Adele Julier on:
Malm, A. & Hornborg, A. (2014) The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative. The Anthropocene Review, 1, 62-69.
Malm and Hornborg’s paper ‘The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative’ raises some important points about the terminology of climate science and how this not only affects perceptions of who or what is to blame, but also of what can be done to address it and by who. The main thrust of their argument is that the use of the term Anthropocene distances people from the effects of man-made climate change through the argument that human nature inescapably led to large CO2 emissions and therefore the havoc being wreaked upon ecosystems is essentially inevitable. They go on to discuss that this ignores the fact that a tiny percentage of humanity actually set into motion the huge changes which we are only now beginning to address, that humanity as a whole at no point decided to take this path and that the use of the term Anthropocene is actually counter-productive, in that it removes the onus of solving environmental problems from the small group of humans that actually caused them, instead spreading it out so thinly that it loses its power.
The argument that Anthropocene is perhaps not the best term to use for the present situation is persuasive, but the idea that it apportions blame too widely does not take into consideration the fact that developing countries are now largely following in the footsteps of developed countries in terms of both habitat destruction and carbon emissions. Although all of humanity may not have started global change, the practices initiated by the few are now being endlessly replicated. The reasons behind this are economic; currently, and largely in the short term, it pays countries and large corporations to continue unsustainable practices. They ignore pressure to change if it undermines economic growth or affects profit margins, not because they do not think they are part of the problem. Academics could choose to call this the ‘Anthropocene’ the ‘OnePercentocene’ or the ‘ThisIsYourFault,Sir,Yes,YouInTheGreySuit,StopPlayingWithYour PhoneAndListen-ocene’, but it will not make the slightest difference until these basic problems are addressed.