It is said that we have (recently) moved out of the Holocene epoch and entered the Anthropocene; that humans are now the dominant geological force shaping the Earth itself, and that our species is a force of nature exceeding other natural forces.
Despite sounding like, and claiming to be, a geological epoch, the term Anthropocene is not yet formally recognised by stratigraphers, those Earth Scientists charged with the task of defining the geological time scale. For some years the ‘Anthropocene’ Working Group of the International Commission of Stratigraphy has been working up a proposal aimed at defining and formalising the term within scientific discourse. But it is not clear that a proposal is ready to be tabled, let alone ratified, at the upcoming International Geological Congress scheduled for late August. Indeed there appears to be substantial opposition to any such move.
In this seminar we will give an update of controversy over the concept’s geological status and explore the implications of the Anthropocene’s possible non-recognition, politically and conceptually. Does it mean the concept itself is flawed? Is it a scientific concept even if not a stratigraphic one? Is it perhaps a keyword which encapsulates certain ideas of what/how the world has become? And does it matter if it is non-scientific, or even un-scientific? These are questions with significant ramifications given the widespread embrace of the term in academia and beyond. Indeed the implications are many since there are today tens of thousands of publications using the Anthropocene concept, across a wide range of disciplines spanning the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.
Alan Gilbert Building G21 (Theatre 1), Barry St, University of Melbourne
Wednesday 15 June 2016