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Anthropocene Encounters

Few concepts have made such a rapid career as the ‘Anthropocene’. Coined barely two decades ago, the Anthropocene has become one of the most influential, most cited, but also most controversial terms in environmental policy, theory and practice. Yet, the Anthropocene is still an ambivalent and contested formulation that has given rise to a multitude of unexpected, and often uncomfortable, conversations. There is not one Anthropocene discourse, but a variety of ‘Anthropocene encounters’: in science, politics, legal studies, philosophy, literary fiction, and increasingly popular culture. Yet what does it mean to speak of an ‘Anthropocene’? Do familiar political categories and concepts, such as democracy, justice, power and time, still hold when confronted with a world radically transformed by humans?

I have been one of the first social scientists to engage with the ‘Anthropocene’ terminology, and I continue to believe that the concept is important to describe a world that has fundamentally changed since the 1950s, creating a new context for political theory and political practice. Nonetheless, I also keep a critical position to some of the overly simplistic uses of the ‘Anthropocene’ term. Importantly, the ‘Anthropocene’ discourse can easily hide the vast global disparity among people and countries. It can help frame a common, post-political responsibility of a unified ‘humankind’ that does not exist in this form. In this way, my thinking about the ‘Anthropocene’ closely relates to my work on ‘planetary justice’, ‘green colonialism’ and ‘earth system’ governance.

Key publications include:

Anthropocene Encounters: New Directions in Green Political Thinking (book with Cambridge University Press, 2019)

Down to earth: Contextualizing the Anthropocene (open access article, 2016)

The future of 'environmental' policy in the Anthropocene: Time for a paradigm shift (open access article)

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