Sheila Jasanoff ~ The Human Imprint: Nature, Time, and Law in the Anthropocene

Jessica Dempsey on Enterprising Nature: Economics, Markets, and Finance in Global Biodiversity Politics

1118640608A great new book from Jessica Dempsey (UBC Geography). Description below and a short animated video from her website. The publisher’s description does not do the book justice (in my view).

Enterprising Nature explores the rise of economic rationality in global biodiversity law, policy and science. To view Jessica’s animation based on the book’s themes please visit

  • Examines disciplinary apparatuses, ecological-economic methodologies, computer models, business alliances, and regulatory conditions creating the conditions in which nature can be produced as enterprising
  • Relates lively, firsthand accounts of global processes at work drawn from multi-site research in Nairobi, Kenya; London, England; and Nagoya, Japan
  • Assesses the scientific, technical, geopolitical, economic, and ethical challenges found in attempts to ‘enterprise nature’
  • Investigates the implications of this ‘will to enterprise’ for environmental politics and policy


The invention of nature: new book from Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt

6a014e894ef9bd970d01b7c7771434970b-800wiThis looks like a fabulous new biography, and it’s already getting rave reviews. Here is a description, and hopefully a video…vimeo is always fussy about this stuff.

“The Invention of Nature” reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, paddling down the Orinoco or racing through anthrax–infested Siberia. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Wulf also argues that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. Wulf traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature.  In The Invention of Nature Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.

Humboldt was, after all, as one contemporary said, ‘the greatest man since the Deluge’.

<p><a href=”″>THE INVENTION OF NATURE</a> from <a href=””>Sea Blue Media</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

George Monbiot on pricing nature (spoiler, he’s against it as a neoliberal project)

Monbiot has an extended essay in the Guardian today, and below is a lecture he gave earlier this spring on this and related ideas.

Donald Worster: Nature, Liberty, and Equality

Wildlife in the Anthropocene: conservation without nature

An interesting talk by Jamie Lorimer (Oxford), who has a new book coming out on the same:

20 problems with geoengineering, 1 problem with that thing…Nature

I have a few posts on geoengineering lately (Hamilton’s new book, Earthmasters, an upcoming workshop, and on competing views). I thought I would add this recent essay to the mix on 20 reasons geoengineering may be a bad idea [PDF]. An interesting aspect of the essay is an inserted text box on the ethics of geoengineering.

This normative dimension was of interest to me because I’m finalizing my latest book chapter this week on the topic of ethics, governance and geoengineering in the Anthropocene. It will be out next year and I’ll have more details then.

Approaching geoengineering from within the Anthropocene requires considering the broader view of the world that legitimated (I would argued that required is more accurate) a wealthy minority of humans taking such a disproportionate and large share of the earth’s life support systems. It also requires confronting the idea of Nature held in that troublesome view. On this, Ursula Heise has a new essay on that thing formerly known as Nature. You can read it here.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Encounters with the Thing Formerly Known as Nature

Ursula Heise

September 9, 2013 — We used to call it nature: forests, lakes, foxes, butterflies, mosquitoes, dandelions. Soils and oceans. Seasonal cycles. Also floods and heat waves and the occasional hurricane. But no more: as Bill McKibben, the environmental writer and activist founder of, put it back in 1989, climate change implies the end of nature. Nature, McKibben argued, meant a realm separate from human agency, at least for the modern American society of the last two centuries. Anthropogenic climate change, by transforming even places where no human has yet set foot, even atmospheric processes and ocean depths, leaves no particle of the planet untouched and therefore puts it all under the sway of human action. Nature as we used to know it, as the other of human society, is no more.

The idea that true nature is only what has not been touched by humans has since come under serious attack as a distinctively American environmentalist bias. It has little traction in developing countries, where environmentalism often means local communities defending their own uses of nature, or in Europe, where untouched nature has been a scarce commodity for centuries. But the idea that humankind now faces a new and fundamentally changed natural world took shape in 2000, when the atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen and the ecologist Eugene Stoermer proposed the notion of the “Anthropocene,” a new geological era distinct from the Holocene. Humans’ impact on the planet is now so pervasive that it will be visible even in the Earth’s geological strata, Crutzen and Stoermer suggested, and this justifies thinking of our time as a new and different planetary age.” READ MORE HERE

Nature in the Anthropocene: old vs. new vs. none, or, art

A few interesting pieces have come out recently on what to make of the Anthropocene and, in specific, what to do with “nature.”

Martin Mahoney gives an introduction to the Anthropocene, and then an overview of the way Bruno Latour has been approaching the topic. Latour, as you might expect, would like the old concept of ‘nature’ to fade from view and to be replaced by a networked approach that sees the human-earth relationship as caught up with the institutions of science, religion, and social pathways through which agency is recognized and distributed.

By contrast, Jim Proctor has recently remarked that the Anthropocene is a battle between two ways of counting. One in which humans are a part of “nature” and one in which we are not. In his view, we can only count to two. Count to “one” and you are of the ilk that wants to merge “nature” and “culture” while, if you count to “two” you prefer to keep them distinct. The piece reviews a few new books on the topic – I haven’t read all of them so it is hard to say whether they fit his rendering so tidily.

Finally, the L.A. Review of Books has a piece on the Art of life in the Anthropocene. It is an interesting set of ruminations spanning “geology to biology” and focusing on the recombinant interactions of things that confuse notions that ‘natural’ beauty or even artful mediums are set against something else. An interesting play on notions of going beyond or of ‘overcoming.’

So, all in all, have your Anthropocene as you like it. And, as the contests over how to understand this era of transition emerge, enjoy or disparage the new appropriations (and their corollary dissent from) of old ideas into new understandings.