Indexed on: 29 Aug '16Published on: 29 Aug '16Published in: NTM
In 2000, when atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen and limnologist Eugene F. Stoermer proposed to introduce a new geological era, the Anthropocene, they could not have foreseen the remarkable career of the new term. Within a few years, the geological community began to investigate the scientific evidence for the concept and established the Anthropocene Working Group. While the Working Group has started to examine possible markers and periodizations of the new epoch, scholars from numerous other disciplines have taken up the Anthropocene as a cultural concept. In addition, the media have developed a deep interest in the Anthropocene's broader societal ramifications. The article sheds light on the controversial debate about the Anthropocene and discusses its inextricably linked dual careers, first as a geological term and second as a cultural term. Third, it argues that the debate about the "Age of Humans" is a timely opportunity both to rethink the nature-culture relation and to re-assess the narratives that historians of science, technology, and the environment have written until now. Specifically, it examines both the heuristic and analytical power of the concept. It discusses new histories, new ideas to understand historical change, and new temporalities shaped by scholars who have taken up the challenge of the Anthropocene as a cultural concept that has the ability to question established stories and narratives. Fourth, it ends by stressing the potential of the Anthropocene concept to blur established epistemological boundaries and to stimulate cross-disciplinary collaborations between the sciences and the humanities.