The Anthropocene. What is it, when did it begin, if it even exists, and how can we come to understand it when it is not even considered a correct word or term according to my spell check?
I have been studying our readings with equal interest and confusion. There is no doubt that humans have affected the planet and environment. The current issue that so many scientists, scholars, and civilians are facing is: to what extent? Have we truly altered current history so drastically that we deserve our own new time epoch — because that’s really what it is, a human-focused time epoch. Is this a bold move? I understand the claims and reasonings, what I struggle with is finding a purpose to this definition. What will change if we decide we have entered the Anthropocene? What does it mean for us as a species, and as global citizens? As Jessica Barnes questions in “Rifts or Bridges? Ruptures and Continuities in Human-Environment Interactions”, will the idea of the Anthropocene further separate us, climate-focused individuals, from those whose “worldview is not climate-focused?”
I have been thinking about this question for some time now, and find myself asking how one group of people can name an era of time for the entire world, making generalizations on humans as a species rather than as individuals. Humans are not responsible for the devastating effects on our planet — certain humans are, but not us as a species. Will this cause a rift between individuals who live very cleanly, try and aid the environment rather than use it up dry?
It is difficult and abstract to imagine current humans and their remains as future subjects to be studied by scientists. I wonder how we will be thought of. When we look at remains now, and see signs of violence, it is purely between species. Future scientists will see not only human-inflicted violence on humans, but a form of human-inflicted violence on the planet.
If it is decided that the Anthropocene will be named as our current time epoch, what will this change, and what will it truly mean? Will there be attempts at change, at reversing the damage that we have done? Will we be proud of our progress, and view the Anthropocene as a sort of medal for our human-ness, our ability to have such a strong effect on the planet and its history? What are the positive and negative effects of this name, epoch, and its meaning for us as humans?