Bruno Latour: From the Anthropocene to the new climatic regime

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Spring (northern hemisphere) Anthropocene books out now or soon…

A few recently released or soon to be released titles (not counting my own) on various aspects of the Anthropocene.

1509519742Clive Hamilton’s Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene (Polity)

Humans have become so powerful that we have disrupted the functioning of the Earth System as a whole, bringing on a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – one in which the serene and clement conditions that allowed civilisation to flourish are disappearing and we quail before ‘the wakened giant’.

The emergence of a conscious creature capable of using technology to bring about a rupture in the Earth’s geochronology is an event of monumental significance, on a par with the arrival of civilisation itself.

What does it mean to have arrived at this point, where human history and Earth history collide? Some interpret the Anthropocene as no more than a development of what they already know, obscuring and deflating its profound significance. But the Anthropocene demands that we rethink everything. The modern belief in the free, reflexive being making its own future by taking control of its environment – even to the point of geoengineering – is now impossible because we have rendered the Earth more unpredictable and less controllable, a disobedient planet.

At the same time, all attempts by progressives to cut humans down to size by attacking anthropocentrism come up against the insurmountable fact that human beings now possess enough power to change the Earth’s course. It’s too late to turn back the geological clock, and there is no going back to premodern ways of thinking.

We must face the fact that humans are at the centre of the world, even if we must give the idea that we can control the planet. These truths call for a new kind of anthropocentrism, a philosophy by which we might use our power responsibly and find a way to live on a defiant Earth.

Bruno Latour’s Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (Polity)

0745684335The emergence of modern sciences in the seventeenth century profoundly renewed our understanding of Nature. For the last three centuries new ideas of Nature have been continuously developed by theology, politics, economics, and science, especially the sciences of the material world.

The situation is even more unstable today, now that we have entered an ecological mutation of unprecedented scale. Some call it the Anthropocene, but it is best described as a new climatic regime. And a new regime it certainly is, since the many unexpected connections between human activity and the natural world oblige every one of us to reopen the earlier notions of Nature and redistribute what had been packed inside. So the question now arises: what will replace the old ways of looking at Nature? This book explores a potential candidate proposed by James Lovelock when he chose the name “Gaia” for the fragile, complex system through which living phenomena modify the Earth. The fact that he was immediately misunderstood proves simply that his readers have tried to fit this new notion into an older frame, transforming Gaia into a single organism, a kind of giant thermostat, some sort of New Age goddess, or even divine Providence.

In this series of lectures on “natural religion”, Bruno Latour argues that the complex and ambiguous figure of Gaia offers, on the contrary, an ideal way to disentangle the ethical, political, theological, and scientific aspects of the now obsolete notion of Nature. He lays the groundwork for a future collaboration among scientists, theologians, activists, and artists as they, and we, begin to adjust to the new climatic regime.

Celia Deane-Drummond, Sigurd Bergmann, and Markus Vogt’s (Eds), Religion in the Anthropocene

9781498291910This book charts a new direction in humanities scholarship through serious engagement with the geopolitical concept of the Anthropocene. Drawing on religious studies, theology, social science, history and philosophy, and what can be broadly termed the environmental humanities, this collection represents a groundbreaking critical analysis of diverse narratives on the Anthropocene.

The contributors to this volume recognize that the Anthropocene began as a geological concept, the age of the humans, but that its implications are much wider than this.

Will the Anthropocene have good or bad ethical outcomes?

Does the Anthropocene idea challenge the possibility of a sacred Nature, which shores up many religious approaches to environmental ethics?

Or is the Anthropocene a secularized theological anthropology more properly dealt with through traditional concepts from Catholic social teaching on human ecology?

Do theological traditions, such as Christology, reinforce negative aspects of the Anthropocene?

Not all contributors in this volume agree with the answers to these different questions. Readers will be challenged, provoked, and stimulated by this book.