurability and to engage an understanding of the experiential confusion that Timothy Clark has dubbed “Anthropocene disorder” (2015). For this case to be made, the chapter will present select readings of fiction as well as comment on the scaling procedures which each text engages with and takes as its diegetic and formal problem. In an attempt to move from a “derangement” to an understanding of the “affordances” of scale, it will eventually propose that modeling the Anthropocene through literature has different interpretive, educational and ethical implications for understanding human agency in potentially efficacious ways.

Scale in Literary and Ethical Debate One of the crucial challenges of thinking and experiencing the Anthropocene has to do with scale. While parameters of discussion encompass deep time, the impact of humanity “as a whole,” and the planetary scope of climate change, its normative and politicoethical demands are situated on a much smaller scale of individual or communal, political agency—in the form of legislation, say, and the claims that individual consumer choices matter just as much as one’s personal “carbon footprint.” Derek Woods has, therefore, cautioned not to confuse calls for an all-encompassing humanity as the main driver of climate change with the idea that it is humans deliberately acting toward or bringing about the change we are beginning to witness with ever more clarity. Instead, we encounter “distributed agencies” and are confronted with “the sum of terraforming assemblages composed of humans, nonhuman species, and technics” (Woods 2014, 134). The historian, Dipesh Chakrabarty, has moreover pointed to the problems coming with demands on “humanity” understood as a single agentic identity and bearer of responsibility since “a form of collective existence […] has no ontological dimension”: “A geophysical force […] is neither subject nor object. A force is the capacity to move things. It is pure, nonontological agency” (Chakrabarty 2012, 13). Literary scholar Greg Garrard has described this conundrum of agency as the “unbearable lightness of green,” writing that “human population simultaneously magnifies the cumulative impact of our actions and dilutes my individual agency. The heavier we get, the lighter I become” (Garrard 2013, 185; original emphasis). In a similar vein, Timothy Clark has diagnosed an “Anthropocene disorder,” the contemporaneous malady resulting from “scale effects” and concomitant “derangements of scale”: scale effects are confusing because they take the easy, daily equations of moral and political accounting and drop into them both a zero and an infinity: the greater the number of people engaged in

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  115 modern forms of consumption then the less the relative influence or responsibility of each but the worse the cumulative impact of their insignificance. (Clark 2012, 150) It seems safe to say that scale effects, or “derangements of scale,” are at the heart of numerous conflicts associated with the Anthropocene concept (an inconclusive list would contain various texts and references in Garrard 2012; contributions in Siperstein et al. 2017, especially the ethical critique by Callicott; cf. also Clark 2015). And contrary to some environmental or ecocentric beliefs, there is no solution in “scaling up” perspectives to some hypothetical, planetary view from nowhere since, as Dipesh Chakrabarty correctly reminds us, the different scales—of human subjectivity, political agency and the idea of a global humanity—“do not supersede one another. One cannot put them along a continuum of progress. No one view is rendered invalid by the presence of others. They are simply disjunctive” (Chakrabarty 2012, 2). In my view, literary fiction is one of the imaginative tools that can help us grapple with the intricacies and divergent imaginaries of scale by bringing disjunctive scales, as identified by Clark and others, into fruitful tension as well as pointing out their distinctiveness in the first place. Through fictional negotiations of scale, the literary imagination of different scalar perspectives, or the scaling of readerly perspectives themselves, literature can turn, I wish to argue, derangements of scales into affordances. This at least seems to be what the more successful climate change novels do. At the center of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour, for instance, we find Dellarobia Turnbow, lower-class and struggling housewife on the brink of cheating on her husband. In order to meet with another man, she climbs a mountain in the Appalachians, where her husband’s family owns a sheep farm—and is met with a miracle. The mountain is aflame, and the sublime effect of its silent fire throws Dellarobia into the tumultuous experience of epiphany: No words to put on a table as Moses had when he marched down his mountain. But like Moses she had come home rattled and impatient with the pettiness of people’s everyday affairs. She felt ashamed by her made-up passion and injuries she’d been ready to inflict. […] They built their tidy houses of self-importance and special blessing and went inside and slammed the door, unaware the mountain behind them was aflame. (Kingsolver 2013, 30–31) While this religious experience helps her refigure her and her people’s “pettiness,” transcending the individual for the sake of the numinous, Dellarobia soon learns that this spiritual awakening had been caused by her having

116  Roman Bartosch forgotten to bring her glasses: instead of heavenly fire, she witnessed a vast number of Monarch butterflies, apparently stopping in the Midwest on their migratory route. This, on the one hand, seems rather mundane; but it also has great communal effects, since people from all over the US want to come and see the butterflies, helping the community businesses and even creating new business opportunities and attracting the attention of scientists from the urban centers. As is clear from this short description, the novel engages in scaling repeatedly by drawing on the transcendental and the mundane, the sublime and the minute, individual experience and larger social and communal relations, economics and, as readers soon learn, global ecology, since the local event of hibernating butterflies has serious planetary implications: their new route of migration, an ecologist tells Dellarobia, is a disconcerting sign of climate change.1 Clark’s notion of a “derangement of scales” can help illustrate the novel’s compositional complexity. Discussing the effect of the globally ecological scale that most often finds application in Anthropocene discourse, Clark describes an “emergent unreadability” of fiction (2015, 62) and avers that “[t]he scale at which one reads a text, and the scale effects implicated, drastically alter the kinds of significance attached to elements of it.” Therefore, he suggests that generally speaking “[t]hree scales can be used”: we could read the text on a (critically naïve) personal scale that takes into account only the narrator’s immediate circle of family and acquaintances over a timeframe of several years. […] A second scale at which to read the text is that […] of a national culture and its inhabitants, with a time frame of perhaps a few decades, a ‘historical period’ of some kind. […] A third, larger, hypothetical scale […] would be, spatially, that of the whole earth and its inhabitants. (Clark 2015, 99–100) And indeed, the novel not only explicitly mobilizes these scales in juxtaposing Dellarobia’s marital crisis, US rural economic crises and ecological disaster, it also constantly suggests the relevance of all these scales by naming each chapter according to their respective scope and reach: the first chapter is called “The Measure of Man,” the second and third scale up to “Family Territory” and “Congregational Space,” while Chapter 5 reminds readers of “National Proportions” and Chapter 9 arrives as the notion of a “Continental Ecosystem.” Likewise, metaphors and images underline different yet entangled scales on the levels of perception and language, for instance when Dellarobia compares the seasonal shifts and their disturbance to human sickness: “The trees had lost their leaves early in the unrelenting rain. After a brief fling with coloration they dropped their tresses in clumps like a chemo patient losing her hair” (Kingsolver 2013, 67).

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  117 This latter example of a language that mixes different scales is of course not an exclusive property of literary language. For example, in her discussion of the fictionalized documentary The Age of Stupid, Sherily MacGregor points to the film’s strategy of using temporal as well as perspectival scaling to bring home its cautionary point: the film “offers a dystopian image of a devastated world in 2055 and a backward look at missed opportunities for averting the ‘suicide of the species,’” she recounts, remarking that “[t]o tell the tale, […] [it] shows a video montage of the lives of six real people living in 2008” (Mac Gregor 2014, 617). Through a flexible use of time frames and by linking individual life stories and the global issue of climate change, the film tries to imagine the scale and scope of the Anthropocene as well as points of connection for individual viewers. A similar blending of individual, communal and global scales can be found in the rhetoric of the UK-based “10:10” campaign, an NGO dedicated to a 10% annual reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom. Its website claims that “politicians so far have failed to do what needs to be done, so it’s time for ordinary people to step in and show that we’re ready to defend our children’s future” (quoted ibid., 618). Again, we find scaling at the heart of the text’s rhetoric, blending politics and individual action as well as contemporaneous and future (“our children’s”) perspectives. Examples such as the ones above are legion and can be found in journalism and science communication, and in expression and images such as the “carbon footprint,” or comparisons such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, conceived of in the popular imagination as an island-like, visible structure of trash whose size is often described as being “three times the size of France” (N-TV, March 24, 2018 or “twice the size of Texas”), depending on the locale of the authors describing it as well as the intended readership.2 The function of such scaling procedures seems obvious enough; but scaling in the hands of writers of literary fiction can deliberately put scale—and what Timothy Clark calls “scale disorder”— to more nuanced epistemic use. What is remarkable in the context of literature, then, is that a deliberate formal decision to use scaling implies different meanings on different scales that all interact, contradict each other and supplement the other perspectives’ shortcomings. While Flight Behaviour provides ample connections with climate change debates and their respective topics and themes, especially through the character of the above-mentioned ecologist, Ovid Byron, it can also be read, as Sylvia Mayer argues, as a “female bildungsroman […] that provides direct insight into the development of a specific subjectivity” (Mayer 2016, 217). In other words, the interpretive result is partly determined by the different scale effects to which any reader refers. This explains the text’s potential to also highlight rather local and political problems in climate-related debate, since US-American culture is presented as deeply divided between the rural

118  Roman Bartosch working class and the urban intelligentsia whose favorite pastime it is to make fun of “rednecks” in their satirical news comedies on TV. In pitting against each other individual, communal and global ecological issues, such deliberate “derangement of scales” can shed light on the complexity of climate change by charting “interactions between local and planetary environments, prompting readers to contextualize the micro […] within the macro context of the Anthropocene,” as the literary scholars, Christopher Lloyd and Jessica Rapson (2017, 911), have argued. The novel, they claim, “urges us to see ourselves within a planetary perspective without leaving our very human, localized attachments” (913) and offers “a vision of climate fiction that clearly emphasizes both the importance of place […] and a sense of planet” (917). In a notable scene, Dellarobia is addressed by a young environmentalist presenting his “Sustainability Pledge” that urges people to “[b]ring [their] own Tupperware to a restaurant for leftovers, as often as possible” (Kingsolver 2013, 451). Dellarobia remarks, “I’ve not eaten in a restaurant in over two years.” Asked by the pledge to “reduce the intake of red meat in [their] diet,” she responds: “Are you crazy? I’m trying to increase our intake of red meat” (451–452). The novel thus shows that the phenomena that make environmental crises are significantly different for different people: ‘Okay, this is the last one,’ [the environmentalist] said. ‘Fly less.’ ‘Fly less,’ she repeated. [Her interlocutor] looked at his paper as if receiving orders from some higher authority. ‘That’s all she [the leader of the environmental group] wrote. Fly less’. (454) Dellarobia—and, I would argue, readers by now familiar with the hardships of the rural populations’ lives—is stunned. She has never flown, and probably never will. Climate change and its ethical implications play out differently and unevenly—the anthropos of the Anthropocene indeed is a “tragic environmental Leviathan” consisting of “people to get by as best as they can” while all the same creating a “powerful single entity that is far more than the sum of its parts” (Clark 2015, 14). This is of course not meant to invalidate climate change research or diminish the anthropogenic nature of disaster, nor does it mean that the statistics behind the Anthropocene concept are wrong. It is rather that through a deliberate “oscillation between […] scales,” the novel “produces its own ‘scale effect’ in the structural signposting of transitions from one scale to another” (Lloyd and Rapson 2017, 918), adding more dimensions of meaning and understanding to an otherwise homogenizing discourse. While different disciplines have their distinct ways of world-making—statistical, social-scientific, individually ethical etc.— literary scaling shows that these ways cannot make sense independently

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  119 of each other but have to be thought together in the readings of different scales that pay “particular attention to the strain that this puts on given critical assumptions and currently dominant modes of reading” (Clark 2015, 97). Same, but also different: literary fiction can help understand in how far the Anthropocene makes us all equal and uneven at the same time as it turns “derangements” into literary affordances. Let us turn to another instance of fiction turning irresolvable conflict into affordance to illustrate the potential of scaling, this time with regard to human-animal relations. Debates of scale and literary scaling do not after all have to be restricted to the temporal and spatial diffusion of human and environmental agencies. In that it points to what media and linguistic research refers to as “granularity,” scaling takes places across different arenas of conflict and discourse domains. Let me illustrate this by showing in which ways scaling takes place in narratives that focus on conflicts over ecological and animal rights. Since I believe that fiction is effective not only in complex novels but also in short stories, I will now turn to T.C. Boyle’s “Question 62” for that.3 At the center of “Question 62” is the complicated relationship between a nurse, Anita, and a stranger with whom she falls in and out of skin-deep love, the relationship of humans to other animals, some deemed pets and other pests, as well as the political history of the American genocide of the First Nations. To understand these different levels and see their interconnection means to engage in scaling. The narrative strands of “Question 62” are framed by a wondrous account of Anita’s sister Mae’s chancing on a tiger while gardening; this surprise encounter already sensitizes readers to the significance of scale: “She was out in the flower bed, crushing snails,” the tale begins, “when she happened to glance into the burning eyes of an optical illusion” (Boyle 2010, 37). Her musings on annoying snails, on her recovery from carcinosis, and her difficulties in understanding climate change, described as “the thinning—or was it thickening?—of the atmosphere” (37), are brought to an abrupt end at the sight of a tiger that takes her “deep into the realm of fascination, of magic and wonder and the compelling strangeness of the moment” (41).4 Mae first deems the tiger “a big cat,” then “a big striped cat the size of a pony,” then a tiger ready to “leap over the fence” (38) that could possibly devour her, until, eventually, she recognizes “a pet. […] It was probably hungry. Bewildered. Tired” (38). These processes of scaling her perception are in line with other scale-related elements. Amongst those is Mae’s “basal cell carcinoma” and its relation to “the hole in the ozone layer” and the paradox that Mae, as a vegetarian and animal lover who would not even kill “the flies that gathered in fumbling flotillas on the windowsill” (37), has entered an all-out war: “The snails were an invasive species, […] brought here by a French chef who was a little lax in keeping them in their pens or cages or wherever. They were destroying her plants, so she was destroying

120  Roman Bartosch them” (38). The similarly political and ecological terminology of invasion and the conflict between an individual specimen of the charismatic megafauna and the nameless, faceless mass of ‘invasive animals’ sets the stage for the story’s negotiation of different scale orders. That scales matter when encountering animals is underlined by her and the stranger’s conflict: animals are sometimes seen as individuals, pets that are potentially “hungry. Bewildered. Tired.” Or they can be seen as invaders, “bird killers […]. Big time” (Boyle 2010, 45), dangerous to ecosystems on a species scale, as the stranger reminds Anita. As early as 2007, Rebecca Raglon and Marian Scholtmeijer described the incommensurability of ecocriticism, understood as the study of writing concerned with environmental issues, and animal studies as a problem of diverging scales of interest. The ecological, large-scale view, on the one hand, and the more individualized animal advocacy perspective, on the other hand, follows different interpretive trajectories. This makes it difficult to bring epistemological and ethical demands of both disciplines in line. Read as a conflict of scale, however, this very conflict enables us to see their tricky connections. This is also how the ending of the story might be read: the eponymous “Question 62” turns out to be a legal pledge for the systematic extermination of feral cats—or is it individual creatures? Mae and the stranger fall out over this question—and Mae cannot stop thinking about the other 61 questions from this perspective: “What had Question 61 been, or Question 50, Question 29? Pave over the land? Pollute the streams? Kill the buffalo?” (Boyle 2010, 56) Creating a temporal order of environmental degradation through policy decision leads her to conclude: “That must have been it: Kill off the Indians.” (57) Scaling not only points to ethical conundrums of perception generally. In this particular case, the musings on individual ethical obligations and ecological, statistical notions of invasive species eventually and shockingly reveal the origin and significance of the pledge at the heart of the story: biophobia and racist imperialism. The private and the ecological turn out to be political indeed.

Scale, Risk and the Need for Literary Modeling In a different context, I have described the emplotment of incommensurable scales and the narrative prerogative for bringing these scales into fruitful tension as “transcultural ecology” (Bartosch 2019). My main argument there and here is that if literary fiction is understood as a form of semiotic energy that critically and integratively engages with social and cultural evolution (see Zapf 2016), then the notions of scale and scaling are helpful for understanding the frictions engendered by the Anthropocene’s derangements (Bartosch 2018; see also Ghosh 2016). With an eye on the question of the “newness” of the Anthropocene,

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  121 I would like to suggest that in this new, transdisciplinary endeavor to understand complex environmental conundrums, scaling allows for texts to be understood as models of Anthropocene complexity, as the following sections will argue. In climate change research, models are of course ubiquitous. The notion of literary modeling can help make sense of the complex cultural negotiations that are part and parcel of environmental disaster. Cultural research on climate change often identifies and classifies narrative patterns as, for instance, techno-optimist or apocalyptical (see Dürbeck 2018). But as my above reading indicates, a text model would differ because it presents less of a reading or interpretation of a specific phenomenon or endorses a specific stance but builds on an insightful play and the tensions and incommensurabilities of different scales or perspectivized discourse. While understanding texts as literary models can of course not generate new data and thus help calculate causalities in the same way that mathematical models strive to do, fictional narratives do reintegrate the factors and dimensions overlooked by the other models. This points to the role of the humanities in complex modeling (cf. Gurr 2014)—but it also cautions humanist scholarship to not simply embrace scientific findings and blow the trumpet of Anthropocene and Apocalypse on the infirm grounds of interdisciplinary foraging. As Wolfram Mauser concludes, “it is necessary to engage with current research in earth systems, based on simulation and modeling, from a humanities and social science perspective in order to eventually begin to integrate the sociosphere” (2013, 280, my translation). One step in this direction is to understand in how far literature also provides simulation and modeling—and that it can compensate for some of the weaknesses of other modeling procedures that lack exactly what literature can do best: complexify and integrate the local and the short-span in a network of diverging and often incommensurable scales. Turning derangements into affordances, as it were. The potential of such a view on textual modeling is, therefore, twofold. Firstly, textual modeling takes full advantage of incommensurability and ambiguity of different scales; in contrast to other, more exacting models known from the natural sciences or the STEM disciplines, its main focus is on complex and ambivalent emergences. This is specifically relevant in the mostly science-dominated debates on climate change as well as in the cases of resistance to climate change science from so-called climate “sceptics.” As Jay Odenbaugh argues with an eye on such climate change “skepticism,” “[i]n debates over global climate change, much is made over the consensus concerning the effects of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions on the Earth’s temperature. Contrarians correctly note that science is partially structured around dissent and criticism” (2012, 137; see also Garrard et al. 2019). This does not mean that skepticism of this kind is an appropriate reaction. But fiction goes a long way in

122  Roman Bartosch bringing home an idea of the relevance of taking heed of resisting and ambivalent readings of the same phenomenon as it models complexity, as shown in my reading of scale in Kingsolver’s novel and Boyle’s story. What is more, in bringing tension and incommensurability to bear on the imagination, literary fiction complements each perspective’s blind spots in productive ways. Since climate change is both alarmingly real and, still, a concept only “contained in models and brains” (Odenbaugh 2012, 4), it requires making sense of the bifurcated nature of the phenomenon. In literary fiction, this interdiscursive work (cf. Zapf 2016, 114–121) is mostly done by juxtaposing an often scientific take on climate change with numerous other ways of world-making, from individual apprehension to communal cultural negotiations, or by deliberately pitting against each other signal words from different discourse domains and their reframing on different scales. Such signal words contain, in the above examples, the question of “invasive species” versus “pets”; the concept of war in the context of killing snails, or a spiritual terminology in an otherwise abstract scientific domain. A different meaning, as I will show now, is the use of allegedly non-literary, mathematical expressions that cue readers for the intricacies and phenomenological challenge of risk perception. There is hardly a novel that does this with greater clarity and alacrity than Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow (2013).5 In this story about nerdy and socially awkward Mitchell, whose paranoia and anxiety surrounding large-scale catastrophe and the mathematical calculation of its risk render him a shooting star and almost-guru flair after a terrible flooding devastates New York. The mixing of mathematical and phenomenological domains causes much of the novel’s poignancy and humor. The numerical and the human are in no way completely at odds but both rely on the human faculty of imagination, as is made clear in a short dialogue between Mitchell and a fellow student about another colleague from university suffering from a potentially deadly heart disease: “‘Can you imagine?’ he said. […] She’s a walking worst-case scenario. How does she get out of bed?” (Rich 2013, 10). That risk perception is largely a cultural, and, therefore, also imaginative, enterprise has long been shown by extant research on cultures and histories of risk (Arnoldi 2009; Heise 2009). The notion of modeling, however, adds the insight that, in the case of Odds Against Tomorrow, it is through the humorous bringing together of the mathematical and the personal dimension that literary writing can be understood as a complementation of other models that are unable to take into account, or locate on an altogether different plane, the all-too human.6 In other words, it takes terms from one discourse domain—“Event trees, optimism bias, binomial distribution, base rate fallacy” (Rich 2013, 18–19) or calculations reprinted on the page without further comment or explanation (“ʎCMTC = ʎ IE P1 P 2 P3,” 107)—and integrates them into the narrative storyworld and plotlines. When Mitchell is asked to “calculate the price

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  123 of each […] employee’s life” (19), or when he discusses the financial benefits of disaster, the potential of such modeling becomes manifest: when catastrophe hits, Mitchell’s boss “appeared at the doorway. ‘They’re calling. They want meetings. And meetings mean more money. Money, money, money […]’” (124, original emphasis). Communal or even global disaster appears serendipitous for some—this simple truth, and this derangement of scale, is probably best communicated in the form of complex narrative: “‘This may be our first live disaster. […]’ ‘Where is it going to make landfall? […] Ocean City would be very bad—Atlantic City would be catastrophic.’ ‘Let’s pray for Atlantic City!’” (127). Personal economic success and the pitting against each other of the ecologically and socially disastrous are modeled through the notion of risk and its link with scalar perception: “That’s the thing—the scale is too great. It’s impossible. We can only see what’s immediately in front of us. It’s difficult to imagine the next avenue, let alone the entire city. All the people” (190). In a clever play of scaling, Mitchell tells this in the concrete situation of having to navigate a canoe through flooded Manhattan; in this memorable image of the canoe and of going through the debris of civilization, the novel brings personal and global aporias into sync. A quick look at almost all extant scientific models of climate systems shows that these models are marked by both a heightened interest in complex relations between highly diverse geophysical systems and a conspicuous absence of cultural complexity and the potentially emergent effects in this domain (e.g., Trenberth 2010). Paradoxically, the human factor plays hardly a role in such modeling—with the exception of data concerning emission and resource depletion and the like—while the very phenomenon in question is anthropogenic climate change. But “culture” and cultural complexities seem in conflict with modeling as they are marked by a strong resistance to predictability and statistical validity. Despite, or rather because, of this restriction, novels can indeed provide a deeper “understanding of […] complexity that cannot be measured, [numerically] modeled, classified or studied in terms of information theory” (Gurr 2014, 146). Literary modeling that could accommodate such factors would for example pay heed to the very enmeshment of nature and culture in the Anthropocene; an issue that many novels have for quite some time been very attentive to (see Grimm and Bartosch 2018). Besides representing such enmeshments, even on the level of language and metaphor, narratives such as Odds Against Tomorrow rely on this fusion of allegedly separate spheres: for instance, we learn that the windows of a conference room were fogged over with the mist that rose from the ocean. The executives hovered like seagulls over a spread of bagels, los and sturgeon. The expensive fish seethed a salty, humid aroma, indistinguishable from the smell of dirty dollar bills. (13–14)

124  Roman Bartosch Here, we have not only a reasonable account of geothermal effects on the urban architecture of Manhattan but an insightful semiotic abduction that contrastively links corporate management and scavenging, something fishy and capitalism. Likewise, the novel generates significant amounts of its narrative force by linking the business of risk prediction and natural disaster with other discursive fields, such as religious eschatology and forms of animism. As the floating particles of soil that portend extensive drought become more and more and cover the city in unreal, apocalyptic blackness, and as this drought eventually leads to a deluge that destroys Manhattan, Mitchell realizes that as he and his fellows become victims of catastrophe, “the wind was calling to them”: “Oooh, it said” (150) at first, then “Unnh” (152), “Whee!” (154) until, eventually, “Whaaah!! Aaaah! The wind screamed murder” (155; all emphases original). Though ultimately incomprehensible, there is little doubt that nature has a voice indeed—one that Mitchell so far has been unable to include in his calculations. Remarkably, this link between the spheres of risk calculation and the multimodal, multidimensional nature of disaster is created through and across different scales whose repercussions register on the linguistic level as well: “Rain in and of itself is not a bad thing. But all the analytics indicate that this storm is going to bring excessive rain. The drought has inhibited the land’s ability to accommodate sudden large amounts of precipitation” (121). As we move from “rain” to “analytics” of “excessive rain” and finally to “the land’s ability to accommodate sudden large amounts of precipitation,” and thus across different registers with different meaning domains of the very same phenomenon, the novel helps to experience scale impressively.

From “Derangements” to “Affordances” of Scale: Learning to Read (in) the Anthropocene I would like to conclude this chapter by pointing to some of the implications and, indeed, potentials of analyzing and discussing scale and scaling as an interpretive practice for the teaching of literature and argue that literature can teach us an important lesson concerning the Anthropocene. That complexities of scale should lend themselves to being applied in educational contexts does not come as a surprise. In recent years, theories of learning—especially in the fields of language and literature pedagogy but also, more broadly, in political and citizenship education—have embraced what Claire Kramsch calls an “ecological perspective” on learning processes. This perspective integrates findings from complexity theory and notably speaks about language as a “non-linear, emergent phenomenon,” the study of which necessitates an understanding of different timescales, “fractal figures” and the importance of “‘distributed’ symbolic competence” (Kramsch 2008, 389,

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  125 391, 400). Although I cannot do justice to the theoretical and empirical context and data presented by Kramsch, I wish to point out that the ideas developed here fit well with her claim that complex understanding hinges on the ability to reframe—in my terminology: scale— perspectives and meanings with the help of literary modeling. Scaling and modeling, this chapter has argued, help complexify the issues at stake in climate change discourse and serve as a useful complementation of perspectives from other, especially scientific, disciplines. This also has implications for reading practices and, therefore, for our ways of teaching literature. In the recent past, much has been made of “ecocentric” writing and reading. And yet, in light of the above, it seems more promising to focus on the tensions produced by literary scaling as well as the affordances of literary modeling instead of literature’s potential to “go global.” “Perhaps, the critical emphasis placed on the scaling up of the literary, and interpretive, imagination risks distracting from issues of mediation” (Craps and Crownshaw 2018, 4). I wholeheartedly agree and will close with a few educational suggestions drawing on the affordance of scale as described by Pippa Marland: Once you have zoomed out in order to see the big picture, you might find, upon zooming in again, that your perspective on the human and on the earth, and on the place of the mortal human upon that earth, has subtly changed. (2018, 62) Instead of more the same globalizing discourse, readers of fiction can and ought to learn to become more flexible in their perception of complex scalar dimensionality; they should, in other words, become experts in scaling. I am convinced that literary fiction provides the right models for this enterprise. One of the reasons why I prefer scaling over more mono-perspectival, global approaches to the imagination lie in the pedagogic, but also individual, context of the literary reading experience. Despite the importance of an all-encompassing view of humanity in Anthropocene discourse, the primary addressee of both schooling and literary writing remains the subject. It is subjective agency that education has in mind and it is in individual acts of reception that literature takes its effect. Moreover, it is, after all, the cumulative effect of individual action that lies at the heart of the ominous anthropos as well. But this does not mean that instead of the all-encompassing global viewpoint, an individual perspective could ever suffice. It is true, in frameworks and international mandates in sustainability education, we often find tasks and competence descriptions that aim at individual action—“would you be willing to pay more money to eat more organically?”; “would you reconsider international flights for the sake of local holidays?” and so forth. And yet, such an individualistic

126  Roman Bartosch view has been criticized, rightly I think, for its depoliticizing, or neoliberal, stance. This is because climate change is not (only) the result of individual consumer choices but of political and cultural decision making; it is not just about “humanity as a whole” but about political communities and their particular agencies such as law- and policy-making. We are, therefore, confronted again with the tripartite levels of micro-, meso- and macro-orders of the individual, the social and the global. Scaling now tells us that there is no need, indeed: no option, to choose one perspective over the other—all scales are relevant, different, incommensurable to a certain extent. While it is undoubtedly an important consideration to think of humanity and its cumulative effect, this perspective has its shortcomings. As many have remarked, it levels out significant differences and uneven development; it poses great legal and moral challenges when it comes to responsibilities—and it creates a deadlock: no legislator makes a move if not every legislator makes a move. Just as each scale has its particular epistemic affordances, it also has specific educational and political implications pertaining to agency and responsibility. Individual action matters—but to reduce responsibility to consumer choices is reductive and wrong. Political action matters—but to underestimate the new challenges of a cumulative humanity, a “tragic environmental Leviathan” (Clark), is reductive and wrong. And while a focus on this statistical notion of humanity seems necessary and intellectually helpful, to wait for some collective ethical or political awakening may well end in disaster. This seems to me to be the most important lesson literature and pedagogy have to offer to the Anthropocene debate: while fiction goes a long way in staging and helping experience global complexities, to uncritically embrace the language and mindset of largescale, statistical globalism misconstrues the intricacies of both climate change and literature. One task, therefore, is to pay close attention to the concept of the “Anthropocene” itself: if it sensitizes people to their complex scalar enmeshments, it might prove useful indeed. If it further underlines the globalism of the single big picture of the planetary over and against other relevant perspectives, we might as well get rid of it.

Notes 1 The discussion of Kingsolver’s novel draws on, and extends, an argument I have first developed in “Scale, Climate Change, and the Pedagogic Potential of Literature: Scaling (in) the Work of Barbara Kingsolver and T.C. Boyle”, published with Open Library of Humanities (2018). 2 See the website “The Ocean Clean-Up,” Accessed March 12, 2019. https:// 3 Readers can however also find more detailed engagements with the ethical dilemma in Boyle’s novel When the Killing’s Done (2011). 4 For the role and significance of epiphanic moments in animal stories, see Bartosch (2017).

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128  Roman Bartosch Garrad, Greg, Gary Handwerk, and Sabine Wilke. 2014. “Imagining Anew: Challenges of Representing the Anthropocene.” Environmental Humanities 5: 149–153. Ghosh, Amitav. 2016. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Grimm, Sieglinde, and Roman Bartosch, eds. 2018. Die Materie des Geistes: Der material turn im Kontext von Literatur- und Bildungsgeschichte um 1800. Heidelberg: Winter. Gurr, Jens Martin. 2014. “‘Urban Complexity’ from a Literary and Cultural Studies Perspective: Key Cultural Dimensions and the Challenges of ‘Modeling’”. In Understanding Complex Urban Systems: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Modeling, edited by Christian Walloth, Christian Gurr, Jens Martin, and J. Alexander Schmidt, 133–150. Heidelberg: Springer. Haraway, Donna. 2015. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making King.” Environmental Humanities 6, 37–49. Heise, Ursula K. 2009. “Cultures of Risk and the Aesthetic of Uncertainty.” In Scientific Cultures – Technological Challenges: A Transatlantic Perspective, edited by Klaus Benesch, and Meike Zwingenberger, 17–44. Heidelberg: Winter. Hoydis, Julia. 2019. Risk and the English Novel from Defoe to McEwan. Berlin: de Gruyter. Kingsolver, Barbara. 2013. Flight Behaviour. London: Faber and Faber. Kramsch, Claire. 2008. “Ecological Perspectives on Foreign Language Education.” Language Teaching 41 (3): 389–408. Latour, Bruno. 2014. “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene.” New Literary History 45 (1): 118. Lloyd, Christopher, and Jessica Rapson. 2017. “‘Family Territory’ to the ‘Circumference of the Earth’: Local and Planetary Memories of Climate Change in Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour.” Textual Practice 31: 911–931. MacGregor, Sherily. 2014. “Only Resist: Feminist Ecological Citizenship and the Post-Politics of Climate Change.” Hypatia 29 (3): 617–633. Marland, Pippa. 2018. “320 Million Years, a Century, a Quarter of a Mile, a Couple of Paces: Framing the ‘Good Step’ in Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran.” In Framing the Environmental Humanities, edited by Hannes Bergthaller and Peter Mortensen, 50–64. Leiden: Brill Rodopi. Mauser, Wolfram. 2013. “Normative Folgen der Erdsystemforschung.” In Wo steht die Umweltethik? Argumentationsmuster im Wandel, edited by Markus Vogt, Jochen Ostheimer, and Frank Uekötter, 259–282. Marburg: Metropolis. Mayer, Silvia. 2016. “Science in the World Risk Society: Risk, the Novel, and Global Climate Change.” Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 64 (2): 207–221. Mayer, Sylvia, and Alexa Weik von Mossner, eds. 2014. The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture. Heidelberg: Winter. Moore, Jason W. 2016. “The Rise of Cheap Nature.” In Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Jason W. Moore, 78–115. Oakland: PM Press.

Literature Pedagogy and the Anthropocene  129 Odenbaugh, Jay. 2012. “Climate, Consensus, and Contrarians.” In The Environment: Philosophy, Science, and Ethics, edited by William P. Kabasensche, Michael O’Rourke, and Matthew H. Slater, 137–150. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. “Pazifik-Müllstrudel viel größer als vermutet.” N-TV, March 24 (2018). Accessed March 12, 2019. Siperstein, Stephen, Shane Hall, and Stephane LeMenager, eds. 2017. Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities. London: Routledge. Szerszynski, Bronislaw. 2012. “The End of the End of Nature: The Anthropocene and the Fate of the Human.” The Oxford Literary Review 34 (2): 165–184. Trenberth, Kevin, ed. 2010. Climate System Modelling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trexler, Adam. 2015. Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Woods, Derek. 2014. “Scale Critique for the Anthropocene.” The Minnesota Review 83: 133–140. Zapf, Hubert. 2016. Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts. London: Bloomsbury.


Dating the Anthropocene Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn

Introduction The Anthropocene has become a widely discussed narrative for our relationship with the natural environment and planet Earth. At its core stands the idea that the scale and scope of environmental challenges have significantly broadened and deepened, signifying an epoch of planetary-scale changes that threaten the very processes—from a stable climate to biodiversity—on which life on earth in general and human development in particular are based. Surprisingly, the exact meaning of the Anthropocene is still widely contested among specialists. As Pattberg and Zelli (2016, 1) observe “No agreement exists concerning a number of important issues, including the exact start date and appropriate stratigraphic markers, its normative implications and political consequences.” Since 2016 and confirmed again in May 2019, this is starting to change. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) has confirmed that (1) the Anthropocene should be treated as a formal chrono-stratigraphic unit defined by a global standard stratotype section and point (GSSP); and (2) that the base of the Anthropocene should be one of the stratigraphic signals around the mid-20th century of the Common Era (AWG 2019). In this chapter, we argue that deciding on an appropriate start date and related marker is more than a technical-administrative act. In this decision are embedded potentially different narratives of the Anthropocene, which, depending on the choices made, will shape future governance and societal debates. In particular and irrespective of the actual formal decision by the relevant scientific authorities, alternative dates matter, as they discursively broaden different ideas around the Anthropocene. Consequently, we analyze five suggested start dates (but see Lewis and Maslin 2018 for an alternative suggestion) along the following questions: What golden spike/GSSP is proposed? Which activity caused it? Who was the main agent behind that activity? What were the immediate impacts of that activity and how are these impacts evaluated by audiences today? And finally, what possible governance responses are related to a specific start date?

Dating the Anthropocene  131 The chapter proceeds as follows: first, we describe in more detail the International Union of Geological Sciences and its International Commission on Stratigraphy along with the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) and its adjacent Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), which all have a role to play in deciding on an adequate start date and related markers for the suggested Anthropocene. We are particularly interested in procedures, membership, decisions reached to date and challenges encountered on the way. Section 3 consequently introduces our argument about narratives and their political meaning before introducing and scrutinizing five concrete Anthropocene start dates: (1) Pleistocene fire; (2) early Anthropocene; (3) Orbis hypothesis; (4) Industrial revolution and (5) Great acceleration. We conclude in Section 4 with suggesting overarching narratives to capture each start date, marker and possible governance implications.

The International Union of Geological Sciences and Its Central Role in Dating the Anthropocene Overview of Relevant Scientific Bodies and Processes Scholars in the geosciences, principally stratigraphers and geologists, decide and define global units used for dating planet Earth. The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) exercises ultimate authority over such geological science through the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), which has 16 sub commissions, including the SQS. The latter is concerned with the geological time scale of the past 2.7 million years to date, as opposed to other sub commissions, such as Jurassic stratigraphy, which is focused on specific geological periods. The ICS regularly meets during the quadrennial International Geological Congress, the IUGS’ main scientific forum (IUGS 2016), held around the world since 1878. The next congress is scheduled for 2024 in Busan, Korea. With about a million scientists from some 120 countries, the International Union of Geological Sciences is one of the world’s largest scientific organizations. The IUGS was founded in 1961 in order to coordinate better international geoscientific research (IUGS 2016). As a global scientific body, it puts emphasis on its international scope in its aim to “unite the global geological community” by contributing to scientific studies, the results of which are applied “to sustain Earth’s natural environment”; promote education, awareness and participation in geoscience. It seeks also to facilitate and encourage “from all parts of the world” interaction and participation among and between scientists “regardless of race, citizenship, language, political stance or gender” (ibid.). The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) is one of seven IUGS commissions with explicit aim to coordinate “long-term international cooperative investigations” (ibid.).

132  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn The statutory purpose of ICS “is to promote international cooperation in stratigraphy” (Cowie et al. 1986, 11). Its governance structure includes an Executive Committee and the 16 chairs of its sub commissions. These make up the Voting Commission, which represents the entire field of stratigraphy (Cowie et al. 1986) and the IUGS. Sub commissions, created after a ballot by ICS Voting Members and ratification by the IUGS Executive Committee, undertake scientific work of the ICS. This includes “standardization of stratigraphic units, documentation and communication of major stratigraphic data and international stratigraphic cooperation” (ICS 2017). One important output is the development and publication of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart. The ICS Executive Committee or sub commissions—for example the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS)—have the right to establish Working Groups to conduct “short-term scientific” tasks for up to eight years (ibid.). “Critical scientific issues” (ibid.) within sub commissions and working groups are resolved by ballot. Unlike other sub commissions within the ICS that study specific geological times, the SQS is unique in its focus on the planet’s “geological column” (SQS, n.d.) or Quaternary, covering the past 2.7 million years to the present day. But like its umbrella groups, the scope of its science must be international. Thus, guided by the ICS statutory scientific goals, the SQS tasks include establishing formal and standardized stratigraphic scales, organizing and coordinating global stratigraphic scientific knowledge, evaluating and integrating new methods into multidisciplinary stratigraphy and defining and classifying stratigraphic principles, terms and procedures (SQS, n.d.). The SQS produces the global chronostratigraphical correlation table. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) is one of four Working Groups presently working within the SQS. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) A key expected outcome of the scientific work of the AWG is that the proposed Anthropocene concept may literally change the geological time scale. But for that to happen, the concept must pass rigorous and critical scientific analysis and bureaucratic procedures, starting at the AWG and ending at the IUGS. In 2009, the AWG was established to critically “examine the status, hierarchical level and definition of the Anthropocene as a potential new formal division of the Geological Time Scale” (AWG 2009, 1). Further, the AWG must identify a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP), that may be used for dating the Anthropocene. “The correctly selected GSSP gives an actual point in rock and is not an abstract concept—all other methods can prove to be diachronic” (Cowie et al. 1986, 5). This point must exist in a “specific geographical location” (ibid.). Six requirements must be met for a GSSP to be accepted by the ICS and subsequently ratified by the IUGS. In the

Dating the Anthropocene  133 words of Cowie and colleagues (7): “One of the main aims of the boundary stratotype procedure of lCS is to attain a common language of stratigraphy that will serve geologists worldwide and avoid the dissipation of energy in petty argument and unproductive controversy.” The group’s tasks should be completed in consistence with rules and procedures at the ICS and IUGS. We will now briefly discuss AWG membership, specific challenges to its mandate and outcomes to date.

Membership The AWG membership fluctuated throughout, from 16 in 2009 to 44 in 2018 (AWG 2018). The group is “ideally to be composed of Earth scientists with worldwide representation” and with “deep time stratigraphic history” (AWG 2009, 1). The chair of SQS, AWG’s sub-commission, “suggested” the group’s leader, who administer the AWG along with a secretary. The secretary was selected for “practical reasons” because the offices of both officers are “next door” to each other. Members were informed that “these roles will rotate among the Working Group over time” (AWG 2009, 3). This never happened with the chair’s position, a new secretary was named. But this did not change the leadership of the group which remains in the UK (AWG 2011). Throughout the years, the AWG’s global representation was primarily limited to the Global North. Fifty percent of AWG founding members are from the UK, which maintains a majority membership to date. The next largest group is from the US, with Germany, Switzerland, France and Canada following with two members each. And Norway, Spain, Austria, Australia and Poland each with a single member. Representation from the Global South was from Asia, South America and Africa: One member from China, two from Brazil, and two from the continent of Africa, one each from Kenya and South Africa. What little geographic diversity the AWG had was reduced by 2018 after a member from Brazil left the group. And despite the AWG’s ultimate parent body, the IUGS having worldwide membership, through its Adhering Organizations in 26 African countries (IUGS 2019), representation of the continent in the AWG was reduced to one, following departure of a member from South Africa. Two members from the US and five from the UK leaving did not reduce the latter’s dominant membership within the AWG. For a group tasked with considering the possibility of how impacts from human activities may have transformed the planet, it carried out its mandate with seeming tremendous lack of foresight, indicative in the small diversity of disciplines in the AWG membership. For example, scholars from anthropology, arts or sociology were not represented in the beginning. Within a decade after the AWG was established, it became clear that the Anthropocene concept has wider implications beyond stratigraphy, not least because it differs from the Holocene.

134  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn “The scale and rate of recent and contemporary geological change—is clearly of considerable significance to both science and society” (AWG 2013, 2). Subsequently, “evidence from, and collaboration with, sources from outside our membership” (AWG 2013, 3) were sought. But despite the “extraordinary interest in the Anthropocene concept, from both within the Earth sciences (writ large) and beyond it,” (AWG 2013, 2) and the “multi-dimensional” (AWG 2014) context of a term that “is being found widely useful,” (AWG 2013, 2) to the point of what “one might term ‘Anthropocene studies’” (AWG 2014, 2), the diversity of disciplines in the AWG’s membership did not significantly change in a decade. It was, as it is today, primarily constituted of geoscientists, such as geologists, palaeobiologists and palaeontologists. Subsequently, five-sub groups established within the AWG studied topics in relation to the Anthropocene from those disciplines. These included, lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic signals, global sea level trends and chemostratigraphy (AWG 2010, 6). Nevertheless, the group’s summary evidence and recommendation on the Anthropocene claims, “from the beginning, the AWG represented a broader community than is typical of ICS working groups” (Zalasiewicz et al. 2017, 56). This alleged change, from being dominated by “mostly or entirely of stratigraphers and palaeontologists,” common to other ICS groups, afforded the AWG a “breadth of expertise” that reflects the potential diverse utility of the Anthropocene (ibid.). The diversity of expertise in the AWG was anything but broad. Between 2009 and 2018, the AWG had one journalist, an archaeologist, a botanist specializing in plant physiology, two historians, and one law and international governance scholar. By 2018, the botanist had left, as did the journalist and archaeologist. And it appears replacements are not meant to improve on disciplinary diversity of the group. New members are being sought to fill “specialisms not currently covered by the group that are necessary for analyzing proxy marker” (AWG 2018, 24). The gender constituent of the AWG is inconsistent with the aim of the group’s ultimate parent body, the IUGS, which fosters among other modern values, non-gendered interaction among and between scientists. With only eight women members between 2009 and 2018, it cannot be credibly suggested that gender equity in the AWG membership was a desired priority. And of these, none served in the group’s leadership positions. In the beginning, a plant botanist from South Africa, who has since left, was the only female scientist. Four others joined in 2013, which saw the largest increase of female scientists to the AWG, four years after the group was established. Of these, three were geoscientists and an archaeologist. The following year, two more geoscientists joined, along with an historian. Under-representation of the Global South within the AWG is also observed among female members, who are predominantly from Europe, including two from the UK, one of whom has also left. Only one female scientist from the south remains, a Brazilian.

Dating the Anthropocene  135 The scientific case for the Anthropocene by the AWG was primarily made in three British publications. The Royal Society of Great Britain “accepted a proposal for a thematic set of papers on the Anthropocene” (AWG 2009, 5) that was published in 2011, “The Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time?” (Zalasiewicz et al. 2011). The Royal Society of London published A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene (C. N. Waters et al. 2014) “the results of this exercise should feed usefully into our discussions” (AWG 2009, 6). And The Anthropocene as a geological time unit, A Guide to the Scientific Evidence and Current Debate (Zalasiewicz, Waters, Williams, et al. 2019), which summarizes “evidence” for the Anthropocene (AWG 2014, 4) and will “form the basis for the AWG’s submission to the ICS” (AWG 2015, 11). Published in 2019 by Cambridge University Press, the almost 300-page volume of this latter work, was, as were the previous two key publications, edited by the group’s chair, along with other UK members. As early as February 2008, the AWG chair had argued that the Anthropocene is distinct from the Holocene: “recent assessment by the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London […] suggested a case for formally incorporating the term into the Geological Time Scale” (AWG 2009, 1). That assessment was made in a co-authored paper, published by the Geological Society of America. The authors argued that “Earth has endured changes sufficient to leave a global stratigraphic signature distinct from that of the Holocene or of previous Pleistocene interglacial phases” (Zalasiewicz et al. 2008, 4). These included “novel biotic, sedimentary, and geochemical change” (ibid.), dating back to the Industrial Revolution. The changes are assessed as “sufficiently distinct and robustly established for suggestions of a Holocene Anthropocene boundary in the recent historical past to be geologically reasonable” (ibid.). Scientific contributions to the three major AWG publications mirror the gender bias of the group membership. Of the three publications that assembled the scientific evidence in support of studying the Anthropocene, contributions came from only half the group of female scientists, all of whom are geoscientists from Europe. The first publication had no female contributor, the second only one and the third saw contributions from three female scientists. A record that hardly reflects the IUGS’s ambition to promote interaction and participation among scientists irrespective of gender. Based on the major works from the group, the case for the Anthropocene appears to have been made without significant scientific contributions from the Global South, regardless of gender. Only one scholar, from China, contributed to just one of the three works, an observation that does not support an aim of the IUGS, to facilitate and encourage global participation.

136  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn

Challenges for the AWG The AWG mandate is challenging for several reasons. First, scientific evidence for the Anthropocene, the so-called “Geology of mankind” (Crutzen 2002, 23), cannot be found only in ice-cores or rock sediments but in other places as well. Relatedly, time is continuous, as is exemplified in over-lapping geological boundaries. For example, within the present Holocene epoch, which represents the “uppermost chronostratigraphic unit,” three boundaries, Greenlandian, Northgrippian and Meghalayan, are identified and were ratified in June 2018 (Walker et al. 2018, 213). Second, the AWG must provide scientific answers to complex questions with varied societal implications, a task compounded by an ever-growing global interest in the Anthropocene concept, within and outside academia. For examples, the AWG “has been particularly successful in obtaining funding owing to the high visibility of the Anthropocene topic” (ICS 2018), for example the Spanish Ministry of Education financing a three-year project, Anthropocene sedimentary record in the Cantabrian coastal environments (Antropicosta) (AWG 2014, 12). And numerous new journals that have emerged in response to the proposed concept, including Quaternary, Anthropocene, Elementa—Science of the Anthropocene, The Anthropocene and The Anthropocene Review, are also evidence of the broad interest in the concept beyond stratigraphy. Furthermore, it is not readily discernible whether the group has been focused on its scientific purpose to “critically consider the case for a formal Anthropocene” (AWG 2009, 1), or, whether some members have instead been advancing arguments for formal recognition of the concept. The group’s mandate requires members to decide the hierarchy, or level, of the proposed concept, for example, whether the Anthropocene is categorized as an Epoch, Era, or Age. Hope was expressed that group members would reach “some consensus” within four years on “whether or not to formalize the Anthropocene and, if so, at what level” (AWG 2013, 7). But years before making public its “interim report,” the AWG chair informed members that “we are considering it as a potential Epoch” (AWG 2013, 2). It is not clear why or when this “working hypothesis,” which aimed to put the group in “sharp focus” (AWG 2013, 2), was abandoned. Years before members in 2016 voted on whether the concept should be treated as a chronostratigraphic unit, a necessary step before selecting and voting on a GSSP, the decision on whether to consider the concept for formalization seemed a foregone conclusion. Members were informed prior to the ballot in Cape Town, in 2016, that better understanding of the “the anthropogenic signal” which is complex “in time and space” will help select potential candidates for the beginning of the Anthropocene (AWG 2013, 7). “This aspect has been highlighted in the NERC IOF grant application (see above) with emphasis on ‘mapping the Anthropocene’; the GLOBE work of Erle Ellis (see above) will also help advance knowledge here.”

Dating the Anthropocene  137 Coalescing divergent views is another challenge within the AWG. Five years after it was established, the AWG chair recognized that the public interest in the Anthropocene (beyond the narrow academy) makes combining “scientific rigor” with “accessibility” a difficult task “but one that we can collectively manage” (AWG 2014, 19). Group members were informed that “the Anthropocene is still a young concept, with much to develop both in its ‘narrow’ stratographic analysis” and in relation to other studies and communities. (AWG 2015, 3). Around 2013, “strengthened consensus,” though certainly not unanimity, was reached within the group. Those members who agreed to the group’s provisional scientific conclusions accepted the following; that the Anthropocene is real as a stratigraphically, different from the Holocene; that a specific global marker dating from the mid-20th century exists; and that it can be formalized as an Epoch (AWG 2015, 2). This paved way for the next task for group members who were then asked to contemplate again the ever-pressing and difficult question on the start date of the Anthropocene (AWG 2014).

Outcomes The AWG met four times between 2009 and 2017. First, during a threeday AWG conference in Berlin in October, 2014, where the concept “gain[ed] coherence” among stratigraphers (AWG 2015, 2). At this inaugural meeting, members were confronted with old and new questions that never strayed far from the dominant disciplinary constitution of the group, including some that cast doubts on the usefulness of the AWG. “What is the relative value of formalizing the ‘Anthropocene’ chronostratigraphic/ geochronological unit as opposed to leaving it as an informal term?” Could there be, worldwide, “a well-documented and significant stratigraphic record for the ‘Anthropocene?’” Members further contemplated defining a base, with choices between “a physical reference section (‘golden spike’ or GSSP) or in terms of a numerical date (GSSA)” and whether the Anthropocene is “a unit of Earth history or human history?” (AWG 2015, 4). Concerning a possible “hierarchy” of the Anthropocene, members only contemplated whether it should be an Epoch or Age. For the “Early Anthropocene,” “Industrial Revolution,” and “Great Acceleration” (see below for more detail), dates were considered (AWG 2015). Some AWG members consider the latter date “a pronounced and sharp threshold in human modification of the global environment” (AWG 2015, 5)—a view clearly not shared by other AWG members. Whereas climate change is generally understood outside academia as evidence of the Anthropocene, the observation that “modern climate has barely increased in its mean temperature by close to 1°C” (AWG 2015, 5) was used to question whether there is “a connection—a signal—of climate change in the evidence base for the Anthropocene?” (AWG 2015, 5).

138  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn The second group meeting was held at Cambridge, UK, and was attended only by AWG members from the Global North. Majority in attendance were UK founding members, followed by those from the US, with members from Germany, Norway and Australia. Three others who never joined the group also attended. Deliberations were focused mainly on topics in geology but the outcome was “widely regarded as a considerable success” (AWG 2015, 1). Just four months before the AWG submitted its preliminary findings to the ICS, at the AWG’s third meeting in Norway in April 2016, members were still rejecting a key task of the group, to scientifically assess whether the Anthropocene could be formally recognized as a geological unit (AWG 2017). They also raised questions on issues that some within the group may have taken for granted, such as “key signals” to use, potential GSSP locations, and on the “societal (political) relevance of the Anthropocene” (AWG 2017). Again, the disciplinary focus excluded scholars from the humanities and social sciences, even though the group’s chair, acknowledged “our many colleagues beyond the AWG, whose work has been so helpful to advancing the study of the Anthropocene” (AWG 2017, 3). The International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, in August 2016, marked the “end of one era for the AWG.” (AWG 2017, 3). The AWG secretary, who earlier proposed in Berlin the “Great Acceleration” hypothesis, presented the group’s “main preliminary findings” and “interim recommendations” after members voted (AWG 2017). It was agreed that “the Anthropocene possesses geological reality”; that it is best considered at epoch/series level; that it is best defined beginning in the mid-20th century with the “Great Acceleration”; that it should be defined by a GSSP (“golden spike”) and for a “formal proposal to forward for consideration, initially, to the Subcommission of Quaternary Stratigraphy” (AWG 2017, 3). But the Great Acceleration hypothesis (see also below for more details) was challenged at the same meeting in Cape Town where the group presented its “consensus statement,” by an AWG member who provided “evidence of a pre-Industrial Revolution metal smelting signal” (AWG 2017, 13). As well, the still disputed but accepted Great Acceleration hypothesis does not appear to have settled questions on “the primary signal” or “marker” to define the Anthropocene. The group remained divided over that issue (AWG 2017, 3). However, according to the AWG, the globally distributed signature of the nuclear “bomb spike” of the 1950s and early 1960s seems to be the most promising candidate (AWG 2017, 3). But where on Earth exactly the “spike” or “GSSP environments” can be found remains unanswered. In its 2018 report to the IUGS, the ICS mentioned a marine site in China and “meromictic varved deposits” in Crawford Lake, Southern Ontario, in Canada, as two “prospective GSSP sites” for dating the Anthropocene (ICS 2018).

Dating the Anthropocene  139 Despite reaching some key conclusions in the 2016 meeting in South Africa that concluded “the Anthropocene possesses geological reality” (AWG 2017, 3), deep divisions remained. Thus, following that meeting, the SQS and ICS provided “guidance” (AWG/SQS, n.d.) to the AWG, and subsequently a second ballot was held “to affirm some of the key questions that were voted on and agreed at the IGC Cape Town meeting in 2016.” (AWG/SQS, n.d.) Two questions were placed on the ballot: “should the Anthropocene be treated as a formal chrono-stratigraphic unit defined by a GSSP” (AWG/SQS n.d.), “should the primary guide for the base of the Anthropocene be one of the stratigraphic signals around the mid-20th century of the Common Era?” (AWG/SQS, n.d.). With 97% of members responding, the results of the binding vote on both questions were consistently the same; 29 members voted in favor and 4 against (AWG/SQS, n.d.). The required 60% threshold rule was reached, and the Anthropocene concept was saved. Meanwhile, the AWG was unsuccessful in its application to the Belmont Forum for funds to conduct “multi-proxy analysis of candidate GSSP localities” (AWG 2017, 5).

Why Different Suggested Start Dates Matter: Analyzing Political Narratives of the Anthropocene Deciding on the geological time of planet Earth has been primarily an intra-disciplinary process within the geosciences. However, in case of the Anthropocene, the debate has become much broader, also incorporating non-geological and non-academic inputs. It has taken a decade, since its establishment, for the AWG to agree to formally study the Anthropocene for possible formal addition to the geological time scale. Meanwhile, debates on dating the Anthropocene have not abated. Several hypotheses have been suggested. Some span (Certini and Scalenghe 2011) the originally suggested date—the “latter part of the 18th century,”— (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000; Crutzen 2002) others overlap with other dates, while others again have been proposed and roundly rejected (Steffen et al. 2011; Balter 2013; Marlon et al. 2013; Lewis and Maslin 2015), within and across disciplines (Vidas 2010; Fischer-Kowalski et al. 2014; Abrams and Nowacki 2015). For examples, a philosophical argument proposes an indefinite deferment on formally dating the Anthropocene because “extant geological changes don’t reach the thresholds necessary to define a new epoch” (Santana 2018, 6), while others defend the concept as distinct from its “anthropogenic counterparts” (Zalasiewicz et al. 2019, 2). Given the centrality of human activities in the Anthropocene, each proposal on the question when humans have begun to transform the physical and atmospheric structures of the planet has political implications. To be more precise, each respective start date, whether selected or rejected by the official geosciences, supports and enables specific

140  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn narratives surrounding governance in the Anthropocene. While selecting a global “golden spike” seems apolitical, deciding on a start date for the Anthropocene, and thereby rejecting others, is potentially deeply political. Five key factors play a role in narrating the Anthropocene raising the following questions: What golden spike/GSSP is proposed? Which human activity or activities caused it? Who were the main agents? What were the immediate impacts of the activities and how are these impacts evaluated today? And finally, what responses flow narratively from each proposed start date? We will analyze these five factors as they relate to each suggested start date. Consequently, our aim is to identify a broader narrative that encompasses the Anthropocene start date in question and to discuss the hypothetical political implications. We analyze the following suggested Anthropocene start dates: (1) Paleoanthropocene and fire; (2) early Anthropocene; (3) Orbis hypothesis; (4) Industrial revolution; and (5) Great Acceleration. Paloeanthropocene and Fire The method-specific “Early Anthropocene burning hypothesis” (Abrams and Nowacki 2015, 30), also referred to as the Paleoanthropocene, posits that “anthropogenic fire has been a factor in shaping plant communities through human prehistory” (Pinter et al. 2011, 269). Fire and its ignition “have rendered Homo a unique genus from the minimum age of >1.8 million years (Ma) ago, regarded as a turning point in biological evolution and termed here Early Anthropocene” (Glikson 2013, 89). It is suggested that human-induced abrupt climatic changes started during the last glacial-interglacial transition, between 15 and 12 thousand years before the present (Marlon et al. 2009, 2519). Evidence includes “clear links between large climate changes and fire activity” (ibid.), “rapid decline of rainforest gymnosperms” fauna and so-called megaherbivores extinctions along with “devegetation” (Pinter et al. 2011, 269), and “lack of lightning ignitions for most of the eastern US” (Abrams and Nowacki 2015, 44). The latter suggests that fire in this region results from human activities. Finally, global “charcoal records” (Marlon et al. 2013, 9) show that “novel anthropogenic sources of ignition,” used by small groups such as hunter gatherers, have transformed landscapes and ecosystems globally (Pinter et al. 2011, 270). In this narrative, the Anthropocene is no longer different from the Holocene. What has become its unique signifier, the transformative impacts of human agency on a planetary scale, is projected back to the beginnings of mankind. If humans have arguably changed Earth since they managed to discover and control fire, then our current predicament is nothing else than human nature. One implication is that it, then, may not be geologically possible, given the requirements for effecting changes to the geological time scale, to formalize the Anthropocene.

Dating the Anthropocene  141 In terms of governance, the paleoanthropocene hypothesis supports arguments that humanity is able to manage human-environment interactions on a planetary scale, because this ability has developed gradually over time. Early Anthropocene The “Early Anthropocene” hypothesis (Ruddiman 2003) claims that agriculture and technological innovations 8,000 years ago marks the start of the Anthropocene. Ruddiman argues that there was a rise in CO2 and CH4 emissions between 8000 BP and 1800 AD, resulting from “deforestation by humans” that was helped by “innovations in agriculture” (273). Additional evidence is culled from megafauna extinction during the Pleistocene, in which humans “played a significant role” (Steffen et al. 2011) with evidence having been found in 28 sites on the Australian continent (Roberts 2001, 1888), in North America from “random hunting, and low maximum hunting,” which also contributed to mass megafauna extinction (Alroy 2001, 1893), and from the development of irrigated rice cultivation about 5,000 years ago (Steffen et al. 2011, 847). Other suggestions for Anthropocene start dates that qualify as early include the “Anthropocene soil” hypothesis (Certini and Scalenghe 2011), which suggests to use widespread changes in the pedosphere to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene around 2000 years ago, and suggestions for using early mining and smelting signals, using possible peak lead pollution in the Northern hemisphere staring some 7000 years ago as a marker (Radivojevic et al. 2010). Other studies again have identified large-scale Greek-Roman lead-silver smelting activities as the probable cause of a fourfold Pb increase between 2500 BC and 1700 that significantly departs from earlier minimal natural increases (Hong et al. 1994, 1842). In this narrative, the start of the Anthropocene coincides with the emergence of social, cultural and technical transformations that we often equate with civilization: the beginnings of agriculture, sedentary lifestyles and early urban cultures. Surplus energy generated by farming resulted in greater societal division of labor, specializations, arts and culture and the scientific enterprise. Agents of this early Anthropocene are the early advanced civilizations who managed to maintain political order over larger territories for longer time periods. Like the paleoanthropocene but different from all other suggested dates, the “Early Anthropocene” seems the most positive in its implied balance between impacts and gains. Consequently, governance might be understood as unnecessary, as the Anthropocene is tangent to evolution of human civilization and progress toward higher forms of development, notably social, technological and cultural.

142  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn Orbis Spike An intermediate position between the early anthropogenic hypothesis and the great acceleration hypothesis is taken by Lewis and Maslin (2015) who propose the noticeable decline in atmospheric CO2 concentrations between 1570 and 1620 as a good marker for the start of the Anthropocene. On this account, the European expansion into the Americas resulted in the death of some 50 million indigenous people by 1650, triggering a re-growth of abandoned agricultural lands and causing a measurable decrease in CO2 concentrations. The widespread death of indigenous people in the Americas induced two related outcomes with severe atmospheric impact: first, near-cessation of farming and reduction in the use of fire; and second, the regeneration of over 50 million hectares of forest (175). These events contributed to a “swift, ongoing, radical reorganization of life on Earth without geological precedent” (174), such as reduced atmospheric C02 concentrations of 7–10 ppm between 1570 and 1620 (175). The “Orbis hypothesis” is interesting from a social sciences perspective, as the observed atmospheric changes coincide with the emergence of the capitalist world system in general (Wallerstein 1974) and the emergence of the plantation system more specifically (Haraway 2015). The meeting of European and American cultures and the related decline in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (with the start of CO2 reduction in 1610 as a possible marker) illustrate a complex and unpredictable outcome of human-nature interactions. Agents in this story are the European explorers and by extension, early-modern European capitalist dynasties (see also Moore 2017 on the Anthropocene as Capitalocene). The direct outcomes include death and destruction, and a broader systemic impact was the emergence of an unequal global capitalist system that has by and large maintained its structure. Unlike the other narratives, the Orbis hypothesis evokes questions of global justice and inequity, and projects the Anthropocene consequently, first and foremost, as a social phenomenon. The Orbis hypothesis offers a promising opportunity to properly address the challenges of global environmental change. Governance emanating from this interpretation might address global power inequalities, principally between developing and developed regions, much more centrally than more techno-optimist narratives such as the Great Acceleration. In addition, the differentiated nature of responsibility becomes more visible in this narrative, aligning with postcolonial studies, which also do not imply a collective “we” as agency in the Anthropocene but emphasize a diverse and differentiated humankind (Dürbeck 2019). Industrial Revolution In their original proposal of the Anthropocene, Crutzen and Stoermer (2007, 17) suggest the early Industrial Revolution as an appropriate start

Dating the Anthropocene  143 date. In their own words: “To assign a more specific date to the onset of the Anthropocene seems somewhat arbitrary, but we propose the latter part of the 18th century.” A combination of political and economic factors and their interactions contributed to stimulating geological changes on the planet. A global “growing energy bottleneck” (Steffen et al. 2011, 848) is at the core of this interaction. The discovery of fossil fuels allowed a sharp increase of human energy use, such that “industrial societies used four or five times as much energy as their agrarian predecessors, who in turn used three or four times as much as our hunting and gathering forebears” (ibid.). Population growth from about one billion to six billion within 200 years, surface land use increases from about ten to about 25–30%, and rise in greenhouse gases are all evidence to support this theory. Whereas as the industrial revolution theory does not propose a specific date, “the year AD 1800 could reasonably be chosen as the beginning of the Anthropocene” (849). While a concrete GSSP is difficult to find, suggestions have also included the year 1750, often used to mark the so-called pre-industrial average of greenhouse gas concentrations and mean temperature. The Industrial Revolution narrative is essentially one of fossil fuel extraction. Consequently, the agents in this story are the early industrializing countries of the European heartland and the implications are largely synonymous with global warming. As the consequences of climate change are feared by societies around the globe, and are becoming increasingly visible, the Industrial Revolution start date arguably entails the strongest call for immediate action to halt the negative development which started with the Industrial Revolution in England. Given that its impact cannot reasonably be divorced from climate change, impacts of the Industrial Revolution also invariably introduces notions of climate justice and (in)equity. Governance in an Industrial Revolution Anthropocene would probably evolve around drastic, sustained and system-wide mitigation and adaptation measures that should have transformative impacts, and normatively around ideas of responsibility and compensation (with the 2015 Paris Agreement as a blueprint). Great Acceleration At first glance, the “Great Acceleration” seems as an extension and radicalization of the Industrial Revolution and as such shares similar indicators. However, with its focus on the nuclear age of hyper consumption, it weaves a different narrative. The “Great Acceleration” is commonly understood to span the period 1945 to 2000+ (Steffen et al. 2011). The period is marked by increases at different scales, in population, from “3 to 6 billion in just 50 years” (849), economic activities, globalization, scientific knowledge, technological innovation, motor vehicles, international travel, consumption, environmental pollution,

144  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn particularly CO2 emissions, economic growth and related stimulants such as public-private partnerships with academia, industry and governments, electronic communication and urban growth. Often understood as indicators of human progress, these rapid changes have moved the Earth system “outside the envelope of Holocene variability” (850). For example, intensified agricultural practiced on a mass scale since the past century, in response to growing global demand for food, has severely damaged “the nitrogen economy of the planet [that] will persist for decades, possibly centuries” (Canfield et al. 2010, 192). The most successful candidate for conclusive evidence is the “signal provided by the 1950s rise in radiocarbon caused by atmospheric nuclear tests” (Fairchild and Frisia 2014, 239). A tongue-in-cheek suggestion for 1969 as a potential golden spike by an astrobiologist also underscores the techno-rational characteristic of the Great Acceleration. “Mare Tranquillitatis where Apollo astronauts first stepped onto another world,” and left “man-made” objects is a suggested “golden spike” (Grinspoon 2016). These artefacts have arguably altered the landscape and “will be detectable for as long as there is an Earth and a Moon” (ibid.). Both proposals for a marker, the nuclear and the lunar, point to techno-optimist man as the agent behind the Anthropocene. The impacts of the observed behavioral patterns (economic rationalization and growth, globalization and integration) are decidedly Janus-faced. Signifying progress on the one hand, the Great Acceleration has, on the other, led to a transgression of several of Earth’s planetary boundaries (Rockström et al. 2009). Consequently, normative assessments of a Great Acceleration Anthropocene remain multi-faceted. Nuclear technology (both military and industrial) might be seen critical in some places and by some actors (see for example Latour 2012 on the ecomodernist narrative). However, globally, nuclear technology has had a renaissance of its own. This observation is an important reminder for those contemplating the governance of the Great Acceleration. Instead of a narrative of despair and human failure, proponents of the so-called “Good Anthropocene” point to potential unique opportunities that global-scale human management of the Earth System might bring. On this account, staying within the planetary boundaries and possibly re-engineering the Holocene will be realized with the same techno-optimist mind-set that brought about the Great Acceleration.

Conclusion The concept “Anthropocene,” describing system-wide impacts of human activities on the Earth system and the related changes to these systems. Scientists have observed, among others, increase in erosion and sediment transport, abrupt changes in the cycles of elements such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and various metals together with new

Dating the Anthropocene  145 chemical compounds, environmental changes generated by these perturbations (e.g., sea-level rise and ocean acidification), rapid biodiversity loss both on land and in the sea, and the global distribution of anthropogenic materials, including concrete, plastics and “the myriad ‘technofossils’ produced from these and other materials” (AWG 2019). Against this background, geoscientists are currently debating the Anthropocene as a new official part of the geological time scale. The AWG has made a recommendation to accept the Anthropocene as a formal chrono-stratigraphic unit defined by a GSSP, and to use stratigraphic evidence from mid-20th century. Notwithstanding this development, other start dates have been suggested throughout the last years. We assume that these suggested start dates of the Anthropocene are political via the broader narratives they are embedded in. Consequently, in this contribution, we have discussed five possible start dates for the Anthropocene -Paleoanthropocene and fire; early Anthropocene; Orbis hypothesis; Industrial Revolution; Great Acceleration— with a view toward identifying the underlying narratives surrounding each suggested date along with possible global governance implications. Our core argument is that specific narratives emerging around the start dates are political and include political implications, irrespective of their chances of being officially accepted or rejected by the AWG, the ICS and IUGS. We will briefly summarize these narratives and political implications here. A Paleoanthropocene narrative refers to a more gradual understanding of human-environment interactions and the argument that the Anthropocene coincides with the arrival of modern humans. A benign Anthropocene narrative would include the parallel development of agriculture, high civilizations and increased system-wide impacts (such as increase in Pb levels), while focusing on important benefits such as progress toward higher forms of development, notably social, technological and cultural. A Colonial Anthropocene would rather focus on negative consequences such as inequalities and global power-differentials in the form of global trade and colonialism. On this account, the Anthropocene signifies not only human domination of nature, but also human domination by humans. The fossil Anthropocene is largely focused on carbon as the main signifier of planetary change and climate change as its possible disruptive impact. Finally, a Nuclear Anthropocene is narrated via the Great Acceleration trope and suggest the ultimate techno-rational signifier, nuclear weapons and resulting radioactivity, as an appropriate marker. It is likely to assume that the IUGS will decide on accepting the Anthropocene as part of the geological time scale before 2025. However, irrespective of this decision, the societal discourse on the Anthropocene, its significance, its agency and responsibility, and eventually its governance, is in full motion (Biermann and Lövbrand 2019). In this contribution, we have outlined the institutional and procedural conditions for

146  Philipp Pattberg and Michael Davies-Venn “dating the Anthropocene,” discussed various suggested start dates and evaluated these with a view toward governance implications. We hope that this approach contributes to a critical analysis of the Anthropocene concept beyond its official status as a geoscientific concept.

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When Humans Become Nature Bernd Scherer

Engineers and designers make the world. Intellectuals think about the world. Over recent decades these two processes have been drifting apart at an increasing rate. While the main instrument of thought employed within the humanities was deconstruction, the engineers and designers were primarily engaged in constructing new worlds. While the former increasingly lost sight of the material world, the material hyper-production of ever new generations of technology was largely removed from any critical reflection of their societal impacts. This separation must be overcome, since it precludes any thorough understanding of life in the Anthropocene. In the fall of 2017, at a conference on cosmism at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt shortly after the hurricane season in the US, artist Hito Steyerl pointed to a seemingly paradoxical situation, by asking: “Where is ground control?” Her answer was: “Houston, Texas.” For Steyerl, the city then flooded by hurricane Harvey, illustrates a fundamental problem. Houston is the location of the Mission Control Center, which coordinates NASA’s manned space flights and also the center of the oil industry, which fueled the 20th century like no other. And in September 2017, this entire world with its highly sophisticated technological and scientific infrastructure was put out of action by a storm, the size of which, in all probability, was the consequence of global warming, which itself is a product of this technical-industrial “Houston System.” How did it come to this? The answer to this question takes us to a location close to Mexico City at the turn of the millennium. It was here that earth system scientists met for a conference of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). Talk repeatedly returned to the Holocene, officially our contemporary geological epoch, when Paul Crutzen, the atmospheric chemist largely responsible for explaining ozone (for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize) suddenly stood up and said: “Stop using the word Holocene! We’re not in the Holocene anymore. We’re in the…the…the Anthropocene!” Crutzen was clearly searching for words when delivering this final sentence (Davies 2016, 42).

When Humans Become Nature  151 What had happened? What occasioned one of the most important scientists of our age to struggle for words and then suddenly proclaim a new epoch? A few years after this incident, scientists from the IGBP presented curve diagrams depicting essential parameters of the earth system: from population growth and the rise in gross domestic product, to the construction of dams, water consumption, the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and plastic production, to the shrinking of rain forests and biodiversity in general. All these curves have a similar shape: beginning in the middle of the 20th century, they rise suddenly and steeply. These so-called hockey curves point to a dramatic development. Earth system scientists refer to this as the “Great Acceleration.” As all these curves can be traced back to developments triggered by humans, by the “Anthropos,” Crutzen’s choice of word seems to have been validated (Zalasiewicz et al. 2019). And it is the task of the Anthropocene Working Group to formalize the concept of the Anthropocene in scientific terms. Humans have become geological agents very recently in human history. In that sense, we can say that it is only very recently that the distinction between human and natural histories—much of which had been preserved even in environmental histories that saw the two entities in interaction—has begun to collapse. (Chakrabarty 2009, 207) What made it possible for humans to generate planetary transformations? This capacity is in great part a result of the planet’s accumulated “deep time” entering the “now” of humankind in the form of fossil fuels. Through the process of refining, the raw fossil product, which the planet has been manufacturing over millions of years by way of biochemical processes and pressure, is being transformed into energy to power our mobility (Steininger 2015, 210–225). An immense compression of time is happening: planetary time is being transformed into human time. This refinement, distribution and consumption of fossil fuel is a particularly prominent case, though not the only one, in which technologies contribute to the large scale transformation of the world. How do technologies change our world? Generally speaking, technologies serve the function of transforming a state A into a state B, thus saving the intellectual or physical labor of humans. Our everyday routines are now saturated with such technologies. We turn on the light without having to think about where its energy comes from. We drive a car without knowing how an engine works. We fly around the world without even understanding how an airplane manages to take off. We communicate with the whole world via the Internet without knowing the algorithms that make this possible. Huge, planetary infrastructures have been created around these activities: from gas and oil pipelines, freeways

152  Bernd Scherer and airports, to continental electricity and data networks. These infrastructures form the nature of the Anthropocene world. Without these technologies, life as we know it would no longer be possible. One only needs to imagine the consequences of a week-long power failure in wintertime. During this transformation of the planet, the main goal of cultural activity seems to be the creation of a second nature through technology. The development of this technosphere is accompanied by the economization of society, as a result of which human activity is commodified, namely as a saleable and purchasable commodity, and thus further naturalized. This economization can also be regarded as a technology, whose modus operandi can be demonstrated using the example of money. The monetary economy is a precursor to other disruptive technologies of today that drive the dynamics of the Anthropocene and it seems to culminate in the financial economy of today. The monetary economy is disruptive with regard to time since its system of loans and bonds makes the future available as a resource (Streeck 2015; Nowotny 2016, 32–68). Only by borrowing from the future can the major infrastructure projects of today be funded in the first place. But the monetary economy is also disruptive in that it connects various areas and spheres from completely different categories. Inventions, discoveries or cultural achievements can be compared via monetary abstraction. In this process of abstraction, cultural acts themselves take the form of objects and are thus naturalized. Abstraction processes like these are also fundamental to the use of digital technologies whose disruptive nature further fuels the dynamics of the Anthropocene. An example: In 2012, it was reported in the US that a father learned of his teenage daughters pregnancy through advertisements that she received from the chain store Target (Kashmir 2012). With the help of statistics genius Andrew Pole, Target had developed a new method of consumer tracking. Pole identified 25 products which, if women showed an interest in them, indicated that they were pregnant. Target used this information to send coupons to pregnant women who were in the process of changing their lifestyles, and thus their shopping patterns. What is happening here? A certain phase in a person’s life, which is characterized by different emotions, hopes, partnerships etc. is being reduced to 25 products that establish a correlation between a person’s life and a chain store’s retail products. This information is not just abstracted from a concrete and complex life, but is also, and this is decisive, injected into it, exercising its influence. Characteristics of human subjectivity and commodity attributes are fused. Such disruptive developments by means of algorithms occur on a daily basis. Subjective experiences are being transformed into objects, sales models turn feelings into goods and people begin to place more trust in the data they are being fed than in their own experiences. Thus, in everyday life, our view of the world is

When Humans Become Nature  153 transformed through these daily interactions with machines controlled by algorithms. Cyberspace is not a world alongside or outside the real world; instead it increasingly interacts with it, penetrating ever deeper layers of our social and psychological life (Stalder 2018, 41–42). The extent to which the virtual world has already been diffused with the real world and the confusion this has caused can be observed in the radicalization of people via the Internet. Time and again, we encounter instances of otherwise unobtrusive citizens issuing online death threats to politicians on account of refugee policy. Closer examination of these cases often reveals that the citizens in question originally consulted the Internet in search of information and only rather unwittingly encountered scenes of violence that captivated their attention. Algorithms then registered the users’ click behavior, offering more and more of these videos, featuring even more extreme forms of violence. The users in question were then quickly swallowed up by this world of violence, evoked through the pictorial language of the algorithm, which had begun to replace the real world in their heads. It is crucial to note here that the algorithm itself has no significance; it is merely syntax. Yet, simply through a quantified register, it creates connections which not only are of significance, but which also generate their own pragmatics by intervening in reality. The algorithm, it could be argued, is developing its own role as a player. The paradoxes of knowledge are becoming paradoxes of life in a very precise sense. In classical philosophy, paradoxes arise because of a lack of categories with which to understand the world. Today, as the “Target” example demonstrates, we are confronted with problems in life because a man-made computer generates a section of the world in which objective and subjective categories are mixed up. It is important to realize that these technologies form the basis for the planet-wide removal of local limits to human modes of acting and experiencing within the Anthropocene. They are the response to the leaps in scale which enable, for example, huge quantities of energy to be released at the touch of a button, or companies and production processes to be controlled globally. At the same time, however, the production of knowledge in the sciences is itself being subjected to the aforementioned processes of economization and naturalization. Standardization is aimed at making distinct scientific products comparable, thus turning research into a product. This product can then be assigned with a numerical and ultimately economic value (Thacker 2010, 117–118; Galloway 2014, xix). On the one hand, this development facilitates the control of these processes by bureaucracies that do not necessarily need to have any particular understanding of the individual processes (Graeber, 2015). On the other hand, these products can then be marketed as items of knowledge. In order to develop these technologies, to which standardization and knowledge management belong, great creative and hence cultural

154  Bernd Scherer achievements are necessary. The less thought has to be put into their use, the greater their benefit: in other words, the more they are incorporated into natural processes, the better. Yet these developments also have far-reaching social, political and economic consequences. All that is required to develop and regulate technological infrastructures is a small number of highly skilled people; still, everybody is affected by their implications. Economically, this development represents an accumulation of power in the hands of the few who control the infrastructure, be it physical or virtual. Politically, it represents the disenfranchisement of a majority that is no longer permitted to have a say in decisions on the developments that shape their lives. The very lives of this majority are becoming part of complex technological control processes. Governance is replacing politics (Vogl 2015). The smooth control of social processes is increasingly replacing a political discussion about society. Empowered citizens are being replaced by experts. The control of societies by technocracies and commercial enterprises is being made possible by the increasing naturalization of social processes and their availability in the form of data. This naturalization and the disenfranchisement of large sections of society as a consequence of the delimitation and planetization of human activity, is one reason for the prevailing dissatisfaction, noticeable especially in affluent societies. Thus understood, the Anthropocene not only refers to the aforementioned phenomena such as climate change, the decline in biodiversity etc.; but more significantly, it stands for a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of the world and of humankind. As a result, the ostensibly clear dividing line between nature and culture is giving way to a dynamic interweaving of cultural and natural processes, a development which is now manifesting itself in the increasing naturalization of various areas of human life. Knowledge of the world is being replaced by navigation processes in which constructing and knowing the world continually interact. These processes can no longer be solely grasped by scientific disciplines themselves defined by demarcation. We need an “Anthropocenic Turn” in order to develop new forms of knowledge production. What is to be done? The answer to this question can begin with a remark by the scientist Richard Feynman that is often repeatedly evoked by synthetic biologists, “What I cannot create, I do not understand” (Roosth 2017, 4). On the one hand, this sentence is correct, while, on the other, it harbors a fundamental problem. Feynman is right insofar as genuinely “new” knowledge that goes beyond the existing frame of reference can only be created on the basis of a changed practice. In this sense, neither can discussions about the new knowledge lead us any further, nor can innovation be simply categorized. The problematic implications of Feynman’s remark concern the imperative to create. We live in times where the pressure to innovate is so immense that the ability to make something all too

When Humans Become Nature  155 quickly leads to de-facto-level manufacturing. Production in the name of science thus often inadvertently leads to the transformation of reality. A new technology is founded on the facticity of manufacturability. Yet normativity can only be negotiated in a societal discourse. Another problem arises with the implementation of a new technology into society. The new technologies, e.g., in the field of synthetic biology or digitalization interfere deeply with social and individual lives; that is, the new reality exists not only in a new technological object but also in a complex arrangement of object, behavior, etc. (Malabou 2008). Health apps record and disseminate all data relevant to personal health. These datasets are supposed to change the behavior of the person using the app. That person’s view of himself or herself changes in the process. Facts and figures relating to certain parameters complement and/or contradict feelings and perceptions. The datasets are collected by health insurance providers and thus lead to product developments in the field of health, maybe even to changes in how we perceive the terms “health” and “sickness” in general. Complex psychological and socio-technological environments replace technological objects. If people affected by these developments are to be allowed sovereignty, they must be involved in the processes of creating these new realities. Thus social players may act as experts in the everyday situations that are to be changed. Instead of the classic laboratory in which trained experts conduct research, we need rehearsal stages for the new phenomena, on which subjective, social, technological and cultural phenomena are woven together. On these stages, social actors, scientists and artists may rehearse together. On the one hand, the rehearsal stages are places of practice in which world sections are created. On the other hand, they are places of the imagination in the sense of artistic practice. The rehearsal stages are not about creating facts but about providing a blueprint for possibilities in order to rehearse various options in a social process, to experiment with ways of thinking or ways of perceiving, before something is actually realized. Against this background, it becomes obvious why most efforts to transmit scientific information to third parties fail. The crucial factor is making knowledge developed by experts comprehensible to third parties. There are those who know, the experts; and those who do not know, the general population. The phenomena of the Anthropocene however, as demonstrated, demand an entirely new concept of knowledge and expertise. We need rehearsal stages for the creation of knowledge and our world, on which those affected by the development of the Anthropocene become actors. This also applies in global terms, in that those affected by something e.g., climate change are often not its cause. It is necessary that we culturalize the processes of the postmodern world in which we become nature and, true to the Kantian sense of enlightenment, lead our societies out of our “self-inflicted disenfranchisement”.

156  Bernd Scherer The new rehearsal stages are a central form of the “Anthropocenic Turn” because they mediate new forms of aesthetic and conceptual knowledge production and socio-political processes. They are the new theatres of the Anthropocene, in which new forms of world creation take place.

References Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2009. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35 (2): 197–222. Davies, Jeremy. 2016. The Birth of the Anthropocene. Oakland. University of California Press. Galloway, Alexander. 2014. Laruelle. Against the Digital. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Graeber, David. 2015. The Utopia of Rules. On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy. New York, NY: Melville House Publishing. Hill, Kashmir. 2012. How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did. Malabou, Catherine. [2004] 2008. What Should We Do With Our Brain? New York: Fordham University Press. Nowotny, Helga. 2016. “Eigenzeit. Revisited.” In Die Zeit der Algorithmen, edited by Bernd Scherer, 32–68. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz. Renn, Jürgen, and Bernd Scherer eds. 2015. Das Anthropozän. Zum Stand der Dinge. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz. Roosth, Sophia. 2017. Synthetic. How Life Got Made. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Stalder, Felix. 2018. The Digital Condition. Cambridge: Polity Press. Steininger, Benjamin. 2015. “Raffinerie und Katalyse.” In Das Anthropozän. Zum Stand der Dinge, edited by Jürgen Renn, and Bern Scherer, 210–225. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz. Streeck, Wolfgang. 2015. Gekaufte Zeit. Die vertagte Krise des demokratischen Kapitalismus. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main. Thacker, Eugene. 2010. „Biomedia.” In Critical Terms for Media Studies, edited by Mark B. N. Hansen, and W. J. T. Mitchell, 117–130. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Vogl, Joseph. 2015. Der Souveränitätseffekt. Berlin: Diaphanes. Zalasiewicz, Jan, Colin N. Waters, Mark Williams, and Colin P. Summerhayes. 2019. The Anthropocene as a Geological Time Unit: A Guide to the Scientific Evidence and Current Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Section 3

Sensing the Anthropocene

Taylor & Francis Taylor & Francis Group


Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene Eva Horn

How to conceive of an aesthetics of the Anthropocene? While it has proven to be a particularly productive concept in the arts and the humanities, the Anthropocene has also shown a tendency to devolve into a fashionable buzzword. The concept is often used to vaguely refer to the “ecological crisis,” “global warming,” “the human footprint,” or to more specific problems such as pollution, species extinction, or issues of coexistence with other species. While such topics do not imply an aesthetic program, they often come with a set of expectations about the purpose and relevance of art: As the vehicle of aesthesis, [art] is central to thinking with and feeling through the Anthropocene […]. Art provides […] a non-moral form of address that offers a range of discursive, visual and sensual strategies that are not confined by the regimes of scientific objectivity, political moralism, or psychological depression. (Davis and Turpin 2015, 3–4) Art is expected to raise awareness and convey a sense of urgency in the face of the ecological crisis. In a similar way, “Anthropocene art” is frequently understood to represent certain themes such as climate change, the destruction of ecosystems, species loss and, more recently, geological history and stratigraphy (e.g., see Trexler 2015, whose study on “Anthropocene fictions” is essentially a book on Cli-Fi). A genuine aesthetics of the Anthropocene, however, cannot be limited to thematic references and the rhetoric of political mobilization. In what follows, I would like to argue that an aesthetics of the Anthropocene needs to deal with questions of form, not of content or themes. The notion of the Anthropocene implies a profound transformation of the human position within and relationship to the world. Living in the Anthropocene means a new form of beingin-the-world, and being in a radically changed world. The journalist Thomas Friedman has offered the succinct expression “global weirding” as a replacement for the notion of “global warming” (Friedman 2010). The Anthropocene is about global weirding—the weirding of a natural

160  Eva Horn world that can no longer be separated from human interference, but also the weirding of human existence that has become a “geological force,” beyond control and intention. Aesthetic form in the age of the Anthropocene, I will argue, needs to deal with three challenges: (1) latency, the fact that the transformation of the world is happening not in the form of cataclysmic events but in imperceptible and unpredictable processes; (2) entanglement, the fact that the modern separation between the human and “the world” has dissolved into uncanny dependencies, unintended consequences and unpredictable side-effects; (3) a clash of scales, the fact that the environmental crisis of the Anthropocene unfolds on very different spatial, temporal and quantitative scales. These challenges are of an epistemic and aesthetic nature; they concern the conditions of cognition as well as those of representation. And they do not pertain to the realm of art’s content, but to its form. For an understanding of the issue of form in the Anthropocene, Bruno Latour in his Gaia Lectures has given us a highly instructive example in his reading of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting The Great Enclosure Near Dresden (1832) (Latour 2017, 222, Figure 9.1). The painting shows the muddy floodplain of the river Elbe, dotted with pools of water. Latour observes that this landscape appears oddly warped, as if one

Figure 9.1 Casper David Friedrich, The Great Enclosure Near Dresden, 1831/1832, Oil on Canvas. © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Jürgen Karpinski, © bpk-Bildagentur, courtesy bpk-Bildagentur.

Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene  161 were seeing the curvature of the globe itself. The sky is similarly arched, displaying a concave upward curve. Only the horizon line is straight, separating the two distorted spaces of earth and sky. Because of this distortion of pictorial space, the viewer’s vantage point is difficult to make out. It seems to be neither on the level of the foreground, nor on any determinable higher location. It is this strange distortion of space that for Latour epitomizes the human relationship to the world brought about by the Anthropocene. If the Anthropocene heralds nothing less than a new way of being-in-the-world, it solicits an epistemological questioning regarding the modes of access to, and forms of knowledge of, the non-human. But it also begs the question as to how this relationship might be aesthetically represented. In Friedrich’s painting, the classic formal convention of European art history, according to which space is to be rendered from a fixed vantage point, is suspended. This convention, according to Latour, perfectly expressed the Western relationship to nature: nature is subordinated to an objectifying gaze (Latour 2017, 17). Although Friedrich’s painting cites these conventions—its pictorial space is oriented toward a vanishing point—this only highlights the extent to which it deviates from them. As Latour writes “This is not a landscape that someone might contemplate. It offers no possible stability […]” (222). Latour sees the curved, non-Euclidean space of the picture and the free-floating gaze of the disoriented viewer as an allegory of the human standpoint with regard to a nature in which humans no longer have a secure place. In the Anthropocene, nature can no longer be represented as a simple given entity which the viewer comprehends in a single gaze. In the Anthropocene, “nature” can no longer be totalized or objectified, neither by scientific nor aesthetic representation. Friedrich’s painting traps the viewer in this space, in a wavering, uncertain position. In Latour’s words: What is brilliant about this painting is the way it marks the instability of every point of view, whether it’s a matter of seeing the world from above, from below, or from the middle. With the Great Enclosure, the great impossibility is not being imprisoned on Earth, it is believing that Earth can be grasped as a reasonable and coherent Whole, by piling up scales one on top of another, from the most local to the most global—and vice versa—or thinking that one could be content with one’s own little plot in which to cultivate a garden. (223) Latour’s reading is exemplary of what an “aesthetics of the Anthropocene” might involve. At first glance, Friedrich’s painting appears to be a fairly straightforward representation of a landscape. In fact, however, it introduces a small twist in its form that makes all the difference. The painting abandons the presupposition of a transparent, readily

162  Eva Horn intelligible structure of the world which the work of art reflects. The classical perspective of landscape painting is replaced by a disorientation which is as subtle as it is profound, encompassing both the position of the viewer and the space of representation. The painting thereby performs a veritable “mutation of the relation to the world” (7) as well as of the categories of subject and object, human and non-human, whole and part. It is no accident that this effect is not achieved by what the picture depicts, but rather by how it brings the world into a specific form. The modern construction of nature, which Latour sees unsettled in Friedrich’s painting, was based on a fundamental dualism between subject and object. While the subject was traditionally understood to be a cognitive, reflective and affective being, nature—as observed by such a subject—was conceived as devoid of intention, perception and consciousness. It was taken to be stable, inert matter which obeyed a fixed set of “laws of nature”—laws which were furthermore believed to be fundamentally intelligible to the human subject. Based on this understanding, nature could be systematically observed, broken down into its constituent parts, subjected to experiments and technologically manipulated. With the demise of this modern conception of nature, a different nature emerges, characterized by manifold, complex interdependencies, discontinuities and surprises. This nature cannot be “objectified,” i.e., epistemologically held at a distance, nor can it be divided up into parts without losing sight of the essential interconnectedness of its many active elements. Ecology played an important role in bringing into focus this interconnectedness, as well as the entanglement of human beings in the larger fabric of life. And Earth system science has presented us with nature as a self-regulating system, with cycles, networks, feedback loops and tipping points (see Horn and Bergthaller 2020, 51–66).

The Return of the Sublime? The modern dualism between the idea of an “objectifiable” nature and a human observer has formed the basis of the modern aesthetics of nature (Böhme 2002, 1988). Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), the most influential expression of such an aesthetics, argued that aesthetic experience complements the scientific and technical approach to nature. According to Kant, the aesthetic experience of nature does not originate in the object itself but rather in the attitude of the subject when they perceive an object as either “beautiful” or “sublime.” Whereas “the beauty of nature,” Kant writes, reveals to us “a technique of nature,” thus making known its inner purposiveness and coherence (Kant [1790] 2000, 129), “the sublime” is an experience of being overwhelmed by the object of contemplation. In the experience of the sublime, the object appears “in its form to be contrapurposive for our power of judgment, unsuitable for our faculty of presentation, and

Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene  163 as it were doing violence to our imagination” (129). In the sublime, the human capacity for perception, imagination and judgment is pushed to its limits. Tellingly, Kant’s examples are mainly natural phenomena such as mountains, glaciers, icebergs, thunderstorms, towering rocks, raging streams or desolate wastelands, but also disasters such as shipwrecks. Essential to such an experience, however, is the reflexive distancing of the viewer. The sense of the sublime conveys both the experience of being overwhelmed, and, at the same time, the capacity to reflect on that experience. The sublime overpowers the senses, but it is mastered and contained by reason. Kant thus construes the negative experience of horror and awe as ultimately an occasion for the self-assertion of the subject’s cognitive faculty. Nature, in modern aesthetics, has been seen for the most part as something which creates a sense of loss or alienation. Aesthetic representation would then be the attempt to either repair this loss—in the form of nature writing, for example—or to reflect upon it. Jean-François Lyotard sees in the sublime the signature of a postmodern aesthetic that “denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share the nostalgia for the unattainable” (Lyotard 1984, 81). Instead, the postmodern sublime “searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them, but in order to impart ‘a stronger sense of the unpresentable” (81, emphasis added). An aesthetic theory of the Anthropocene might well take up Lyotard’s diagnosis of the sublime object’s resistance to representation. However, it cannot retreat into a Kantian aesthetics of nature, nor to figures of alienation or a nostalgia for the unattainable. Instead, it must question the very notion of nature as the other of the human. Timothy Morton has proposed that an aesthetics of nature adequate to the ecological crisis must do away with any emphatic notion of “nature,” hence the programmatic title of his book on the paradoxes of nature writing: Ecology without Nature (Morton 2007). Rather than discarding “nature” altogether, however, it may prove more fruitful to acknowledge that, in the Anthropocene, both the concepts of “nature” and of the “human” are fundamentally transformed. An aesthetics of the Anthropocene therefore needs to deal with an even deeper alienation—not the “loss,” but the uncanniness of the life-world. Amitav Ghosh, for example, has argued that nature suddenly appears alive, threatening, unpredictable, sentient and temperamental: “This is one of the uncanniest effects of the Anthropocene, this renewed awareness of the elements of agency and consciousness that humans share with many other beings, and even perhaps with the planet itself” (Ghosh 2016, 63). Nature demands “re-cognition”—both in the sense of recovering a knowledge that has been lost and in the sense of a renewed respect for the non-human as an idiosyncratic, heteroclite and potentially dangerous force. Once the emphatic concept of nature as the other of

164  Eva Horn culture is abandoned, the sense of separation between the human and the natural disappears, disclosing the indissoluble interconnectedness of humans with and in the world. Humans thus no longer find themselves standing above a world of objects but rather caught up in the midst of things—in the midst of climate change, of coexisting forms of life, of technologies and its consequences—and, at the same time, dependent on capital flows and the circulation of material resources which uncontrollably transform the economic and ecological conditions of human existence. The world involves and affects humans in all kinds of ways, imposing responsibilities and material risks on them, and continually overtaxing their capacity to perceive and understand. Art in the Anthropocene, if it is to be more than a thematic endeavor, must address these cognitive and ethical difficulties as a question of form: art as an effort to render visually, sensually, affectively, or conceptually phenomena which otherwise elude experience. It involves an uncanny—uncontrollable, unmanageable—intimacy with things, in a world that is hypercomplex and multidimensional. The “things” of the Anthropocene are too close to be objectified, too big to be pictured, too complex to be fully accounted for. On this basis, we can distinguish the three fundamental, yet intertwined, difficulties for an aesthetics of the Anthropocene that I have put forward at the start of this article: (1) latency, the withdrawal from perceptibility and representability; (2) entanglement, a new awareness of coexistence and immanence of the human within the non-human; and (3) scale, the clash of incompatible orders of magnitude. What latency, entanglement and scale have in common is that they cannot be addressed simply as topics or themes, but only as problems of form. They defy representation, and, moreover, they involve one another. Processes in the Anthropocene can be, as Timothy Clark has pointed out, too big, too many, too fast or too slow in their temporal, spatial or quantitative scale (Clark 2015) to be perceived and represented and thus remain latent. Yet, they can also be too familiar, too ordinary, too close to reveal our intimate dependencies and entanglements with them. Human entanglements with the non-human (even that technological non-human constructed by humans) can happen on scales too small or too grand for humans to even be aware of, and thus remain latent. In a strange return of a seemingly outdated concept, all these difficulties of representation in the Anthropocene coalesce in the concept of the sublime, which is why several theorists have raised the question of an “Anthropocene sublime” (Kainulainen 2013; Guénin 2016; Williston 2016). Kant’s concept of the “mathematical sublime” had already explicitly addressed the problem of incommensurable scales: the sublime is that which is not great relative to something else, i.e., on the same scale, but “absolutely great,” i.e., on an entirely different

Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene  165 scale (Kant [1790] 2000, 131). Especially photography, in the work, for example, of David Maisel, Edward Burtynsky or Andreas Gursky, is using scale—often in the form of a remote gaze from above—as an aesthetic means to showcase the immensity of the human transformation of the world. The bird’s-eye view from above or from a distance makes tangible the magnitude of ecological destruction (as in much of Burtynsky’s photographic work, and his recent film The Anthropocene Project, 2018), the massive transformation of landscapes (in Maisel’s work or Gursky’s Dubai World series, 2007), or the excesses of human consumption (emblematically rendered in Gursky’s 99 Cent, 1999). Such works attempt to visually capture the almost incomprehensibly vast—in Kant’s terms: “absolutely great”—scope of anthropogenic impact. The distant, devastated, artificial yet often demonically beautiful landscapes presented in these photographs bring the sites of environmental destruction out of their obscurity, yet without any documentary intention. Cast in the style of grandiose landscape aesthetics, the hellish yet hidden sites of resource extraction, toxic waste, algae blooms or desertification rise to the status of aesthetic objects. In the same vein, we are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude that Gursky’s photographs lend to the temples of modern capitalism, be it a department store (99 Cents, Figure 9.2) or the New York Stock Exchange (in his series Stock Exchanges, 1990–2009). Thus, the latent infrastructures of the Anthropocene—supermarkets, oilfields, highways, mines, junkyards, oil palm plantations, stock exchanges, artificial landscapes etc.—suddenly take center stage, evoking humanity’s abstract power, yet also its vital dependency on these structures.

Figure 9.2 Andreas Gursky, 99 Cents, 1999. © Andreas Gursky / Bildrecht, Vienna, 2019, courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London.

166  Eva Horn However, the return of the sublime in Anthropocene art has also raised criticism: Science historian Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, for example, sees in it the aesthetic celebration of a desire for demiurgic control and epistemic distance. The iconography of disaster and the penchant for displays of technological domination (as technological sublime) for him reveal a feeling of guilty pleasure and the apolitical, technocratic ideology that lies at the core of the concept of the Anthropocene: “It seems more exciting to wonder at the dynamism of a humanity that has become a telluric force than to think about the transformation of an economic system” (Fressoz 2016, 49, own translation). For Fressoz, the distanced view from above insofar as it celebrates the dominance of the viewer over its object represents this complicity of art with modern technology and capitalism. Other theorists of the aesthetics of the Anthropocene understand the sublime rather as the mark of an inescapable entanglement in the world (e.g., Kainulainen 2013; Williston 2016). In their view, the sublime of the Anthropocene dramatizes profound human implication with a non-natural nature over which, however, it is impossible to gain an overall “objective” perspective. The Anthropocene sublime would thus disclose a condition of responsibility without mastery. Here, no aesthetic distance is possible; rather, the aesthetic experience is one of radical immanence. The reflexive freedom Kant associated with sublime experience gives way to a disturbing intimacy with a world that can no longer be taken for granted.

Non-Natural Nature In line with this re-emergence of the concept, Timothy Morton has turned Kant’s sublime on its head in his concept of the “hyperobject” (Morton 2013). What for Kant had been an experience of the subject in Morton becomes the ontological quality of an object, albeit one that radically resists objectification. Hyperobjects, Morton (2013, 1) writes, “are things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans.” Anything that exceeds human sensory experience can be described as a hyperobject—a black hole, climate change, the Florida Everglades. Morton thus converts the experience of immanence disclosed by the sublime into an ontology of uncanny, “dark” coexistence (Morton 2016). The hyperobject shatters the categories of perception which define human access to the world—and thus the idea of the “lifeworld” as such. The epistemological problem posed by latency, the human entanglement with the non-human and the clash of scales in the Anthropocene is thus turned into an ontological problem. This ontologization of the sublime replaces questions of epistemology and aesthetic representation with a fundamental “darkness” and “withdrawal” of the things themselves (ibid.).

Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene  167 From this perspective, questions of form become questions of being. Let me illustrate this with an example, one that Morton explicitly refers to. The American artist Tara Donovan uses industrial materials and everyday objects (plastic cups, industrial tubing, paper or foil) to construct large installations. Plastic cups, stuck together in their thousands, are shaped into fractal objects that look like a frozen wave, a gigantic pile of foam, or cumulus clouds (Figure 9.3). On account of their massive accumulation, the translucent material of the cups becomes opaque and their conical shape is subsumed into the rounded surfaces. The resulting objects have the appearance of monstrously enlarged organic structures or natural forms. Using some of the emblematic materials of the Anthropocene (plastic, polystyrene, cardboard etc.) and the disposable articles produced from them, Donovan creates a new, entirely post-natural-nature: forms that look like moss or mildew, vegetal growths, stones, waves or clouds. Morton (2013, 114) writes: “In massive piles the cups reveal properties hidden from the view of a person who uses a single cup at a time, a viscous (in my terms) malleability.” In Donovan’s installations he sees the revelation of a hidden property of the object itself. However, if we consider it in aesthetic rather than ontological terms, Donovan’s operation can be better understood as a game of scales

Figure 9.3 Tara Donovan, Untitled (Plastic Cups), 2006, Installation (plastic cups), at: New York: Pace Gallery, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery, Photo: Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy Pace Gallery.

168  Eva Horn which reflects the cumulative scale effects of the Anthropocene: One plastic cup is just a flimsy piece of plastic or polystyrene, billions of them are an ecological disaster. In their thousand-fold multiplication, the transition from the small to the enormous, and in their arrangement into structures that cite organic forms, a new object emerges, evoking an entirely different experience of the everyday object. At the same time, by citing natural forms, Donovan’s installations inflate microscopic organic structures to unfamiliar magnitudes. While Morton emphasizes the plasticity or “malleability” of Donovan’s works he entirely overlooks the ultimative form of the installation—a form that twists the toxic plastic cup into the figure of a fascinating, shimmering natural object. Donovan’s work both amplifies and erases the material properties of the object: out of industrially produced, mass-consumed waste, she conjures an illusion of organic growth and spontaneous emergence. The structures of her installations mimic those generated by natural processes of self-organization, as in clouds, sand dunes, ripples, waves etc. Deliberately and with great precision, Donovan plays with the form-giving processes of nature, pulling them out of latency through a translation in scale. Using non-natural, industrial materials she re-creates a non-natural nature, imitating what nature itself does, when, for example, grains of sand pile up into a dune, molecules arrange themselves into crystals, or birds into an undulating flock. In contrast to Morton, who believes that an aesthetics for the Anthropocene must start with an inquiry into modes of being, I argue that it must above all deal with questions of form. The visual arts have developed a panoply of different strategies for translating the transformative processes of the Anthropocene, such as climate change, from their latency into something perceptible. This is not only the case in contemporary photography or Donovan’s post-natural installations. It can also be seen in the subtle, eerily beautiful techno-organic hybrids of the British artist duo Ackroyd & Harvey; in the artificial atmospheres of Philippe Rahm or Olafur Eliasson; or in such artistic experiments as Tomás Saraceno’s Aerocene project (Horn 2018). Works in other media, sound installations for example, seek to make the inaudible audible, the non-perceptible perceptible. Felix Hess’s infrasound installations (2001) make it possible to hear fluctuations of atmospheric pressure across the Atlantic, while John Luther Adams’s installation The Place Where You Go to Listen translates seismological, geomagnetic and meteorological data from Alaska into light and sound (Adams and Ross 2009). As it grapples with problems of latency, entanglement and the clash of scales, an aesthetics of the Anthropocene is not ultimately concerned with a world of objects that altogether resist representation, but involves an analytical, often experimental and highly knowledge-based making-explicit of processes, objects and practices which are murky not for ontological, but for epistemological reasons. Anthropocene art addresses our inability to get these obscure zones of latency into proper

Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene  169 focus, and the difficulty of casting them into a form which would allow us to deal with them—aesthetically, epistemologically and also politically.

Narrating Entanglement In literature the same problem arises, albeit in a medium which is always already culturally coded and thus lends itself less easily to an ontological approach. In spite of what many critics suggest (e.g., Trexler 2015), I believe that the task of a “literature for the Anthropocene” is not primarily addressing particular themes (e.g., climate change, ecological disasters, species loss, etc.). As in the art forms already discussed, the challenge for literature lies first of all in the development of poetic and narrative forms which are adequate to the problems of latency, entanglement and scale that the Anthropocene confronts us with. In literature, however, the formal problem of rendering the latent explicitly presents itself in a very different way. Since I do not have the space to address the intricate problems of poetry (see, e.g., Bristow 2015), I limit myself to literary narratives here. Narratives are always highly coded cultural projections which not only represent, but organize reality. They give structure to temporal sequences and causal relationships, distinguish between active protagonists and passive backgrounds and they cannot but employ established symbolic systems; they establish a spatial order; and they determine the perspective from which events can be narrated. Narratives are thus defined by laws of genre which prescribe what material is to be in- or excluded, which settings, characters and action can be described, and in what literary form. Literary narratives which seek to narrate climate change are now frequently subsumed as a distinctive genre: “Cli-Fi” (climate change fiction) (Goodbody and Johns-Putra 2018). However, the vast majority of these texts would otherwise be categorized as thrillers, science fiction, or dystopian fiction. For Amitav Ghosh, the fact that a subject as momentous as climate change is mostly confined to genres which many critics still consider “sub-literary,” points to a deeper problem of genre. According to Ghosh, the modern novel treated nature mostly as an aspect of “setting”—a part of the background against which the narrative unfolds—rather than as an actor in its own right. Furthermore, the genre conventions of the novel require that the narrative be situated in a recognizable time and place and cover a time span no longer than the lives of a limited cast of characters. The focus lies on the psychological development of these characters, who exemplify a particular social milieu, and the plot must be plausible, i.e., reflect common assumptions about the world. As Ghosh writes: The longue durée is not the territory of the novel. […] Within the mansion of serious fiction, no one will speak of how the continents were created; nor will they refer to the passage of thousands of

170  Eva Horn years  […]. But the earth of the Anthropocene is precisely a world of insistent, inescapable continuities, animated by forces that are nothing if not inconceivably vast. (Ghosh 2016, 62) Ghosh clearly pinpoints the challenges of a poetics of the Anthropocene: the difficulty of casting the longue durée of geological time, imperceptible transformations and catastrophic breaks, hyper-complex entanglements and non-human agency into narrative form. As an alternative to the strict limitations imposed by the modern novel, Amitav Ghosh (2016) proposes a return to older and non-European genres—especially the epic. But maybe Gosh underestimates the flexibility and capaciousness of the modern novel. In fact, novelists have always experimented with the conventions of their genre, for example by unsettling narrative perspectives and introducing unreliable narrators, playing with narrative chronology, or introducing non-human actors. Furthermore, it is questionable whether a literary form that was as tightly embedded in traditional forms of life as the epic can actually be updated for a literary aesthetic of the Anthropocene (Bergthaller 2018). To narrate “global weirding” can only mean developing narrative forms that take up and continue the formal experiments which shaped the modern novel—but doing so in a way that responds to the specific challenges presented by the Anthropocene. Such literary experiments with form can pursue many different strategies. The hyper-complexity of the ecological relationships in which humans are implicated can be translated narratively into a de-centered, multi-layered web of narrative. This is the case, for example, in David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas (2004), whose interwoven plotlines unfold over centuries into a distant future, while the text incorporates a wide variety of literary genres, from diaries and letters to thrillers and science fiction. It can also take the shape of a narrative excavation, digging into the layers of deep time sedimented in a particular landscape, as in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega (2010) or William Least Heat-Moon’s PrairyErth (1991). Anthropocene literature can furthermore attempt to locate the human being in the deep time of geological history, as in Max Frisch’s Man in the Holocene ([1979] 1980). Employing the technique of literary collage, Frisch’s short novel combines the reflections of an unreliable narrator with encyclopedia entries about paleoanthropology and geological history in order to reflect on humankind’s precarious position in nature. Alternatively, such an experimental poetics might indeed explore what an “epic” might be in the Anthropocene—for example in David Brin’s science fiction novel Earth (1990) or in Allison Cobb’s booklength poem Green-Wood ([2010] 2018), which turns a fabled cemetery in Brooklyn into a cosmological metaphor for the modern conquest of nature and its ruinous consequences.

Challenges for an Aesthetics of the Anthropocene  171 In all of these literary experiments, the protagonists and their inner worlds, and the narrator as observer and organizer of events, lose their central significance in the text, or are marginalized as in Frisch’s novel. The traditional placeholders for the human in the text, the “anthropomorphism” of narrative, take a back seat. The background or setting becomes the actual protagonist, while the human actors function merely as nodes in the entanglements and transformations of a world that extends far beyond them. Anthropocene narratives will continue to interrogate such anthropomorphisms and perhaps leave them behind as they expand the possibilities of story-telling. The formal inventiveness of modern and postmodern literature—the many self-imposed interdictions, the experiments with focalization and narrative time, the intertextual and metafictional games and the programmatic distrust of narrative—testifies to a quest for forms of representation that can stand up to the complexity of the world we find ourselves in. Whatever else they may be about, such texts also speak to the importance of not allowing ourselves to “get bamboozled by our desire for a good story” (Bergthaller 2018, 14).

References Adams, John Luther, and Alex Ross. 2009. The Place Where You Go to Listen. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Bergthaller, Hannes. 2018. “Climate Change and Un-Narratability.” Metaphora 2. Accessed 14 April 2019. Böhme, Hartmut. 1988. Natur und Subjekt. Frankfurt am Main: Edition Suhrkamp. Böhme, Hartmut. 2002. “Natürlich/Natur.” In Ästhetische Grundbegriffe. Vol. 4, edited by Karlheinz Barck, Markus Fotius, Dieter Schlenstedt, Burkhart Steinwachs and Friedrich Wolfzettel, 432–498. Stuttgart: Metzler. Brin, David, 1990. Earth. New York: Bantam Books. Bristow, Tom. 2015. The Anthropocene Lyric: An Affective Geography of Poetry, Person, Place. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian. Clark, Timothy. 2015. Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. London and New York: Bloomsbury. Cobb, Allison. [2010] 2018. Green-Wood. New York: Nightboat Books. Davis, Heather, and Turpin, Etienne. 2015. Art in the Anthropocene, Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. London: Open Humanities Press. DeLillo, Don. 2010. Point Omega. New York: Scribner. Dürbeck, Gabriele. 2014. „Ambivalent Characters and Fragmented Poetics in Anthropocenic Literature (Max Frisch, Iliya Trojanow).” The Minnesota Review 83 [Special Issue: Writing the Anthropocene, edited by Kate Marshall und Tobias Boes], 112–121. Fressoz, Jean-Baptiste. 2016. “L’anthropocène et l’esthétique du sublime.” In Sublime. Les tremblements du monde: Exhibition catalogue, edited by Hélène Guénin, 44–49. Metz: Centre Pompidou-Metz.

172  Eva Horn Friedman, Thomas. 2010. “Global Weirding is Here.” The New York Times, February 17. Frisch, Max. [1979] 1980. Man in the Holocene. Translated by Geoffrey Skelton. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Ghosh, Amitav. 2016. The Great Derangement. Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Goodbody, Axel. 2013. “Melting Ice and the Paradoxes of Zeno: Didactic Impulses and Aesthetic Distanciation in German Climate Change Fiction.” Ecozon@ 4 (2): 92–102. Goodbody, Axel, and Johns-Putra, Adeline. 2018. Cli-Fi: A Companion. London: Peter Lang. Guénin, Hélène, ed. 2016. Sublime. Les tremblements du monde: Exhibition catalogue. Metz: Centre Pompidou-Metz Editions. Hess, Felix. 2001. Air Pressure Fluctuations [CD]. Editions RZ and Kehrer Verlag. Horn, Eva. 2018. “The Aesthetics of Air. Tomás Saraceno’s Aerocene.” In Tomás Saraceno: Aerocene, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Eva Horn., 18–30. Milano: Skira. Horn, Eva, and Hannes Bergthaller. 2020. The Anthropocene – Key Issues for the Humanities. London: Routledge. Kainulainen, Maggie. 2013. “Saying Climate Change: Ethics of the Sublime and the Problem of Representation.” Symploke 21 (1–2): 109–123. Kant, Immanuel. [1790] 2000. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Translated by Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Latour, Bruno. 2017. Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climate Regime. Translated by Cathy Porter. London: Polity. Least Heat-Moon, William. 1991. PrairyErth: A Deep Map. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Lyotard, Jean-François. 1984. The Postmodern Condition. A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Mitchell, David. 2004. Cloud Atlas. London: Sceptre. Morton, Timothy. 2007. Ecology Without Nature. Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects, Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Morton, Timothy. 2016. Dark Ecology, For a Logic of Future Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press. Trexler, Adam. 2015. Anthropocene Fictions, the Novel in a Time of Climate Change. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Williston, Byron. 2016. “The Sublime Anthropocene.” Environmental Philosophy 13 (2): 155–174.

10 The Urgency of a New Humanities Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen

In November 2017, more than 15,000 researchers from 184 countries issued an open warning to humanity. Their message was that the human impact on the Earth System was approaching a point of no return, i.e., a point beyond which the acceleration of global warming and the destruction of ecosystems could no longer be put to a halt. What fuelled this extraordinary piece of scientific collaboration was not just a shared feeling of ethical obligation. Although clearly expressing the apprehension that researchers have a responsibility to broadly disseminate their knowledge, the warning also emanated from a shared sense of urgency, a collective experience that “time is running out” (Ripple et al. 2017). At first glance, this experience does of course not herald something new. Natural scientists have at least since the Club of Rome’s publication of The Limits to Growth in 1972 been warning that the overexploitation of the Earth System could not continue without severely deteriorating the general living conditions of humanity. Yet, a new way of expressing this experience is at play, which cuts across scientific assessments, mainstream politics and radical activism. In a broad sense, it does not matter whether we listen to the warning of the more than 15,000 worried scientists addressing humanity in alarm. If we watch a Youtube video with former US President Barack Obama telling us that “we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it” (CBSN 2015). If we read in one of the proposals for the Paris Agreement on climate change “that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet” (United Nations 2015, ch. 21). Or, if we are met with the call for a “climate emergency” put forward on streets across the world by activists from UK-based campaign Extinction Rebellion. What saturates this spectrum of statements is a desperate invocation of urgency that cannot be reduced to a pure echo of warnings that have already been issued in the past. Our arguments in this article spring from the perception that the urgencies transmitted through each of these statements are ways of sensing the Anthropocene. Following Hamilton et al. (2015) we take the humanist meaning of the Anthropocene to be less about geological

174  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen periodization and more about the current and future state of the Earth System. The core message of the Anthropocene is in this interpretation that humanity “will face, in a time lapse of just a few decades, global environmental shifts of an unprecedented scale and speed” (4). This entails threats that are more than likely to culminate in cataclysms all over the planet, but with effects that are not equally distributed (Diffenbaugh and Burke 2019). The problem is, however, not just that the advent of the Anthropocene amplifies well-known injustices. Even more worryingly, it is also highly likely to enforce the conditions that embody these injustices many centuries into the future. As global warming and other environmental shifts accelerate, many of the most difficult places to live on Earth are destined to turn uninhabitable (Wallace-Wells 2019), leaving their populations with the choice of either migrating or facing slow death. The prospect of current global injustices becoming endemic is so to speak part of the complex of highly diverse threats that emerge with the Anthropocene. And in this sense it is one of the most pressing reasons to why the global efforts to keep the average rise in global temperature below the 1,5–2 degree threshold (accentuated in the Paris Agreement) need to accelerate rapidly. Hence the 1,5–2 degree threshold has been singled out exactly because it risks becoming a point of no return, after which the warming of the Earth System will activate several feedback loops and become irreversible (IPCC 2018; Steffen et al. 2018). Two recent projections may give us a clearer idea of what rapidly means here. Leading Earth System scientists have concluded global CO2 emissions must peak by 2020 to avert the 2 degree threshold (Rockstrøm et al. 2017). And the IPCC has warned that our species only have until 2030 to implement the changes needed to avert transgressing the 1,5 degree threshold (IPCC 2018). These timelines lead, therefore, inevitably to the question: what is implied to avert the transgressions of these thresholds even by a little given the risks? Before we introduce our critical aim, let us, therefore, first draw attention to an argument that forcefully disregards the discrepancy between the laws of nature and the laws of societies. Rockstrøm et al. (2017, 1269) “propose framing the decarbonization challenge in terms of a global decadal roadmap based on a simple heuristic—a ‘carbon law’—of halving gross anthropogenic carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions every decade.” This roadmap is helpful for conceiving the scope of the radical transformations that must be initiated and maintained, if global scale catastrophe is to be averted. Indeed, if the events of COP 21 in Paris are to go down in history as anything but a manipulative scheme, a well performed, but deceitfully orchestrated circus, there is no way around it. Moreover, since Rockstrøm et al. presents the roadmap as a way of implementing a law, this language can be interpreted as an attempt to transform the scientific consensus to a sense of urgency in lawmakers. Indeed, we see this attempt of “translating” the laws of nature into national and international law as a proposition

The Urgency of a New Humanities  175 of how scientific leaders could make the Anthropocene tangible.1 In this sense, the roadmap represents a crude yet highly revealing lens when it comes to judging the sustainability of any form of social and political action. In fact, this does not least apply to the action that is research, i.e., the practices we undertake at universities, and, for our purposes, more particularly in humanities departments. The question we wish to approach is, therefore, this: is there a sufficient sense of urgency in the humanities in light of the immense task formulated by Rockstrøm et al.? That is in light of a situation, in which— starting from 2020—humanity needs to halve its carbon-dioxide emissions every decade to avert dangerous resource scarcities and existential risks to societies (Spratt and Dunlop 2018). Due to atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gasses, this is a much higher reduction speed than if initiated at the beginning of public scientific concerns in the late 1980s. 2 An obvious conclusion would, therefore, be that the humanities have been “napping,” while humanity has with increasing force put its ecologically “safe-operating space” at risk (Rockstrøm et al. 2009, 472). But this is not necessarily the case. An increasing number of humanities scholars have in fact directed their attention toward environmental issues in the last two decades. And more recent still, the interpretations and conceptualization of the Anthropocene, emerging from Earth System Sciences, have become central to humanities scholars from a large number of disciplines (cf. Hamilton et al. 2015). The central question, therefore, remains: does this attention match the scale of the emergency? Faced with this difficult question we offer an analysis that takes the sense of time and urgency as the central concern for the humanities in the Anthropocene. What we aim to explicate below is thus that the Environmental Humanities (EH) suffer from three epistemic problems: the idealization of slowness, the pursuit of conceptual thickness and the embrace of posthumanism. These problems each embed academic practices of increasing prestige and power. Yet, as we intend to show, they are also obstacles in the attempt to bring the humanities up to speed with a new world. A world, which is not only undergoing accelerating geophysical changes, but which is also rapidly changing due to new technologies and political polarizations.

Sensing Thanatopolitics in a State of Exception Before we substantiate our critique of these epistemic problems, we wish, however, to make a risky analogy. Taking inspiration from the fact that (as of July 2019) more than 800 jurisdictions at different levels in 17 countries globally, including the governments of Ireland and Scotland, have declared a climate emergency (Carrell 2019; ICEF 2019), we believe that there is a case for perceiving the coming decade as a state of exception for the humanities and for humanity in general.3 In view

176  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen of the fact that each coming year is highly likely to have a major impact on the development of the Earth System many of thousands of years into  the future (Schellnhuber 2018), we thus take this period to be of such importance that it justifies the suspension of current structures in the humanities.4 By this we do not only imply that the humanities should reconfigure its institutions to comply with the roadmap (i.e., carbon law) proposed by Rockstrøm et al. That is that they should radically mitigate their carbon footprints with the aim of net zero (just as anybody else). More importantly, we think this suspension must entail the rise of humanities institutions that much more actively defend humanism in the face of existential risks. What prompts us to make this suggestion is the prospect of an Anthropocene trajectory that amplifies interhuman violence. Hence, it does not matter whether we carefully read the latest IPCC-report projecting decreases in ecosystems and natural resources. Whether we visit the array of non-fictions that predict these decreases to culminate in future wars or read some of the post-apocalyptic fictions that attempt to increase the tangibility of the Anthropocene risks, the driving force behind these texts is the same, namely the danger that the Anthropocene will magnify the scale and impact of what Rob Nixon (2011, 2) laments as the “slow violence” of ecological destruction. A danger, which we may in reminiscence of the genocides of the 20th century even associate with the more active production of what Michel Foucault termed “thanatopolitics” (Foucault 1988, 160).5 Thanatopolitics refers to a politics that—in contrast to biopolitics— does not regulate life with the aim of preserving it, but rather goad the mass production of death. It is, therefore, relevant to warn against it at a time when risks of future genocidal politics have become part of the debate on global human security and environmental humanitarianism (Zimmerer 2014; Burke et al. 2016) and the most critical voices emerging from UN deliberations on climate and food work from the premise that if direct or indirect interhuman violence asserts itself as genocidal, there are (thanato-)political processes behind the developments (Ziegler 2011; Pashley 2019). The point is, therefore, not just that scholars in the humanities must acknowledge these causalities i.e., acknowledge that the conditions for thanatopolitics are highly likely to intensify the more the average global temperature rises. They must also sense them in order to fight the present destructive politics of the Anthropocene. In fact, if we turn to humanities scholarship, the possible link between a rise in average global temperature and the proliferation of thanatopolitics has already prompted academic authors from various disciplines to unleash a small “flood” of dystopian visions. German social psychologist, Harald Welzer, asserts for example that “violence has a great future ahead of it. We shall see not only mass migration but also violent solutions to refugee problems, not only tensions over water or mining

The Urgency of a New Humanities


rights but also resource wars” (Welzer 2012, 6). While British historian Timothy Snyder has gone a step further by claiming that “the planet is changing in ways that might make Hitlerian descriptions of life, space, and time more plausible” (Snyder 2016, 327). It is, therefore, in this context of projected futures that we find it important to probe whether the humanities could become more active defenders of humanism. As cultural theorist Irit Rogoff (2008, 98) reminded us off more than a decade ago, “urgent concerns” are after all not something that researchers ought to repress. Instead of staying true to the dusty epistemology of the so called “emotionally distanced and politically neutral scientist,” it makes much better sense to conceive urgency as an essential invigorator of research, as an affect that should stimulate science, rather than be banned from it. For example, in her essay “What is a Theorist?” Rogoff presents a very rough sketch of how urgent concerns have served this function within her own career: In the 1980s a concern with gender and sexual difference […] resulted in an explosion of feminist epistemologies. In the 1990s a concern with race and cultural difference […] resulted in trying to take on the authority of ‘geography’ as a body of knowledge with political implications. And currently [in the 2000s] a concern with questions of democracy [has resulted in] an exploration [of] what it means to take part in visual culture beyond the roles it allots us as viewers or listeners. (Rogoff 2008, 98–99) One may of course contest the historical influence and alignment of these examples. However, the point is simply that today a new form of urgency adds itself to the ongoing struggles for gender and race equality, sexual liberation, social justice etc. (Jacobsen 2018). Hence, not only does the struggle against the destructive acceleration of the Anthropocene often intersect with these other struggles. It is also projected to have negative impacts on human lives globally that will strengthen existing patterns of inequality (Tschakert et al. 2013). Just as inhumane treatment has in the past propelled the humanities to react on issues of race, gender, sexuality and economic injustice, so the humanities are today called upon to fight the inhumane conditions that maturate with the Anthropocene.

The Idealization of Slowness It should by now, however, also be clear that very little is won by simply urging the humanities to recognize the acceleration of the Anthropocene as an urgent concern. The matter is far more complex, as the number of institutions and programs for EH has “exploded” in tandem with the increasing public awareness of the dangers of the Anthropocene (Emmett

178  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen and Nye 2018). In fact, this prompts us to posit that the recent growth of EH can, to a large degree, be explained as a reaction to the mounting concerns about the health of the Earth System that emerge from the natural sciences. Albeit the diversity of EH, the task is, therefore, to probe the guiding principles of this research i.e., question them in light of the scale of the emergency. And while perceiving EH through the lens of the carbon law will in this respect not leave us with some definitive answers, it discloses some important weaknesses. For instance, the pressing lack of time signaled by the carbon law does not sit well with the assumption “that the humanities are, by their very nature, slow” and that this slowness represents an important virtue in the attempts to mitigate climate change and other environmental risks (Bergthaller et al. 2014, 265). It is, therefore, necessary to discard many of the arguments put forward by a group of prominent ecocritics and environmental historians in an article published in the journal Environmental Humanities in 2014. Starting with the claim that “humanities research runs counter to current demands of academic speed,” the group of authors ends with the conclusion that “it takes slow scholarship to bring [the human dimension of climate change] into view” (265–266). This seems, however, strange considering that the authors acknowledge that the context of humanities research is changing in ways “inimical to the forms of patient, open-ended deliberation” which their article idealizes (Bergthaller et al. 2014, 265–266). According to the authors it is thus not only the demand for academic speed and the “market-oriented vision of universities” that currently make slow scholarship difficult (265). They also describe it as standing in opposition to the modus operandi of the modern media and emphasize that this is a problem EH “cannot afford to ignore” (267). Nevertheless, one does not find any explorations in the article of how EH may solve this problem. Having pointed to the lacuna between their ideal and the speed with which information presently spreads, the authors leave it at that. The reason being that their grounding in hermeneutical theory—and Schleiermacher’s 200 year old idea that humanities research “involves shuttling back and forth between the whole and its parts”—give little answer to how the knowledge production of the humanities can compete with other types of communications in a digitalized world (265). Instead the authors simply insist that “it is essential to take stock of ideas as they evolve and come to be couched in common parlance, even—or especially—when things seem most urgent” (265–266). However, while it may seem wise to approach urgency claims with precaution, how should EH scholars decide when geophysical dangers do not only seem, but are in fact very urgent? In addition, if the slowness is so central to EH scholarship, should we opt out of research dialogues that demand a recognition of the urgency of change? The problem with the idealization of slowness at this general level is that the

The Urgency of a New Humanities  179 Anthropocene—in the interpretation of Earth System Sciences—has urgent demands for societal transformation at its core (Steffen et al. 2018). Of course, there is a task of minimizing scholarly mistakes in times of urgency, but this applies to all scientific areas, not just EH. Rather than idealizing slowness, EH should, therefore, gear itself to a world saturated by new forms of speed. That is a world where dubious statements and alternative facts flourish and, in terms of attention, often have the upper hand compared to the information spread through hard scientific work. The thing to appreciate here is that more speed would not necessarily equate more output from existing humanities departments. We share the concern about austerity’s potential to damage research processes (Berg and Seeber 2016), but the connection between speed and crude productivity is not inescapable. In fact, we are quite certain that the answer is not for the humanities to speed up its production of peer-reviewed monographs, articles or number of teaching modules. Or to quote an old remark by Deleuze and Guattari: We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present. The creation of concepts in itself calls for a future form, for a new earth and people that do not yet exist. (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 108) That said, we should not be so foolish as to pretend that creating new concepts will in itself be enough to push humanity in the direction of the carbon law. Indeed, as we will demonstrate more thoroughly in a moment such an assumption represents an epistemic problem of its own. However, if we interpret “resistance to the present” to mean a break with the business-as-usual that accelerates the Anthropocene, then “creation” must, in our eyes, imply the genesis of interdisciplinary collaborations which deliberately use the power of their assembled knowledge to advance rapid political and societal transformations (Fazey et al. 2018).

The Pursuit of Conceptual Thickness However critical we are of the creed Deleuze and Guattari placed in the subversive potential of concept-creation, we are not just reiterating their 30 year old remark here to take a swipe at how academic production have more and more become communication just for the sake of it. The schema for resistance transmitted to us by Deleuze and Guattari is not entirely unfounded considering the value of new concepts such as “the Anthropocene,” “The Great Acceleration,” “The Planetary Boundaries,” and “The Carbon Law,” The problem is rather that the meanings of these concepts have—to a certain extent—been misinterpreted by EH. By this we do not mean that EH scholars have failed to comprehend

180  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen what these concepts are. The point is rather that large parts of the research in EH seem to underappreciate the specific call to action underlying these concepts. Indeed, we do not believe it is unfair to claim that the introduction of the concept of the Anthropocene has disclosed an unfamiliarity within the humanities with the norms of the natural sciences. It is, for instance, important to stress how the natural scientists most influential in the efforts to prove the scientific legitimacy of the Anthropocene have stepped out of the comfort zones of their disciplines. Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer were of course the first to do so, when back in 2000 they suggested the term in the natural scientific newsletter IGBP. But, it is at least as important to note how the work of Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams and Colin N. Waters have from the outset faced strong collegial opposition. As the arguably three most renowned scientists of the working group gathering scientific evidence of the Anthropocene, Zalasiewicz, Williams and Waters have repeatedly been forced to defend their engagement with the Anthropocene to other geologists and archaeologists, who question the scientific necessity of an epochal denominator that breaks with deep-seated scientific traditions.6 Moreover, as a theoretical prism, the Anthropocene was not new in 2000, but Crutzen and Stoermer (2000) revived it to “develop a worldwide accepted strategy leading to sustainability of ecosystems against human induced stresses.” This clearly suggests that the concept “the Anthropocene” has not exclusively been born to serve a descriptive function within the sciences, but also to serve a larger normative aim. That is, we must partly see the concept as a transdisciplinary construction, which utilizes geological expertise to disseminate climatic and ecological urgency within the sciences and beyond. It is, however, exactly this urgency that the humanities have so far failed to institute as a primal focus for collaborate work (Castree et al. 2014; Malm 2018). In light of how radical a shift in ontology the geological formalization of the Anthropocene entails, it is thus striking how composedly or even reserved many branches of the humanities have reacted to it. Even EH scholars have at large approached the Anthropocene as if the concept was indeed strictly a descriptive denomination and treated it in the same way as the humanities have traditionally treated cultural phenomena, i.e., by adding to its conceptual pluralism or its “thickness.” Let us in order to substantiate this for a moment return to Clifford Geertz’ famous remark that “culture is not a power, something to which social events, behaviors, institutions, or processes can be causally attributed; it is a context, something within which they can be intelligibly—that is, thickly—described” (Geertz 1973, 14). Hence our claim is that although many analyses in EH do in fact problematize the injustices emerging from the Anthropocene, the overall direction of debates functions as if one could replace Anthropocene with “culture”

The Urgency of a New Humanities  181 in the quote above—that is as a context for thick description, not “a power” that demands strategic countermeasures. The many neologisms that have materialized out of Crutzen’s and Stoermer’s original concept testify this. The Capitalocene (Malm 2015; Moore 2016), the Chthulucene, the Plantationocene (Haraway 2015), the Technocene (Hornborg, 2015), the Carbocene (LeCain, 2015), the Machinocene (Andersen 2016), the Necrocene (McBrian 2016), the White (M)Anthropocene (di Chiro 2016) and the Wasteocene (Armiero and Angelis, 2017) are all constructs which offer “thickened” understandings of the Anthropocene. In spite of this, it would be unfair to postulate that nothing good has come from these constructs and their attempts to thicken the understanding of the Anthropocene. Rather, in many of the texts unfolding these constructs, the thickening process paves the way for normative descriptions of what action might mean at this critical point in human history. That is, the thickening process points toward macro- and micropolitical strategies and tools (Deleuze and Guattari 2003) that the texts suggest to be deployed in order to fight off the acceleration of the Anthropocene. This is, therefore, also a good case for further explaining what we mean when we claim that the humanities should conceive themselves as being in a state of exception. Hence, one of the things we believe that the carbon law compels the humanities—and especially EH—to do, is to short-circuit these steps i.e., cut short the thickening process by replacing the pursuit of conceptual thickness with a more substantial pursuit of political thickness. To be more exact, this pursuit (of substantial political thickness) should aim at sharpening and enhancing the catalogue of effective political actions available to all those willing to prevent “the [scientifically modelled] cascade of feedbacks [which] could push the Earth System irreversibly onto a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway” (Steffen et al. 2018, 8254). For instance, it should most definitely aim at providing a growing repertoire of viable macro- and micropolitical strategies and tools to the youth, who are in large numbers taking to the streets to express their concern for the future. While it must more generally aim at making people capable of opposing, resisting and revoking the policies which regulate societies with the intention of maintaining (at all costs) the high consumption lifestyles of the Global North and elites elsewhere (Bendell 2018).

The Embrace of Posthumanism Deleuze and Guattari were adamant that revolutions are as depending on changes in micropolitics as they are on changes on the level of macropolitics (Deleuze and Guattari 2003).7 And it is indeed hard to imagine that the changes it will take in global policies to decelerate the Anthropocene will materialize without revolutions in human desire, sensibility, logic etc. This means more broadly speaking fundamental transformations in

182  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen anthropologies, sociologies and ontologies—yes, basically, in all ways of human life. However, this does not mean that any endeavor to deconstruct these fundamental categories should be uncritically welcomed. In fact, if we again look to EH what we discover is an abundance of texts dedicated to a particular form of deconstruction, namely the deconstruction of the idea that humans can be separated from non-human entities. Under the heading of posthumanism environmental humanities scholars have been particularly eager to dissolve “Cartesian distinctions […] between subject and object, society and nature, and human and non-human” (Hornborg 2017a, 96). To a certain extent, this has been both refreshing and relevant, as far as these “Cartesian distinctions” have played a significant role in shaping modernity as it materialized with The Great Acceleration. However, it has also worked as a lure that has led EH away from the political battle against ecological destruction. It thus seems uncontroversial to point out that in their embrace of posthumanism, many EH scholars have become occupied with small biological units. By delving into for example quantum mechanics (Barad 2007), DNA (Morton 2010), bacteria (Braidotti 2018), fungi (Tsing 2015) and various forms of “vibrant matters” (Bennett 2010), EH scholars have indeed gained new grounds for ecocritical thinking. However, we might also see in these investigations a reproduction of a weakness, which has haunted parts of the academic discipline of anthropology. Whereas anthropology has often distanced itself from the centers of political and economical power and moved deeper and deeper into the periphery, in observing radically different living humans, we are now seeing the danger that EH may emulate this movement (Hornborg 2017b). The only difference is that instead of “going deeper and deeper into the jungle” (e.g., in search of undiscovered indigenous communities), parts of EH are now going “deeper and deeper into the microscope” (in search of different ways to extrapolate how humans are fundamentally linked to the biosphere). We are by no means the first to argue that EH scholars thereby risk distancing themselves from the centers of political and economic power driving the acceleration of the Anthropocene. In recent years, a similar argument have been raised by scholars rooted in Marxism and post-marxist thought (Cotter et al. 2016; Hornborg 2017b; Alliez and Lazzarato 2018; Malm 2018). The critique coming from these scholars has many layers, but they generally share the perception that: […] by treating humanism as a way of thinking that needs to be negated by new thinking, posthumanism simply substitutes a new ethics of commonality among human and nonhuman life without addressing the material relations that, in the class interests of a few humans, systematically put all other human and nonhuman life at risk. (Cotter et al. 2016, 2)

The Urgency of a New Humanities  183 To emphasize this claim, Malm’s term “the Capitalocene” is very often utilized by eco-marxists, as it reframes the Anthropocene as a product of injustices inherent to capitalism and hence as an arena for struggles between those responsible for the acceleration of the Anthropocene and those who suffer (and will suffer) most from it. What we want to add to this critique is that the humanities scholars have an obligation to place themselves more visibly on the side of all those humans who will suffer as the Anthropocene accelerates. This includes harnessing the privilege of complex analysis produced in EH as a resource to defend those humans who are stripped of privileges at an intensifying rate in the Anthropocene. At the surface, this may not seem to oppose any of the goals, which the posthumanist branches of the EH are trying to achieve. But the reality is that certain posthumanist assumptions make it difficult to defend humanism, as such a defense could endanger the realization of “the new ethics of commonality among human and nonhuman life” (Cotter et al. 2016, 2). Or to put this in more blunt and provocative terms: it appears very hard for posthumanists to actively protect the large vulnerable groups in the Global South, who are suffering and dying due to the acceleration of the Anthropocene, because a widespread problem analysis in posthumanism seems—if not explicitly, then at least implicitly—to be that high population numbers stand in the way for what posthumanism would ideally mean. Donna Haraway, a key reference point of many scholars inspired by posthumanism within EH, encourages us for example to perceive “kin making as a means of reducing human numbers” and in general does little hide to that to her posthumanism means “to reduce radically the burdens of human numbers across the earth” (Haraway 2016, 138, 139). More precisely, Haraway envisions large reductions in human numbers “over five generations” emphasizing how this would require that humans learn to “die well,” i.e., accept that they belong to the same “compost pile” as all other creatures (97, 136, 150). In our eyes, this is, however, a type of radical biopolitics that attempts to reconceptualize the relation between human life and death abstractedly based on the very real existential threats of the Anthropocene. In fact, it is not just in Haraway that we trace this kind of biopolitics. It is, for example, also latently present, when Rosi Braidotti states that: Death is the becoming-imperceptible of the posthuman subject and as such it is part of the cycles of becoming, yet another form of interconnectedness, a vital relationship that links one with other, multiple forces. (Braidotti 2013, 137) Still, it would be unfair, if not incriminating, to claim that Haraway and Braidotti actively promote thanatopolitics. Indeed, it is very much worth

184  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen stressing that their writings are solidly rooted in a humanistic tradition that speaks against all sorts of interhuman violence. But, to iterate the problem: their rootedness in this tradition is unfortunately overshadowed by their focus on human and non-human connectedness making their writings characteristic examples of how the embrace of posthumanism are not only leading EH away from the battleground of contemporary realpolitik, but thereby also crippling its defense of humanism.

Conclusion—Toward New Forms of Engagement The humanities need to develop a broader, stronger and more urgent sense of the Anthropocene risks predicted by Earth Systems Sciences, the IPCC and other relevant bodies of geophysical expertise. This short-term goal of sensing the urgency of the Anthropocene should result in what we could call “peaking”—its intended ambiguity. Whereas the debate over resource peaks in the past (e.g., “peak coal,” “peak oil,” “peak population” etc.) has turned on statistically predicting a moment of change in the future, peaking as a verb can describe new forms of active and timely political and scientific engagement. Humanities scholars must thus peak in social, political and cultural impact to help reach a timely peak in greenhouse gasses and contribute to the general deceleration of the Anthropocene. Importantly, and as argued above, this should not lead to more stressed and burned out colleagues, but to scholars that use the time they have on providing analyses and tools that can help those willing to prevent the Hothouse Earth pathway. This means aiding and promoting the vast, but overlooked social and cultural resources to counter the crises, which EH scholars might formulate as an alternative to the dominance of risky technical “solutions” in the form of bio- or geoengineering (Tiessen 2018). We recognize that even if there is agreement among scholars on such a principle, organizational structures might stand in the way. However, a first step is to become explicit about the need for fundamental changes and accept that the most effective forms of expression might be different from those currently shaping the majority of EH. For instance, recent scientific support for the street protests for climate action is a good example of how interdisciplinary collaboration can be used to generate societal attention and impact. In January 2019, more than 3.400 Belgian researchers signed a public letter with the key message: “As scientists, and on the basis of scientific facts, we declare: the climate activists are right!” (Scientist4Climate 2019a). And, in the weeks before the international school strikes on March 23, 2019 (Fridays for Future), over 26.800 researchers in the German-speaking countries signed a letter with the similar statement that “the concerns” of the protesters “are justified and supported by the best available science” (Scientists4future 2019b). Both letters seem to us be an attempt at providing the protesters with more and stronger arguments for the continuous

The Urgency of a New Humanities  185 pressure on the political systems for faster climate action. Primarily, the tools provided from the scientists to the youth are of a statistical sort. That is, the translation of the climate crisis into dramatic numbers. In our eyes, there is a great potential in EH scholars collaborating to develop tools for the protesters that are not primarily number-based. We began this text with a brief overview of some of the existing cultural and political interpretations of the risks connected to a Hothouse Earth pathway. We believe that a similar attention to the acceleration of the negative effects and consequences of human impact on the Earth System in the Anthropocene could be paid by a vast array of disciplines and research programs in the humanities. In lack of a better word, this would imply a translation of the impending climate crisis and ecological breakdown at all levels of cultural and societal analysis. This translation should be interdisciplinary and provide answers to questions such as: what are the normative calls for action from EH in the face of overshooting the limits of greenhouse gases according to the IPCC and biodiversity loss according to IPBES? What could it mean socially and politically to enter an era with a publicly accepted threat of civilizational collapse? More generally, what cultural and social resources for change—which often stay hidden to scholars in engineering, economics and Earth System Sciences—are scholars in the humanities able to agree upon? This implies harnessing insights, practices and creativity from historical, cultural, local and global contexts in light of the ongoing anthropogenic destruction. Here there is inspiration to be found in the work of colleagues, who have aimed their work in the humanities at large scale social change. For example, Vandana Shiva has been combining environmental activism with feminist theoretical work since the 1970s, providing political tools across the Global South (Shiva 2016; Jacobsen 2018). The 1990s saw a number of humanities scholars engaging in the creation of the World Social Forums, which in turn has continued to inspire ideas relevant for humanities research (De Sousa Santos 2005). A large number of Marxist scholars have been able to make their cultural analyses relevant for wider social movements and action researchers have long collaborated with different environmental justice movements (Martinez-Alier et al. 2014). Certainly, we do not want to suggest a closing down of the debate on posthumanism, slow scholarship or any other new idea or sensibility pertaining to the Anthropocene. Rather we want to create an awareness about the conditions that can support future possibilities of free thought and action. Overshooting on the demands of the Paris Agreement should be considered an overarching danger to all the avenues of future thinking in the (post-)humanities. If indeed, we will end up with transgressing the threshold to dramatic tipping points, leading either to the Thanatopolitics or a reliance on the political Damocles Sword of geo- or climate engineering, then there seems to be historical precedent of a sustained and mounting pressure on the resources and freedom that humanistic

186  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen research is based upon. Sensing this pressure in as many registers as possible is, therefore, crucial for a timely reorientation of the humanities.


The Urgency of a New Humanities  187

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190  Gregers Andersen and Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen Rogoff, Irit. 2008. “What Is a Theorist.” In The State of Art Criticism, edited by James Elkins, 97–109. London: Routledge. Scientist4Climate. 2019a. “Strengthen Your Climate Ambitions.” https:// Scientist4Future. 2019b. “Statement of Scientists and Scholars Concerning the Protests for More Climate Protection.” stellungnahme/statement-text/ Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim. 2018. “Foreword.” In What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk, edited by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, 2–3. Melbourne: Breakthrough, National Centre for Climate Restoration. Shiva, Vandana. 2016. Earth Democracy : Justice, Sustainability and Peace. London: Zed Books. Snyder, Timothy. 2016. Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. New York: Vintage. Spratt, David, and Ian Dunlop. 2018. “What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk.” Melbourne: Breakthrough - National Centre for Climate Restoration. Steffen, Will, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes et al. 2018. “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.” PNAS 115 (33): 8252–8259. Summerhayes, Colin P., and Jan Zalasiewicz. 2018. “Global Warming and the Anthropocene.” Geology Today 34 (5): 194–200. Tiessen, Matthew. 2018. “Our Anthropocene: Geologies, Biologies, Economies, and New Pursuits of Profit and Power.” Space and Culture 21 (1): 72–85. Tschakert, Petra, Bob van Oort, Asuncion Clair, and Armando LaMadrid. 2013. “Inequality and Transformation Analyses: A Complementary Lens for Addressing Vulnerability to Climate Change.” Climate and Development 5 (4): 340–350. Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. United Nations. 2015. “Adoption of the Paris Agreement – Proposal by the President.” Accessed May 10 2019. eng/l09r01.pdf Wallace-Wells, David. 2019. The Uninhabitable Earth. Life After Warming. New York: Tim Duggan Books. Wainwright, Joel, Geoff Mann. 2018. Climate Leviathan. London: Verso. Welzer, Harald. 2012. Climate Wars: Why People Will Be Killed in the Twenty-First Century. Translated by Patrick Camiller. Cambridge: Polity. Zalasiewicz, Jan, Mark Williams, Alan Smith, Tiffany L. Barry, Angela L. Coe, Paul R. Bown, Patrick Brenchley et al. 2008. “Are We Now Living in the Anthropocene?” GSA Today 18 (2): 4–8. Zalasiewicz, Jan, Colin Waters, Colin P. Summerhayes, and Mark Williams. 2018. “The Anthropocene.” Geology Today 34 (5): 171–181. Ziegler, Jean. 2011. Destruction massive : géopolitique de la faim. Paris: Seuil. Zimmerer, Jürgen. 2014. “Climate Change, Environmental Violence and Genocide.” The International Journal of Human Rights 18 (3): 265–280. Routledge.

11 Filming through the Milieu Becoming Extinct Julia Bee

Introduction The concept of the Anthropocene has been widely discussed from different perspectives beyond the scope of geology. Feminism and postcolonial theory have critiqued it as a new master narration and specifically the notion of the human as a problematic signifier of a very limited group of people having enduring impact on the planet’s atmosphere as well as on geology. In opposition to the concept of the Anthropocene, Donna Haraway has proposed the “Chtulhucene” (2015, 2016) as an age centered on relations instead of re-affirming the (destructive) agency of the human by making it a geological force. Jason Moore (2016) in his notion of “Capitalocene” has, in turn, advanced the Anthropocene as a capitalistic endeavor which is closely connected to the industrial exploitation of the earth’s and human resources. In this regard, extractivism can be seen as a principle of taking different resources from the earth and humans like minerals and labor as well as from data in data mining (Mezzadra and Neilson 2017). The proliferation of many -cenes thus demonstrates the controversial nature of conceptualizing climate catastrophe as challenging already existing concepts of human-Earth relations. For heuristic reasons, I will keep the notion of the Anthropocene here since it combines different and heterogeneous approaches following the originally geological paper of Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer (2000). To this already complex and heterogeneous debate, I want to add an argument on the psycho-cultural processes of negotiating relations to “the” earth from the angle of film studies. The Anthropocene has become a highly mediated assemblage of discourses and phenomena regulating relations between humans and the earth as a central focus point for subjectivities in transformation. Despite its controversial character, the Anthropocene as a (visual) discourse as addressed by the editors of this volume has a fundamental and ongoing impact on practices of representation and, therefore, forces us to rethink social, ecological as well as aesthetic practices. One of the major issues among different societies today is confronting the threatened state of the earth and its relation to the “position” of the human. This renewal of positioning as cultural technique of situating and place making

192  Julia Bee has aesthetic as well as psycho-cultural implications and places images, films, narrations and cultural productions, in general, in the position of negotiating the role of human agency and human-Earth relations. Far from all imagery dealing with the Anthropocene contains critical elements. Much imagery even bears a catastrophic or elegiac tone (see e.g., on disaster trauma films Ann Kaplan 2017, 2016), sometimes revitalizing totalitarian phantasies. Besides, much older forms of communicating with the earth exist among different societal groups, different cultures, religions and cosmologies beyond the (visual) discourse of the Anthropocene. This calls for a discussion about the relation of humans to the earth as aesthetic and psycho-cultural force. The older notion of World Image (Weltbild in German)1 refers to the earth as image—fundamentally re-conceptualized by “Blue Marble” (1972) as a first account of the “whole earth” (Diederichsen/Franke 2013) from above. Very different to the imag(in)ing the earth as a whole being, I analyze how film deals with the Anthropocene by inventing and taking up older forms of an aesthetic of what Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 21) term “the middle.” In this chapter, I address this from the perspective of documentary art film in the lineage of ethnographic filmmaking which by now has produced images of humans and their milieu for over 100 years. Since documentary film works with material from the very world we live in, it is poised as an instrument to experiment with the relation toward the world. In this chapter I will consider how film’s existential function can be understood in relation to inventing and facilitating ecological subjectivities by drawing on three films by filmmaker Elke Marhöfer.

Film and the Anthropocene Today, humans once more need to develop new subject positions for an age of the Anthropocene. This process is by no means a linear development that follows one direction around the planet. There are still violent resistances and deep resentments not only expressed by the followers of fake news and climate deniers. In this light, the films I want to focus on here do not represent a general change in film industry, let alone industrial societies in general but offer a glimpse of the potential of experimental film. They are influenced by what can be termed a “shared anthropology” (Rouch 2003, 44), in line with anthropological filmmaker Rouch, on the one side and sensory ethnography, on the other. Both tendencies put forward an experimental film research on ecological thinking, what I choose to define as “filming through the milieu” following Alanna Thain’s (2015) reading of Leviathan (2012). By its very materiality, documentary enthnographic film can invent new positions triggering the production of new subjectivities, however situational and temporary a viewing experience might be (Guattari 2011). Félix Guattari (1995) believes in the potential of film to create and facilitate subjectivities.

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  193 By creating affects and percepts, film, for him, produces not identifications but subject positions. Describing the production of subjectivities he proposes to combine mental, ecological and psychosocial realms assembled. An ecological subjectivity refers to a transversal thinking of these realms of the natural, the psychic and the social. In difference to JeanLouis Baudry’s (among others) dispositive theory in film studies, subjectivities are temporary and not structured only along the unconscious laws of language in the dispositive of the cinematic apparatus. Although Guattari ([1975] 2011, 15) takes language into account, he focuses on affects and percepts in the reception of films. Guattari (2015) in his later work turned to the regulating function of the exchange between the milieu and subjectivities. Subjectivities, for him, are already contained in the milieu; they operate as potentialities of new self-relations and new ways of perceiving the self and the milieu. The perceptions of being of the world and not in the world as well of activity and passivity at the very same time are a crucial strategy to relate anew to “the” world. Subjectivity seen through Guattari’s eyes is not an inherent property of a human but a self-relation of milieus running across humans (and others). By perceiving the world as an ever-ongoing change and in transition, film not only becomes a “better” representation of the Anthropocene, but rather than serving as a general device to display information, it creates new perceptions of the world by making itself part of the world. Documentary film is, therefore, not only of interest because it (importantly) tells us about today’s increased forms of agricultural (slow) violence, car fetishizing and the toxicity of industrial lifestyles, but it can also contribute to much more radical transitions of giving up the presumed central position the human on the planet. The Anthropocene makes people think about a reeducation of sensibility and the de-partition of sensibility (Rancière 2000). Film can, in this way, become an “existential territory” (Goffey in Guattari 2015, xii) for new subjectivities. These subjectivities display as self-relations. A subject does not make experiences but experiences create subjectivities.2 By turning toward experience, film, as I want to point out here, has re-activated its sensual productivity over the past few years and has lost its ties to language as the main signifier in documentary film. By investigating landscape-making practices, Elke Marhöfers’ films contribute to the project of transforming film into a critical cultural technique of the Anthropocene. She focuses on inter-species communication with various complex beings like bacteria and soil micro-organisms. In her films, Marhöfer explicitly rejects a narrator’s voice or voice-over explanation. The imagery emancipates itself from the function of information or the framing of a god-like commentary that glues together seeing and hearing in order to install a documentary authority. Most of her recent films deal with human’s impact on landscapes and the multiple processes of restoring soil or grasslands, and in particular of self-restoring

194  Julia Bee practices between human cultural practices and natural ways of recovering. Marhöfer is interested in practices of human-soil interaction in different places like Cuba (Prendas, Ngangas, Enquisos, Machines. Each part welcomes the other without saying 2014), Japan (Shape shifting 2015, in collaboration with Mikhail Lylov, Who does the earth think it is? Becoming Fire 2019), Russia (Becoming Extinct 2018) or China (Is there something else I’ve lost 2011). Unlike in reportage style, activities are accompanied by the camera without any explanation. The place or milieu is allowed to matter for itself in both senses of the word. By writing about the topics in papers and her dissertation, Marhöfer (2016) combines writing and filming but keeps each medium distinct from the other so that film is not a mere appendix of text and conversely, her texts are not the interpretation of her films. In searching for ways to conduct research film is meaningful to create new perspectives on the nature of knowledge in the Anthropocene. Film can serve as such a new scenery for working between knowledge and experience, experience is not to be understood as data. Following the onto-epistemology of Karen Barad (2007), one can say film is knowledge itself; it does not only communicate knowledge, rather it embodies it. In Marhöfer’s film Becoming Extinct (Wild Grass), landscape is knowledge; it consists of sediments of knowledge that bear the traces of radioactive toxicity and witness the extinction of many species in this environment. Marhöfer writes about plants communicating with soil to trigger nutrition in order to facilitate the plant’s growth. Knowledge is, in this way, embodied by different actors like plants and bacteria (Barad 2007, 392). Extinction of entities here portraits a form of violence that generates new interspecies relations without offering a comforting position for the human. In this case, nature is nothing eternal but a constant process of change, a “naturing nature” (Massumi 2009).3 Most importantly, film’s materiality does not become invisible by doing this. Percepts and affects create material “machinic” perspectives (Marhöfer 2019, 21) in and through the very aesthetics of film.4 This is addressed by the perspective of the camera, the cut, the length of the take amongst other aesthetic choices. I refer to this interplay of techniques as the creation of a “situated knowledge” (Haraway 1989), the creation of timespaces that facilitate a self-understanding of positioning as immanent to what is shown (Barad 2007, 376). In a similar understanding, Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 23) have criticized the problematic logic of representation since it differentiates between the world, the book (here the film) and the author instead of positioning them on one plane of production:5 It is not easy to see things in the middle, rather than looking down on them from above or up to them from below, or from left to right or right to left: try it and you’ll see that everything changes. It’s not easy to see the grass in things and in words.

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  195 Becoming Extinct (Wild Grass) The perspective of the middle is with the things. It represents its becoming by co-becoming—a perspective which can be extended to the filmmaker (i.e., author), the film (i.e., book) and the spectator, all positioned on one plane of experience.6 In Becoming Extinct, a 23 minutes short film shot on 16 mm, the notion of becoming includes growth as well as degrowth, as Deleuze and Guattari have suggested. Becoming and undoing at the same time (Grosz 2011). Becoming Extinct is not only an affirmation of the dying of a landscape but the complex thinking and sensing of landscape as dying/becoming at the same time. The mode of extinction performs becoming as an omnidirectional movement. The epistemology of documentary film reflects its way of perceiving the world in different ways. In Marhöfers’ films, destruction carries out its own aesthetics—often paradoxically beautiful—the latter becoming a key issue over the last few years. Who does the earth think it is? Becoming Fire (2019), for example, interrelates soils and agricultural production with cycles of destruction in swidden farming techniques in Japan. Becoming Extinct appears as a “stream of consciousness” (James 1892) combining multiple perspectives and heterogeneous points of view touching on germs of narrative micro pieces. However, it is not a fluid montage but a (jump) cutting of every image into micro movements by constantly shifting angle, distance and frame even in one shot. In one shot it assembles perspectives like close-ups and semi close-ups without smooth transitions. Activities of animals such as bumble bees and a dog, wild horses and a research station are cut together in a flickering shacking manner, altered by black and white frames. Nothing conciliatory or forgiving, comparable to phoenix in the ashes can be sensed about this place that borders on the wasteland of industrial agriculture and radioactive areas impacted by Chernobyl (Figure 11.1). Becoming Extinct is a collage of perceptions. Similar to Re-assemblage (1983), Trinh Minh Ha’s filmic intervention in realistic modes of representation in ethnographic filmmaking, the power of the filmmaking aesthetics is less subtle and much more presented by the filmmaker herself. The montage “cut[s] ‘things’ together and apart,” it simultaneously connects as it divides (Barad 2007, 179). It embodies a thinking about interconnection of species by interconnecting perspectives and experiences. Here, different scales of imagery act together like micro-images of the landscape mixed with aesthetic forms to investigate this landscape. In this way, Marhöfer collages not only images but also species and cultural techniques (like excavation and reforesting), so that the montage becomes a way of assembling species as well as parts of species with practices in and of the image. Typical for her works in general, Becoming Extinct assembles perspectives of parts of animals. Also Prendas begins

196  Julia Bee

Figure 11.1 Elke  Marhöfer, Becoming extinct (Wild Grass), 2018, Filmstills (TC 20:3; TC 16:18; TC 6:15; TC 9:13) © Elke Marhöfer, courtesy Elke Marhöfer.

by showing the skin of a horse and then its legs before one perceives it visually as situated fully inside the cadre of film. Marhöfer discards perspectives introducing the spectator to an overview of a place and refuses to offer a perspective of oversight and, accordingly, a viewing position in which subject and object are divided. By beginning a scene with the direct skin contact of an animal with the camera producing a haptic sight, objectification is prevented as Laura Marks (2000) argued for the realm of transcultural video. This aesthetic strategy can be seen as a meta-commentary on ethnographic filmmaking to which Marhöfer implicitly refers in her work. The sectional or partial views refuse to represent a being with fixed bodily borders but underline much more the power of the perspective and of film as investigator of materials and structures, such as for instance the fur of a dog playing in the toxic landscape in Becoming Extinct. Although one of Marhöfer’s other films, Is there something else I’ve lost?, deploys much longer shots than Becoming Extinct, it also reorganizes the relation between image and sound. The on-site interviews on urban gardening Marhöfer conducts in Is there something else I’ve lost? are mostly accompanied by a black frame. The spectator hears the voices but does not see their visual equivalence, rather, he/she is prevented from seeing anything at all. This underlines critically how seeing and hearing

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  197 usually stabilize each other and thereby create evidence in documentary films. The powerful situation of conducting an ethnographic interview becomes split in different modalities of senses like hearing and seeing and refuses to become an evidential image. Again, this can be regarded as a cinematic intervention in ethnographic styles. The black image, however, is not a lack but a transfer of the capacity of combining hearing and seeing. It foregrounds hearing (and reading the subtitles if one does not understand Chinese/Mandarin) as a complex activity of different layers combining natural and cultural techniques. This mirrors what the spectator perceives in the film, namely the self-supporting micro-gardening culture as it is threatened by urban development: urban gardening figures as a cultural technique assembling social activities like chatting in the gardens, regional production and ecological and self-sufficient ways of producing vegetables: a niche activity threatened with extinction. Marhöfer’s film makes women’s work visible in displaying intersecting techniques of place-making. Without using direct verbal commentary, she introduces the audience to an atmosphere of gardening. It is an activity that produces affects and percepts at the same time as it produces vegetables. In both films—Is there something else I’ve lost? and Becoming Extinct—the notion of extinction refers to the colonial context of the discourse of the Anthropocene (Demos 2016; Mirzoeff 2016) and the ethnographic filmmaking and photography that seek to “preserve” human groups threatened by extinction. Ethnographic filmmaking has often combined this with a romanticized point of view and a humanist approach that has naturalized extinction and underplayed the role of colonizers who actively did harm and destruction to social groups and places as part of the larger project of appropriating space and resources. Contrary to the above-mentioned colonialist underpinnings, recent ethnographic film in the wider discourse of the Anthropocene is based on how film shifts in its history from an instrument of geopolitical power and anthropometric dehumanizing to the production of new relations between human and others. Cinematic space can present the land as something empty and to be owned by colonizers in a so-called imperial gaze on the one hand (Kaplan 1997), but, on the other hand, film can also present space as a complex process re-emerging with media techniques. In Becoming Extinct, Marhöfer takes up the idea of “becoming with” which already appears in the film’s title, provocatively combining it with extinction. This plays with the fear of humans Becoming Extinct through “empty” landscapes before and after western colonization. Thus, the imagery of imagined “emptiness” is questioned—as precursor of settler colonialism as well as in the Anthropocene. This play with emptiness also hints at the notion of the human as Becoming Extinct by giving up his or her special position in the world. It follows that the concept of the human really does become extinct.

198  Julia Bee Becoming Extinct is part of a research project situated on the plateau of Divnogorye Natural Museum Reserve as part of the Eurasian Steppe Belt “stretching east to west, from Mongolia to Kazakhstan to Russia to Ukraine to Romania” (Marhöfer 2019, manuscript 8). The project includes texts on species extinction in combination with archaeological, biological and cultural theory as well as other fields: it “focuses on plant sensing; an archeological excavation of horses from the late Palaeolithic period; an ecological restoration project of grassland; and cyanobacteria” (Marhöfer 2018, n.p.). The film is part of a collaboration with a research project by Misha Lylov. Its scope includes publications, research and public discussions as well as the making of a film. On the one hand, film becomes a medium of research among other forms and, on the other hand, this research network demonstrates the ways in which arts and science have been seeking new forms of collaboration in recent years. This is not about using film as a distributor to reach wider audiences or representing scientific developments. Becoming Extinct rather shows the vivid dialogue between visual and textual forms of producing knowledge as one of the outcomes of the Anthropocene discourse and its implications of delving into the meanings of knowledge. In addition to the collaboration of science and humanities in order to study complex interplays of nature and culture, film is also (re-)discovered as a medium of research being “natural” and cultural technique at the same time. In particular, the turn toward experiences in recent years has transformed audiovisual forms of research into a medium to represent a complex spectrum of sensual perception not limited to seeing as complicit with the (colonial) gaze. Furthermore, forms of research by artists meet forms of investigation by other artists, scholars and citizens. Becoming Extinct is an investigation of a micro zone of a place which is renewed: “Becoming-with-the-dead mobilizes our imagination for a future life without reconciliation or a place to hide. It embraces the struggle for a collective survival together with the nonhuman” (Marhöfer 2018, n.p.). The filmmaker informs the viewer on her vimeo website: we might need to establish an inclusive approach to ecological conservation and survival, where human reproduction is not the most important factor. We might begin by perceiving the world not as “our” environment, “our” climate, “our” epoch, “our” survival, ‘our’ films, or ‘our’ images. (Marhöfer 2018, n.p.) In this case, she deploys not only the notion of survival but brings up film in the same sentence and suggests a close connection between both. The decentering of the human as the ‘most important being’ to be conserved throughout the transformation of the planet and its climate is

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  199 related to the imagery (Schneider and Nocke 2014). Film imagery here can be regarded as modality to create new perceptions which facilitate these transformations instead of stabilizing existing viewing positions. Becoming Extinct, as other films by Marhöfer emphasize, does not only represent other life forms but also aims at finding new ways of creating relations and herewith a new aesthetics. The experience of transformation and its agents become debatable themselves and produce new aesthetic strategies in films. Before one translates the scaling of the planet and re-connects it to individual behavior, film can create a point of entry toward ecologies of perception. Also ecologies need to be considered as consisting of different experiences as forms of becoming, of various life forms and most importantly, of their interconnection. Film cannot only capture a-modal (synesthetic) forms of perceptions but forms of movement by movement itself (Deleuze 1989). Processes of extinction can be found in nuce in the southern Russian steppes where Becoming Extinct was shot. Extinction is neither happening in the far away future as one of the very extreme scenarios of dystopic films nor is it a phenomenon of the colonial past where groups were depicted to “save” an imagery before people’s extinction— something often not traced back to colonial genocide but more to a “sad” but somehow “natural” process. It is a phenomenon of the very present concerning micro species in the cities and the agro-industrial areas across the globe (see for a critical account of Brazilian colonialism Viveiros de Castro/Danowski 2017). In Becoming Extinct, the camera often closely studies and thereby “moves with movement” in the environment, like the wind folding the plants or following the line of the horizon with the camera, or following a tree trunk up and down between soil and treetop. Slow and long takes are combined with hectic and fast cuts as if the film seeks to embody the very different speeds and slowness acting together in the steppe. These different speeds feed into the different forms and beings like soil and stone, plant and weather. All consist of different forms and processes of time (or movement) turned into matter by slowing down (Bergson 1990). The camera traces not only lines or silhouettes but also movements. Such movement can also be found in one shot in Prendas and seems to be a precarious and volatile perspective searching for an object. At the same time, it underlines that the object cannot exist because one has to face an ecology of heterogeneous and often violent interacting forces. In this very image of searching for a position, the aim of becoming part of the milieu without becoming invisible or adapted to the milieu appears as a symbolic form of the search for a position as a filmmaker which is simultaneously inside and outside of the depicted events. Every milieu is characterized by being in-between and not serving as a container or an object one could become simply a part of. The search for a position is not to be understood in a negative way: as a lack of a fixed and stable

200  Julia Bee position. Nor is it an image metaphorically figuring for the search of a new place in nature following the romantic paradigm. It is rather an experimental gesture in need of the construction of new perceptions that concentrate not only on the human experience. Again, space is not to be mastered visually and centrally organized by perspective but rather a topology Deleuze terms “any-space-whatever” (Deleuze 1986, 109). Centering on the human is even the case when researchers in the movement of sensory ethnography deploy phenomenological forms of experience. In the end, phenomenology, although centered on multiple senses, does begin—and, therefore, must conclude with—the human perception. For William James (1912), experience is much more abstract and much more concrete at the same time: it is the change felt (James 1912, 161; Massumi 2011, 1). When Marhöfer writes she works with plant sensing, this does not only mean sensing a plant rather it is a form of prehension of growing by light and water and communicating with soil and other plants around (Marhöfer 2018, n.p.). Film is a direct form of “machinic” perception able to de-center human perspectives. The turn toward sensory experience in ethnography will be extended here by a turn toward experience as becoming “extinct”: becoming and fading at the same time, as James in Psychology has characterized experiences, reverberates Deleuze’s becoming as an undoing. Becoming is not the becoming of someone or something but, again, a multidirectional movement. In film, an image is a process cutting through processes, as Deleuze (1986, 1989) has pointed out in his books on cinema. This becoming also has a form and a history. Film creates a form for this becoming, but does not represent the becoming of form. This form can be an existential territory, not a given place but an ongoing place-time-making. In the Anthropocene, new images of the human-milieu relation emerge (or are re-discovered) and it can be argued that they emerge as new images of experience. Becoming in Becoming Extinct does not copy a bumble bee by mimicking its view with the camera (by “flying” from flower to flower) but by working with the cinematic space, its sound and its kinesis among others. As Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 10) write “The orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but the wasp reterritorializes on that image.” Like the rhizome emerging between wasp and orchid in A Thousand Plateaus (1987), Becoming Extinct becomes in relation to the landscape and not as a copy of it. Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the book is not a representation of the world. Building up on this, films like Becoming Extinct experiment with maps of co-becoming as well. These include maps of situating viewers in between things which means being no longer the human toward the milieu or in the milieu but a complex assemblage in which the human is diffracted as a being (cf. Nitzke and Pethes 2017). In Becoming Extinct a holistic perception of the environment gets de-naturalized and becomes

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  201 a shattered collage. Like cut and continuity, the montage resembles the principle of becoming and undoing on a visual and acoustic plane. The form of micro rupturing very much embodies a thinking about cut as end and cut as new connection, of continuity and discontinuity of life (Deleuze and Guattari 2000, 38). As the landscape in Becoming Extinct becomes fractured into many becomings and undoings by violent transformations, the camera refuses a position as fixed and stable, creating oversight. Landscape as a homogenous narrative space needs to be deconstructed. It no longer serves the human as a basis for narration as a projection for human emotions. At the same time, this refusal to anthropomorphize the landscape points to a immanent politics of nature.

Filming through the Milieu To “film through a milieu” does not mean to make film part of the nature or even to naturalize documentary film images as authentic or truthful. Becoming Extinct escapes being an invisible medium by generating extra immersive perspectives. It acknowledges film’s agency not only as inscription into a natural milieu but turns film in an actor itself, as autonomous, embedded and relational. Both processes intersect. This paradox is related to film being at the same time a device to depict a milieu and being part of the milieu itself by changing it from within. By making itself accountable, film highlights itself as an element of the landscape. That is also why Marhöfer shot many images of the very interaction of flowers with the camera or the tactile structure of a stray dog’s fur in extreme close up as if it were a landscape itself. These are images embodying relationality: relative positions between elements of the research and the researcher instead of subjects studying objects. Movements of the camera and movements of the landscape interrelate and different rhythms intersect: the cry of a cuckoo (in stress) and the cut of the images, the hand grasping the flower, the wind moving. The 16mm film flickers and micro movements run through the spool in the case, the light flickers on film, the hand holds a thin stick interacting with a flickering plant and examines its material that also becomes shaky, while the clouds change the light on the scenery. All these stream-like movements do not form a whole impression (in the sense of being impressionistic) they create a perception of the heterogeneity of an ecology in transition. The many different parallel perceptions cut across the species and form events of perceptions: micro rhythms of perceptions neither representing a single being nor belonging to it in the film, be it a horse, a flower or even the filmmaker. Like Virginia Woolf who once described the garden in The Waves (1931) from the perspective of flowers growing, Becoming Extinct forms a stream of perceptions, too. The grassland inspires a

202  Julia Bee rhythm of sound, vision, movement and haptics in a montage-oriented style focusing on the interplay of sensual perceptions. The re-valuation of film as a tool for research over the last few years is closely related to the turn toward highlighting experience and the sensory already found in observational cinema’s aim to depict atmospheres and social aesthetics (MacDougall 2006; Grimshaw and Ravetz 2009). Showing or sharing multisensory experience is something particularly characteristic to film in comparison to text. Images in the films of Marhöfer, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, Stephanie Spray and many other recent filmmakers can matter without verbal commentary. They deliver atmospheres of places, gestures, textures and impressions to the viewer. Unlike other filmmakers in sensory ethnography, Marhöfer writes texts about the subject of her work in addition to the filmmaking process and thereby creates dialogues between film and text without the text explaining her film or vice versa. Her film although unique reflect a general turn to be observed in experimental documentary: by foregrounding experience instead of information, film grows more and more apart from its supplementary and illustrative position. Milieus and human-nonhuman assemblages gain importance as subject and as aesthetic strategy. The turn toward experience in ethnographic filmmaking overlaps with anthropocenic filmmaking studying nature_cultures. The sensory in Marhöfer’s work follows an autonomous interpretation refusing phenomenological positions and empathy. Marhöfer uses her camera as an apparatus that diffracts the landscape and produces very specific imagery aware of the artificiality of the images. Here, she moves away from long shots and an observational style. The creative work of the camera is more foregrounded as well as the creativity of the landscape itself which also inscribes itself into the film. Again, this is not indexical truth but a complex process of translation between the becoming of nature and filmmaking. This process is very much considered since Marhöfer uses 16mm film and works with the materiality of the light as an artefact causing visual interference patterns in the film. By capturing sounds and echoes, the diffraction pattern of light reflection is carried out by immanence and not by the distancing of the camera allowing the viewer to gain oversight. We do see the work of the camera and post-production, but we also sense different experiences informing these techniques. Instead of these techniques becoming naturalized, the already existing complex techniques of naturing inform the montage. Nature here becomes a technique, entangled with other techniques like refostering the ground, excavation, montage and perspective. These experiences of different natural and cultural techniques form a milieu of experiences entangled with the landscape. Perceptions here are not secondary—neither is the reflection of the camera, which does not want to alienate or distance itself as often found in the aesthetics of critical documentary. As nature, the cinematic perception is creative and

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  203 productive. Film figures as an element of nature, without again naturalizing nature or the imagery as a naturalized part of nature. Becoming Extinct operates very much as an element of broader research on bacteria, horses and plants, taking place at the southern Russian steppe. Like excavation, film becomes a research technique by intra-acting with other media forming the larger network of research methodologies. It translates the rhythms perceived in the environment into the montage. The strong and rhythmic dis/harmonic montage also points to a reflexive role of the film. Here again, film becomes a relational technique by foregrounding its own capacities, materiality and agency. “Within this mode of film practice, images are not just indexical mirrors of the world, but self-expressive beings” (Marhöfer 2019, Manuscript 3). Prendas, Ngangas, Enquisos, Machines (Each Part Welcomes the Other without Saying) Prendas, ngangas, enquisos, machines (each part welcomes the other without saying) (2014) was shot in Cuba in 2010–2012. Prendas and ngangas are the containers through which Palo communication takes place. The film does not follow the animistic, so-called pre-modern belief but adapts it as an contemporary practice for filmmaking. In Prendas, the camera often deploys long shots, listens to the wind in the trees, studies bones and skulls of animals in the woods, the sun over the corn fields and the slipping of a small chick out of an egg. The film becomes a device to question what is living and how agency is usually organized by film. Since the filming takes place in Cuba, the spectator might expect a travelogue or ethnographic documentary made by a Western-based filmmaker. But the animistic theme becomes a way of filmic communication with the landscape. Without exoticizing the landscape as pre-modern, it specifically creates images between colonialist plantation-scapes and Palo. As in Becoming Extinct, in Prendas, images of humans are rare. We get to hear voices of people riding on the train although the image does not screen human bodies but only the view from the window onto the forests and plantations. The human here is already contained in the landscape: through her impact, she is in the landscape but herself invisible. This complicates what can be seen and what is invisible in Prendas. Even if there are just micro movements we constantly see transformations, nothing ever stands still: goats are eating, chickens are running, clouds are moving in the sky, the wind is constantly blowing and the light is changing. All of these are interfering movements; small movements like the slipping chicken cracking the egg, the leaves moving with the wind and the train cutting through the landscape. Landscape becomes a complex interplay of movements (Bee and Egert 2018).

204  Julia Bee Weather and sun form the place as sugar cane production does. By listening to the wind and studying the light, the film evokes romantic pictures of the landscapes. But since this landscape is shown from within, from an immanent perspective, it is neither an overwhelming other nor a harmonic habitat for studying cultural practices. By taking up movements, the boundary between what is living and what is dead is reconceptualized, as Ingold notes: “We are not required to believe that the wind is a being that blows, or that thunder is a being that claps. Rather, the wind is blowing, and the thunder is clapping […]” (Ingold 2011, 73). Here, the relation between things before the camera and the camera person itself becomes the subject of the film without Prendas becoming a travelogue focusing on the subjective experiences of the filmmaker. Rather, it creates a milieu of experiences which are not necessarily the kind of subjective ones of the filmmaker who makes an essay film out of these experiences (Figure 11.2). The opposition and the imagination of total harmony between humans and landscapes through art, film and other visual media have produced positions of sublimity of the landscape. Much of the relation between humans and nature is produced by visual media as well as by cultural techniques like agriculture. These different forms of cultural techniques

Figure 11.2 Elke  Marhöfer, Prendas ngangas, enquisos, machines. Each part welcomes the other without saying, 2014, Filmstills (TC 24:45; TC 24:48; TC 3:32; TC 20:15) © Elke Marhöfer, courtesy Elke Marhöfer.

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  205 become subjects in Marhöfers’ films. She does not suggest only a more harmonic relation with natures but seeks to embody a search for the position by pointing toward the relation in the production of film and visual media. Like the agro-industrial techniques rooted in colonialism, film has had a history of visual violence toward the other and produced powerful forms of looking (Kaplan 1987). Marhöfer studies these forms of violence and at the same time, new forms of life that emerge at places deeply impacted by historic and recent forms of violence. Prendas shows how film as a relational technique can become a device to research positions that negotiate the fragile boundary between the living and the dead that Kathryn Yusoff (2019) described as a key for the colonial discourse in the Anthropocene. Since film itself is animistic and brings images “to life,” the relation between the medium and the topic of Prendas can be seen as echoing one another. By negotiating imagery about landscapes and the history of the colonial gaze, Prendas also reflects on the role of film in the production of milieus and landscapes as affective spaces. Instead of filming people or rituals, Prendas refuses a narration in the form of climax. In the last shot already first under than behind the credits, some Palo bins and a candle appear—shot rather en passant than as a central reference to decode the imagery. From the margin of the film an image appears imagined to be central to the understanding of animism. It gives the practice of searching for forms of life its relevance. The convention of the ethnographic film is diffracted by refusing any exotistic or voyeuristic views. We do, however, see the Palo ritual containers and create connections between the other images of the film and Palo retrospectively. Palo is not reduced to a dramatized ritual but becomes graspable as a way of sensing, a connection of landscape, agricultural techniques, wind, and of the living and the dead which appears in the interstices of what can be seen and can be sensed otherwise. Film with its many modalities and perspectives is an ideal medium to do research on the new relation of human and world. Film can be conceived as a medium of ecology (Ivakhiv 2013), not by representing ecological topics but by creating perspectives of the milieu. The world shows itself and this includes media which is located on the same plane as that what it shows.7 The human being here no longer admires the gloriousness of nature or is dwarfed by the overwhelming beauty of the landscape. Rather, the film makes the search for new positions perceivable, a processual positioning that informs larger cultural movements of ecological practices in a wider sense.

Anthropocenic Negotiations Documentary film has gained importance in the negotiation of human-milieu activities over the last few years. The documentary ethnographic or anthropological film produces new perspectives of human

206  Julia Bee positions in nature_cultures. By emancipating itself from being a representation of anthropological research and developing its own materiality and autonomy toward the anthropological text, film has increasingly turned to sensory experience (Pink 2009). The concept of experience is often seen as unpolitical. Since scaling is, however, one of the major issues in the human perception of herself as impact in the climate change, experience becomes a major factor offering new ways of relating to ecologies. These relations can also be seen as “territories” for new subjectivities, as Guattari has pointed out. By going through different techniques of sensual filmmaking, Marhöfer proposes in her film what can be termed a filming through the milieu (see Thain 2015). Isabelle Stengers (2005), by describing practices in the laboratory, has coined this term to describe an “ecology of practices.” By “thinking par le milieu,” she refers to Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy (187). Since filmmaking nowadays creates audiovisual concepts about the condition of the world and operates as a relational technique, I adopt this phrase to propose sensory ethnographic film as a possible strategy of becoming with the milieu. In recent years it is the documentary that forms a field for these aesthetic ways of dealing with the earth’s condition. The films discussed above are ecological films, precisely because they address positions and perspectives of human-nature interactions. Films, like those by Elke Marhöfer, are situated knowledge (Haraway 1998) proposing immanent positions. They do research and facilitate humans to find a new position by thinking about position by the very medium of positions (i.e., perspectives)—and be it to not have a position fundamentally or ontologically separated from other species. Documentary film is one of the significant fields for these audiovisual negotiations because it intensely deals with relations to what is—or what co-becomes. It chooses the “muddiness” of the very world as point of view, as Donna Haraway (2008, 14) has described it. The relation of media to the world is at stake and this can be seen in the multiple artistic projects dealing with (postcinematic) documentary modes. Particularly the films of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab have helped to articulate new perspectives of humans, machines, things and animals all together by taking milieus as a subject and as a mode of investigation. In Marhöfers’ and other recent art films such as Harvard’s SEL, film also has its own materiality and adds to the milieu as a becoming part of it. It does not seek to represent a reality apart from itself but very much foregrounds its own agency. In this way, film not only explores the human-Earth relation, i.e., about what it actually means to inhabit the world and not just to be in the world, but it also thinks about its own role in creating these specific and affective relations. For media scholar Andrew Murphie (2014), for example, the world becomes its medium by articulating the voices of nonhumans and thereby using nature as a medium: film articulates

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  207 itself as nature does. Reflexivity is no longer a privilege of text alone. Becoming Extinct and other recent sensory films reflect on this new form of multispecies audio-visuality in the Anthropocene. The production of documentary forms throughout media and the arts can be understood in the discourse of the Anthropocene in a broader sense including human fears and narrations about the future. Film itself forms a passage in the search for new positions of the researcher-filmmaker who creates and affirms a less detached position toward the world: “Deriving from direct entanglements, this ethics has nothing to do with self-reflectivity, or identification, but rather with pre-individual interspecies immersions and mutations” (Marhöfer 2019, 4–5). Like Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s Leviathan (2012), Marhöfer’s Becoming Extinct, Is there something else I’ve lost? and Prendas reflect the paradoxical agency of the human between the inscription into earth’s history while showing that the age of the human on the planet is only one of the ages of the earth among many others. The use of media technology in the representation of nature becomes re-politicized through the creation of imagery in which the human agency in the earth history is paralleled in the use of media: media’s self-consciousness (like in Marhöfer’s films) articulates other than human agencies by (paradoxically) underlining the agency of the medium as the one directed by the human.

Coda Documentary film produces a specific way to negotiate the role of the human discussed in the Anthropocene discourse. This broad scientific and public discourse has also created a psycho-cultural dynamic of the production of subjectivity deeply entangled with forms of media. Film brings forth potential “existential territories” (Goffey in Guattari 2015, xii), as has already been suggested by Guattari. These are closely entangled with the aesthetics of media, especially in experiments in documentary film today. In experimental documentary like Marhöfer’s the earth becomes a reference point of belonging for subjectivities. More and other psycho-cultural connections emerge alongside those that have long existed in different cosmologies and cultural practices (see, for example, in Sun Ra’s Afrofuturisms or Amerindian perspectivism). Images can express the concern between humans and the world without relying on representation or information. Furthermore, they do so without a patriarchal ideology of caring for the earth, as Bruno Latour (2017) once put it. Images become techniques of locating oneself in the world (Povinelli 2016) and most importantly with the world (Haraway 2008, 3). New subjectivities can emerge on the existential territory of experiences, proliferated and created by documentary art film. Its role cannot be sensed apart from an ecological consciousness, but this is much more than a

208  Julia Bee rationalization of behavior, it includes aesthetics as well. Ecological aesthetics extend beyond the eco movement of the 1980s and 1990s that first have raised an awareness of the finiteness of the human on the earth, at least in the industrialized north of the globe. Films like Leviathan and Sweet Grass (2009) by the SEL as well as Becoming Extinct reflect the paradoxical position of humans as a geological force and at the very same time being reduced to one of many ages of the earth. Ethnographic and ecological art film today is less a self-affirmation of “the” human and human technology but more an apparatus of contingency splitting the human into many diverse images of what has long been the colonial European human white man. There are other possible aesthetics and many recent forms to be found dealing with the discourse on the Anthropocene. Moreover, film or audiovisual installations are by no means the only possible medium which experiments with aesthesis and perceptions. But what is characteristic for some of the recent art projects that take up the Anthropocene discourse is the aim to become part of a milieu and to break with the history of the human view as above or distanced from things. They, instead, invent and reinvent filming a milieu through the middle.


Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  209 writes of ‘the world as medium’ (1978, 286) within which multiple vectors of feeling move, assemble and then disperse to be taken up elsewhere.

References Barad, Karen. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Bee, Julia and Gerko Egert. 2018. “Waves of Experience. Atmosphere and Leviathan.” In Exploring Atmospheres Ethnographically, edited by Sara Asu Schroer, and Susanne Schmitt, 102–114. London and New York: Routledge. Bergson, Henri. 1990. Matter and Memory. New York: Zone Books. Crutzen, Paul J., and Eugene F. Stoermer. 2000. “The ‚Anthropocene’.” Global Change Newsletter 41: 17–18. Davis, Heather, and Etienne Turpin, eds. 2015. Art and the Anthropocene. Encounters Between Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. London: Open Humanities Press. De Castro, Eduardo Viveiros, and Déborah Danowski. 2017. The Ends of the World. Cambridge: Polity. Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. The Movement-Image. Cinema 1. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. The Time-Image. Cinema 2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 2000. Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Demos, T.J. 2016. Decolonizing Nature. Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Diedrich Diederichsen, and Anselm Franke. 2013. The Whole Earth. California and the Disappearance of the Outside. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Foucault, Michel. 1979. The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction. London: Allen Lane. Guattari, Félix. 1995. Chaosmosis. An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Guattari, Felix. [1975] 2011. „Die Couch des Armen. “In Die Couch des Armen. Die Kinotexte in der Diskussion, edited by Aljoscha Weskott, Nicolas Siepen, Susanne Leeb, Clemens Krümmel, and Helmut Draxler, 7–26. Berlin: B_Books. Guattari, Felix. 2015. Lines of Fligth. For Another World of Possibilities. Translated by Andrew Goffey. London: Bloomsbury. Grimshaw, Anna, and Amanda Ravetz. 2009. Observational Cinema. Anthropology, Film, and the Exploration of Social Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Grosz, Elizabeth. 2011. Becoming Undone. Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Haraway, Donna. 1998. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies 14 (3): 575–599. Haraway, Donna. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: Minnesota/London University Press.

210  Julia Bee Haraway, Donna. 2015. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chtulhucene: Making Kin.” Environmental Humanities 6: 159–165. Haraway, Donna. 2016. “Tentacular Thinking—Anthropocene, Capitolocene, Chthulucene.” e-flux journal 75, tentacular-thinking-anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/ Ingold, Tim. 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. London: Routledge. Ivakhiv, Adrian J. 2013. Ecologies of the Moving Image. Cinema, Affect, Nature. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. James, William. 1912. Essays in Radical Empiricism. New York: Longmans, Green and Co. James, William. 1892. “The Stream of Consciousness.” In Psychology, 151– 175. New York: Dover Publications. Kaplan, Elizabeth Ann. 1987. Looking for the Other. Feminism, Film, and the Imperial Gaze. New York; London: Routledge. Kaplan, Elizabeth Ann. 2016. Climate Trauma, Foreseeing the Future in Dystopian Film and Fiction. New Brunswick: Rutgers University. Kaplan, Elizabeth Ann. 2017. “Visualizing Climate Trauma. The Cultural Works of Films Anticipating the Future.” In Routledge Companion Cinema and Gender, edited by Dijana Jelača, E. Ann Kaplan, Kristin L. Hole, and Patrice Petro, 407–416. New York: Routledge.Latour, Bruno. 2017. Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime. Cambridge: Polity Press. MacDougall, David. 2006. “Social Aesthetics and the Doon School.” In The Corporeal Film. Film, Ethnography, and the Senses, edited by David MacDougall, 94–119. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Marcs, Laura. 2000. The Skin of the Film. Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Marhöfer, Elke. 2016. “Ecologies of Thinking and Practices.” PhD diss., University of Goteborg. Marhöfer, Elke. 2018. Comment on Website framing the film project Becoming Extinct. Marhöfer, Elke. (2020). “Becoming Extinct (Wild Grass): An Exploration in Ecologies of Extinction and Collaborative Survival in the Southern Russian Steppes and Elsewhere.” In Routledge Companion to Film Ethics, edited by Silke Pause. New York, London: Bloomsbury.Massumi, Brian. 2009. “National Enterprise Emergency. Steps Toward an Ecology of Power.” Theory, Culture & Society 26 (6): 153–185. Massumi, Brian. 2011. Semblance and Event. Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Mezzadra, Sandro, and Brett Neilson. 2017. “On the Multiple Frontiers of Extraction: Excavating Contemporary Capitalism.” Cultural Studies 31 (2–3): 185–204. Mirzoeff, Nicolas. 2016. “It’s not the Anthropocene, It’s the White Supremacy Scene; or, The Geological Color Line.” In After Extinction, edited by Richard Grusin, 123–150. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Moore, Jason W. 2016. “The Capitalocene—Part I: On the Nature of Origins of Our Ecological Crisis.” In Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Jason W. Moore, 1–38. Oakland: Pm Press.

Filming through the Milieu: Becoming Extinct  211 Murphie, Andrew. 2014. “Making Sense. The Transformation of Documentary by Digital and Networked Media.” In Studies in Documentary Film 8 (3): 188–204. Nagl, Tobias. 2009. Die unheimliche Maschine. Rasse und Repräsentation im Weimarer Kino. Edition Text und Kritik: München. Nitzke, Solvejg, and Nicolas Pethes, eds. 2017. Imagining Earth. Concepts of Wholeness in Cultural Constructions of Our Home Planet. Bielefeld: Transcript. Pink, Sarah. 2009. Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: Sage. Povinelli, Elizabeth. 2016. Geoontologies. A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Rancière, Jacques. 2000. Le partage du sensible. Esthétique et politique. La Fabrique-éditions: Paris. Rouch, Jean. 2003. Ciné-Ethnography. Edited and translated by Steven Feld. London: University of Minnesota Press. Schneider, Birgit, and Thomas Nocke. 2014. Image Politics of Climate Change. Visualizations, Imaginations, Documentations. Bielefeld: Transcript. Steffen, Will, Jacques Grinevald, Paul Crutzen, and John McNeil. 2011. “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369: 842–867. Stengers, Isabelle. 2005. “Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices.” Cultural Studies Review 11 (1): 183–196. Thain, Alanna. 2015. “A Bird’s-Eye View of Leviathan.” Visual Anthropology Review 31 (1): 41–48. Whitehead, Alfred North. [1933] 1967. Adventures of Ideas. New York: The Free Press. Yusoff, Kathryn. 2019. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

12 Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene Alexandra R. Toland

Open Bracket (passing out seed packets) This is an exercise. (Because not all artistic activity needs to be framed as a project or a product or a practice.) This is an experiment. It might horribly backfire, but that’s the nature of experimentation. (This could explode.) This is an experiment that’s been done before. (In other words, this is a re-enactment of something else.) This is an artwork. (It could also just be a symbolic gesture of artistic knowledge sharing and not an artwork after all.) This is a gift. It’s a rather paradoxical gift, though – because you’re not supposed to open it. This is made out of very specific materials. Feel its weight, its texture, and look at its shiny surface. This is a result of mental work. Try to imagine the thoughts that passed through the mind during the process of making: Do I have enough time for a break before the paint gets too sticky? Or, do these irregularities pass as uniqueness or just sloppy handicraft? This is a result of physical work. Try to imagine the sensations that passed through body during the process of making: the tightness in the lower arms from pushing paint through a screen; the feeling of paper on fingertips; the smell of drying acrylic and stale cigarette

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  213 smoke from the kitchen down the hall... This is a seed packet. (And what a curious object that is, with life on the inside and handy directions on the outside.) These are seeds of plenty. These seeds are representative of only one species in a panoply of terrestrial biodiversity in which each species carries its own legacy of ecological and cultural meaning. The fact that we are in the middle of the 6th great mass extinction has no bearing on these seeds of plenty. This is an epistemic artefact. (It is a lens for seeing and understanding the world.) This package, and the seeds within it, are boundary objects. They’re ideas that can galvanize action across different communities and across different disciplines. These ones are objects of research for scientists concerned with issues of plant pathology, genetic diversity, food security, and species distribution in a drier climate. These ones are a life source for seed savers and independent growers, at the edge of bankruptcy and no turning back. These ones are a meme for political activism against industrial agriculture and its history of pollution and economic conquest. These ones are a free sample provided by a well-meaning agri-business corporation trying to feed the world. These ones are for the backyard birds. Can you open this package without an expectation of the contents inside? Can you open this package without judgement of what is to come? Can you open this package and still take joy in germination? Can you take this thing, this object, and transform it into something meaningful to you?

214  Alexandra R. Toland

A Short History of Boundary Objects and Their Potential in Artistic Practice Imagine a feather. A feather could represent something completely different to someone studying aerodynamics, architecture, evolutionary biology or fashion design. This was the example used by Edith Kollath and Katja Marie Voigt to visualize the concept of boundary objects at a 2018 graduate workshop for PhD students at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. Similarly, the concept of distance, however it is visually or verbally represented, was presented as a boundary object at a subsequent workshop for art and design students. Ideas about distance change if you have a background as a traffic planner, an astrophysicist, a pilot, a performance artist or a marathon runner. Both examples are specific enough to guide conversation, but flexible enough to be creatively reinterpreted based on individual experience and disciplinary background. This is Bauhaus, after all, where a chair is not always a chair. To put these examples into context, I will explore Susan Leigh Star’s concept of boundary objects as a means of anchoring artistic research in the greater discourse surrounding the Anthropocene. After outlining the history, scope and strengths of the concept, I present two case studies of recent artworks that posit seeds as boundary objects of the Anthropocene. The essay is itself “bounded” by two reflections as part of a live performance of this chapter in which I passed out silk screen printed seed packets at the beginning and bags of salted popcorn at the end (Figure 12.1).

Figure 12.1 A lexandra R. Toland, Seed Packets, “Do Not Open”, 2018. Photo: Alexandra R. Toland.

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene


The concept of boundary objects as things or ideas situated at the intersection of distinct disciplines and social worlds was first introduced by the sociologists and scholars of science and technology studies (STS), Susan Leigh Star and James Griesemer in 1989 and then further developed by Star and others.1 Boundary objects are simply defined as conceptual entities that bridge different understandings of information by different user groups (Star and Griesemer, 1989). Boundary objects are interpreted differently depending on the group, but contain enough content to allow members of different disciplines and social groups to talk and work together (ibid.). They can be concrete or conceptual in nature, but must be specific enough to keep discussions focused and avoid superficiality, and yet general enough to allow new ideas and possibly new boundary objects to emerge and conversation to remain open. Star (2015, 157) explains that boundary objects both “inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of each […]” and “are both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites.” Boundary objects may furthermore be “weakly structured” as they are identified in common use, such as the examples given above, or “strongly structured” in more specialized, localized and situation-specific contexts. In contrast to weakly structured boundary objects, strongly-structured boundary objects can be used as precision tools to sharpen the focus of interdisciplinary collaboration, especially under time and resource constraints. My first practical teaching experience using the boundary objects concept brought me together with Dr. Bettina König, an agricultural economist from the IRI-Thesis Excellence Cluster at the Humboldt University Berlin, her colleagues Anett Kuntosch, who is a geographer, ethnographer and science communications officer Anne Dumbrowski and Prof. Myriel Milicevic, who is an interaction designer and Professor of Elemental Design from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (FHP). The goal of our first course, which consisted of a mixed group of students from the Humboldt University and the FHP, was to create “knowledge maps” visualizing the scientific and social networks behind sustainable animal husbandry, especially in sustainable chicken and egg production and marketing contexts.2 Even though the boundary objects were highly specific or “strongly structured” in Star and Griesemer’s terms (e.g., designed, informational objects about chicken farming), the results offered a wide range of ways to engage with the topic, from a card game to an online arcade game, from a political mini-zine to a children’s book or from an info-graphic wall installation.3 A consecutive project with the same group of instructors tasked interdisciplinary student groups with the creation of audio works addressing land use change in the Spreewald region south of Berlin. The engagement with boundary objects in the two teaching scenarios at the Humboldt

216  Alexandra R. Toland University was conducted in a relatively top-down fashion, agreed upon by us instructors as a way of quickly organizing the class based on shared research goals. Given the time limitations (we only had 90 minutes a week for one semester of six months), the strongly-structured approach put realistic limitations on interdisciplinary work, which all too often remains on a superficial level of encounter between the sciences and the arts. Rather than a space of open-ended idea generation between the different user groups, the emphasis was instead on skill and knowledge sharing, as well as creative interaction within a basic conceptual framework. The two courses examined particular examples of “wicked problems,” or problems of immense socioecological complexity, in managing rural landscapes and agricultural practices before the backdrop of climate change, desertification and the myriad challenges to sustainabile land use in the current era.4 Agriculture in the Anthropocene became tangible and thus debatable through the use of boundary objects. In a weakly structured sense, similar to the examples of distance and feather given above, the Anthropocene itself could be considered as a boundary object of contemporary society, albeit an uncomfortably unwieldy one. Through the lectures, exhibitions, publications and ongoing intellectual work e.g., at the House of World Cultures (HKW) in Berlin, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Science Gallery Dublin, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and other organizations, it has been shown time and time again that the Anthropocene is addressed quite differently by members of different disciplines. Reframed as the Capitalocene (Moore 2016), the Plantationocene (Tsing 2012; McKittrick 2013), the Chthulucene (Haraway 2015) and the Technocene (Sloterdijk 2015; Cera 2017), the concept of the Anthropocene (as well as its many alternatives) continues to serve as an instigative boundary object that has the power of bringing together thinkers and practitioners from disciplines far afield to reflect on the rapidly changing state of the world and humanity’s role within it. In so doing, the Anthropocene becomes a framework for research that displays a range of different “paradigms, premises, theories and methodologies (that) are re-negotiated and re-embedded into novel conceptual configurations,” many of which are presented in this volume (Introduction in this volume). While it challenges epistemological tropes of nature and culture, the Anthropocene can simultaneously be differentiated from other conceptual entities, such as preceding geological eras (i.e., the Anthropocene contains indicators in the geological record that make it markedly different from the Holocene), alternative sociopolitical systems (i.e., the Anthropocene is an undeniable result of capitalist societies) and non-human biological groups (i.e., the Anthropocene’s very name refers to the human, Greek: Anthropos). Its discursive specificity, and at the same time far-reaching theoretical scope and ability to spawn new boundary objects, make the

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  217 Anthropocene something like a “super” boundary object, unclaimable and untamable by any single discipline, institution, or author. Within this super boundary object, a number of subsidiary boundary objects emerge. For example, Egon Becker of the Frankfurt Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE 2010) argues that the idea of reliance has emerged as one of the fundamental concepts of Anthropocene research, ranging from an analytical term in ecology and population biology to a more general way of thinking about complex socio-ecological systems. Becker (1), referring to Carl Folke (2006) of the Stockholm Centre for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research, defines resilience as “the capability of a system to retain similar structures and functioning after disturbances, thus ensuring continuous development.” Operating across sites and disciplinary worldviews, resilience appears to be an important thread in the web of Anthropocene research, in that it grounds affective responses of hope and empowerment to a boundary object that can be investigated with different models, methods and meanings. According to David Chandler and Kevin Grove (2017, 79), “it is within the field of resilience thinking that the implications of the Anthropocene for forms of governance are beginning to be sketched out and experimental practices are undertaken.” From the perspective of a drylands entomologist, a cultural anthropologist, an environmental economist, or a dancer, resilience takes on shades and textures of physicality as a weakly structured but conceptually and politically powerful daughter of the Anthropocene as super boundary object. While resilience has been primarily investigated by natural scientists, social scientists and humanities scholars have also engaged its power under the pressures of the Anthropocene. This is exemplified in the work of Anna Tsing, Elaine Gan and others (2017) focused on counter-capitalist, more-than-human narratives of resilience and the “Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet.” Artists have been championing the concept since the socially engaged public art of the 1990s and earlier examples of agitprop dating back to the 1920s. At every major climate conference, summit meeting or international forum on environmental governance over the last twenty-five years, it is common to see artists enacting powerful public interventions, organizing activist-inspired performances, and producing works in collaborative, participatory and interdisciplinary contexts that posit resilience as an emancipatory and affective alternative to despair.5 Resilience is the face of “invasive” species on city streets, or extremophile bacteria in scorched and inhospitable niches, or moments of protest and occupation. Resilience is the sub-narrative of the Anthropocene dystopia, rich with aesthetic possibility and worthy of artistic investigation. But let’s go back to a time before the terminology of the Anthropocene was commonplace, before Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellions. In their original article from 1989, Star and Griesemer describe the

218  Alexandra R. Toland significance of boundary objects in the creation and curatorial development of the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Uncannily, we find foreshadowing of the Anthropocene in early debates on sustainability and local ecological health. Founded in 1907, the museum was a good early example of a transdisciplinary stakeholder interface or a private public partnership long before such terms were coined. Created as a biological research institute as part of the University of California and funded by a wealthy lesbian naturalist and benefactor, Annie Alexander, the museum aimed to record and study the flux of native animal populations in California.6 This was something seemingly new, compared to major museums on the American East coast and in Europe that boasted broader overviews of natural history around the world through their collections accrued through far-reaching colonial powers. By focusing on the local, beginning with Alexander’s own extensive collection of thousands of natural artifacts, the museum was able to establish itself as an authority on bioregional phenomena. As such, it was one of the first institutions to uncover evidence of biodiversity loss, a key planetary boundary of the Anthropocene, before either of those terms were coined either. As a model for knowledge creation and distribution, the museum was way ahead of its time, foreshadowing the interdisciplinary interests and moral concerns about biological, social and political resilience associated with Anthropocene research today. For Star and Griesemer, the museum was seen as an institution for information processing and programming in which a host of different participants came together to overcome problems of complexity, coordination and communication, and in the end, to serve the goals of nature conservation. The boundary objects they listed included animal specimens, field notes and thematic maps, methods of collection, and other tools and objects. They studied how members of different social groups interacted with each other through and because of these objects. These groups included amateur collectors, hunters, trappers, traders, trained biologists, museum employees and university administrators. Through their interactions with each other, “mixed economies of information” emerged that were based on the currency of objects (Star and Griesemer 1989, 194). Animals were exchanged for other animals. Scientific classification was exchanged for lists and other standardized information collected by field naturalists. Prestige in environmental circles was exchanged for financial support of the museum. In some cases, rare specimens were traded for hard cash or meat from more common game animals. The authors also acknowledged an unintentional cooperation on the part of the non-human actors for the sake of recording and distributing knowledge of natural history through the medium of the museum (ibid.). The differentiation between boundary objects and other sorts of objects is a tricky business. In his analysis of Social-Ecological Systems (SES), Egon Becker (2012, 2) cites four kinds of objects that are central

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  219 to discussions on the Anthropocene. These are: (1) real objects, which are often collected as data for modelling environmental phenomena; (2) boundary objects, “situated at the intersections of individual fields of research and disciplinary settings”; (3) Hans-Jörg Rheinberger’s idea of epistemic objects, or “things that humans can and want to know about”; and (4) Bruno Latour’s idea of hybrid objects or objects that are both natural and cultural at the same time (6). We can add to this list Timothy Morton’s (2013) idea of hyperobjects, or massively distributed things in time and space that relate to human beings, based on Morton’s theory of Object-Oriented Ontology; Jocelyn Scheirer and Rosalind Picard’s (2000) conception of affective objects, or objects which have the ability to sense or record emotional data from a person and communicate that information back expressively; and Kristina Niedderer (2007, 3) conception of performative objects or objects which “can stimulate the user’s behavior by means of their function, thus causing mindful reflection” and symbolic social interactions. The list of types of objects central to the Anthropocene is certainly not limited to those mentioned here, and would require a more in-depth exploration than can be provided here, with regards to how each object relates to the work of understanding, communicating and resisting the Anthropocene. Becker (2012, 8) goes on to point out that boundary objects, in comparison with other objects, have a social function as well as a cognitive function, serving on the one hand as a tool for communication between different communities, and on the other hand, as guideline for understanding particular concepts and methods. Becker argues for a transformation of boundary objects into epistemic objects in order to fully benefit from their cognitive function (18). This would be necessary for large transdisciplinary projects involving multiple institutions, for example, in modelling resilience in particular bioregions. The cognitive function of boundary objects enables researchers on a pragmatic level to achieve common goals of understanding each other and formulating “deliverables” in joint research projects. In Becker’s study, framing socio-ecological systems (SES) as weakly structured boundary objects implies the existence of multiple “mental models” to achieve such a transformation: The transformation of a vaguely defined boundary object into a strongly structured epistemic object is guided, explicitly or implicitly, by pre-analytic ideas, general world-views and ontological convictions (that…) function as mental models of the part of the world, together with its major problems […]. (18) Equipped with their own mental models, artists, art theorists and artistic researchers are called to develop their own taxonomies of boundary

220  Alexandra R. Toland objects and their own methods of making sense of weakly structured concepts into powerful artistic statements, or what Becker might describe as strongly structured epistemic objects. Becker’s paper among other analyses of boundary objects (not least of which Star and Griesemer’s) begs the question: how can artists engage in the discourse on boundary objects, especially when they might unknowingly already be using them in their collaborative practices? At this point, I want to turn the conversation around and look at objectness from the point of view of artistic cognition. Despite fundamental shifts toward engaging with process (rather than product) and performativity over the past fifty years, artists are still to a great extent in the business of thinking about, designing, testing, making and displaying objects, making the argument for boundary objects, among other objects Becker describes, as an attractive working concept. As with other boundary objects, the objects artists use in interdisciplinary settings can be concrete forms or more abstract interventions, fluid experiences, or performed enactments. In other words, they can be strongly or weakly structured, similar to how they are strongly or weakly structured in scientific contexts. Furthermore, from an artistic point of view, boundary objects perform aesthetic functions in addition to social and cognitive functions. They embody cultural values expressed through recognizable, decodable symbolic forms, and they may be composed, choreographed or otherwise aesthetically manipulated to provide sensory experience. The use of the boundary object concept in making and thinking about art, however, is relatively new. The term has been dominated by the history of science rather than the history of art, but finds new alliances in the age of the Anthropocene. Recent publications by Johanna Schindler (2018), who takes an inductive approach to identifying boundary objects in artistic research, and Ruth Benschop (2009) and Dehlia Hannah (2013), who both look at the value of STS in art critique, as well as several exhibitions, such as the Boundary Objects Exhibition curated by Sophie Goltz (Kunsthaus Dresden 2015), provide fertile ground for further developing Star’s concept through art practice and critique. Star herself (1994, 143–167) admits this underlying bias in an essay reflecting on the “misplaced concretism” of boundary objects as a methodology, thus inviting scholars from other fields, including the arts, to investigate where she leaves off. “In studying scientific problem solving,” Star (2015, 156) writes, I have been concerned […] [with] how scientists could operate without agreeing about the nature of objects. In developing models for this work, I coined the term ‘boundary objects’ to talk about how scientists do this. I do not think the term is exclusive to science but I think science is an interesting place to study them […].

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  221 Between the attraction to objectness as a concept artists can work with, to the positioning of boundary objects as aesthetic entities that can be sensed and interjected into different social settings, the unfinished work of Susan Leigh Star opens up a wealth of possibilities that situate artistic practice in STS discourse and challenge earlier arguments against the danger of instrumentalizing the arts for the benefit of other disciplinary endeavors. In many science-art exchanges there is usually an awkward wariness on the part of artists toward an unspoken expectation to translate, represent, educate, or otherwise communicate scientific knowledge. The golden rule of autonomy in artistic practice is seemingly broken in the moment when an artist steps out of her studio and into an interdisciplinary setting. But the boundary object model offers a way out of this dilemma. In their analysis of methods, Star and Griesemer (1989, 404) note that in the case of the Vertebrate Zoology Museum: different social worlds maintained a good deal of autonomy in parallel work situations. Only those parts of the work essential to maintaining coherent information were pooled in the intersection of information; the others were left alone. Participants developed extremely flexible, heterogeneous economies of information and materials, in which needed objects could be bartered, traded, and bought or sold. Such economies maximized the autonomy of work considerations in intersecting worlds while ensuring “trade” across world boundaries. In such a trade across boundaries, artists have much to exchange, while maintaining their autonomy of perspective. Besides being in engaged with designing and making objects, artists are also making meaning out of discrete objects, events and relationships as they interact in different social worlds—let’s call them audiences—and out of endeavors with practitioners from other fields—let’s call them collaborations. In so far as meaning making is guided by specific objects in specific situations, autonomy can be upheld. The use of boundary objects allows artists, scientists and others to maintain their own position while empowering each party to handle those objects within their own scope of (re)presentation, (re)configuration and (re)interpretation. In the end, the social nature of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing is and always was about work—cognitive work but also physical labor, administrative paper pushing and pragmatic organizational work that allows new discoveries to be made and theories to evolve. What is left out of most publications on the use of boundary objects in transdisciplinary research is an explicit recognition that Star’s original interests were grounded in a feminist philosophy concerned with the invisible work behind scientific knowledge production. These include the contributions of hunters and trappers in Star and Griesemer’s original article,

222  Alexandra R. Toland to the work of lab technicians, janitors, secretaries and grad students examined in other papers.7 Like the sociologist (exemplified by Star), the artist is similarly tasked with making the invisible visible, carrying the responsibility of any good researcher in her choice of what to make visible and how. Through their intimate relationship with objects, artists serve as vital intermediaries, political whistleblowers and critical knowledge brokers of the Anthropocene. In the following two case studies, I argue that seeds may be seen as boundary objects to help direct attention toward particular phenomena that can be addressed across different disciplinary sites and social worlds. They are surely not the only examples of artists collecting and saving seeds in the context of the Anthropocene,8 but they do well to demonstrate the idea of boundary objects as theoretical devices for interdisciplinary work. As such, the projects may be understood as containers for different sets of ideas and ideals, much like the seeds they feature in various forms. The framing of the two cases as wild and cultivated appears at once to suggest a binary categorization of types of seeds according to human convenience. On the contrary, the examples challenge such binaries by honoring the fluidity of exchange between species and acknowledging the wild, experimental nature of evolutionary adaptation and humanity’s attempt to understand and dance with it.

“Wild Seeds” and the Fallout of Disrupted Ecologies: Andrew Yang’s Flying Gardens of Maybe Let us zoom ahead from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in Berkeley during the first decades of the last century in Star and Griesemer’s case study to about a hundred years later—to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The goals and conditions of the two museums are strikingly similar: biologists, amateur naturalists, museum administrators and collectors all collaborate on understanding local ecologies with wider concerns for nature conservation worldwide. Both institutions employ staff scientists who conduct research in museum labs, fieldwork and libraries as well as an unsung army of volunteers who help clean, catalogue and archive various artefacts, and conduct hours of pro-bono monitoring work as birdwatchers, hikers and backyard nature enthusiasts. Both museums boast extensive collections of objects in well-established archival systems. And both have extensive educational programming. But this last point is what notably distinguishes one museum from another. While the Field Museum of Chicago was a direct result of collections gathered for the World’s Fair in 1893, Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology was initiated as a research institution and remains to this day closed to the public.9 While the Berkeley Museum retains its original focus, offering its knowledge through loans, research fellowships and University courses,

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  223 the Field Museum actively reaches out to the greater public through tours and exhibitions, citizen science initiatives, urban gardening initiatives, wildlife classes and art.10 In 2012, Chicago-based artist, zoologist and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Andrew Yang, collaborated with the Field Museum on a project to visualize the “ecologies of interruption” that all too often characterize the everyday reality of the Anthropocene (Yang 2019a, 242). As an associate researcher at the Field Museum, Yang noticed that hundreds of dead birds were being collected each year from the sidewalks beneath Chicago’s majestic skyscrapers. Members of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM), a diverse group of birdwatchers and urban naturalists, would bring in dead birds from the city streets to the Museum. These were then identified and cleaned to become part of the museum’s collection as well as raw data in a larger study of migratory patterns. The tall buildings served as an informal means of sampling migratory bird populations, showing which species migrate at which times on their ways to northern breeding habitats or southern feeding grounds. The practice of carcass handling in the Field Museum eerily evokes Star’s work in the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology decades earlier: “I first noticed the phenomenon in studying where the specimens of dead birds had very different meanings to amateur birdwatchers and professional biologists, but ‘the same’ bird was used by each group” (Star and Griesemer 1989, 157). Yang took an interest in the hidden ecologies of the avian deceased, or in his words, the “ignored entanglements” of Chicago’s iconic skyline (Yang in a Skype interview with the author on September 7, 2018). He noticed that after teams of volunteers cleaned and de-feathered the birds, only the skeletons were kept for the museum’s collection. The innards were discarded, and along with them, the seeds they carried within. While the birds themselves were the primary boundary objects for (1) collision monitors, who were concerned with protecting local bird populations; (2) biologists, who were concerned with understanding migratory routes; and (3) museum administrators, who were concerned with extending their collections, the birds’ relationships to other species, namely the plants that nourished and sustained them, encapsulated in the seeds, were discarded as waste. Yang began saving and dissecting the innards to reveal a greater picture of biodiversity beyond the individual birds intercepted by the edgy inhabitable surfaces of the contemporary city. A collection of wild seeds was ultimately revealed as a secondary or nested boundary object connecting the work that humans do to the work that birds do, namely, helping or hindering the spread of plant life through daily species-specific activity (Figure 12.2). As an artist-researcher, Yang was interested in visualizing the relationships between different species, individuals, disciplines, events and urban spaces. Seeds became the connecting force or boundary object

224  Alexandra R. Toland

Figure 12.2 Andrew S. Yang, Ecologies of Interruption (Flying Gardens of Maybe), 2013. Photo: © Andrew S. Yang, courtesy Andrew S. Yang.

that expressed meaning via multiple aesthetic forms: first, as specimens in labeled containers, then, as birdseeds, arranged as frames around portraits of the deceased, then as postcards with the seeds arranged in geometric mandalas with information on the back, and finally, as seedlings in handcrafted clay vessels modelled after the plumage of different bird species. Presented in these different forms, the seeds take on different roles as they are interpreted by different communities. As specimens, they became data to museum biologists who could study the diets of birds as well as the distribution of different plant species. As birdseed, they became fodder for other birds, insects and mammals who could carry out the unfinished task of their dead compatriots—eating and then spreading seeds to the world beyond. As postcards, they became means of educating the public about the unfortunate reality of bird collisions in the city. And as potted plants, they became an allegoric memorialization of the hidden ecologies disrupted by glass and steel. Titled Flying Gardens of Maybe (2012-ongoing),11 Yang’s work attempts to problematize, and maybe also repair broken links in an urban ecosystem, by humanly aiding seed distribution when it is otherwise brutally interrupted by human infrastructure and intervention.

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  225 Yang’s work finally brings together different understandings of “ecology” that play out in the larger discourse surrounding the Anthropocene. In addition to being a distinct scientific field within the natural sciences, “ecology” has also become a metaphor for social and labor relationships. Isabelle Stengers’ (2005, 185) notion of “ecologies of practice,” for example, envisions an ecology as a tool for thinking through what is happening […]. A tool can be passed from hand to hand, but each time the gesture of taking it in hand will be a particular one—(where) the gesture of taking in hand is not justified by, but both producing and produced by, the relationship of relevance between the situation and the tool. Such a conceptual appropriation of “ecology” renders ecology a weakly structured boundary object similar to concepts of resilience or the Anthropocene discussed above. Yang, perhaps because of his dual background as visual artist and biologist, is able to navigate between multiple “ecologies,” shedding light on interspecies relationships in urban ecologies in a stricter sense, and connected agencies in the “ecology” of the museum in a larger metaphoric sense. Speaking with Yang in an interview from September 7, 2018, the hidden details of artistic work came alive in a way that confirmed Star’s ideas of an economy of knowledge facilitated through the use of boundary objects, as well as her assertion that autonomy can be maintained by different groups using those objects. Yang’s project shows that visualizing the invisible ecologies of the Anthropocene does not necessarily need to be a one-way translation of scientific knowledge made palatable for the general public. In the economy of knowledge embodied by the dead birds and the seeds they carried inside their bodies, an exchange of information and goods develops that echoes Star’s original findings, despite the differences of the two museums. Yang spoke to me at length about the role of amateurs in the collection of “data” in the form of dead birds and the actual work involved in preparing each specimen for archival—“a tedious but social process of sitting around together and de-feathering over casual conversation” (Yang 2018). He was convinced that the amateurs were there for the sake of satisfying a deep curiosity about the world and to become part of something bigger than their own backyards. The biologists, on the other hand, received access to the museum’s collections and the resulting work of the amateurs. They potentially could receive professional advancement in their own careers in the form of new publications based on their work at the Field Museum, and in turn provided new knowledge for the wider scientific community, for example, on migratory patterns or seed distribution. The administrators meanwhile facilitated a system for enabling the archival of local biodiversity and in turn received a steady supply of new artifacts for their collection.

226  Alexandra R. Toland And the artist? He received raw materials from the amateurs, taxonomic advice from the biologists, a place to work from the administrators, and new human connections to everyone involved in the process, in return for making the invisible visible. What, where and how Yang chooses to tell the story of avian flux in the Anthropocene lies completely within his autonomy, while what we actually see in the end is nothing more than a collection of wild seeds on their way from one place to another—a flying garden of maybe.

Cultivated Seeds and the Tragedy of the Commons: Flatbread Society’s Seed Journey The “economy of knowledge” described by Star and Griesemer and exemplified by Andrew Yang’s description of his work with the Field Museum consists of relatively straightforward relationships between autonomous individuals or groups of individuals representing clearly identifiable communities—e.g., the bird collision monitors, the museum scientists and administrators, and an artist-biologist. What happens when those disciplinary and social groupings are more diffuse, and when the autonomy of individuals is exchanged for a collective agency involving the intellectual contribution of a large and diverse group of people? Elinor Ostrom’s idea of the commons12 as community designed governance of resources and knowledge, or more abstractly, Aristotle’s synergistic concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, is a good way to begin describing the work of the Flatbread Society. The Flatbread Society is a long-term arts collective initiated by the group Futurefarmers, which in turn is another long-term collective of diverse practitioners at the intersection of public art, politics and civil society. Both are conceptually spearheaded by the California-based artist Amy Franceschini. Flatbread Society is a loosely knit group of farmers, traditional oven builders and bakers, artists, amateur astronomers, anthropologists and others brought together through a common interest in the long and complex relationships of human cultures with grain.13 Since 2012, the group has been cultivating a demonstration field on public property in downtown Oslo devoted to growing heritage wheat varieties long fallen out of production and popular memory. Flatbread Society also runs an experimental, multi-functional bake house that offers public programs around shared themes and of course a place to bake, eat and talk about bread. The group shares a similar aim of preserving biodiversity with the Svalbard Seed Vault in “nearby” Spitsbergen, but exercises a very different approach. Under the motto, “We don’t need a museum for conserving varieties. What we want is to grow them,” coined by the biodynamic farmer Johan Swärd, the group experiments with old grain varieties that fell out of production after the “green revolution” and homogenization of grains by powerful industrial growers.14 Amy Franceschini (2016),

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  227 one of the principal artists involved with the project, describes the seeds grown in the demonstration field as being “rescued” from past landraces in order to ensure future resilience through biodiversity.15 Through their historical fieldwork and activist farming practices, Flatbread Society preserves not only the grains they have rescued along their journeys, but also uncovers a rich collection of stories about how different grains were originally cultivated and how they have been rediscovered. Most notable in the collection are some seeds from the Vavilov Institute as well as an obscure variety of Finnish Rye found in an abandoned Sauna by amateur anthropologists.16 The first example honors grains which were handed down as part of the legacy left behind by the Russian agronomist, botanist and father of modern genetics, Nicolai Vavilov. Interested in food security issues prior to World War II, Vavilov dedicated his life studying the origins of cultivated plants from around the world, conducted excursions to the far corners of the earth to collect grains from different soils and climatic zones, and established the world’s largest seed bank at the time in Leningrad (what is now Saint Petersburg). After falling out of favor with Stalin, Vavilov was sentenced to death and died in prison of starvation. The tragic irony of one of the most respected crop scientists of the day dying of starvation extended to the social ecosystem of the institution itself. During the 28-month Siege of Leningrad, dedicated scientists took turns guarding the seed bank with their lives, refusing to eat its contents even while they and the local population starved to death.17 Today, the Institute still carries on its founder’s original mission and remains one of the largest collections of cultivated grains worldwide. In 2016, members of the Flatbread Society set sail on a former rescue vessel from the Port of Oslo on a Seed Journey that would trace the history of grains back to the Fertile Crescent. The seeds and stories of Vavilov’s Institute as well as many others from formal and informal sources make up the precious cargo of a ship sailing through the rough waters of the Anthropocentric unknown. On board the ship is an assortment of hybrid tools, including painted maps, a baker’s telescope and a tiny makeshift tabernacle holding a variety of ancient grains from landraces from around the world. Flatbread Society’s rotating crew steered the vessel from Oslo to Santander Spain via Antwerp and London, with plans to sail on to Istanbul and Amman. The route retraces the history of grain cultivation in reverse, going back in time from Europe to the Middle East in a symbolic “rescue mission” to raise awareness about the loss of agricultural biodiversity through the patenting, marketing and distribution of homogenized seed varieties by large multinational conglomerates. What once belonged to the commons in a hand-to-hand trading of knowledge and goods is now dominated by the very few, who peddle seed as globalized commodity in the name of capital, under the chivalric guise of feeding the planet.

228  Alexandra R. Toland In Seed Journey and other ongoing works of the Flatbread Society, seeds can be understood as boundary objects in a larger discourse on biological commons and cultural heritage. While agronomists, rural sociologists and activists debate the terminology of food security and food sovereignty in scientific papers, meetings and marches, it is the juxtapositioning of seeds with other objects that illuminate the unique role of artists and designers in visualizing the social dimensions of agriculture in the Anthropocene. Art scholar and Flatbread Society member, Charlotte Blanche Myrvold (2016),18 notes that “objects can belong to different realms of competence, and, by displacing them from their designated place, some of the unsettling potential of art described by Rancière is acted out.” She describes how the objects used by Flatbread Society are central to the larger discourse they pursue. For example, the baker’s telescope, a rolling pin that doubles as a telescope, evokes historical connections between grain cultivation and forgotten cosmologies. Myrvold continues, the object materially brings together an instrument of astronomy and an instrument of baking, and thus the two practices are symbolically fused. Objects and people are connected through competence. The astronomer-baker […] resonates with the imaginative projection of moons and planets on the surface of the baked flatbread. The Flatbread Society traces the astronomer-baker to ancient Mesopotamia, where the oldest practice of collective astronomic observation has been practiced. At night, the guarding posts of the grain storages were also used for star observation, thus the grain was the source of knowledge of both the heavens and the soil (ibid.). Regarding “economies of knowledge” in interdisciplinary practice conducted as a framework for research in the Anthropocene, the work of Flatbread Society challenges traditional modes of artistic autonomy in a second and critical way. Singular identity is traded for a timely cultural need to return to the commons. In the works of the Flatbread Society it is difficult to distinguish single elements from the larger project or to identify the “handwriting” of any one individual author or artist. All float and sail together on a mission to rescue the future through the practice of being present for and toward one another. Although individual objects and texts can eventually be traced back to particular authors, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. And while individual contributions are overshadowed by a deep commitment to community, the “handwriting” of Flatbread Society, and undoubtedly the artistic organization behind it, Future Farmers, is unmistakable in its style of object-making, place-making and community-building. Under one brand, or rather one nautical flag, “the voyage—its crew and cargo are agents that link the commons as they relate to local networks and a more global complex of seed savers and stewards of the land, air and water” (Myrvold 2016, Figures 12.3 and 12.4).

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  229

Figure 12.3 Futurefarmers, Flatbread Society Seed Collection, 2014. Photo: © Futurefarmers, courtesy Futurefarmers.

Figure 12.4 A lexandra R. Toland, Closeup Eating Popcorn, 2018. Photo: Alexandra R. Toland.

230  Alexandra R. Toland Closed Bracket (passing out popcorn) In lieu of a conclusion, I invite you to share another aesthetic experience with me. (Pass out bowls of popcorn) These seeds are boundary objects of the Anthropocene. Overproduced, overbred, overestimated, a product of a swollen, soulless agriculture, in oversized portions for oversized people, too many of us in one space at one time, with too much of everything. Can you hear it yet? (popping) Can you smell it? (butter, starch, salt)? Can you taste it, hold it, crunch it, swallow it? See how much space it takes up in this box, in this tiny room, on this tiny planet. Feel how much space it takes up in your mouth. This would-be brainchild of western agronomy and the entertainment industry is an older story than you may think. Far before the dawn of cinema or football, popcorn was introduced to European immigrants in North American by native people, who cultivated hundreds of different varieties of corn that would later be homogenized and corporatized by their colonizers. What you’re tasting is an indigenous technology appropriated by imperial powers. It is an Orbis Spike Snack, with another interesting fact: So far, the genetic code for corn – for direct consumption by humans – has not been opened for commercial use. You can literally explode the kernel but legally, genetically you can’t open it. Like the shiny promise of precision agriculture, or the green revolution before it, or the European Fantasy of the New World before it, this packaging does not reflect the true contents. Inside the gilded package, made by hand with artisanal care, is commercial, industrial grade popcorn of the cheapest kind. It’s fast food in a fancy container, a moment of irony with no real value unless you sit with it for a while and appreciate it as a boundary object. It’s something completely ordinary bracketed by the extraordinary – because that’s what artists do. Artists package ideas to be eaten in another way. And if you

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  231 don’t like the packaging metaphor, than use another one. Artists encapsulate, frame, capture, re-contextualize, or otherwise visually transport objects from one social space to another to facilitate multi-sensory aesthetic experience. In so doing they push others to do the same. This is the open-ended nature of artistic knowledge transfer. You can open the package if you like, or leave it closed as the directions suggest. You can eat these seeds. You can grind them into cornmeal. You can pop them. You can compost them. You can plant them and make more seeds. You can sell them. You can trade them. You can give them away. You can throw them away. You can reframe them, rename them, remake them, re-ingest them into your own experience. This, for me, is the nature of artistic knowledge transfer within a framework of boundary objects.

Acknowledgments I want to thank Andrew Yang and Amy Franceschini for sharing their incredible ideas and visual magic with me and the rest of the (art)world. Thanks also to Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes for the kind invitation to contribute to the conversations on the Antropocenic Turn, and to Friederike Landau and Maud Canisius for editorial suggestions and editing assistance. This chapter was presented as a performance lecture at the International Conference‚ Anthropocenic Turn?‘ Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Anthropocene on September 13, 2018, at the University of Vechta, and again as my inaugural lecture at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar on January 28, 2019, as part of the ACC Monday Night Lecture Series.


232  Alexandra R. Toland


6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

discourse. For example, large-scale adaptations to climate change and biodiversity loss are difficult to plan, especially regarding policy development and implementation, becuase of the complexity of pluralistic social structures. See for example the works of ArtCOP21, a network of hundreds of thousands of people that in protest of the “business as usual” handling of climate change in parliamentary halls and boardrooms, initiated a worldwide movement including cultural protests, “installations, plays, exhibitions, concerts, performances, talks, conferences, workshops, family events and screenings” ( For a detailed biography of Annie Alexander, see Stein (2001) as well as the UCMP’s biographical websites (; See for example, Star and Bowker (1999). For other inspiring examples, see the works: Next Epoch Seed Library (NESL), a crowd-sourced collection of seeds initiated by artists Ellie Irons and Anne Percoco and housed at the NATURE Lab in Troy, New York; Vivien Sansour’s Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, hosted by El Beir Arts and Seeds, which aims “to find and preserve ancient seed varieties and traditional farming practices” (see Sansour’s interview for; Tattfoo Tan’s Sustainable Organic Stewardship (S.O.S.) Free Seeds Library, that focuses on community food justice in Nashville Tenessee; and Ines Doujak’s Siegesgärten (Victory Gardens) at the 2007 dOCUMENTA12 in Kassel). See the history of Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 2015. In their online archive: See public outreach efforts of Field Museum of Chicago. 2018. See full documentation of the Flying Gardens of Maybe exhibition at Andrew S. Yang’s artist website (2019b): See Ostrom (1990), and Ostrom (2007). See: Flatbread Society (2019a). See: ‘Svedjerug: A Video Essay’ by Futurefarmers (2015) and online documentation: See, e.g., Franceschini, Amy. 2016. Flatbread Society Seed Journey. On the Delfina Foundation’s website: the-politics-of-food-flatbread-society-seed-journey-with-amy-franceschini/. Read this and other stories on the Flatbread Society’s website (2019b). See, for example, the scientific biopic, Pringle (2008), as well as Alexanyan and Krivchenko (1991) for the Journal Diversity. The following excerpts were cited from a web version of Myrvold’s (2016) original text entitled “Flatbread Society and the Discourse on the Soil” (cited September 16, 2019 from: actions/39/a-boat-walking-on-land).

References Alexanyan, Sergey M. and Krivchenko, Vladimir I. 1991. “Vavilov Institute Scientists Heroically Preserve World Plant Genetic Resources Collections During World War II Siege of Leningrad.” Diversity 7 (4): 10–13.

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  233 Becker, Egon. 2012. “Social-Ecological Systems as Epistemic Objects.” In Human-Nature Interactions in the Anthropocene Potentials of SocialEcological Systems Analysis, edited by Marion Glaser, Gesche Krause, Beate M. W. Ratter, and Martin Welp, 37–59. Boca Raton: Taylor and Francis. Benschop, Ruth. 2009. “STS on Art and the Art of STS: An Introduction.” Krisis Journal for Contemprary Philosophy (Special Issue), 1: 1–4. Boland, Dick. 2015. “The Concept of Boundary Objects and the Reshaping of Research in Management and Organization Studies.” In Boundary Objects and Beyond: Working with Leigh Star, edited by Geoffrey Bowker, Stefan Timmersmans, Adele E. Clarke, and Ellen Balke, 229–237. London: The MIT Press. Bowker, Geoffrey, Stefan Timmersmans, Adele E. Clarke, and Ellen Balke, eds. 2015. Boundary Objects and Beyond: Working with Leigh Star. London: The MIT Press. Carlile, Paul. R. 2002. “A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development.” Organization Science 13 (4): 442–455. doi:10.1287/orsc.13.4.442.2953. Carlile, Paul. R. 2004. “Transferring, Translating, and Transforming: An Integrative Framework for Managing Knowledge across Boundaries.” Organization Science 15 (5): 555–568. doi:10.1287/orsc.1040.0094. Cera, Agostino. 2017. “The Technocene or Technology as (Neo)Environment.” Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 21 (2–3): 243–281. doi:10.5840/techne201710472 Field Museum. 2018. Education and Public Outreach. Flatbread Society. (2019a). About. Flatbread Society. (2019b). Stories. Folke, Carl. 2006. “Resilience: The emergence of a Perspective for Social-Ecological Systems Analyses.” Global Environmental Change 16: 253–267. Futurefarmers. April 10, 2015. Svedjerug: A Video Essay [Vimeo]. https:// Goltz, Sophie. 2015. Künstliche Tatsachen: Boundary Objects. Dresden: Kunsthaus Dresden – Städtische Galerie für Gegenwartskunst. Exhibition Catalogue. Grove, Kevin, and David Chandler. 2017. “Introduction: Resilience and the Anthropocene: The Stakes of ‘Renaturalising’ Politics.” Resilience 5 (2): 79–91. doi:10.1080/21693293.2016.1241476. Hannah, Dehlila. 2013. Performative Experiments: Case Studies in the Philosophy of Art, Science and Technology (Dissertation). New York: Columbia University Academic Commons. Haraway, Donna J. 2015. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.” Environmental Humanities 6: 159–165. Haun, Matthias. 2002. Handbuch Wissensmanagement. Heidelberg: Springer. Kunsthaus Dresden. June 20, 2015–September 20, 2015. Künstliche Tatsachen: Boundary Objects. Dresden. Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. McKittrick, Katherine. 2013. “Plantation Futures.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 17 (42): 1–15. doi:10.1215/07990537-2378892.

234  Alexandra R. Toland Moore, Jason W. 2016. “Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism.” In Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Edited by Jason W. Moore, 1–11. Oakland: PM Press. Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. 2015. Founding of the MVZ. http://mvz. Myrvold, Charlotte. 2016. “Flatbread Society and the Discourse on Soil.” The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts 11 (1): 1–21. doi:10.18848/2326–9960/CGP/1–21. Niedderer, Kristina. 2007. “Designing Mindful Interaction: The Category of the Performative Object.” Design Issues 23 (1): 3–17. Nohr, Holger. 2000. “Wissen und Wissensprozesse visualisieren.” Arbeitspapiere Wissensmanagement 1. Stuttgart: Fachhochschule Stuttgart. www. 286&v=1&id=166110. Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ostrom, Elinor, and Charlotte Hess. 2007. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pentecost, Claire. 2012. Notes from the Underground. Berlin: Hatje Cantz (Documenta Series 061). Pringle, Peter. 2008. The Murder of Nikolar Vavilov: The Story of Stalin’s Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century (English Edition). New York: Simon & Schuster. Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 1997. Toward a History of Epistemic Things Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Rittel, Horst, and Melvin M. Webber. 1973. “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning.” Policy Sciences 4: 155–159. Rogers, Hannah S., Megan Halpern, Dehlia Hannah, and Kathryn de Ridder-Vignonehas. Forthcoming 2019. Routledge Handbook of Art, Science & Technology Studies. United Kingdom: Routledge. Scheirer, Jocelyn, and Rosalind Picard. 2000. Affective Objects. MIT Media Lab Technical Rep. Schindler, Johanna. 2018. Subjectivity and Synchrony in Artistic Research. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag. Sloterdijk, Peter. (2015) “Das Anthropozän – ein Prozess-Zustand am Rand der Erd-Geschichte?” In Das Anthropozän. Zum Stand der Dinge, edited by Jürgen Renn and Bernd Scherer, 25–44, Berlin: Matthes & Seitz. Star, Susan Leigh. 2015. “Misplaced Concretism and Concrete Situations: Feminism, Method, and Information Technology.” In Boundary Objects and Beyond: Working with Leigh Star edited by Geoffrey C. Bowker, Stefan Timmersmans, Adele E. Clarke, and Ellen Balke, 143–167. London: The MIT Press. Star, Susan Leigh, and Geoffrey Bowker 1999. “Categorical Work and Boundary Infrastructures: Enriching Theories of Classification.” In Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Seeds—Boundary Objects of the Anthropocene  235 Star, Susan Leigh, and James Griesemer. 1989. “Institutional Ecology, ʽTranslationsʼ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals.” In Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–39. Social Studies of Science 19 (3): 387–420. Star, Susan Leigh, and James Griesemer. 2015. “Institutional Ecology, ʽTranslationsʼ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals.” In Boundary Objects and Beyond – Working with Susan Leigh Star. Reprint, edited by Geoffrey Bowker, Stefan Timmersmans, Adele E. Clarke, and Ellen Balke, 171–200. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Stein, Barbara R. 2001. On Her Own Terms: Annie Montague Alexander and the Rise of Science in the American West. Berkeley: University of California Berkeley Press. Stengers, Isabelle. 2005. “Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices.” Cultural Studies Review 11 (1): Provocations (Peer Reviewed) 183–196. Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, Eds. 2017. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. London: University of Minnesota Press. Yang, Andrew S. 2018. Interview with Andrew S. Yang from September 7, 2018 by Alexandra R. Toland. Yang, Andrew S. 2019a. “Places of Maybe: Plants ‘Making Do’ Without the Belly of the Beast.” In Why Look at Plants? The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art (Critical Plant Studies, 5) edited by Giovanni Aloi, 243–247. Leiden: Brill. Yang, Andrew S. 2019b. Flying Gardens of Maybe. 2019b. www.andrewyang. net/maybe.

13 Art, Media, and the Dilemmas of the Anthropocene1 Serenella Iovino

In the heart of Turin there is a museum with a unique name: Parco Arte Vivente, the Park of Living Art (PAV). You can access it through a modern building, a house full of light contained by glass and wooden walls. Seen from the inside, the museum, with its educational labs and temporary exhibits, is not particularly extensive. The larger part is outside. A garden surrounds the house, with a gigantic clover leaf—Trèfle (2006) by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster—carved into the ground. Completely covered with ivy, the small wall surrounding this artwork is formed using the materials that were excavated for the park’s construction. Spreading over the museum’s roof is another garden, Jardin Mandala, designed by the French landscape architect Gilles Clément: a self-propagating collection of resilient plants that interact perfectly with the surrounding flora. Bees, temporary installations, urban vegetable gardens and sundry emergences of natural-cultural creativity inhabit this former industrial area, expanding over nearly 2,5 hectares, where every project lives in co-evolution with the place and the other artworks. Inaugurated in 2008, the PAV was designed by Piero Gilardi, the father of the Arte Povera movement. In Gilardi’s words, the PAV is “a public art institution with the political goal of creating an ‘incubator’ of ecological awareness,” whose driving force is the “co-creation” between artists and visitors, humans and nonhumans (Gilardi 2016, 7). That this garden is an epitome of contemporary hybrid landscapes is evident to the visitors to the park. Surrounded by buildings, cut through by traffic arteries, and practically merging with the site of the city’s waste-management company AMIAT (which is one of the museum’s donors), the PAV is a metaphor for the Anthropocene garden: a residual and resilient nature with which schoolchildren can play and experiment, something to protect before it gets strangled by the smog and concrete of the city’s embrace. Every time I find myself in this inspiring setting, I cannot help mulling over this encountering of garden, art and ecology. And punctually, the old question that Joseph Meeker asked about the evolutionary role of literature and its creation starts resonating in my mind: Is it an activity which adapts us better to the world or one which estranges us from it? From the unforgiving perspective of evolution

Art, Media, and Dilemmas of Anthropocene  237 and natural selection, does [it] contribute more to our survival than it does to our extinction? (Meeker 1972, 3–4) Inevitably, I ask myself: what are the implications of thinking together the garden and the Anthropocene? What do we discover if we read these two natural-cultural figures with and through one another? My response to these questions will sound like a provocation—and perhaps it is. For centuries, the garden has been at once a theory and a practice for creating order out of chaos. Whether shaped according to the laws of geometry or modeled upon an ideal of “freedom,” gardens indeed are embodiments of the human aspiration to redeem and remake nature, turning it into an exquisite and reassuring dwelling. Considered more closely, however, this aspiration is also part of the discourse that has supposedly plunged the planet into the Anthropocene. Seen in this light, the Anthropocene, too, is a garden: a colossal, dysfunctional and hubris-ridden garden, escaped from the hands of those who triggered it and populated by the material consequences of their ideals and ideologies. I am not implying that “Anthropocene” and “garden” are two equivalent concepts (or, even less, equivalent realities). It is, however, a matter of fact that, just as the latter emerges from the desire to give nature a neutralized shape that brings its creativity closer to our visions, in the former a hybrid, out-of-control, techno-geological agency comes to remind us about the abstractedness of our dreams of shaping natural dynamics. Even more remarkable, both the garden and the Anthropocene are enabled by “transfers of wealth and waste” (Gan et al. 2017, G4): the apparently infinite plunder of resources and the practice of externalizing the diverse metabolic costs of their transformation. However, while the garden might disguise its externalities by shaping them into aesthetic artifices, in the Anthropocene world the mere idea of externality is no longer possible—and for a simple reason: there is no outside anymore, whether in time (the future) or in space (ocean, atmosphere, colonial lands, the poor’s backyards). David Wood calls this condition the “loss of externalities” (Wood 2005). As Timothy Clark (2014, 82) writes, [t]o live in a space in which illusions of externality have dissolved is to see the slow erosion of the distinction between the distant waste dump and the housing estate, between the air and the sewer, between an open road and a car park, and between a self-satisfied affluence of a Sydney suburb and a drowning village in Bangladesh. That is one of the consequences of our becoming geological: all that happens, happens here and now; the ripples of our actions, as well as of our visions, will sooner or later reverberate right at our feet, directly in

238  Serenella Iovino our gardens. This future tense is actually inappropriate: they already do so—the extent to which we experience these backlashes only depends on how socially privileged or geopolitically fortunate we are. The end of externalities means that everything stays here: we have to deal with the consequences of what we do, of our actions as well as our visions: we have to “stay with the trouble,” as Donna Haraway (2016) put it. In many respects, therefore, our oikos—the planet, this tantalizing garden in which we are at home—becomes unheimlich, uncanny and unfamiliar. This postnatural environment is populated by eerily denizens, including absent beings and unwanted presences: these are the ghosts and monsters of the Anthropocene, as Anna Tsing and a collective of anthropologists suggest in their inspiring volume Arts of Living in the Anthropocene (Tsing et al. 2017). As they explain, “Our ghosts are the traces of more-than-human histories through which ecologies are made and unmade. […] Every landscape is haunted by past ways of life” (Gan et al. 2017, G1–4). Think, for instance, of the traces of old cities now erased by layers of time and concrete. Think of the historical ecologies emerging from the ruins of “past landscapes of cultivation,” “ghostly presences” now returned to semi-wild conditions (Mathews 2017, G146). Or think of the vestiges of former lives, like the vanished bee species whose existence we only know of thanks to the fact that “a living flower”—an orchid—“still looks like the erotic organs of the avid female bee hungry for copulation” (Haraway 2017, M33). The emotional constellation of these landscapes is one of sorrow, bewilderment and amnesia. The ghosts that we find here both prompt and challenge our memories about the lost beings. On the one hand, they stand like empty spots awaiting signification in the midst of a saturated territory where “life persists in the shadow of mass death” (Gan et al. 2017, G8). On the other hand, their emptiness is compensated by something that continues the symbiogenetic dynamics in unpredicted conditions, driven more by the effects of contaminations than by evolutionary processes. Such are the monsters, and they are “the wonders of symbiosis and the threats of ecological disruption” characterizing our time (Swanson et al. 2017, M2). From over-proliferating jellyfish to radioactive mutations, these monsters “ask us to consider the wonders and terrors of symbiotic entanglements in the Anthropocene” (M2).

Postnatural Gardens: Tamiko Thiel’s Augmented Reality Installations Uncanny metamorphics and extinct beings, monsters and ghosts are the two faces of this garden where we can cultivate memory only through hints and traces. Here, to borrow from Cate Sandilands (2017), we learn to mourn and love through the trauma of loss and transformation. But the Anthropocene has the power to mobilize our imagination, too, and this power is key to find new venues and expressive modes for such a collective trauma. Media art is a powerful tool in this strategy, and I

Art, Media, and Dilemmas of Anthropocene  239 would like to bring into this conversation an interesting case. Monsters and ghosts, indeed, populate the experimental scenery of “new natural forms” appearing in the artworks of Tamiko Thiel, an American-Japanese artist now based in Munich, Germany. Internationally acknowledged for her pioneering experiments in the fields of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), Thiel is an engineer by training and a founding member of the artist group Manifest.AR. An eco-art activist, she animated guerrilla AR interventions and uninvited performances in prestigious sites such as New York City’s MoMA and the Venice Biennale.2 In Thiel’s spectacular installations, the garden undergoes a curious metamorphosis: from being a symbolic embodiment of harmony between fauna and vegetation, it becomes a laboratory for the bio-technological hybrids of this extranatural phase of earthly life. Her Gardens of the Anthropocene, in particular, is an attempt to challenge indifference and amnesia by creating what the artist calls “poetic spaces of memory” of planetary life forms—spaces where, at the same time, the simulation of an accelerated techno-natural evolution also expands our temporal perception. In doing so, Thiel designs a virtual “topography of memory” (Schliephake 2016, 575), in which past or endangered species visually converge with their monstrous metamorphoses. Aesthetically remindful of Yayoi Kusama’s work, Gardens of the Anthropocene is a public space Augmented Reality Installation, which was originally commissioned for the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016, and then disseminated to other sites such as the Pioneer Works Art Center, Brooklyn, New York, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Massachusetts, and more recently the Stanford University campus.3 As Thiel explains, Gardens of the Anthropocene “posits a sciencefiction future in which native aquatic and terrestrial plants have mutated to cope with the increasing unpredictable and erratic climate swings” (2016). Taking its cue from scientific grounds, the installation pictures a dystopian scenario in which plants (all modeled on the native vegetation) face a techno-biological mutation: while the “originals” are capable of extracting nutrients from sunlight and soil, the mutant ones feed on the electromagnetic radiation of mobile devices and artificial structures such as road signs or light posts.4 The new creatures “breach natural boundaries,” eliding not only the physical divide between underwater and dry land, but also the ontological-taxonomic frontier between “reactive flora and active fauna” (Thiel 2016). To all these mutants the artist gives both a common and Linnaean name. For example, “Bullwhip kelp drones—Nereocystis Volans” is a mutation of Nereocystis luetkeana or bullwhip kelp, an alga transmuted into amphibious flying drones. Or Clarkia antenna, a mutation of Clarkia amoena or Farewell to Spring, here mutated into a succulent, whose petals have developed small antennas that detect the presence of mobile devices, feeding off the electromagnetic emissions: “The behavior of the flowers is unnerving, but does not produce any known ill effects

240  Serenella Iovino in humans,” Thiel explains. Other examples include Camassia radaria or Radar Camas, a mutation of “Blue Camas” or Camassia quamash, with pistils morphed into radars; or the airborne algae Alexandrium giganteum or Alexandrium aerium, a mutation of the single-celled microscopic algae Alexandrium catenella, which infests the Puget Sound causing toxic “red tides” and is expected to thrive in warming waters. Suspended between the tongue-in-cheek and the unheimlich, these bizarre creatures represent Thiel’s artistic way of mobilizing the narrative of the Anthropocene. Her strategy is extraordinarily fruitful. On the one hand, she fills an existing landscape with presences that fall into the intersecting perimeters of our imagination and of our perception, inviting us to be part—at once cocreators and characters—of this narrative. What also clearly emerges, however, is that the direction taken by this narrative might be diverging from our expectations. This makes her work an ante-rem cautionary tale, halfway between our actual world and its possible futures. The technology on which Thiel’s art is based is a key element in this discourse. In terms of memory strategies as well as ecological awareness, in fact, AR eco-art has powerful effects, moving memory “from the internally imagined landscapes of ars memoriae to the real, concrete spaces of the physical world” (Schliephake 2016, 574), and potentially turning into a precious ally of the environmental imagination. As a matter of fact, these “holistic and integrated” artworks can magnify our capacity to visualize “the impact humans have on ecosystems, the places where we live, and the other species with whom we share these places” (Irland 2016, 60). Pointing out the ability of eco-media to affect our cognitive-emotional sphere Alenda Chang and John Parham remark that virtual reality can “immerse us in environments while narrating ecological interrelationship,” intensifying the “linkage between body, environment, and narrative forged in motion pictures” (2017, 9). With its interactive aesthetics and fuzzy techno-natures, Gardens of the Anthropocene is not simply a prompt to reflect on the fluctuating boundary between organic and inorganic, but also the site for reinventing and problematizing the notion of kinship. Surrounded by these eerie presences, we cannot help interrogating how akin our reality is to the “reality” of the Gardens and, even more, how akin we are to these mutants. Far from being merely an unusual experience, finding ourselves vis-à-vis giant lilies or algae-drones might bring about modes of “becoming-with” and stimulate our response-ability toward the changing planetary configurations (cf. Bianchi 2017, 147).

Geological Gardens: The Deep Time of the Media But other questions arise if you step outside the aesthetic-conceptual circle, and observe this edifice from an external perspective. To what extent are these gardens entangled with the Anthropocene’s dynamics? How real are these monsters? After all, one could say, Thiel’s mutant gardens are only immaterial presences in a landscape inhabited by other, much richer

Art, Media, and Dilemmas of Anthropocene  241 materialities. Compared to the heavy reality of contaminations, waste and bio-social crises, virtual art appears thin, light, almost imperceptible. But is it really so? If we consider the relationship between these gardens and the unsustainable landscapes of the Anthropocene, in fact, we will see that virtuality— in all its forms, and certainly not just in Thiel’s installations— conceals a dilemma. To solve this quandary, we should more closely examine this technology. AR indeed has numerous applications, which can be ludic as well as educational or military. In many cases—geolocalization, virtual tags, social networks—we employ AR without even realizing that we are doing so. All these functions depend on a “technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view” (Maxwell 2009). This implies a combination of real settings and computer-generated objects that “augment” our experience of the world. Given a real or, as in this case, artistic subject, captured on video or camera, AR computational technology expands that image with extra layers of digital information. To summarize: with the help of a digital device (a smartphone, a tablet, or smartglasses) and a connection to a data server, this technology recreates reality from within an already existing reality, transforming a static image into a dynamically interactive environment. In this way, the Seattle Art Museum—and any other technologically equipped site to which the artwork is moved—can become the setting for Anthropocene gardens populated by mutant presences, and by us along with them. Yet, the question remains: Where do these virtual monsters exist bodily? Is their immateriality factual or pretended? These are not rhetorical questions. There is indeed nothing more material—and collectively so—than the so-called virtual. The digital forms we see wherever these mutant gardens appear exist thanks to the network of silica, minerals, metals, plastics and electricity whose tentacles spread, via a very material “cloud,” to our very material cell phones or tablets. And so, these gardens are real, and they are literally the Anthropocene gardens: their topography—a topography of “servers, wires, undersea cables, microwave towers, satellites, data centers, and water and energy resources” (Carruth 2014, 342–343)—is the very topography of the Anthropocene. This is the landscape behind the aerial metaphor of the “cloud”—an entity that also conceals the intricate and massive business of the “corporate bodies [that] produce, operate, sell, profit, and mine individual data from networked systems” (Chang and Parham 2017, 3). Ecomedia scholars have seen very clearly.5 The Anthropocene is connected to a “geology of media,” localized in the mineral and metallic components of our computers, televisions, batteries and electronic devices in general, whose lithic parts include rare-earth elements and metallic ores such as the conflict-ridden coltan, or precious metals like gold and platinum. This close-up into the unseen side of our everyday media experience suggests that “a deep time of the planet is inside our machines, crystallized as part of the contemporary political economy: material histories of labor and the planet are entangled in devices, which, however, unfold

242  Serenella Iovino as part of planetary histories” (Parikka 2015, 50). Far from being thin, our shining clouds obscure an entire world of mines and elements that are in fact as heavy and ancient as the universe. These digital gardens are yet another outburst of our becoming-geological.

Virtual Epiphanies and Aesthetic Events I have seen—with dazzling wonder—another specimen of Thiel’s Anthropocene gardens at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, in the company of the artist. It was a cold January afternoon in 2018. The installation’s title was Wild Garden. Thanks to an app I downloaded directly from the Museum’s Wi-Fi network by scanning a QR code with my smartphone, gigantic water lilies, flying engines and huge flowers started materializing around me (Figures 13.1–13.3).

Figure 13.1 S erenella Iovino, Image of Tamiko Thiel’s installation Wild Garden at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne, 2018. Photo: Serenella Iovino.

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Figure 13.2 Serenella Iovino, Image of Tamiko Thiel’s installation Wild Garden at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne, 2018. Photo: Serenella Iovino.

Figure 13.3 Serenella Iovino, Image of Tamiko Thiel’s installation Wild Garden at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne, 2018. Photo: Serenella Iovino.

244  Serenella Iovino On my cellphone screen, I was literally seeing the ghosts that surrounded me—ghosts previously invisible to my naked eye. And they were there, not only on the screens of our tablets: they were at once the ghosts and the monsters of the Anthropocene. However innocent and aesthetically sublime, these virtual creatures are part of “the sphere of medianatures” (Parikka 2015, 13): a regime constituted as much by the work of micro-organisms, chemical components, minerals and metals as by the work of underpaid laborers in mines or in high-tech entertainment device component production factories, or people in Pakistan and China sacrificing their health for scraps of leftover electronics. (14) The reality of this network of agents is displayed in the extreme contexts of environmental devastation and biopolitical abuse, where exploited people, nonhuman natures and entire habitats are crushed by the same fate that shapes the unequal sociosphere of the Anthropocene. Here we encounter the enslaved people extracting coltan in a Congo that has never ceased to be a “Heart of Darkness”; the forty thousand children that, according to estimates by UNICEF and Amnesty International, extract cobalt from African mines without any protection and who are exposed to abuse and violence; and the violence—both fast and slow—of an eternal colonialism which is invisible only to those who refuse to see it.6 And the picture is completed if you include the role played by such technologies in military contexts, in apparatuses of control and surveillance and all their ripples on everyday life. It is in this complex network of forces that, post-Foucauldian political theorists maintain, lies “geopower,” a power whose goal is “allowing asymmetrical planetary circulations of energy, materials, species and information to take place, ensuring that living and nonliving things are in movement but in such a way that the balance of power is preserved” (Luisetti 2018, 10).7 And there is the problem of waste: because the accumulation of electronic scraps is itself a huge socioenvironmental issue. As Jared Farmer incisively put it, “dead media are in fact undead” (192). However unpleasant it might be, all our cultural activities that depend on these materials and these technologies, including art, might be involuntarily complicit with such systems. It is our missed realization of these processes that, according to art scholars Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, makes the Anthropocene an “aesthetic event” (2015, 11). The Anthropocene is, in other words, an event that changes our “sensorial perception” (in Greek, aesthesis) of the world. Its underlying dynamics—from petro-politics to chemical pollution—are inevitably part of our experience, but their scale and complexity make them elude our awareness. This new “Anthropocene aesthetic” also has, therefore, a double face: if, on the one hand, we

Art, Media, and Dilemmas of Anthropocene  245 might become more sensitive to the transformations and threats we are exposed to, on the other hand we are almost “anesthetized” to the shapes they assume. These shapes might even acquire the status of a new sublime, just like the “colourful sunsets caused by particulate matter in the atmosphere, or […] the aestheticized presentation of environmental destruction or explosive urbanization in the photographs of Edward Burtynksy and Vincent Laforet, respectively” (Davis and Turpin 2015, 11). Here lies the ambivalence of the Anthropocene as an “aesthetic event”: it enables us to see more, feel more, perceive more and makes us blind and insensitive at the same time. Many questions arose during my conversation with Tamiko. The most important ones, however, remained unexpressed on that enchanted afternoon, on which I was able to see the flying objects revealed to me by her art and the Pinakothek’s cloud—even in the subway station at Marienplatz. These questions continue resonating inside me: Is this mise-en-abîme of virtual and material integral to the poetics of AR? Is an Anthropocene garden aware of its dilemma? What if the price of this exquisite immaterial experience is the wildness of this time? Thiel’s Gardens are literally Anthropocenic—namely, geological— gardens. In them, everything depends exclusively on our typically human-centered use of resources. These monsters, however, also draw attention to the risks and potentials of our time. They lay bare, for example, the latent frontiers of symbiosis: our mutual symbiosis with the silica of our cellphones, the strange symbiosis that governs the dependence of the heart on the bowel. Perhaps AR art is here to stress the fact that, just as art is an episode of our natural history, the geology of media is another emergence of our evolution. And here more questions arise: How to deal with the fact that, like Thiel’s artworks, this essay also comes from the same geology, the same network of “electronic waste, resource depletion, and globally unevenly distributed relations of labor” (Parikka 2015, 14) that makes the substance of the Anthropocene? What are the ghosts and monsters hidden in our own Anthropocene gardens? And what if, in order to survive in these gardens, we do need these ghosts and monsters?

The Dilemma of the Sublime In his volume Collezione di sabia (1984), Italo Calvino devotes an entire section to Japan. Japanese gardens, in particular, attract his attention. In an essay titled “Il rovescio del sublime” (“The reverse of the sublime”) the garden is described as the quintessence of human-made perfection, where artifice must be visible in every detail.8 Nature is graciously corrected in these exquisite places where everything “has to seem spontaneous and for that reason everything is calculated” (Calvino 2013, 161). From stones to sand to trees to wooden temples, subject to their

246  Serenella Iovino “natural” decay: all is perfectly planned and curated. To use the famous words of Alexander Pope, here, literally, “All Nature is but Art.” Here, too, however, the sublime comes at a price. As he muses about the sublimity of these places, Calvino fulminates over the observation of a Japanese student who accompanies him. In his sober Italian, the student asks: “Do you like all this?” and adds: “I cannot help thinking that this perfection and harmony cost so much misery to millions of people over the centuries” (164). Calvino’s response is at once bitter and historically lucid: But isn’t the cost of culture always this?… Creating a space and time for reflection and imagination and study presupposes an accumulation of wealth, and behind every accumulation of wealth there are obscure lives subject to labour and sacrifices and oppression without any hope. Every project or image that allows us to reach out towards another way of being outside the injustice that surrounds us carries the mark of the injustice without which it could not have been conceived. (165) This cycle of culture and injustice materializes when the visitors arrive at a bed of stones, all perfectly harmonized in shape and color— impeccably oval, flawlessly smooth, bright grey and dark grey. These pebbles, the guide explains, came here in the 17th century from every corner of Japan. Each bag of stones was repaid by the Emperor with a bag of rice. Calvino writes: We seem to see the queue of peasants conjured up by those words bent double under the bags of stones, snaking across the little bridges and paths. They deposit the loads they have carried from distant regions in front of the Emperor, who examines the stones one by one, places one in the water, another one on the side of the lake, and rejects many others. Meanwhile the attendants busy themselves round the scales: on one dish there are stones, on the other rice… (165) This is the dark side, the reverse of the sublime: the fact that, behind each garden, the map of planetary extractivism is hidden—the extractivism of both human and nonhuman resources, with their networks of crises, conflicts and biopolitical predicaments. And here, perhaps, Calvino was also thinking about the dynamics affecting his native Ligurian landscape whose rugged and uneven territory would mutate, during his lifetime, into an industrial garden for the production of flowers and a continuous city of “cementified” parks for speculators and tourists. The growing ecologies of globalization lying behind this metamorphosis—with its

Art, Media, and Dilemmas of Anthropocene  247 people, territories and myriads of nonhuman actors—is the reverse of the sublime, too. Yet, we do need to see these ghosts. Their presence is a story embedded in this landscape like the stories of coevolution we have now lost or forgotten. Art helps us to see these ghosts and recognize these monsters—whether embodied in AR installations, or in a Japanese garden. In doing so, it can help us recreate these lost memories, even if it comes at the cost of adding more layers to the monstrosity. This is indeed a dilemma, but it is the dilemma on which civilization is based. This might produce more costs now, but it might also be conducive to a world in which the awareness of the unjust will be in-built in the fabric of our biopolitical values, actions and visions.

Epilogue: Resisting Gardens Calvino’s and Thiel’s works are powerful examples of how thinking the garden and the Anthropocene with one another—through one another— is important for illuminating the epoch in which we are living. But here, one thing must be stated clearly: thinking the garden and the Anthropocene through one another does not mean equating them with one another. Although they might fit into a similar framework, gardens and the Anthropocene are not exactly the same. In fact, despite all its contradictions, the garden also discloses unexpected resources. Re-situated in the problematic landscape of our epoch, and rethought as a figure, a place and a practice, it can indeed become a symbol of resistance to the Anthropocene. The theorist of the “Planetary Garden,” Gilles Clément, has coined the expression “jardins de résistance,” “gardens of resistance” (Clément, undated). These gardens, Clément maintains, are places where biocultural diversity, interdependence and creativity—both natural and technological—can thrive. Gardens of resistance are the landscapes of “a life style that, in a larger sense, reflects the relationship” between humans and their “sociobiological environment” (Clément, undated).9 I have written this chapter in Munich, the city with one of the biggest urban parks on the planet: the Englischer Garten (375 hectares). Planned at the end of the 18th century, the English Garden was meant to become a garden for the entire population, a collective space of urban ecology. There are gardens available everywhere to everyone, in Munich. Even the “social institution” of the city, the Biergarten is an ideally democratic way to take the garden outside class enclosures and deliver it to the urban population, making it accessible and transforming it into an affordable place for sharing and conviviality. Of course, these gardens have an environmental impact, but their positive influence on people’s lives and on the health of urban ecosystems is evidently more significant than the costs. The same applies, even though differently, to Turin’s PAV: it is an oasis, but an oasis

248  Serenella Iovino for the entire city, where educational programs and a unique project of natural-artistic cocreativity constitute an opportunity for actively rethinking the Anthropocene. A combination of art, resistance and political ecology, the PAV is in fact an island of sense carved within the Anthropocene—a garden struggling to preserve the beauty and its stories, and yet aware of their costs. As a place, it embodies literally the attempt to go outside itself and to be a counterpoint to the overwhelming concrete of its surroundings. This is why gardens are so important in the Anthropocene: they are one of the last Holocene presidia—as we know from the famous example of Gezi Park in Istanbul, where the threat to destroy an island of flora and fauna in order to make room for yet another shopping mall and another waterfall of concrete disguised under the slogan “Justice and Development” (the name of Erdogan’s party) provoked riots and an upsurge of thousands of citizens. The urban revolt is a way to “Occupy the Anthropocene” (Armiero 2015), rethinking the garden as a coalition of humans, flora and fauna through culture. Probably (and hopefully) there is no way out of culture. What we can cultivate, though, is a landscape where gardens do not depend on exploited natures, and where we have learned the lesson of preserving without killing. In this landscape, Anthropocene gardens can be presidia of resistance against the dynamics that triggered the Anthropocene itself. Be it Munich’s English Garden, Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Turin’s PAV, and even Tamiko Thiel’s Anthropocene Gardens and the Japanese Zen gardens visited by Calvino: we need gardens of resistance and not of destruction, gardens of memory and not sites where the future is only an externality for our excesses. If the price we pay for culture is the reverse of the sublime, maybe we might use culture— and the garden—as a fair, non-competitive companion to nature. Despite being an expression of our inescapable humanism, culture can indeed suggest a non-anthropocentric strategy, and allow us to cultivate more-than-human coalitions.

Notes 1 A longer version of this essay, featuring a conversation with the artist Tamiko Thiel, appeared as “The Reverse of the Sublime: Dilemmas (and Resources) of the Anthropocene Garden,” RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society 2019, no. 3. (Reprinted with Permission. Copyright: © The Author.) 2 Tamiko Thiel’s eco-artistic itinerary is explored in Iovino (2019, 29–35). 3 All the images of this installation are visible online at Thiel (2016). 4 The scientific premises of Thiel’s artwork are accurately summarized in “Gardens of the Anthropocene: Project Background” (Thiel 2016). 5 See for example Cubitt (2017); Rust, Monani, and Cubitt (2016); Zielinski (2006); Parikka (2014, 2015). 6 On child laborers in Congo mines, see Walter (2012).

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References Armiero, Marco. 2015. “Of the Titanic, the Bounty, and Other Shipwrecks.” intervalla 3: 50–54. Bianchi, Melissa. 2017. “Inklings and Tentacled Things: Grasping at Kinship through Video Games.” In “Green Computer and Video Games,” edited by Alenda Chang and John Parham. Special issue, Ecozon@ 8 (2): 136–150. Calvino, Italo. The Collection of Sand: Essays. Translated by Martin McLaughlin. New York: Penguin. Carruth, Allison. 2014. “The Digital Cloud and the Micropolitics of Energy.” In “Environmental Visualization in the Anthropocene: Technologies, Aesthetics, Ethics,” edited by Allison Carruth and Robert P. Marzec. Special issue, Public Culture 26 (2): 339–364. Chang, Alenda, and John Parham. 2017. “Green Computer and Video Games: An Introduction.” Ecozon@ 8 (2): 1–17. Clark, Timothy. 2014. “Nature, Post Nature.” In The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Environment, edited by Louise Westling, 75–89. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Clément, Gilles. Undated. “Gardens of Resistance: A Dream in Seven Points for Gardens of Resistance.” Accessed May 14 2019. cat-jardinresistance-tit-Les-Jardins-de-resistance. Clément, Gilles. 2015. “The Planetary Garden” and Other Writings. Translated by Sandra Morris. Foreword by Gilles A. Tiberghien. Philadelphia: Penn University Press. Cubitt, Sean. 2017. Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Davis, Heather and Etienne Turpin. 2015. “Art & Death: Lives Between the Fifth Assessment & the Sixth Extinction.” In Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, edited by Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, 3–30. London: Open Humanities Press. Farmer, Jared. 2017. “Technofossils.” In Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene, edited by Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero, and Robert S. Emmett, 191–199. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gan, Elaine, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Swanson, and Nils Bubandt. 2017. “Introduction: Haunted Landscapes of the Anthropocene.” In Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, edited by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, G1–G14. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Gilardi, Piero. 2016. La mia biopolitica: Arte e lotte del vivente. Scritti 1963– 2014. Edited by Tommaso Trini. Milan: Prearo Editore/Fondazione Centro Studi Piero Gilardi.

250  Serenella Iovino Haraway, Donna J. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press. Haraway, Donna J. 2017. “Symbiogenesis, Sympoiesis, and Art Science Activisms for Staying with the Trouble.” In Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts of the Anthropocene, edited by Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, M25–50. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Iovino, Serenella. 2019. “The Reverse of the Sublime: Dilemmas (and Resources) of the Anthropocene Garden.” RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society 3. Irland, Basia. 2016. “Eco-Art.” In Keywords for Environmental Studies, edited by Joni Adamson, William A. Gleason, and David N. Pellow, 60–61. New York: New York University Press. Luisetti, Federico. 2018. “Geopower: On the States of Nature of Late Capitalism.” European Journal of Social Theory 22 (3): 1–22. Mathews, Andrew S. 2017. “Ghostly Forms and Forest Histories.” In Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts of the Anthropocene, edited by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, G145– 56. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Maxwell, Kerry. 2009. “Augmented Reality.” Macmillan Dictionary: Buzzword, Accessed May 14 2019. entries/augmented-reality Meeker, Joseph W. 1972. The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Carl Scribner’s Sons. Parikka, Jussi. 2014. The Anthrobscene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Parikka, Jussi. 2015. A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Povinelli Elizabeth. 2016. Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Rust, Stephen, Salma Monani and Sean Cubitt, eds. 2016. Ecomedia: Key Issues. London: Routledge. Sandilands, Catriona. 2017. “Losing My Place: Landscapes of Depression.” In Mourning Nature: Hope at the Heart of Ecological Loss and Grief, edited by Ashlee Cunsolo and Karen Landman, 144–168. Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press. Schliephake, Christopher. 2016. “Literary Place and Cultural Memory.” In Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology, edited by Hubert Zapf, 569–589. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Swanson, Heather, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Nils Bubandt, and Elaine Gan. 2017. “Introduction: Bodies Tumbled into Bodies.” In Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts of the Anthropocene, edited by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, M1–14. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Thiel, Tamiko. 2016. Gardens of the Anthropocene. Accessed May 14 2019. Tsing, Anna, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, eds. 2017. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts of the Anthropocene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Art, Media, and Dilemmas of Anthropocene  251 Walter, Cornelia. 2012. “In DR Congo, UNICEF Supports Efforts to Help Child Labourers Return to School.” UNICEF. Accessed May 13 2019. www. Wood, David. 2005. The Step Back: Ethics and Politics after Deconstruction. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Zielinski, Sigfried. 2006. Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Taylor & Francis Taylor & Francis Group

Notes on Contributors

Gregers Andersen is postdoctoral researcher in environmental humanities at the department of English, Stockholm University. He earned his PhD from the University of Copenhagen. His research focuses on how literature, film and philosophy contribute to the understanding of life in the Anthropocene. He is the author of the monograph Climate Fiction and Cultural Analysis. A New Perspective on Life in the Anthropocene (Routledge 2019), and he has published articles in journals such ISLE, Symplokē, The Journal of Popular Culture, and Deleuze Studies. Roman Bartosch holds the Junior Professorship for Literatures and Cultures of the Anglophone World and English Language Teaching at the English Department of the University of Cologne. He received his PhD at the University of Duisburg-Essen. His research includes literature and cultural theory, transcultural ecology, human-animal studies and ecocriticism. Recent publications include Literature, Pedagogy, and Climate Change: Text Models for a Transcultural Ecology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019); (ed.) “Animal Poetics. Special Focus Section of English Studies” (Anglistik – International Journal of English Studies, 2016); (ed.) Beyond the Human-Animal Divide. Creaturely Lives in Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). EnvironMentality. Ecocriticism and the Event of Postcolonial Fiction (Brill Rodopi, 2013). Julia Bee is Assistant Professor for Image Theory at Bauhaus University, Weimar. She works on perception and desire, visual anthropology and images-based research practices. Recent publications: “Filmische Trans/Individuationen, Ansprache, Affekte und die Konstitution von feministischen Kollektiven in Long Story Short und Yours in Sisterhood” [“Trans/Individuations of Film. Addressing the Other, Affect and the Constitution of Feminist Collectives in Long Story Short and Yours in Sisterhood”] (nachdemfilm, 2019); “Erfahrungsbilder und Fabulationen. Im Archiv der Visuellen Anthropologie” [“Experience-Images and Fabulation. In the Archive of Visual Anthropology”] (Sichtbar-machen. Politiken des Dokumentarischen,

254  Notes on Contributors Vorwerk, 2017) “‘Die Welt spielt’. Spiel, Animation und Wahrnehmung” [“The World Plays. Play, Animation and Perception”] (Denkweisen des Spiels Turia und Kant, 2017). Hannes Bergthaller is Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the National Chung-Hsing University, Taichung (Taiwan). His research areas include literary and systems theory, ecocriticism and environmental humanities. Recent publications: „Ecological Immunity and Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312” (Journal of Ecocriticism, 2018); „Malthusian Biopolitics, Ecological Immunity, and the Anthropocene” (Ecozon@, 2018); „Climate Change and Un-Narratability” (Metaphora, 2018); „Beyond Ecological Crisis: Niklas Luhmann’s Theory of Social Systems” (Ecological Thought in German Literature and Culture, Lexington, 2017). He is a founding member and former vice-president of the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and the Environment (EASLCE) as well as of ASLE Taiwan. Furthermore, he is the book review editor of Ecozon@, a European online journal for ecocriticism. Gabriele Dürbeck is Professor of Literature and Culture Studies at the University of Vechta. Her research includes German literature from the 18th–21st century, postdramatic theater, travel literature, postcolonialism, ecocriticism and narratives of the Anthropocene. She has authored “Ambivalent characters and fragmented poetics in Anthropocenic literature (Max Frisch, Iliya Trojanow)” (The Minnesota Review, 2014) and co-authored “Human and Non-human Agencies in the Anthropocene” (Ecozona, 2015). She is co-editor of Ecocriticism. Eine Einführung (Böhlau, 2015); Ecological Thought in German Literature and Culture (Lexington, 2017); Handbuch Postkolonialismus und Literatur (Metzler, 2017); Ökologischer Wandel in der deutschen Literatur des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts—neue Perspektiven und Ansätze (Peter Lang, 2018); Repräsentationsweisen des Anthropozän in Literatur und Medien/Representing the Anthropocene in Literature and Media (Peter Lang, 2019). Michael Davies-Venn is Research Fellow at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. His research on global environmental governance addresses topics including climate finance, climate mitigation and climate adaptation between developed and developing regions. He also addresses socio-legal questions on environmental degradation and law, including human rights and climate induced migration. A policy analyst and communication professional, he also publishes in popular media with recent articles: “The ‘Klimakanzlerin’ Takes a Bow and Leaves a Vacuum” (Social Europe Journal, 2018); “Climate Finance: Waiting For The First EU $1 From Pledged $100 Billion” (Social Europe Journal, 2017); “Vanuatu: The Challenging Path to Achieve Redress for Loss and Damage” (Climate Policy Journal, 2019).

Notes on Contributors  255 Eva Horn  is Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Vienna. Her areas of research include literature and political theory, disaster imagination in modern literature and film, cultural conceptions of climate, and the Anthropocene. She is author of The Secret War. Treason, Espionage, and Modern Fiction (Northwestern University Press, 2013), The Future as Catastrophe (Columbia University Press, 2018), and, together with Hannes Bergthaller: The Anthropocene—Key Issues for the Humanities (Routledge, 2019). Philip Hüpkes  is Research Assistant at the Institute for Media and Cultural Studies at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, and a PhD-candidate (supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Dürbeck) at the University of Vechta. From 2017 until 2019, he was employed as research assistant in the DFG-funded research project “Narratives of the Anthropocene in Science and Literature. Themes, Structures, Poetics” at the University of Vechta. Recent publications include: “Der Anthropos als Skalenproblem” (Der Anthropos im Anthropozän: Die Wiederkehr des Menschen im Moment seiner vermeintlich endgültigen Verabschiedung, de Gruyter, 2020); “Anthropocenic Earth Mediality: On Scaling and Deep Time in the Anthropocene” (Literature and Culture in the Anthropocene, Cambridge Scholars, 2019). Serenella Iovino  is Professor of Italian Studies and Environmental Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A research fellow of the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, she is a founding member and former President of EASLCE, the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and the Environment. She has written on a wide range of topics, including environmental ethics and ecocritical theory, bioregionalism and landscape studies, ecofeminism and posthumanism, comparative literature, eco-art, and environmental humanities. Her recent publications include Material Ecocriticism (Indiana University Press, 2014), Environmental Humanities: Voices from the Anthropocene (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, both co-edited with Serpil Oppermann, and Italy and the Environmental Humanities: Landscapes, Natures, Ecologies (University of Virginia Press, 2018, co-ed. with Enrico Cesaretti and Elena Past). Her last monograph, Ecocriticism and Italy: Ecology, Resistance, and Liberation (Bloomsbury, 2016) has been awarded the Book Prize of the American Association for Italian Studies and the MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies. Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen  is Associate Professor of Global History at Roskilde University and recently completed the project “Sustainable Rationalities” funded by the Danish Research Council, which

256  Notes on Contributors examined the economic ideas and innovations of radical climate activists and green organizations over the past decades. This work resulted in the book Climate Justice and the Economy: Social Mobilization, Knowledge and the Political (Routledge, 2018). Further, Jacobsen has written about climate action temporalities in a global context and innovations for rapid transition at a local level. Bernhard Malkmus, Professor of German Studies at Newcastle University, has a particular interest in the history and philosophy of biology and ecology and their aesthetic rendition in poetry, narrative literature and the visual arts. His work reflects on the ways humans have imagined and envisaged their relation to nature, their role in the history of life, and their position in the web of life throughout modernity. He has published widely on 20th-century and contemporary literature as well as the relation between ethics and aesthetics. He edited, with Heather Sullivan, a special issue of New German Critique entitled The Challenge of Ecology to the Humanities and is currently working on a book-length essay on living in an anthropomorphic world as well as a cultural history of the lynx. Franz Mauelshagen is a Senior Scientist working for the Vienna Anthropocene Network. His work as an environmental historian focuses on climate history and the Anthropocene. His recent research is on planetary politics, particularly the role of science-policy cooperation, climate engineering, the history of climatology, and modeling land use change and its earth system impacts. Recent publications include: The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History (Palgrave 2018), Climate Change and Cultural Transition in Europe (Brill, 2018), and The Little Ice Age (2020). Philipp Pattberg  is Professor of Transnational Environmental Governance and Policy and Head of the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Philipp chairs the board of the newly-founded interdisciplinary Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (ASI). He teaches Master’s courses in environmental governance at the Faculty of Sciences and the Faculty of Social Sciences. Philipp specializes in the study of global environmental politics, with a focus on private transnational governance, multi-stakeholder partnerships, network theory and institutional analysis. His work has been published in leading scientific journals including Annual Review of Environment and Resources, European Journal of International Relations, Global Environmental Politics, Governance, and Science. Philipp’s most recent book is The Anthropocene Debate and Political Science (co-edited with Sabine Weiland, Lena Partzsch and Thomas Hickmann, Routledge 2018).

Notes on Contributors  257 Jürgen Renn is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (MPIWG). His research focuses on long-term developments of knowledge while taking into account processes of globalization and the historical origins and co-evolutionary dynamics leading into the Anthropocene. Over more than two decades at the MPIWG, his many research projects have dealt with a number of different historical developments. Among them was the development of mechanics from antiquity until the twentieth century, including the origins of mechanics in China, the transformation of ancient knowledge, and the exchange of knowledge between Europe and China in the early modern period. Another main focus is the history of modern physics, investigating the origin and development of the general theory of relativity and of quantum theory. His most recent publication is The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene (Princeton University Press, 2020). Hans-Jörg Rheinberger  was Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin (1997–2014), where he has since served as an emeritus scientific member. Furthermore, he has been honorary professor at the Technical University of Berlin since 1998, received an honorary doctorate from the ETH Zurich in 2006 and is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. His research focuses on the history and epistemology of experimental systems and on the structures of the experimental situation in the life sciences. Important publications include: Experimentalität. Im Gespräch über Labor, Atelier und Archiv (Kadmos, 2018); Der Kupferstecher und der Philosoph (Diaphanes, 2016); Experimentalsysteme und epistemische Dinge. Eine Geschichte der Proteinsynthese im Reagenzglas (Suhrkamp, 2006); Epistemologie des Konkreten: Studien zur Geschichte der modernen Biologie (Suhrkamp, 2006); Iterationen (Merve, 2005); Toward a History of Epistemic Things (Wallstein, 2001). Bernd Scherer is Director of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin and Honorary Professor at the Institute for European Ethnology of the Humboldt University, Berlin. In his projects at HKW, Bernd Scherer deals with a broad field of cultural, technological, media- philosophical, and aesthetical issues in many different formats. Recent publications include: Wörterbuch der Gegenwart (Matthes & Seitz, 2018); Zeit der Algorithmen (Matthes & Seitz, 2016); Das Anthropozän. Ein Zwischenbericht (Matthes & Seitz, 2015); “Three Galleries of the Anthropocene” (The Anthropocene Review, 2014).

258  Notes on Contributors Alexandra R. Toland is Junior Professor for Arts and Research, Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Ph.D. Programme for Art and Design at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Faculty of Art and Design. Her work focuses on soil and art, urban ecology, and the Anthropocene. Toland completed her doctorate in 2015 at the Institute for Ecology of the Technical University of Berlin, where she worked as a postdoctoral fellow until 2016. Recent publications include: Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene (co-edited volume, CRC Press, 2018) and “Dust Blooms: A Research Narrative in Artistic Ecology” (Lasst Blumen sprechen! Blumen und künstliche Natur seit 1960, Wienand Verlag, 2016).


Note: Italic page numbers refer to figures and page numbers followed by “n” denote endnotes actor network theory (ANT) 34, 244 Adams, J.L. 168 Adorno, T. 94 aesthetics of the Anthropocene 208, 244–245 affective objects 219 Africa 85, 87, 133, 244 Agamben, G. 108 Alexander, A. 218 Americas 44, 79, 84, 142 ammonia synthesis 51 anastomosis 29 Anders, G. 100, 101, 104, 105 Anthropocene Curriculum 53 Anthropocene Project (2011–2013) 2 Anthopocene epoch/age 2–3, 6, 7, 10, 15, 40, 41, 48, 78, 79, 98, 130, 135–137, 139, 150 Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) 70, 71, 130, 137–138, 145 anthropology 11, 67, 96–97, 133, 182, 192 anthropomorphism of narrative 171 anthropos 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 113, 118, 125, 151, 216 anthroposphere 41 Arendt, H. 14, 100 Arte Povera movement 236 artistic knowledge sharing 212 Asia 14, 77–82, 85, 87, 133 assemblages 4, 9, 114, 191, 195, 200, 202, 208n5 atomic age 3, 71, 100, 101, 103–105, 108, 143 atomic bomb; nuclear testing 14, 32, 29, 41, 71, 94, 99, 101, 103, 104, 138, 144, 145

augmented reality (AR) installations 238–240 Augustine 108 Australia/n 12, 133, 138, 141 Bachmann, I. 101–104 Bachmann-Medick, D. 4 Baichwal, J. 2 Barad, K. 194 Barthes, R. 94 Baudry, J.-L. 193 Becker, E. 217–220 Becoming Extinct (Wild Grass) 16 being-in-the-world 159, 161 Bell, D. 68 Belt and Road initiative 87 Benjamin, W. 93, 108 Bensaude-Vincent, B. 33 Benschop, R. 220 Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology 222 biodiversity 1, 10, 15, 130, 151, 154, 213, 218, 223, 225 biodiversity loss 39, 42, 145, 185, 232n4 biodiversity preservation 226–227 biomass-climate nexus 13; biomass production constraints 64–65; primary biomass production 62 biopolitics 14, 85–87, 244, 246–247 biosphere 14, 29, 39, 41, 49, 61, 62, 66, 68–71, 94, 95, 99, 101, 105, 107, 109, 182 “Blue Marble” (1972) 192 Bonneuil, C. 5 boundary objects of the Anthropocene 17, 212–235

260 Index Bourdieu, P. 32 Boyle, T.C. 15, 119 Braidotti, R. 11, 183 Brazil 113, 133, 134, 186n7, 199 Brecht, B. 94 Brin, D. 170 Burtynsky, E. 2, 165, 245 Byron, O. 117 Calvino, I. 245–247 capitalism 4, 42, 67, 80, 105, 113, 124, 142, 165, 166, 183, 191, 216 Capitalocene 10, 42, 142, 181, 183, 191, 216 carbon democracy 59 carbon footprint 78, 117, 174, 175, 186n2 carbon law 174 Cartesian distinctions 182 Castaing-Taylor, Lucien 207 Chakrabarty, D. 1, 8, 11, 87, 103, 114, 115 Chandler, D. 217 Chernobyl 195 China 14, 50, 64, 77–87, 133, 135, 138, 194, 244 Chinese Daoism 81 Chthulhucene 10, 181, 191, 216 Clark, T. 10, 114–117, 164, 237 Clément, G. 236, 247 climate change 1, 4, 8, 10, 14–16, 40, 41, 52, 59–61, 69, 78, 79, 106, 114–119, 121–123, 125, 126, 137, 140, 143, 145, 154, 155, 159, 164, 166, 168, 169, 173, 175, 178, 186n1, 206, 216, 232n4, 239; climate crisis 185; climate catastrophe 191; climate emergency 173, 175 climate activists 184 climate justice 143 climate system 63, 65–66, 68, 70, 123 climate fiction/cli-fi 10, 118, 159, 169 climate sceptics 121; climate deniers 192 coal 39, 40, 49–51, 61, 64, 65, 69, 78, 85, 184 Cobb, A. 170 coevolution 59 co-evolution of knowledge systems and communities 46 Colebrook, C. 11 colonialism 50, 67, 85, 145, 197, 199, 203, 205, 208, 218, 237, 244

Columbian Exchange 65 comedy 94 commons, idea of 226, 228; tragedy of the commons 105–106, 226 compositional complexity 116 computational humanities 47 conceptual pluralism 180 consumerism 101 Conway, E.M. 87 cosmism 150 Critique of the Power of Judgment (Kant) 162 Crutzen, P.J. 1, 27, 38, 142, 150, 180, 181, 191 cultural evolution 43–46 “cultural turns” 4 cybernetics 3 cyberspace 15, 153 Darwin, C. 29 Davis, H. 244 de Buffon, G.-L.L. 46 deep time 7–8, 11, 53n7, 114, 133, 151, 170, 240, 241 Deleuze, G. 16, 179, 181, 192, 194, 200, 206 DeLillo, D. 170 de Pencier, N. 2 de Sacrobosco, J. 48 Deutsches Museum 2 dialectical materialism 59–60 Diamond, J. 45 dichotomy of nature and culture 1, 34, 162 digital transformation 52, 67; digitalization 15, 68, 152, 155, 178 dirty metaphysics 13–14, 59–61 disciplinary engagements 10–12 disenfranchisement 154 Divnogorye Natural Museum Reserve 198 Donovan, T. 167, 168 Dumbrowski, A. 215 Dupuy, J.-P. 100, 101, 104, 107–109 Eagleton, T. 96 early Anthropocene burning hypothesis 140–141 earth system1, 2, 6–10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 39–44, 49, 51, 52, 60, 63, 66, 69, 70, 81, 85, 107, 144, 173–176, 178, 181, 185; earth system scientific concept 5–6, 39, 41; earth system

Index  261 science 5, 7, 9, 13, 18n7, 38, 46, 48, 71, 121, 150, 151, 162, 179, 184 earth system stewardship 4, 42 Eatherley, C. 100 eco-art 17, 239–240, 248n1 ecocentrism 115, 125 “ecodicy” of individualism 97–99 ecological disruption 238 ecological systems stability 105 ecologies of interruption 223 economy 37, 68, 78, 152 economy of knowledge 45, 47, 48, 50, 52, 225–226 Einstein’s theories of relativity 40, 47, 48 Elkana, Y. 52 endosymbiont theory of evolution 28–29 entanglement 164, 166, 169–171 environmental humanities (EH) 16 epiphany experience 115–116 epistemic evolution 45 epistemological problem 11 Esposito, R. 108 Europe/European 4, 12, 27, 44, 48, 50, 59, 64, 65, 77, 79, 81–85, 87, 98, 134, 135, 142–143, 161, 208, 218, 227, 230 eternal justice 93 evolution 28, 29, 43; evolutionary symbiosis 27, 28; cyclical symbiosis 29 exceptionalism 97 existential tragedy 101–102 extended evolution 44–45 extinction (risk of) 1, 9, 14, 32, 42, 140, 141, 159, 194, 195, 197–199, 213, 237 Extinction Rebellion 173, 217 Facing Gaia (Latour) 34 facticity of manufacturability 155 Farmer, J. 244 feedback mechanisms 5, 6, 10, 41, 44, 48–49, 162, 174, 181 felix culpa (“happy guilt”) 108 fertilizers, chemical 39, 49, 51–52, 66 Feynman, R. 154 Field Museum of Chicago 222–223 Flatbread Society 226–228 Fleck, L. 46 Folke, C. 217 formal chrono-stratigraphic unit 130, 139, 145

fossil energy 51, 151; fossil freedom 13, 59, 61 Franceschini, A. 226 Fressoz, J.-B. 5, 166 Friedman, T. 159 Friedrich, C.D. 160–162 Frisch, M. 170, 171 functional materials 39–40 Future Farmers 228, 229 Gaia theory 9, 13, 18n7, 29–30, 34, 38, 80, 160 Gandhi, M. 79, 80 Gan, E. 217 garden and Anthropocene 17, 236–237, 239, 240; digital gardens 242; geological gardens 240–242; “gardens of resistance” 247; postnatural gardens 238–240 Gardiner, S. 106, 107 Garrard, G. 114 Geertz, C. 180 geoanthropology 13, 52 geoengineering 87, 108, 144; climate engineering 185 “geology of media” 241 geopolitical 84–85, 106, 197, 238 “geopower” 244, 249n6 Germany 12, 77, 84, 133, 138, 239 Ghosh, A. 79, 80, 163, 169, 170 Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) 8, 132 Global South 133–135, 183, 185 global warming 41–42, 69, 113, 143, 150, 159, 173, 174 global weirding 159–160, 170 Goethe, J.W. 100 “golden spike” 8, 130, 137, 138, 140, 144 Goltz, S. 220 Gonzalez-Foerster, D. 236 Gould, S.J. 7 “grand narrative” 10 granularity 119 Great Acceleration 13, 15, 42–43, 49, 52, 69, 77, 131, 137–138, 142–145, 151, 179, 182 “Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature” 67 green consumerism 78 greenhouse emissions 86, 175 green gross domestic product (GDP) 78 Griesemer, J. 215, 217, 218, 221, 222, 226

262 Index Grossmann, H. 46 Grove, K. 217 Guattari, F. 16, 179, 181, 186n7, 192–195, 200, 201, 206, 207 Gursky, A. 165 Guzzo, G. 3 Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis 51 hamartía/tragic flaw 105, 107 Hamilton, C. 9, 173 Hannah, D. 220 Haraway, D. 11, 183, 191, 238 Hardin, G. 105, 106 Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) 2, 150 Heat-Moon, W.L. 170 Hegel, G.W.F 93, 95, 99, 105 Heidegger, M. 95, 109 hermeneutical theory 178 Hessen, B. 46 Hess, F. 168 history of knowledge 37–39 history of sciene 37–58 holism 11, 12 Hörl, E. 3 Holocene 4, 7, 39, 47, 63, 71, 82, 133, 135–137, 140, 144, 150, 170, 216, 248 ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway 181, 184–185 “Houston System” 150 humanities 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9–10, 12, 217 humanism, exclusive 97 human subjectivity and commodity 152 humanity 3–4, 7, 8, 11, 14, 30, 37, 42, 60, 79, 85, 114, 115, 125–126, 141, 165, 166, 173–175, 179, 216, 222 Hutton, J. 6, 7 hyperobject 8, 166, 219 idealization of slowness 177–179 imagination, human 7–8, 60, 94, 99, 100, 103, 113, 125, 163, 198, 204, 238, 240, 246; literary imagination 115, 122; artistic imagination 155 industrial materials 168 Industrial Revolution 50, 142–143 interhuman violence 184 International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) 41 International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) 46, 150, 151

International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) 131 International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) 131–132 Italy/Italian 186n5, 246, 249n7 James, W. 16, 200 Jardin Mandala 236 Kant, I. 162–166 Kingsolver, B. 15, 115 knowledge economy 45–46 knowledge evolution 44; knowledge production 52–53 Kollath, E. 214 König, B. 215 Kramsch, C. 124, 125 Kuhn, T. 5, 46, 47 Kusama, Y. 239 Laforet, V. 245 large-scale framework 5–6 Latour, B. 9, 11, 13, 33–34, 80, 85, 144, 160–162, 207, 219 Lawrence, D.H. 108 Lee, J.Z. 84 Lewis, S.L. 142 The Limits to Growth 173 linguistic turn 4 literature 10, 15, 113–117, 119–121, 124–126, 159, 169–170, 176, 236, 245–246 literary tragedy 93, 94, 110n2 literature pedagogy 15, 113, 124 Lloyd, C. 118 Louis XIV 81 Lovelock, J. 9, 13 Lylov, M. 198 Lyotard, J.-F. 163 MacGregor, S. 117 Maisel, D. 165 Malm, A. 183 Malthusian crisis 83–84 Malthus, T. 79, 83, 84 Mandeville, B. 98 Margulis, L. 9, 13, 27–30, 34 Marhöfers, E. 16, 193–197, 199–202, 205, 207 Mark, E. 82 Marks, L. 196 Marland, P. 125 Marsh, G.P. 46 Martin, J. 68

Index  263 Marx, K. 41, 59, 60, 67 Marxism 67 Maslin, M.A. 142 material culture 44 material hyper-production 150 material inequality 59–60 material resources limitation 60–61 material turn 33, 43, 70 mathematical sublime 164–165 Mauser, W. 121 McPhee, J. 7 media art 238–239 Meeker, J.W. 94, 236–237 metastability 30, 34 media (studies) 2, 11, 17, 43, 119, 168, 178, 204–207, 238, 240–241, 244 media-technology 5, 11 Milicevic, M. 215 Mitchell, D. 170 Mitchell, T. 59 modernity 94 Mokyr, J. 49 Moore, J. 191 Morrison, K.D. 81, 82 Morton, T. 8, 163, 166–168, 219 Murphie, A. 206 mutation of algae 239–240 Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) 104, 105 Myrvold, C.B. 228 The Natural Contract (Serres) 27–28, 30–32, 31 natural cycles of matter and life 94 naturalization 98, 153, 154 naturing nature 194, 208n3 “negative universal history” 11, 103 network analysis 13, 47–48 niche construction 43–45 Niedderer, K. 219 Nietzsche, F. 109 99 Cents (Gursky) 165 nitrate chemistry 51–52 Nixon, R. 176 North America/USA 77, 117, 133, 141, 230 Obama, B. 173 objectness 220, 221 Odenbaugh, J. 121 ontological rupture 9 ontological shift 6–10

ontologization 166 Orbis hypothesis 142 Orbis Spike Snack 229, 230 Oreskes, N. 87 Orr, J. 95 overarching framework 11, 12, 15, 38 Paloeanthropocene 140–141 paradigm shift 46 Paravel, V.207 Parco Arte Vivente (Park of Living Art, PAV) 236, 247–248 Parikka, J. 11 perception 15–16, 93, 116, 119, 120, 123, 125, 163, 166, 173, 182, 198–202, 206, 239–240, 244 performative objects 219 philosophical dualism 59 phýsis 95, 104 Picard, R. 219 plasticity/malleability 168 Playfair, J. 7 Pole, A. 152 politics, political 1–4, 6, 8, 37–38, 42, 46, 67, 69, 86–87, 96, 115, 117, 120, 126, 131, 138–141, 145, 154, 159, 169, 175, 179, 181–182, 184–185, 213, 215, 217, 218, 222, 236, 241, 248; see also biopolitics and geopolitical “political theology of nature” 11 Pomeranz, K. 84 Poole, A. 98 Pope, A. 246 posthumanism 11, 16, 175, 181–184, 186 Posthumus, S. 35 post-natural-nature 167 psycho-cultural processes 191–192 pursuit of conceptual thickness 179–181 Raglon, R. 120 Rapson, J. 118 Reller, A. 49 renewability 66 resilience 217, 225, 227 resilient plants 236 resisting gardens 247–248 resource-consuming global capitalism 42 Rich, N. 15, 122 Robinson, K.S. 87

264 Index Rockstrøm, J. 174–176 Rogoff, I. 177 Ruddiman, W.F. 82, 141 Russia(n) 46, 194, 198, 199, 203, 227 Saraceno, T. 168 scale 1–3, 5, 7, 9, 13–17, 18n6, 32, 37, 43, 51, 69, 87, 95, 104, 113, 114, 117, 119–122, 125–126, 130, 141, 143, 144, 151, 153, 164–165, 167–169, 174, 176, 185, 195, 208n4, 232n4, 244, 246; timescale 7, 8, 11, 12, 40, 61, 66, 68, 95, 131, 132, 135, 139, 140, 145, 186n6; derangements of scale 113–116, 118, 123, 124, 160, 166; “affordances” of scale 114, 118–119, 124–126 Scheirer, J. 219 Schindler, J. 220 Scholtmeijer, M. 120 “second nature” 67, 94–95, 152 secularism 97 Seed Journey 226–228, 230–231 seed packet 17, 212–214 self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms 48–49 serial endosymbiont theory (SET) 28 Serres, M. 27, 28, 30–34 shared anthropology 192 Shiva, V. 185 Simmel, G. 109 slow violence of ecological destruction 176 Smith, A. 98 Snowball-Earth events 41 Snyder, T. 177 social and semantic networks interaction 47 Social-Ecological Systems (SES) 218–219 socialism 60 social sciences 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 30, 43, 61, 70, 113, 121, 138, 142 Socrates 109 Sophocles 93, 99 South Africa 133, 134, 138–139 South America 95, 133 “species-being” 96, 110n4 Stalin, J. 67 standardization and knowledge management 153–154 Star, S.L. 17, 214, 215, 217, 218, 220–222, 225, 226

steam engine 50 Steininger, B. 51, 52 Stengers, I. 9, 11, 33, 206, 225 Stoermer, E.F. 1, 27, 142, 180, 181, 191 Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) 41, 132 subjectivity, ecological 16, 193 Subjektphilosophie of the Romantics 93 sublime: “absolutely great” 165; dilemma of 245–247; mathematical sublime 164–165; technological sublime 166 sustainabile land use 215–216 sustainable future 87 Swärd, J. 226 symbiosis 28; symbiogenetic dynamics 238 The Symbiotic Planet (Margulis) 28–30 Taiping rebellion 83 Taylor, C. 97, 104, 108 technofossils 46, 70 technologies 70, 95, 101, 151–153, 155, 164, 175, 244 technosphere 14, 15, 41, 49, 70, 71, 94–95, 99–101, 107, 109, 152 Thain, A. 192 thanatopolitics 175–176, 183, 185, 186n5 thései 95, 104 Thiel, T. 17, 239, 240, 245, 247, 248 “threshold concept” 10, 98, 137 tragic age 93–95 tragic ignorance 106–107 “transcultural ecology” 120 Trinh Minh Ha 195 Tsing, A. 217, 238 Turnbow, D. 115, 116, 118 Turpin, E. 244 uncanniness 163–164 urban revolution 48 urgency 16, 159, 173–180, 184 utilitarianism 94, 105 Valleriani, M. 47 Vavilov, N. 227 Vernadsky, V.I. 18n3, 46 Vertebrate Zoology Museum 221 virtual epiphanies and aesthetic events 242, 242, 243, 244–245

Index  265 Vogl, J. 98 Voigt, K.M. 214 von Humboldt, A. 62, 215 von Liebig, J. 51 Wang Fang 84 waste 50, 69, 71, 78, 86, 99, 165, 168, 181, 223, 236, 237, 241, 244, 245 Waters, C.N. 180, 186n6 The Waves (1931) 201 Welzer, H. 176 “western” 4, 14, 79–87, 94, 97, 161, 197, 203, 230 Western Enlightenment 11, 38, 59, 67, 71, 80, 155 Whitehead, A.N. 16

White, L. Jr. 80, 81 Wild Garden 242, 242, 243 Williams, M. 180 windmill farms 64 Woods, D. 114, 237 Woolf, V. 201 Xi Jinping 86 Yang, A. 223–226 Yi-Fu Tuan 81 Yusoff, K. 205 Zalasiewicz, J. 1, 7, 180, 186n6 Zelli, F. 130 Zen Buddhism 80

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