Mapping the Anthropocene

A new article up over at the Breakthrough Institute on Mapping the Anthropocene. It is by Erle Ellis, Navin Ramankutty and Chad Monfreda. It is certainly worth a read, and don’t be misled by the subtitle “Visualizing How Humans Are Embedded in Nature” – especially if you don’t think there is a “Nature” for humans to be embedded into.


Here’s the intro and some quick samples: India_grain

“Any ecology student could tell you what biomes are: vegetation types, such as grasslands and tropical rainforests, that ecologists use to map the planet. But there’s a problem. Biomes exist only at the discretion of nearly 7 billion people trying to live their lives on a crowded planet.

Invert that ancient image of invasive humans chopping away at the edges of a pristine nature. The era has long since moved from the Holocene to the Anthropocene. Nature is now embedded within a matrix of human-altered croplands, pastures, towns and cities. These anthropogenic biomes — “anthromes” for short — offer a fresh way of seeing our planetary pastiche.”


Close up at a distance + mapping violence

There is a lot of discussion lately around mapping violence and the use of new technologies.

Drone strikes that (seemingly) kurgan1simultaneously keep us at a distance from violence while making it a ready solution to impending threats, are one example. Stuart Elden has linked to an interesting new book on this topic by Laura Kurgan. He includes a description of the book and this sentence caught my eye: “Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other.”

The reason I thought this was so interesting is that I follow the work of Taylor Owen, a fellow (and also former) Trudeau Scholar, who is now the Director of Research at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia School of Journalism. Taylor’s work, among other things, has tracked and mapped violence, particularly the bombing of Cambodia. Here is a short talk he gave last month where he draws out some links between the dropping of some 200,000 bombs in the 1970s and shifting politics of space.