How should we understand the relationship between nature and society, now that we have entered that condition known as the Anthropocene? Two new books offer radically opposing views on this question—though, as Richard Douglas finds, both remain prisoners of post-Kantian metaphysics.
If the Anthropocene had an intellectual mixtape, The Ends of the World would be a worthy candidate, Jana Bacevic finds. The book presents perspectives on the end of the world beyond the Western-centric view, to include those for whom the world has already ended; providing valuable lessons.
What if geoengineering were envisaged as a utopian project of care? Oliver Morton’s The Planet Remade is a call for enlightened readership. It is an invitation to step up our thinking on the ethical questions around geoengineering.
George Monbiot has produced an encouraging manifesto for political transition to a happier, more sustainable world. Yet, Richard Douglas finds, his vision of the good life is undermined by an unresolved tension surrounding ideas of individualism.
One of the achievements of the recent Taylor review has been to breathe new life into the UK debate on good work. Going forward, this debate has to consider work in its wider social context, Simon Mair and Agni Dikaiou find; we have to think about Good Work not just as end in itself, but as a part of other systemic challenges.
Solutions to climate change require good ol’ politics, Jana Bacevic argues. The attempt to avoid dealing with human(-made) Others is the key unresolved issue in an otherwise nice blend of theoretical conversation and science fiction that is Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble.
Timothy Morton cares about the humans and things with which he co-exists, and doesn’t want to see them destroyed. But reading Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Will Davies finds, it’s not entirely clear why. His version of environmental ethics is rather disquieting.
The Breakthrough Institute asserts that ecomodernism can give us a “Good Anthropocene”. But in aiming at a second naivete of progressive modernism, it mistakenly treats nature as though it were a human creation.
Adventures in the Anthropocene—the fourth book discussed in the Anthropocene Reading Group—stands out from the others as the first that might be taken to the beach. Gaia Vince’s intrepid reportage has won her generous reviews. Yet, the journalistic and scientific objectivity—the twin lenses of her investigation—comes at a price, Robert Butler finds.
The great humanistic emancipatory projects of the 20th century have run into the sand, leaving a non-humanistic one running riot: the Carbon Liberation Front. The rapid liberation of carbon molecules into the earth’s atmosphere is the dominant political programme of the 21st century, and neither state socialism nor capitalism provide any adequate response, it seems.
What if we have known about our unsustainable destruction of the environment for a long time? Might we learn from our history of conscious ruin, and see more lucidly which institutions, social relations and modes of thought have perpetuated it?
Paul Raskin’s Journey to Earthland is a thought-provoking essay that delivers an imaginative, compelling critique of societal problems, culminating in an ambitious description of a global eco-utopia.
Jedediah Purdy’s history of the idea of nature in American thought provides an instructive context for contemporary environmental debate, Richard Douglas finds, but its idea of democracy founders on the absence of a vision of humanity’s purpose in a post-growth world.
In order to find out what is sustainable, we need some understanding of what Earth’s limits actually are. The fairly new field of Earth System Science aims to provide the relevant information here, and this book by Tim Lenton is an introduction to its key aspects.