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.

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Three new books on the Anthropocene coming out this spring

Several new titles on the Anthropocene worth checking out (plus the one I mentioned earlier this week). Here they are:

Great AccelerationThe Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945J.R. McNeill, Harvard University Press.

The Earth has entered a new age—the Anthropocene—in which humans are the most powerful influence on global ecology. Since the mid-twentieth century, the accelerating pace of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and population growth has thrust the planet into a massive uncontrolled experiment. The Great Acceleration explains its causes and consequences, highlighting the role of energy systems, as well as trends in climate change, urbanization, and environmentalism.

More than any other factor, human dependence on fossil fuels inaugurated the Anthropocene. Before 1700, people used little in the way of fossil fuels, but over the next two hundred years coal became the most important energy source. When oil entered the picture, coal and oil soon accounted for seventy-five percent of human energy use. This allowed far more economic activity and produced a higher standard of living than people had ever known—but it created far more ecological disruption.

We are now living in the Anthropocene. The period from 1945 to the present represents the most anomalous period in the history of humanity’s relationship with the biosphere. Three-quarters of the carbon dioxide humans have contributed to the atmosphere has accumulated since World War II ended, and the number of people on Earth has nearly tripled. So far, humans have dramatically altered the planet’s biogeochemical systems without consciously managing them. If we try to control these systems through geoengineering, we will inaugurate another stage of the Anthropocene. Where it might lead, no one can say for sure.

Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalismdetail_779_anthropocene_capitalocene

Contributors include Jason W. Moore, Eileen Crist, Donna J. Haraway, Justin McBrien, Elmar Altvater, Daniel Hartley, and Christian Parenti.

The Earth has reached a tipping point. Runaway climate change, the sixth great extinction of planetary life, the acidification of the oceans—all point toward an era of unprecedented turbulence in humanity’s relationship within the web of life. But just what is that relationship, and how do we make sense of this extraordinary transition?

Anthropocene or Capitalocene? offers answers to these questions from a dynamic group of leading critical scholars. They challenge the theory and history offered by the most significant environmental concept of our times: the Anthropocene. But are we living in the Anthropocene, literally the “Age of Man”? Is a different response more compelling, and better suited to the strange—and often terrifying—times in which we live? The contributors to this book diagnose the problems of Anthropocene thinking and propose an alternative: the global crises of the twenty-first century are rooted in the Capitalocene, the Age of Capital.

Anthropocene or Capitalocene? offers a series of provocative essays on nature and power, humanity, and capitalism. Including both well-established voices and younger scholars, the book challenges the conventional practice of dividing historical change and contemporary reality into “Nature” and “Society,” demonstrating the possibilities offered by a more nuanced and connective view of human environment-making, joined at every step with and within the biosphere. In distinct registers, the authors frame their discussions within a politics of hope that signal the possibilities for transcending capitalism, broadly understood as a “world-ecology” that joins nature, capital, and power as a historically evolving whole.

Hope and Grief in the Anthropocene: Re-ceonceptualising human-nature relationsHope and Grief

Lesley Head

The Anthropocene is a volatile and potentially catastrophic age demanding new ways of thinking about relations between humans and the nonhuman world. This book explores how responses to environmental challenges are hampered by a grief for a pristine and certain past, rather than considering the scale of the necessary socioeconomic change for a ‘future’ world. Conceptualisations of human-nature relations must recognise both human power and its embeddedness within material relations. Hope is a risky and complex process of possibility that carries painful emotions; it is something to be practised rather than felt. As centralised governmental solutions regarding climate change appear insufficient, intellectual and practical resources can be derived from everyday understandings and practices. Empirical examples from rural and urban contexts and with diverse research participants – indigenous communities, climate scientists, weed managers, suburban householders – help us to consider capacity, vulnerability and hope in new ways.

 

Kysar, Jasanoff, Sinden, and Adler on Kysar’s “Regulating from nowhere”

Doug Kysar’s book, Regulating from nowhere: environmental law and the search for objectivity, is one of the best I’ve ever read on the topic. It goes into ontological and ethical issues in law – a very good book.

Here is a very interesting talk on it, and a wide ranging set of issues in environmental policy with Kysar, moderated by Sheila Jasanoff, and discussed by Amy Sinden and Jonathan Adler

New Book: Water, Christianity and the Rise of Capitalism

9781780760667Terje Oestigaard’s new book – Water, Christianity and the Rise of Capitalism – is now out. And some of the reviews are starting to come in. Here is one (pdf). And, of course, this will make for an interesting read alongside Christiana Peppard’s book Just Water that I mentioned here before.

Here is the publisher’s description:

“The Christian religion is deeply imbued with the imagery of water, and water plays a central role in its religious practices, not least in baptism. Yet the wider role of water in Christianity has been little explored. In this pioneering book, Terje Oestigaard uses the dramatic changes that took place in perceptions of water during the Reformation to reveal the importance that water played in structuring society and religion in the post-Reformation period. He concludes by examining, and challenging, the widely accepted view that the capitalist spirit of enterprise – so important to the later success of the Industrial Revolution – came about when magic and superstition were eliminated from religion by the Reformation.”

Making the Geologic Now: new book from Punctum

A new book, with an impressive line-up of contributors is now out from Punctum. It is available as a download or purchase here, and has a great website.

Here is the description: GeoNow_Front-Cover_web-713x1024

Making the Geologic Now announces shifts in cultural sensibilities and practices. It offers early sightings of an increasingly widespread turn toward the geologic as source of explanation, motivation, and inspiration for creative responses to conditions of the present moment. In the spirit of a broadside, this edited collection circulates images and short essays from over 40 artists, designers, architects, scholars, and journalists who are actively exploring and creatively responding to the geologic depth of “now.” Contributors’ ideas and works are drawn from architecture, design, contemporary philosophy and art.  They are offered as test sites for what might become thinkable or possible if humans were to collectively take up the geologic as our instructive co-designer—as a partner in designing thoughts, objects, systems, and experiences.

Recent natural and human-made events triggered by or triggering the geologic have made volatile earth forces sense-able and relevant with new levels of intensity. As a condition of contemporary life in 2012, the geologic “now” is lived as a cascade of events. Humans and what we build participate in their unfolding. Today, and unlike the environmental movements of the 1970s, the geologic counts as “the environment” and invites us to extend our active awareness of inhabitation out to the cosmos and down to the Earth’s iron core.

New book on Wittgenstein and Heidegger

I might be a little late to the party on this one, but this book by Lee Braver does look interesting. And there is an interview about it here (which is also where the information below comes from).

Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger

MIT PRESS, 2012

Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are both considered among the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. Both were born in 1889 in German-speaking countries; both studied under leading philosophers of their day – Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, respectively – and were considered their philosophical heirs; and both ended up critiquing their mentors and thereby influencing the direction of thought in both the Analytic and Continental traditions. In Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (MIT Press, 2012), Lee Braver, associate professor of philosophy at Hiram College attempts to build what he calls a “load-bearing bridge” between these often polarized traditions. He argues that both thinkers have similar arguments for similar conclusions on similar fundamental issues. Both blame the disengaged contemplation of traditional philosophy for confusion about the nature of language, thought and ontology, and that attention to normal, ongoing human activity in context presents alternative fundamental insights into their nature. The groundless grounds of the title is the idea that finite human nature gives us everything we need to understand meaning, mind and being, and that to insist that this ground requires justification itself betrays confusion.