Oh, Brad (part 2)

Part 1

To understand the improbable metaphysical conclusions that Clive Hamilton draws from Earth System science in Defiant Earth, we need to take a look at his conception of geological history. It’s a conception that relies on his dualistic theory of agency, whereby everything hinges on how much “power” humans can exert against nature, and nature against humans. Unlike the “post-humanists,” Hamilton will acknowledge “our actual power over nature” (p. 90). And unlike the ecomodernists, with their fantasies of Godlike omnipotence, he will acknowledge nature’s countervailing power against us. Continue reading “Oh, Brad (part 2)”

Oh, Brad (part 1)

Clive Hamilton, Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene (Cambridge: Polity, 2017)

Defiant Earth is an important contribution to thinking about the Anthropocene. It’s a book that everyone exploring ways in which to theorise the new epoch should take on board. I want to review it in detail over a couple of posts, to try to tease out its significance and to spell out my disagreements with it.

Hamilton has carved out a significant niche in debates about the Anthropocene in the last several years as a sort of TH Huxley figure. That is, he’s cast himself in the role of Paul Crutzen’s bulldog, defending an Earth Systems version of the Anthropocene in a series of surreally combative interventions called things like “Ecologists Butt Out: You Are Not Entitled to Redefine the Anthropocene,” “The Anthropocene Belongs to Earth System Science,” and “The Anthropocene: Too Serious for Post-Modern Games.”  Continue reading “Oh, Brad (part 1)”

On Balance

I’ve developed an enthusiasm recently for stone balancing. Not for doing it myself—I haven’t remotely got the dexterity or the patience—but for photos and videos of rocks stacked on top of one another in impossible ways (there are videos all over YouTube, and pictures all over the internet). The connections to thinking about stratigraphy and about the Anthropocene are easy to see: scrupulous attention to rocks arranged in vertical layers; the anamnesic quality of stone, or the way it can turn out to hold within itself improbable forms, like fossils; the delicate connection between human intention and mineral solidity, attuned to the possibility of disaster; stone, sheerly, the mesmeric draw of the lithic celebrated by Jeffery Jerome Cohen. Continue reading “On Balance”

New Papers from the Anthropocene Working Group (part 6)

Jan Zalasiewicz et al., “Petrifying Earth Process: The Stratigraphic Imprint of Key Earth System Parameters in the Anthropocene,” Theory, Culture & Society 34:2–3 (2017), 83–104

This is another paper from the splendid TCS special issue on ‘geosocial formations and the Anthropocene.’ It’s not strictly an AWG paper, in fact, but close enough. It’s signed by five key members (Zalasiewicz, Will Steffen, Reinhold Leinfelder, Mark Williams and Colin Waters), and it’s clearly continuous with the group’s project as a whole. Specifically, it complements the Steffen et al. paper I wrote about here last September. It continues to explore the question, broached there, of the relationship between the Earth System Science and stratigraphic versions of the Anthropocene. Continue reading “New Papers from the Anthropocene Working Group (part 6)”

Chakrabarty’s Lifeboats, Again

Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘The Politics of Climate Change Is More Than the Politics of Capitalism,’ Theory, Culture & Society 34:2–3 (2017): 25–37

To recap:

Near the end of his seminal ‘The Climate of History,’ Dipesh Chakrabarty wrote this:

Climate change, refracted through global capital, will no doubt accentuate the logic of inequality that runs through the rule of capital; some people will no doubt gain temporarily at the expense of others. But the whole crisis cannot be reduced to a story of capitalism. Unlike in the crises of capitalism, there are no lifeboats here for the rich and the privileged (witness the drought in Australia or recent fires in the wealthy neighborhoods of California). (p. 221)

Continue reading “Chakrabarty’s Lifeboats, Again”

Of Form and Formalization

I spent the middle of this week at an exceptionally thought-provoking conference. I wanted to say something here in oblique response to one of the most interesting papers I heard.

My account of the Anthropocene puts a great deal of emphasis on the prospect of stratigraphic “formalization”: on the possibility that a new epoch-level unit called the Anthropocene might be added to the chronostratigraphic chart maintained by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. Why? Continue reading “Of Form and Formalization”