A New Epoch? Agency, Individualism, Wilderness, and the Theory of the Anthropocene


The following is a final paper I wrote for the Brown University course titled "From the Columbian Exchange to Climate Change: Modern Global Environmental History," taught by Professor Bathsheba Demuth in the Environmental Studies and History departments. The course examined modern environmental history through the lens of human histories and behaviors, connecting human events like the genocide of Native peoples in the Americas during European exploration and colonization, to climate events like the Little Ice Age. The possibility of the Anthropocene, the topic of the ensuing paper, was a strong theme of the course.


A May 2017 Guardian article reads: “the forces we hoped would make the world a more civilised place – personal freedoms, democracy, material advance, technological power – are in truth paving the way to its destruction. The powers we most trusted have betrayed us; that which we believed would save us now threatens to devour us.”[i] Ethicist Clive Hamilton echoes the sentiments of academics and the public alike; humanity has entered a new Epoch on Earth of its own creation: the Anthropocene. Though the Anthropocene originated as a theory for a new geologic Epoch, the term has become heavily incorporated into academic and public discourses. But the scientific community has still not reached a consensus on naming the Anthropocene. Indeed, there remains disagreement surrounding the date of onset of this new Epoch, with some theorists looking all the way back to hominids’ learned ability to control fire,[ii] others to the Columbian Exchange,[iii] others to the Industrial Revolution,[iv] and still others to the first atomic bomb detonation.[v] Considering these outstanding debates and the Anthropocene’s implication of the entire human species as agents in a new geologic time, the term demands greater interrogation across academic disciplines.

Though far from a comprehensive critique of the Anthropocene, in this paper I seek to address the human and natural histories that have shaped this term’s conception and help to problematize it. I first outline a history of human agency with regards to global systems change, a foundational aspect of the Anthropocene. While humans have undoubtedly helped to cause global atmospheric and biological change, I question to what degree the prefix “anthro” generalizes human agency from individuals to the collective. I then examine how the western world’s historical conception of wilderness preservation and conservation has helped to shape the modern environmental movement, and the role that capitalism has played therein. Finally, I discuss how the resulting mainstream understanding of humans’ relationship with wilderness emerges as paradoxical, further complicating the term and theory of the Anthropocene. Humans have engaged with and altered Earth’s ecosystems since the species emerged, but the Anthropocene posits a new trajectory for the planet guided primarily by the human species. While there is merit to the term and evidence for a lasting human geologic footprint, a theory by humans about humans necessitates stronger interdisciplinary and more inclusive interrogation.

Human Agency and Global Systems in the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene originated as a geological concept, conceived by early 21st century scientists as a potential new geologic Epoch for the planet. They argue that the Anthropocene “is the result of humanity having become a geologic force that has fundamentally transformed Earth,” to the degree of delaying the onset of the next Ice Age.[vi] The implications of this argument are profound, because all human history has unfolded within the Epoch of the Holocene, a time “defined by non-human conditions…[but that] is inseparable from human life.”[vii] For geologists who support the concept of the Anthropocene, the new Epoch’s start indicates a shift to human domination of the Earth’s systems, such that the species will be visible in the fossil record.[viii] This visibility will largely be due to dramatic increases in CO2 levels within the Earth’s atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, which “represents the clearest and best documented signal of human alteration of the Earth system.”[ix] The “social and political transformations” that have resulted from “the release of gigantic amounts of carbon”[x] have left their own footprint on human societies. Because of the agency that humans have wielded to generate this future geological footprint, geologists have proposed the term the Anthropocene.

The sudden increase in carbon emissions to which geologists point when discussing the Anthropocene began during the British Industrial Revolution. This process began in Great Britain with coal, to which the British public had become accustomed to using to heat their homes since the 1600s. At that time, the resource could be found in surface-level deposits on common lands.[xi] As usage depleted those deposits, however, underground mining became necessary to maintain the energy flow.[xii] On the marshy island, mines frequently filled with water, necessitating a mechanism for pumping the water out of the mines. Thus, the steam engine was born.[xiii] Paul Crutzen, one of the original theorists of the Anthropocene, explains that “the beginning of growing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane” shown through polar ice core analysis “coincide with James Watt’s design of the steam engine in 1784,”[xiv] supporting the theory of industrialization as the start of the Anthropocene. British colonial expansion had also given the country the access to raw goods necessary for mass production. With a surplus of resources, and working to avoid the costs and logistics of purchasing cotton goods overseas, the British investigated ways to imitate Indian cotton production domestically.[xv] By the 1770s-80s, the British had mechanized their cotton manufacturing with imported raw cotten. Although still powered by man and water, their progress allowed them to end cotton trade with India and continue to expand their own production, through industrialization.

British industrialization spread to North America, precipitating the consumerism that took hold of the United States by 1950 amid the Great Acceleration. European and American manufacturing had been expanding to meet rising demands for consumer goods within the increasingly capitalist west, as had carbon emissions. The American boom in consumer culture and automobile manufacturing in the 1950s then skyrocketed emissions.[xvi] Emphasizing the correlation between consumerism and emissions, professors of Human Ecology Andreas Malm and Alf Hornborg write that steam and fossil fuel energy came from a select few capitalists “in a small corner of the Western world” having control over the means of production and a need to better connect global resources.[xvii] The consequences of these individuals’ capitalist motivations, including accelerated greenhouse gas emissions and manufacturing, is understood within scientific and environmental communities as part of the Great Acceleration. A critical component of the argument for the Anthropocene, the Great Acceleration is a composite of numerous socioeconomic and earth systems trends that correlate humanity’s outputs and growth with unprecedented, accelerated global change.[xviii] From population growth, to greenhouse gas emissions, to fertilizer consumption, to ocean acidification, these alarming trends form the basis of much of the discourse around this new period of human-induced, global change.

Geological trends caused by industrialization often take precedence in arguments for the Anthropocene, but some environmental historians also point to the biotic transfers of the Columbian Exchange as the start of the Epoch.[xix] As Europeans traveled to the Americas during the 1400s and 1500s, they initiated the first intercontinental exchange of biota since Pangea.[xx] To Peru, the Spanish transferred wheat, broad beans, grapevines, bananas, sheep, chickens, honeybees, rats, and pathogens across the Atlantic Ocean.[xxi] Although, as Anthropocene scholars highlight, the agency of the sailors and explorers contributed to the success of these difficult biotic transfers across oceans, the agency of certain animals and pathogens that the Spanish carried allowed those species to proliferate through the New World. To this end, Daniel Gade, a former University of Vermont professor of Geography, emphasizes that biological “transfer becomes introduction only if an organism multiplies enabling it to spread.”[xxii] Nonetheless, the role of people in these transfers is most salient to historians and Anthropocene defenders, because through the ensuing Triangle Trade and transport of commodity crops back to Europe,[xxiii] Europeans began to shepherd the world toward a state of biological unity. Within the narrative of the Anthropocene, this dramatic shift in global ecosystems was only possible because of human motivations and actions.

Despite the clear agency that certain groups of people exercised in these global atmospheric and ecological transformations, the term “Anthropocene” has provoked non-earth science academics, including social scientists and environmental historians, to examine which sectors of the human population are represented by this prefix “anthro.” During the Columbian Exchange, for instance, individual European monarchs and explorers were responsible for financing and facilitating the exchanges of biological organisms between the European continent and the New World. Beyond transporting pathogens and agricultural commodities, these early capitalist exchanges expanded to include human slaves transported against their will. These individuals, although part of the exchange, exercised little agency in their participation. Further, the lands which Europeans incorporated into the Triangle Trade, from Africa to the Americas, were already occupied indigenous groups who had been shaping ecosystems on local and regional scales for thousands of years. These nations and tribes exercised certain agency within exchanges with the Europeans, including the slave traders in Africa and Native Americans who traded food and fur for manufactured goods. But, unaware of the prices goods like beaver skin and African slaves fetched abroad,[xxiv] and often victim to deadly agentic diseases, these groups wielded far less agency in the global ecological transformations than did the Europeans.

Environmental historian William Cronon examines the complexity of different groups’ agency and potency in shaping ecosystems within the case study of New England. When Europeans landed, the American landscape was not a “virgin” wilderness, but rather a series of ecosystems “whose essential characteristics [had been] kept in equilibrium by the cultural practices of its human community” – Native Americans.[xxv] Through burnings of underbrush to facilitate hunting[xxvi] and reverence for the resources they extracted, like beavers,[xxvii] indigenous Americans carefully managed the New England landscapes that furnished their survival. Their land management strategies “promoted the mosaic quality of New England ecosystems” that Europeans found upon arrival in the New World.[xxviii] Indigenous practices had certainly transformed local ecosystems from their conditions before humans inhabited the Americas. However, the arrival of the Europeans brought a new vision to New England of “landscapes in terms of commodities” which could be “isolated and extract[ed as] units.”[xxix] European practices of commoditization, deforestation, and private property ultimately depleted the abundance of New England ecosystems and contributed to their homogenization.[xxx] At the same time, as traders transported commodities back to Europe, changes in New England landscapes began to parallel those taking place on a global scale, processes both guided primarily by Europeans.

The roles of different human societies in transforming ecosystems have been historically unbalanced, but it remains undeniable that human agents have held primary responsibility for transforming global landscapes through the 21st century. Cronon posits that these transformations emerge from the human species’ desire to make the world familiar. Within their effort to tame the wilderness, “Human use of land alters the structure and functioning of ecosystems, and it alters how ecosystems interact” with other Earth systems.[xxxi] Most recently, these “Land transformation[s] [have] represent[ed] the primary driving force behind the loss of biological diversity worldwide,”[xxxii] such that 20 to 50% of the Earth’s animal species are not expected to make it out of the 21st century.[xxxiii] Though processes of ecological transformation by humans have unfolded throughout the Holocene, proponents of the Anthropocene emphasize that only in recent centuries and decades have humans become the definitive force behind reshaping global ecosystems. Yet the rationale for holding all humans accountable for modern global changes remains questionable.

When academics consider the statistics surrounding modern CO2 emissions, for instance, the misrepresentation inherent to the term Anthropocene becomes even clearer. Carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have not been generated equally by all contemporary human populations. Indeed, Malm and Hornborg identify that “In the early 21st century, the poorest 45% of the human population accounted for 7% of emissions, while the richest 7% produced 50%.”[xxxiv] This unbalanced carbon production stems partly from the fact that “nearly one-third of humanity, have no access to electricity.”[xxxv] The result is that, as of 2002, the “effects [of greenhouse gas emissions] ha[d] largely been caused by only 25% of the world population.”[xxxvi] The agency of humanity in transforming the Earth’s climate is not universal. The western world has contributed most to greenhouse gas emissions since industrialization,[xxxvii] a fact which demands academia to confront the reality that “humanity as a species…is rather abstract when it comes to human agency.”[xxxviii] The lingering question for many social scientists and historians, therefore, is whether the global changes of recent decades and centuries can truly be attributed to the human species as a single unit, “anthro,” despite the geological arguments.

Beyond the issue of “anthro” overgeneralizing human agency, the term the Anthropocene also risks too strongly centering humanity’s role within global systems. While recent global atmospheric and biological changes provoked by human actions are alarming, environmental historian Linda Nash emphasizes that “human intentions do not emerge in a vacuum…so-called human agency cannot be separated from the environments in which that agency emerges.”[xxxix] That is, to attribute a new Epoch to humanity as a unified agent is to permanently exit the human species from nature. But while human beings have established societies outside of natural cycles and ecosystems, humans remain animals, and members of the species’ livelihoods remain subject to disruption by natural forces. Further, interdisciplinary sociologists Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota caution that by centering human agency in this way, “there is a danger of a certain Anthropocentrism, namely, a view of the planet as shaped by human beings who through science and technology have become its masters…while…at the same time…they cannot entire master [nature] since they are part of it.”[xl] Human actions have already transformed Earth, and will continue to do so, but the planet will continue to exist with “its own history once humans have vanished.”[xli] The Anthropocene holds some geological merit, but its implications for essentializing humanity’s role on the planet and obscuring inequalities within sociopolitical histories demand further interrogation of the term.

Individualism and Environmentalism in the Anthropocene

As Delanty and Mota write, “Not all human action can be explained by capitalism, but a very large measure can be.”[xlii] The over-generalization of humanity imposed by the term Anthropocene, when small groups of individuals are mostly responsible for modern global change, is connected to the history of capitalism. As such, “Locating the Anthropocene in social and economic processes…is essential to an understanding of how major societal and environmental change have come about.”[xliii] The economic and political system of capitalism cemented itself as the foundation of the Western worldview during the Cold War, although capitalist practices emerged in the United States centuries before, during the Columbian Exchange and industrialization (coinciding with theorized starts of the Anthropocene). Cultural and economic valuation of individuals over the collective has thus permeated the evolution of Western conservation and environmental movements since the 19th century, complicating the roles of humans and nature within the theory of the Anthropocene.

This paper will not trace the roots of communist and capitalist theory, but a grounding of the Cold War within nuclear politics is significant for tracing the emergence of climate science and research into human-influenced global change. Nuclear exceptionalism, an “insistence on an essential nuclear difference,”[xliv] drove much of the nonviolent conflict of the Cold War. The United States began its experimentation with nuclear energy in response to Nazi Germany’s pursuit of an atomic bomb.[xlv] But following the Second World War, nuclear power remained corollary to political power in the emergent ideological battle between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was at once a non-confrontational period of nuclear arsenal buildup and of sociopolitical imperialism, as both sides sought to extend the geographic reach of their respective worldviews. Within this period of rivaling value systems, not only were communist and capitalist theory implicated, but also competing values of how citizens and nations should interact with the natural world.[xlvi] In the shadow of nuclear war, it fell upon scientists to begin to study the effects of these values on the natural environment.

The nuclear threat to humanity and the natural world remained at the forefront of the public consciousness during the Cold War, motivating the United States to expand funding for atmospheric research. In the 1960s and 1970s, Scientists had theorized the possibility of Nuclear Winter, which they predicted could be caused by as few as 25 to 50 detonated Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs.[xlvii] The heat and radiation of these explosions, they posited, would burn a hole in the ozone layer, allowing copious amounts of ultraviolet radiation to enter the atmosphere and contribute to a global famine.[xlviii] More concerning still were theories that 100 to 150 similarly powerful bombs would produce enough soot to block out sunlight completely and plunge the Earth into the next Ice Age.[xlix] In short, the United States and the Soviet Union were together capable of destroying life on Earth. Under the threat of nuclear Armageddon and political pressure to scale back nuclear production, the United States began to fund atmospheric research in the 1980s.[l] Amidst findings regarding potential human-induced nuclear disasters, scientists also began to analyze data connecting fossil fuel usage to a changing climate.[li] This research, along with emerging concerns in the U.S. about dangerous toxins and extinctions,[lii] became incorporated into public discourse on how humans were changing the world around them.

Alongside this new environmental discourse emerged the modern environmental movement, members of which’s attitudes remained grounded in the conservationist and preservationist ethos that emerged during the 19th century. Among the earliest conservation efforts was Imperial Russia’s response to the impending extinction of fur seals on the Aleutian Islands.[liii] Under an economic imperative from the Empire to preserve this lucrative resource, Russian Orthodox priest Innocent Veniaminov coordinated the development of seal conservation practices to allow the hunt to continue.[liv] As one of the first societal recognitions of extinction, the policies helped inspire a new understanding of humans’ relationships with the natural world – people, not only divine powers, had the power to change the Earth.[lv] Such a dramatic shift in comprehending humans’ roles in the universe and on Earth was destabilizing for many people’s worldviews. The task of preserving natural resources and landscapes, it seemed, was now the responsibility of human societies.

Several decades later, in the United States, conservation and preservation groups emerged, further upending normalized conceptions of the relationship between humans and nature. Theodore Roosevelt helped to grow the American conservation movement. Roosevelt considered the forests, waterways, and underground deposits of metals and fossil fuels on the western frontier to be resources needing management for the good of the entire country. [lvi] The space of the frontier thus demanded preservation, not only for the purpose of economic resources, but also for recreation by individual (elite, white) American men.[lvii] His ideas became national policy, including through the establishment of national parks, during his presidency in 1901. Preservationist attitudes emerged in competition with those promoted by Roosevelt. Preservationists viewed nature as holding inherent spiritual value independent from societal economic interests.[lviii] Conservationists and preservationists had different goals for the frontier, but both groups clearly distinguished between human society and American wilderness. In wilderness before this period, Cronon writes, “boundaries between human and nonhuman, between natural and supernatural, had always seemed less certain than elsewhere.”[lix] Through the policies of Roosevelt and his contemporary, capitalist elites, however, the protection of wilderness in the United States became akin “to protect[ing] the nation’s most sacred myth of origin.”[lx] Consequently, the wilderness itself “lost its savage image and became safe: a place more of reverie,” “within…fixed and carefully policed boundaries.”[lxi] American wilderness had become a place for individual escape from civilized society.

Thus, although American environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s were progressive individuals critiquing the promises of modernity and capitalism,[lxii] their ideologies remained rooted in this established separation between humans and nature. Modern allegiance to older environmental ideals is perhaps best evidenced by the dramatic growths of membership to historic conservation and preservation organizations between the mid-1960s and late 1980s – from 170,000 to 5 billion members for the preservationist Sierra Club.[lxiii] Although united in its goal to protect wilderness from destructive human activities,[lxiv] including through government regulations, the environmental movement was also ideologically fractured. Green Peace emerged as a radical organization through movements against nuclear weapons, while a group of publishing biologists and economists rallied around the idea of the population bomb, a predicted outcome of unchecked economic and industrial growth.[lxv] Environmental justice, an outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement, was the most inclusive of the American schools of thought, focusing on the rights of poor communities of color who most bore the consequences of environmental degradation.[lxvi] Modern environmentalism emerged and remains embedded in a theoretical paradox: environmentalists wish to preserve the beauty of natural landscapes in the face of human-induced global change, yet, through bureaucratic mechanisms of preservation, continued human usage, and within the Anthropocene, wilderness still accumulates the scars of civilization.

Wilderness in the Anthropocene

Modern wilderness is thus simultaneously incorporated into human life as a place of comfortability and conceived of as external to civilization, which provokes the question: for whom do environmentalists and governments seek to preserve wilderness? One legacy of conservationist and preservationist attitudes is the mainstream conception of wilderness as an individual escape from civilized society rather than a place for democratic communities.[lxvii] Not only has this ethos helped to erase indigenous histories and bodies from American landscapes, but it incorporates nature into a constructed capitalist society. The individualism of most western nations, including the United States, thus becomes a part of wilderness, contributing to the modern “entangled conception of nature and society, Earth and the world.”[lxviii] This lack of clarity and prioritization of nature for individuals helps shape modern societies’ valuations of human bodies within civilization as well. As Cronon writes, “If we set too high a stock on wilderness, too many other corners of the earth become less than natural and too many other people become less than human, thereby giving us permission not to care much about their suffering or their fate.”[lxix] The present call of environmentalists is to preserve the Earth as humanity’s only home for future generations, but this premise does little to clarify the current or future desired relationship between wilderness and civilization.

Does the Anthropocene offer a solution to this conundrum? No, indeed, the term contributes to it. The concept of the Anthropocene maintains “wilderness as the standard against which to measure the failings of our human world…the natural, unfallen antithesis of an unnatural civilization that has lost its soul.”[lxx] But if the Anthropocene designates humans as the primary geologic force, nature is, by definition, already shaped by human civilization. Wilderness does not then stand up as an ideal to which the planet can hope to return. Through its merging of society and nature, the Anthropocene not only literally threatens human life through rapidly changing global systems, but also ideologically threatens “The very foundation of western liberal thought…the myth of human society arising from the exit from the state of nature [through human agency].”[lxxi] Western society’s fundamental understanding of itself slips away. The Anthropocene places the burden of a changing planet on the human species, but the political upheaval and cultural panic that the Great Acceleration has generated emerges from a deeply rooted sense of helplessness. The “so-called” Anthropocene is an Epoch and “situation increasingly out of control [of humanity] and a product of unconsciousness and objectification.”[lxxii] This is especially true for “developing” countries, who have yet to reach industrialized levels of greenhouse gas emissions. To address the question of where then can humanity go from here, Cronon articulates that “the dilemma we face is to decide what kinds of marks we wish to leave”[lxxiii] if the human species has lost the capacity to choose whether to leave any marks at all.


The human species will inevitably carve its legacy into the rock of planet it calls home, but the Anthropocene may be an insufficient term to express the complexity of that legacy. In this paper, I have indicated the challenges of summarizing a history of human agency with the prefix “anthro,” including because of its inherent dismissal of global inequalities and its over-centering of human agency in global change. Further, I have presented a narrative of the western world’s often paradoxical conception of society’s relationship to nature and wilderness, unresolved complexity that the term the Anthropocene embodies. The possibility that a select group of scientists may hold sole responsibility for deciding on the name and date for a new, human-driven Epoch contributes to the problems surrounding the term. Naming the Anthropocene without further discussion of its sociopolitical implications reinforces the simplified cultural conception of the planet having crossed a threshold from natural to manmade. The concept allows a “false hope of an escape from responsibility…the tabula rosa that supposedly existed before we began to leave our marks on the world” to remain within society’s consciousness,[lxxiv] suggesting that humanity somehow missed the point at which it could have left no trace. Human history is part of natural history, and more voices must help to name that relationship.


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[i] Clive Hamilton, “The Great Climate Silence: We Are on the Edge of the Abyss But We Ignore It,” The Guardian (May 4, 2017), accessed May 8, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/05/the-great-climate-silence-we-are-on-the-edge-of-the-abyss-but-we-ignore-it.

[ii] Andreas Malm and Alf Hornborg, “The Geology of Mankind? A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative,” The Anthropocene Review 1, no. 1 (2014): 63, doi: 10.1177/2053019613516291; Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge," European Journal of Social Theory 20, no. 1 (2017), doi: 10.1177/1368431016668535.

[iii] Delanty and Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge."

[iv] Paul Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind,” Nature 415 (January 2002), http://www.unife.it/scienze/lm.ecologia/Insegnamenti/management-degli-ecosistemi/materiale-didattico/Crutzen%202002.pdf.

[v] “…it [is] possible to specify the onset of the Anthropocene with a high degree of precision…On Monday 16 July 1945, about the time that the Great Acceleration began, the first atomic bomb was detonated in the New Mexico desert.” The radioactive emissions of this bomb provide “a signal that is unequivocally attributable to human activities.” Will Steffen, Wendy Broadgate, Lisa Deutsch, Owen Gaffney, and Cornelia Ludwig, “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration,” The Anthropocene Review 2, no. 1 (April 2015): 93, doi: 10.1177/2053019614564785.

[vi] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge," 12.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 24: The World We Have,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, April 26, 2017.

[ix] Peter M Vitousek, Harold A Mooney, Jane Lubchenco, and Jerry M. Melillo, “Human Domination of Earth’s Ecosystems,” Science 277, no. 5325 (July 1997): 496, doi: 10.1126/science.277.5325.494.

[x] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge," 13.

[xi] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 12: The Energy Revolution,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, March 6, 2017.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] “Geology of Mankind,” 23.

[xv] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 12: The Energy Revolution,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, March 6, 2017.

[xvi] Demuth, “Lecture 21: Energy, Population, and Pollution,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, April 17, 2017.

[xvii] “The Geology of Mankind? A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative,” 64.

[xviii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 21: Energy, Population, and Pollution”; "Great Acceleration," 2015, Igbp.Net, accessed May 11, 2017. http://www.igbp.net/globalchange/greatacceleration.4.1b8ae20512db692f2a680001630.html.

[xix] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge."

[xx] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 4: Narratives of Disease,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, February 1, 2017.

[xxi] Daniel Gade, “Particularizing the Columbian Exchange: Old World Biota to Peru,” Journal of Historical Geography 48 (2015): 26-35, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2015.01.001.

[xxii] “Particularizing the Columbian Exchange: Old World Biota to Peru,” 29.

[xxiii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 6: Unsweet Labor,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, February 8, 2017.

[xxiv] Ibid; Demuth, “Lecture 8: Trading for Fur,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI. February 15, 2017.

[xxv] William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, New York: Hill and Wang, 1983, 12.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 8: Trading for Fur.”

[xxviii] William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, 51.

[xxix] Ibid, 21.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Peter M Vitousek, Harold A Mooney, Jane Lubchenco, and Jerry M. Melillo, “Human Domination of Earth’s Ecosystems,” 494.

[xxxii] Ibid, 495.

[xxxiii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 23: The Changing Climate,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, April 24, 2017.

[xxxiv] “The Geology of Mankind? A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative,” 64.

[xxxv] Ibid, 65.

[xxxvi] Paul J Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind,” 23.

[xxxvii] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge."

[xxxviii] Ibid, 23.

[xxxix] Linda Nash, “The Agency of Nature or the Nature of Agency?” Environmental History 10, no. 1 (January 2005): 69, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3985846.

[xl] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge," 22.

[xli] Ibid, 31.

[xlii] Ibid, 24.

[xliii] Ibid, 24.

[xliv] Gabrielle Hecht, “Introduction,” in Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade, 6, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012, ebook.

[xlv] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 19: The Atoms of War,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, April 10, 2017.

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] Ibid.

[xlviii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 18: Metals, Bodies, & Global War,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, April 5, 2017.

[xlix] Demuth, “Lecture 19: The Atoms of War.”

[l] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 19: The Atoms of War.”

[li] Ibid.

[lii] Demuth, “Lecture 22: Inventing Spaceship Earth,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, April 19, 2017.

[liii] Demuth, “Lecture 10: The Discovery of Extinction,” lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, February 27, 2017.

[liv] Ibid.

[lv] Ibid.

[lvi] Demuth, “Lecture 16: Conservation for Whom?” Lecture at Brown University, Providence, RI, March 20, 2017.

[lvii] Ibid.

[lviii] Ibid.

[lix] “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, edited by William Cronon, 4, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995.

[lx] Ibid, 7.

[lxi] Ibid, 10.

[lxii] Socialist environmentalism also emerged in this period in the Soviet Union, especially in response to nuclear power plants, but this history is not discussed here.

[lxiii] Bathsheba Demuth, “Lecture 22: Inventing Spaceship Earth.”

[lxiv] Per William Cronon: “the modern environmental movement is itself a grandchild of romanticism and the post-frontier ideology.” “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.”

[lxv] Demuth, “Lecture 22: Inventing Spaceship Earth.”

[lxvi] Ibid.

[lxvii] William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.”

[lxviii] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge," 10.

[lxix] Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” 15.

[lxx] Ibid, 11.

[lxxi] Gerard Delanty and Aurea Mota, "Governing the Anthropocene: Agency, Governance, Knowledge," 18.

[lxxii] Daniel Cunha, “The Geology of the Ruling Class?” The Anthropocene Review 2, no. 3 (2015): 263, doi: 10.1177/2053019615607069.

[lxxiii] William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” 18.

[lxxiv] Ibid, 11.

Francesca Gallo